The final weekend came down to St. Cloud State, Minnesota and North Dakota all with a shot at the regular season championship, and with it the historic and gorgeous MacNaughton Cup, which is awarded to the league in which Michigan Tech is a member. The cup dates back to 1913 and was originally purchased for $2,000, a hefty sum back in those days and the equivalent of $46,500 today.
The cup was originally awarded to the champion of the American Hockey Association until 1932. Through 1950, the cup was given to semi-pro and intermediate teams in Michigan's Copper Country until the family of James MacNaughton arranged to have the cup awarded to the regular season champion of the newly founded Midwest Collegiate Hockey League, which eventually led to the creation of the WCHA in 1959.
With Michigan Tech being trustees of the cup, it did follow them to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association in 1981-82, but returned to the WCHA in 1984-85 when they rejoined the league after three seasons away.
The St. Cloud State Huskies led going into the weekend with 35 points, with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the North Dakota (no longer the Fighting Sioux) 2 back with 33 each. St. Cloud clinched at least a tie for a share of the championship with a 4-2 win over the Wisconsin Badgers at Madison, while Minnesota outlasted the feisty Bemidji State Beavers 4-3 and North Dakota kept pace with a 4-3 win on the road against the Minnesota State Mavericks, taking the fight down to the final day with the rights to the cup still undecided.
Minnesota took care of business over ninth place Bemidji State 5-1, putting pressure on the other two, who were having a much tougher time of things. The Mavericks were even with North Dakota 1-1 as play entered the third period. Meanwhile, Wisconsin lead 2-1 after two against St. Cloud.
As time wound down, the Huskies pulled their goaltender in an effort to even their game against Wisconsin, only to have the Badgers score with 1:13 left in the game. While St. Cloud managed a late goal with 33 seconds remaining, it was too little, too late and the Huskies fell to the Badgers and into a tie with Minnesota at 35 points each.
North Dakota now needed a win to force a three way tie for the regular season title, but they could not find a way to crack the Minnesota State defense as a fired up Mavericks actually out shot North Dakota 29-13 over the final two periods of the game, which ended regulation tied 1-1. Minnesota State then cost North Dakota a share of the championship with a game winning goal at 3:22 of overtime.
Still in possession of the MacNaughton Cup, having won it last season, the coach of Minnesota, Don Lucia, had one of his assistant coaches secretly bring the cup up to Bemidji in the trunk of his car. With the Minnesota players game having finished first, the became aware of the results of the other two games while in their dressing room following their game, whereupon the coaching staff retrieved the hidden trophy from the parking lot and surprised the players when they presented to them in the locker room!
The share of the league championship was the first for St. Cloud State, who joined the WCHA back in 1990 after moving up to Division I in 1987. The program was founded back in 1931 and was a Division II and Division III contender, with their final season being under the guidance of the legendary Herb Brooks, head coach of the 1980 United States Olympic "Miracle on Ice" team. During Brooks only season behind the Huskies bench, the team broke or tied no less than 45 school records on their way to a third place finish nationally.
Their move to Division I was aided by the construction of a new home arena, the National Hockey Center as the Huskies began life as a Division I independent team. Their first season of 1987-88 was highlighted by a win over the third ranked Lake Superior State Lakers. Their second season saw them not only finish with a winning record, but earned their first invitation to the NCAA playoffs.
St. Cloud State then was accepted into the WCHA for the 1990-91 season, finishing fifth overall. The Huskies finished the 2000-01 season with a school best 31-9-1 record, 20-8-0 in the WCHA, and went on to win the WCHA playoff championship, defeating North Dakota in the final game. In addition to winning the playoff championship in 2001, St. Cloud State placed second in 1994, 2006 and 2010.
In addition, the Huskies have been selected for the NCAA national championship tournament in 1989, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2010, but with limited results, as they currently have a 1-9 record with their first win coming in 2010 against Northern Michigan 4-3 in two overtimes.
Noteworthy Huskies who have gone onto the NHL include Tyler Arnason, Stanley Cup winners Bret Hedican and Matt Cullen, Olympic silver medalist Ryan Malone and Mark Parrish with Cullen being the highest drafted at #35 in the second round.
St. Cloud will enter the WCHA playoff this coming weekend as the #1 seed and will host the University of Alaska - Anchorage Seawolves as they look to return to St. Paul, Minnesota in hopes of adding the Broadmoor Trophy as playoff champions in their final season in the WCHA to their first MacNaughton Cup, which will be presented to them in front of their home fans this weekend.
Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 St. Cloud State Huskies Mark Parrish jersey. At the time, the Huskies home white jersey was a virtual copy of the classic Montreal Canadiens jersey, only this time with a clever take on the Canadiens iconic "CH" logo by swapping out the "H" for an "ST". This gave the Huskies an instantly familiar appearing logo that says "hockey" at first glance, but rewards the viewer on closer inspection. Additionally, while the jersey pattern is the same, the Huskies employ red, black and white as team colors, allowing them to avoid the criticism of simply copying the NHL club's jersey stitch for stitch.