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By Bemidji State Athletics

Published 10:23 p.m. on June 13, 2023

Former Bemidji State men's hockey defenseman Zach Whitecloud achieved professional hockey's ultimate prize when the National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup on Tuesday night by defeating the Florida Panthers 9-3 and winning the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals series in five games.

"One of the toughest feats is to win the Stanley Cup," said BSU men's hockey head coach Tom Serratore. "Zach was an elite player for the Golden Knights throughout the playoffs. I am proud of him and know our Beaver fans everywhere are proud too."

Whitecloud joins Joel Otto (1980-84) as the only former Beavers to raise the Stanley Cup. Otto helped the Calgary Flames reach hockey's summit in 1989.

Whitecloud is also the first Indigenous NHL player from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to win the Cup.

The Brandon, Manitoba, native played in every game for the Golden Knights throughout the 2023 NHL Playoffs. In 22 games, he recorded eight points off two goals and six assists, 19 shots on goal and held a +14 rating on the ice, the second-highest rating among all skaters in the playoffs. He also scored the game-winning goal in the third period of the pivotal Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 3. During the Stanley Cup Finals, Whitecloud recorded three points (1g-2a), three shots and averaged 18:35 of ice time for Vegas.

A key member of their penalty-kill unit, Whitecloud helped the Golden Knights post a .712 penalty kill percentage throughout the playoffs and went a perfect 14-of-14 against the Panthers.

Whitecloud played two seasons at Bemidji State (2016-18) before signing an entry-level contract with Vegas as an undrafted free agent following the 2017-18 college season. He totaled 36 points (7g-29a) in 77 games for the Beavers. As a sophomore, the blueliner finished seventh on the team in scoring with 18 points (4g-14a), which included a career-high mark of 14 assists and a pair of game-winning goals. Whitecloud also finished the season with a team-best 51 blocked shots and was the anchor of a BSU power-play unit that set a Division I-era program record for efficiency, converting 31-of-143 opportunities (.217). Whitecloud also finished the season third on the team in power-play scoring, netting 10 (1g-9a) of his 19 points on the man advantage.

Helping BSU to the 2017 WCHA regular season title and a pair of appearances in the WCHA playoffs, Whitecloud was a WCHA Scholar-Athlete honoree, a member of the WCHA All-Academic Team and a member of the 2016-17 WCHA All-Rookie Team.

Whitecloud has been a member of the Vegas franchise for all six seasons of its existence. The Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2017 and became the fastest expansion team to win the Stanley Cup in NHL history.

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