Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Playoff Hero: Joey Benik

Benik scoring one of two power play
goals against Notre Dame
Playoff hockey can really bring out the best in players, and can transform role players into college hockey stardom. This past weekend, a star was born. Joey Benik, a freshman forward for the St. Cloud State University Huskies, was the hero. Although to those who have followed his career, Benik is a notorious goal scorer, scoring at every level he has played at. As a junior in high school, Joey scored a Minnesota High School League record when he recorded 63 goals in 25 regular season games. His season point total was 102 points. While his high school numbers were beyond impressive, many thought because of the weak schedule he faced, he wouldn't be as dominant at the next level, and may flake out as a player. He proved those people wrong. He then went on to play junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League for the Penticton Vees, playing two seasons there before heading to St. Cloud State. In his first season in Penticton, Benik put up 30 goals and 26 assists for 50 points, adding 7 more in playoffs and being part of the All-Rookie team. His second season with the Vees, he led the team in points on 30 goals and 66 assists in the regular season, while Penticton went on a record setting 42 game win streak. That's right, 42 games, all wins, no ties or losses in between. He had 18 more points in the playoffs to bring his total to 114 on the season, leading the Vees to the BCHL championship and
Benik scoring one of two goals against the
Miami Redhawks
then the RBC championship as the top Junior A team in all of Canada. After a National Championship with Penticton, Benik came into the 2012-2013 season as a freshman with the Huskies. In the first practice of the season, Benik broke his leg, leaving him out of the lineup until after Christmas, when he made his debut against RPI, notching an assist. While still recovering from his injury and trying to adapt to the speed of NCAA hockey, Benik only tallied two goals in the regular season. Playoffs came around, and he found his game. In four playoff games thus far, Benik has scored five goals and one assists for six points in four games. He scored two power play goals against Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Men's Hockey tournament, to go along with an assist. The next day, Benik scored twice more en route a 4-1 victory over Miami (Ohio) to propel his team into their first Frozen Four in school history, and being named the Midwest Regional's most outstanding player. While St. Cloud has a great deal of depth to their team, Benik did all of this while playing on the third line for the Huskies. Which makes for an interesting question, how would he be doing if he were playing with Ben Hanowski, Drew LeBlanc, or Nick Dowd? Benik has adapted to the speed of the college game, and gotten back to his goal scoring ways. As the only WCHA and Minnesota team remaining, I will be cheering on Benik and the Huskies in the Frozen Four, and hope his late season bloom is only a preview of things to come.

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