Minnesota St. scores five unanswered to set up a Finals showdown with Denver.
Boston, Ma – The Minnesota St. Mavericks continue to impress as they sent their second straight Big Ten foe home for the season after beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 5-1 on Thursday at TD Garden. The Mavericks had five different goal scorers, and Dryden McKay stopped all but the first of 17 Gophers shots to earn his 38th win of the year.
The Mavericks haven’t trailed in the NCAA postseason until the Gophers capitalized on a Benton Maas turnover. Matthew Knies put the Gophers ahead 1-0 at 8:52 of the first period when he and Bryce Brodzinski played cat and mouse with McKay on a two-on-zero breakaway. Knies banged in his 15th at the right post.
“I saw Matt (Knies) out of the corner of my eye. I turned around; I knew I had to get him involved,” said Brodzinski. “That was kind of our only way of beating the goalie; getting him to move laterally was something we harped on a little bit.”
“Yeah, it was a big opportunity, especially being our first shot of the game. Being able to crack them early kept us in it for a while,” added the 6′-0″ junior of the Gophers solving McKay.
“You got to give them (Minnesota St.) an enormous amount of credit,’ said Minnesota coach Bob Motzko. “For big chunks of the game, they kicked our butt. The first period was great. We got the lead. We withstood it.”
“I couldn’t tell you the last time I faced a two-on-oh in a game,” said McKay of the lone Gopher goal. “Wish I could have come up with it. I think we do enough of them in practice.”
“Not exactly the start we wanted, giving up a two-on-oh goal,” said Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings. “I was hoping Dryden (McKay) was going to be able to pull the bacon out of the fire, it didn’t happen. They (Minnesota) got off to a good start. We had talked about that being a very important piece for us.”
“I thought we played a very good first period even though we were down. The guys did a really good job of just sticking with it. There wasn’t a lot of panic on the bench or in the locker room,” added Hastings. “As they have this entire season, they stuck with it, and they were rewarded for it. It was a good effort for us. We’re excited to have an opportunity to play for a national championship.”
Despite the 1-0 lead, Minnesota St. had the edge in shots on goal 11-4 at the end of the first. The momentum caught up with the shot total as the Mavericks netted two goals in the second period.
“I think the last time we were behind was probably against Bemidji in the conference championship,” said McKay about not trailing during the tournament. “It’s not like it’s unfamiliar to us. There are plenty of games this year where the other team scored first and we still had to find a way. We’re a mature group. It doesn’t really seem to matter to us whether we’re up or down. We keep fighting, keep playing our game, eventually, we got rewarded.”
Rewarded indeed, two goals in six minutes put the Mavs back in the familiar position of being ahead.
“We made a couple of mistakes in the second period,” said Motzko. “They scored exactly how we knew we had to defend. Then we were chasing the game. We made it close a couple of times.”
Maas, a defenseman, found himself below the Minnesota goal line alone, so he made his way towards the Gophers’ goal and beat Justen Close (27 saves) with a wraparound shot at the far post at 7:22 for his third goal.
“Lucas Sowder made a pretty good play to get the puck down low to me. I did a little shoulder check and saw I had more time and space than I thought and could get to the side of the net,” said Maas of his goal. “Coach is a big preacher on if we get there, it’s got to go to the net. I just threw it on the net and hoped for a rebound because I knew we had guys in front. Fortunately, it was able to go in at the far side.”
Reggie Lutz followed up with a wraparound bid of his own at 13:31. Lutz had a stuff attempt at the right post turned away by Close’s skate before corraling his rebound to try his luck at the left post for his 15th.
“When I was younger, every time I would score a wraparound goal, my dad would take me to McDonald’s, and I’d get a ‘Happy Meal.’ I’ve been working on one for a while, and it was pretty cool to see it work on the big stage,” joked Lutz. “As I said, ever since I was probably five, I’ve been practicing wraparound goals. It paid off tonight, so it was pretty cool.”
In the third period, the Mavericks added three goals to seal their first-ever trip to the Championship game on Saturday against the Denver Pioneers.
“Benny (Meyers) had a great chance 30 seconds into the third period, point-blank they stopped him,” said Minnesota’s Motzko. “Then they score a minute and a half into the third. That was it. It was over.”
Ondrej Pavel redirected a Jack McNeely slap shot from the blue line past Close at 1:57 for his 12th. Pavel got his stick blade on the low McNeely shot to lift it over the shoulder of Close just inside the post.
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David Silye made it 4-1 Minnesota St. when he toe-dragged on Gophers defenseman Jack LaCombe at the right face-off dot and sniped a shot far-side top-corner over Close for his eighth goal. Junior forward Sam Morton kept the play alive just inside the Gophers zone before dishing to Silye.
Mavericks junior Brendan Furry topped off the celebration at 18:51 with an unassisted empty-net goal.
“They’re just a grizzled, old veteran team in every position. I was okay at the end of the first period. I’ll just go to that. Their top guys didn’t really hurt us. Their glue guys on the other lines kind of created things for them,” said Motzko of the Mavericks’ depth. “Because you knew no matter what, whoever plays them, you’re going to have to weather some storms. We were doing it at a little spurt in the second period. It was not a fun game for us to chase.”
“Ondrej Pavel and David Silye have been impactful players for us over the last month,” said Hastings. “Ondrej has been probably one of our most impactful forwards whether you’re talking five-on-five, killing penalties. Those guys allow us to play with depth. When you can play with depth, you can spread out your minutes. That keeps both sides of that, your top six, your bottom six, fresh. It allows them to hopefully play the game the right way.”
“They’re good. Everybody saw it tonight,” said Hastings of the match-up with Denver. “I witnessed some of their games during the season. They’re deep, they’re talented, very good goaltending. I think they’re about as thorough a coaching staff as there is in college hockey right now. So to me, it’s going to be a difficult task.”
“We’ll take a kick at the can on Saturday,” added the Mavericks bench boss.