Albany Regional Final Preview

Who will be shipping up to Boston?

Albany, NY – The one-seed Minnesota St. Mavericks take on the three-seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday at 6:30 pm EST at MVPArena. The winner will move onto the Frozen Four at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 7, 2022.

The two teams haven’t met since 2010-11, and the Irish hold a 6-4 record all-time against Minnesota St. in all their machinations, Minnesota St., MSU-Mankato, or Mankato State. This season, the two had three common opponents: Michigan, Michigan Tech, and Northern Michigan.

The Fighting Irish went 6-1 against the trio, with four wins over a highly touted Michigan Wolverines team. The only loss came to the same Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship game last Saturday, 2-1.

The Mavericks went 8-3 against the Michigan three. Four wins and a loss each to conference foes Tech and NMU. The Mavericks fell to the Wolverines back in October at Minnesota Duluth’s AMSOIL Arena during the Ice Breaker Tournament.

Minnesota St. Mavericks (36-5) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (28-11-0)

Dryden McKay gets most of the publicity for the Mavericks, and rightfully so. The 6′-0″ senior from Downers Grove, Illinois, has consistently been one of the nation’s top goaltenders all four years in Mankato. But, Notre Dame’s netminder Matthew Galajda, while not as praised or discussed numerically, is not far off from McKay’s total’s, both on the season and over each’s four-year collegiate career. Galajda, a former Hobey Baker candidate at Cornell, missed last season due to the Ivy League’s pandemic-related shutdown.

If the Irish’s previous game against North Dakota is any indication, then Galajda has finally shaken off the rust, and there could be a low-scoring affair in Albany. Galajda, and the Irish, allowed one goal on 24 shots in advancing to the Final on Saturday in a 2-1 overtime win. 

McKay faced more of an offense-first team than Notre Dame in Harvard. The Crimson’s high-powered offense put three past McKay as the Mavericks held on to win 4-3 on Thursday.

Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings called the Fighting Irish one of the “heavyweights in college hockey” and praised Notre Dame’s game.

“They defend and they have ability to win at this time of the year. More often than not, you see them at the tournament and they always earn their way here.”

“We understand what Notre Dame is,” added Hastings. “Very well coached, well conditioned team that beat some very high end hockey teams throughout this year, when you beat Michigan four times. When you beat North Dakota in this tournament. You’re a good hockey team, incredibly disciplined. So we’ll have our hands full but we look forward the opportunity.”

Reggie Lutz, a fifth-year senior forward, knows what the road ahead has in store.

“You can tell they (Notre Dame) take a lot of pride just running their D-zone out,” said Lutz. “Watching the game (Thursday) North Dakota, had a few good chances but overall they smothered them in their D-zone keeping (North Dakota) to the outside. So I think our goal is trying to get somebodies to the front of the net and it’s going to take a few greasy ones.”

For their part, Notre Dame will continue to play their game. The Irish spent their Friday in more of a reflective period instead of studying the Mavericks. 

“I think we’re going to get more into that on game day,” said senior captain Jake Pivonka when asked about the preparation for the Mavericks.

“The focus has always been on us,” said Pivonka. “It doesn’t really matter who we’re up against. We’e going to bring the same sort of effort regardless.”

It’s a considerable effort that will be needed for both schools to punch their ticket to the Frozen Four in Boston in two weeks. Thursday saw a penalty shot in each game, a game-winning goal at the buzzer disallowed, an entertaining comeback bid falls short, and an overtime celebration to get both teams to this point. Expect nothing less for Saturday’s Final.






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