Mavericks Punch Ticket to Championship

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.

Matthew Knies leads the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebration after giving the Gophers the 1-0 lead in the first period of Minnesota St.’s 5-1 win Thursday, April 7, 2022, at TD Garden.

“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.”

The Minnesota St. Mavericks discuss advancing to the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship to face the Denver Pioneers on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

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.

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.

Pioneers Outlast Wolverines in Semifinal OT

Boston, MA – The Denver Pioneers vanquished the nation’s #1 seed Michigan Wolverines in overtime on Carter Savoie‘s rebound strike at 14:53 to send the Pioneers to their first NCAA Championship since winning it all in 2017.

“I think they turned the puck over at the top, near the blue line. I tried passing it down to Bob (Brink) and it hit a skate. He ended up getting it back,” said Savoie of the lead up to his game-winning goal. “Then obviously that pass Bob made was pretty unbelievable. Right through that guy’s legs. Got the first shot. Then got the rebound there.”

“No words to describe it. Best feeling ever,” said the 5’-10″ sophomore from St. Albert, Alberta.

The expected track meet between two of the nation’s top offensive teams never materialized as the Pioneers limited the Wolverines to just 21 shots through almost 75 minutes of action. Magnus Chrona (19 saves) didn’t have a ton of work to do but when he did, the Denver goalie made sure to shut the door on Michigan.

“It was a really good hockey game. I thought both teams checked really well. There wasn’t a lot of ice, it didn’t seem. And it was an entertaining game,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “We’re obviously excited to be on the positive end. Give Michigan credit. I thought they adjusted well throughout the game. Made it harder on us.”

“I give our players a ton of credit for, again, sticking with it, winning another one-goal hockey game,” added the fourth-year coach. “We tied in the third period. It took us a little longer tonight than it did in Loveland, but our guys stuck with it and got the job done and we’re still in Boston through Saturday.”

The Pioneers carried play for the majority of the first period. Denver took advantage of that momentum and earned the 1-0 lead at 11:22 of the period when  Brett Stapley backhanded a rebound past Erik Portillo (30 saves) for his 17th. Stapley gathered a Justin Lee shot attempt and deposited it past an outstretched Portillo to kick off the Frozen Four scoring.

The Wolverines did not get their first shot on goal until the 3:53 mark of the opening period.

“I thought we handled them very well. I loved the team defense,” said Carle of the Pioneers’ pressure. “Everybody, to a man, was up. They were angling, taking away time and space. Making life hard on them. And obviously when mistakes did happen, Magnus was there to shut the door and make a couple really big saves.”

“The first period, they had the third guy back all the time. And we tried to carry the puck through that. They created too many turnovers, especially in the danger zones, the blue line, the top of the circles,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “As the game wore on, we got a little better with our puck possession, started to make some plays, got a little more comfortable. But they played desperately. And with the layers and the blocking of the shots, they took a lot away from us. And we just would dump it back in the corner and reload and grind.”

“They’re just structurally really good defensively. Everybody thought this might be a high-scoring game. But both teams played solid defensively. And the goaltending was great,too. They check. That’s their MO. And everything starts off their defense offensively and they worked hard tonight. They really made it difficult on us,” said Pearson.

The Michigan Wolverines celebrate Jimmy Lambert’s second-period, game-tying goal at 4:03. Michigan would lose 3-2 in overtime to the Denver Pioneers on Thursday, April 7, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

The Wolverines found their mojo in the second period as they controlled the play the way Denver did in the first. Michigan tied the game 1-1 at 4:03 when Jimmy Lambert deposited a Nolan Moyle feed from the goal line past Chrona. Moyle made the play happen after taking the puck to the net where Chrona made the stop, but Moyle outhustled Pioneers defenseman Sean Behrens for the puck to set up Lambert’s sixth.

Denver pulled ahead again on a Cameron Wright tip-in on Mike Benning‘s shot from the blue line in the third period. Wright’s 22nd at 5:36 briefly gave the Pioneers a push as Michigan has recently struggled in the third period.

The Denver Pioneers celebrate Cameron Wright’s go-ahead goal at 5:36 of the third period. The celebration was short-lived as Michigan forced overtime before falling 3-2 on Thursday, April 7, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

The Wolverines answered at 9:09 when Thomas Bordeleau banged in a rebound of a Michael Pastujov bid in front of the Pioneers’ goal. A blocked shot at the Michigan blue line by Wolverines forward Mark Estapa sent Pastujov off to the races before Bordeleau scooped the rebound into the Denver net for his 12th.

“We only needed one shot. It’s one shot. We were in the game. We hadn’t played our best. As the game wore on, I thought we got better and better versus some games recently that we got worse as the game went on,” said Pearson of Michigan’s third-period play. “But we were right there, one goal. The message was to keep playing, play our game and get everything to the net. There’s no bad shot in overtime. And we had it. I thought the first five minutes there especially, or maybe the first ten, that we were the better team. We couldn’t get pucks through them or to the net or get a bounce or a break.”

The overtime momentum swing was in the Wolverines’ favor through the first half of extra time, when Chrona shined brightest for the Pioneers.

“I thought Magnus was unbelievable in that overtime,” said senior forward Ryan Barrow. “He kind of let us get our feet settled there.”

Carle agreed that his last line of defense was tremendous all night but extra special in overtime.

“Obviously the (Brendan) Brisson save in overtime and the (Luke) Hughes save in overtime were exceptional and kept us in the hockey game,” said Carle. “It allowed Sav (Carter Savoie) to put one in the back of the net for us and send us to the championship game.”

Barrow concurred with his coach adding, “our best players made a play.”

That’s when Savoie and Brink connected to advance the Pioneers into the promised land.

“His game is continuing to develop and improve to where we can put him out in really big moments,” said Carle of Savoie and his play. “The goal-scoring, he’s been doing that for a long time. It’s a God-given ability that he has, and he’s impacted the program 23 times this year with that. So that’s exciting. But his whole game continues to round out as he becomes a more complete player.”

“A lot has been made of the symmetries between this team and the ’03 and ’04 team, being backmhere in Boston. And there’s no doubt about it, when we talk about what we want to do at Denver, it’s about winning championships and getting opportunities to hang banners,” said Carle. “And to have this opportunity is very special. To do it against Michigan, who is at 9 and we’re at 8, is even sweeter. And hopefully we can tie them and close the gap and reach our goal to getting to 10 first.”

Stay tuned. Denver awaits the Minnesota and Minnesota St. winner for a shot at banner number nine on Saturday night.

 

Minnesota Close Out Western Michigan

Gophers Golden in 3-0 Shutout of Broncos, Earn 1st Frozen Four Berth Since 2014 Worcester, MA – March 27 is a big day in the Minnesota Golden Gophers world. On this date, four years ago, Bob Motzko was hired as head coach, and it’s also his birthday. Added to that, it’s the day the Gophers returned to the Frozen Four for the… Continue reading Minnesota Close Out Western Michigan

McKay, Minnesota St. Shutout Notre Dame

Mavericks bounce Irish 1-0 and punch ticket to Frozen Four in Boston. Albany, NY – A 1-0 game against Dryden McKay and the Minnesota St. Mavericks might as well be a 10-goal deficit some nights. Saturday night at MVPArena was one of those nights. Only it didn’t feel that way to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In the opening period, Notre… Continue reading McKay, Minnesota St. Shutout Notre Dame

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Dethrones Massachusetts in OT

Golden Gophers claw back in 3rd period.  Worcester, MA – Late game heroics saved the Minnesota Golden Gophers season and ended the Massachusetts Minutemen’s. After spotting the Minutemen a two-goal lead in the first period, Minnesota tied the game with 6:43 left in regulation on a slapshot from freshman Matthew Knies. Then would knock-off the defending National Champions 4-3 at… Continue reading Minnesota Dethrones Massachusetts in OT

A Family Affair for the Irish

Slaggert Brothers Power Notre Dame over North Dakota, Advance to Regional Finals

Albany, NY – The Notre Dame Fighting Irish thought they beat the North Dakota Fighting Hawks 2-1 as time expired in regulation. Still, a lengthy review of the play nullified the celebration and the goal and led to overtime at MVP Arena. Senior Graham Slaggert wasted little time and left no doubt when he sniped a snapshot from the top of the right circle past Zach Driscoll just 1:38 into overtime to recreate the moment for the Irish.

“We’ve been working on that play the last couple of weeks. We scored a similar goal against Wisconsin in the quarterfinals,” said Graham Slaggert of the game-winning play with his younger brother, Landon. “Landon does a great job screening the goalie. I kind of knew where he was going to let me shoot, and there was a big enough gap for me.”

Notre Dame moves on to Saturday’s Regional Final against the Minnesota St. Mavericks for the chance to advance to Boston, MA., and the Frozen Four. The Brothers Slaggert provided the offense as each had a goal and an assist in the win. Matthew Galajda stopped 23 shots, including a penalty shot midway through the third period. 

“I’ve been talking to them the last several weeks about never getting too high and never too low,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “This stuff happens in this tournament for some reason. I’m really proud of these guys for staying focused because that’s disheartening. I reminded them to remember what happened to Mankato last week because that’s what happened today. It’s disappointing it has to happen at this level but I’m proud of these guys responding.”

The opening period was a grueling slog as both teams’ physical play led to minimal flow. 

“The toughest thing for us was their neutral zone, going three across (the zone), getting zone entries,” said Fighting Hawks junior defenseman Ethan Frisch. “Once we figured it out, though, I thought we had our chances.”

The Fighting Hawks had better scoring chances and capitalized on one as the first period wound down. Freshman defenseman Brent Johnson wristed a shot from inside the blue line through traffic and beat Galajda to make it 1-0 North Dakota at 18:43. Jackson Kunz and Griffin Ness assisted on Johnson’s second goal.

 

Slaggert, the younger, picked off a pass outside the North Dakota zone and raced around defenseman Chris Jandric to slide the puck past Driscoll (23 saves) to tie the game 1-1 at 1:06 of the second period. The elder Slaggert assisted on the younger’s 12th.

Driscoll and Galajda traded big saves around the midpoint of the third. First, Driscoll turned aside a backhander by Irish defenseman Spencer Stastney. Then at the opposite end, Galajda made an initial save on Riese Gaber’s mini-break, then another stop during a scramble in the crease. Gaber drew a Hooking call on Notre Dame’s Nick Leivermann, which led to a penalty shot for Gaber.

 

Gaber, North Dakota’s leading goal scorer, skated far over to the right before making his way in on Galajda, only to snap a shot wide of the goal.

Graduate student Jack Adams earned a Hooking penalty at 18:26 of regulation giving the Fighting Hawks a power-play over the final minute and a half. North Dakota couldn’t muster much in the way of offense before the end of the game fracas transpired.

The Irish appeared to score the game-winning goal as time expired in regulation. Landon Slaggert carried the puck into the Fighting Hawks zone; the puck ended up on his brother’s stick behind the net. Graham Slaggert went for the wraparound that Driscoll stopped, but Adam Karashik crashed the net to bat in the rebound as time expired. The on-ice official signaled s goal, but upon a lengthy review by the officials, it was no goal. 

“You want to try get the call right and take as much time as you can and they did,” said North Dakota head coach Brad Berry. “They took a lot of time and felt they made the right call. It gave us new life. I thought we had a lot of energy going into the locker room and coming out (for overtime). At the end of the day, you want to make sure you get the right call and they did.”

 

At issue was the clock’s timing, which on the monitors in the building, there was .01 remaining. Those clocks are just for ESPN use and not the official scorers’ timer. 

The NCAA released a statement following the game. 

But no matter, Graham Slaggert put all that and North Dakota to rest twenty-some-odd minutes later. 

“At the end of the day, we all chase that green banner that we want to hang at the end of the year,” said Berry. “That’s one of our goals. We didn’t get to check that box and hang that banner. But I tell you what, I am so proud of everyone in that locker room for playing the North Dakota way and representing our program at the highest level.” 

 Saturday’s game time has yet to be determined. Puck drop will either be at 4:00 or 6:30 pm EST, pending ESPN.

2021-22 Worcester Regional Preview

Reading, Ma- The Worcester Regional begins on Friday at noon EST at the DCU Center. The third overall seed Western Michigan University Broncos will face off against the fourteenth seeded Northeastern University Huskies in the opening game. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers will take on the defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen at 6:00 pm EST.

The winner of this region will face the winner of the Albany Regional at Boston’s TD Garden on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in the Frozen Four.

(1) Western Michigan Broncos (25-11-1) vs. (4) Northeastern Huskies (25-12-1)

A battle of first-year head coaches awaits WMU’s Pat Ferschweiler and NU’s Jerry Keefe in Worcester. Each team comes into Friday’s game having experienced a letdown of sorts; both had solid chances to, in NU’s case, advance to the conference finals and in WMU’s to win the conference final.

The Huskies are back-stopped by one of college hockey’s premier goalies this season, Devon Levi. The sophomore from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, is at or near the top in all statistical categories. Levi sits for sixth in wins, third in GAA with a 1.52 average, first in SV% on .952, and second with ten shutouts. The 6′-0″ Levi missed six games while participating in the Beijing Olympics for Team Canada.

“It’ll be fun to go up against an opponent like that,” said Levi of the Broncos. “It will definitely be a challenge but it’s one that we’re all excited for.”

Junior Brandon Bussi, who’s having a career year, handles the Broncos net. The 6′-5″ Sound Beach, NY., native is 25-11-1, with a 2.60 GAA, .910 SV%, and four shutouts.

The Huskies average 2.58 goals per game while the Broncos average 3.68. Defensively they are flipped, with NU giving up 1.74 a game and WMU allowing 2.62. The Broncos are slightly older, bigger, and heavier than the Huskies. Northeastern has eight NHL prospects to two on Western Michigan.

Against the tournament field, the Broncos are 9-10-1, as they play four qualifying teams in NCHC play. Western Michigan is 8-9-1 against their three conference foes that qualified for the NCAAs.  WMU is 6-3 at home and 1-7-1 away from Lawson Ice Arena. 1-1 is the neutral site record for the Broncos. They are 1-1 against non-conference opponents.

“We’re battle-tested from being in the NCHC,” said Ferschweiler. “We have the number three overall seed for a team that was picked to finish sixth in our own conference.”

“It should be a highly entertaining game and up and down the ice is what I would expect,” added the Broncos coach.

Northeastern has only lined up against three schools that made the big dance. The Huskies are a combined 2-4 against the field. 1-2 at home and 1-2 away. NU is 1-0 in non-con action against the field.

The Broncos are paced offensively by Hobey Baker Award nominee Ethan Frank and his 38 points, 26 goals, and 12 assists. Fellow senior Drew Worrad (9-35-44) is the leading point-getter for WMU. Defensemen Ronnie Attard and Michael Joyaux follow up with 36 and 32 points. The Broncos are a balanced mix of upperclassmen and freshmen and are the fourth leading goal-scoring team in the NCAA.

NU’s focal point is junior Aidan McDonough (24-14-38), Sam Colangelo (12-14-26), and Jack Hughes (7-9-16). The second line of Jakov Novak, Justin Hryckowian, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine are almost equally as dangerous, combining for 23 goals and 36 assists.

The Huskies are a solid defensive team led by a pair of Montreal Canadiens picks, Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble. Jeremie Bucheler, Tommy Miller, and Julian Kislin give the blue line some physical pop.

The two teams last met in 2013, a 1-1 tie, in the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame. Northeastern holds the edge in the overall series 3-0-1.

 

(2) Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-12-0) vs. (3) Massachusetts Minutemen (22-12-2)

The Massachusetts Minutemen are the reigning champs and seem to be putting their best hockey in front of them at the right time. Having blown a chance at the Hockey East regular-season title in the last weekend of conference play might have been the team’s wake-up call. Three straight wins in the Hockey East tourney led to a celebration on the TD Garden ice, the goal all season, but more so in April than in March. This past Saturday, the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost the Big Ten championship game against Michigan 4-3. So they’ll come into Worcester with a fire in their belly.

As the season played out, both squads have been in the top half of the rankings. Each has faced adversity and is here where many expected they would be.

“I kind of like that we’re going in as the underdog,” said Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel. “But at the same time, we’re the defendant champions and we’re going to do everything we can to defend our title.”

“I’m just excited to have the opportunity to defend,” added the sixth-year coach. “It’s hard when you come back after winning, and everybody’s gunning for you. But when it got to the end of the year, when things got real serious, our team started to rise, and we played some really good defensive hockey. We played some really good, hard, heavy hockey against two good, hard, heavy teams.”

“It strengthened us to go into the NCAA tournament,” said Carvel. “I feel like our identity really, really showed through the Hockey East playoffs.”

The Minutemen and Gophers last faced each other in 2016-17, Massachusetts Carvel’s first season, during the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota. The Gophers won 4-1. The Gophers are 4-0 all-time against Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is 3-4-1 against the field and 0-4 against non-con opponents. Minnesota is 7-8 against the tourney teams and 3-4 against those not in the Big Ten. The Minutemen are 3-2 at home, 1-2-1 on the road, and 1-0 at neutral sites. The Golden Gophers are 3-4 at home and 4-4 away.

As defending champs, the Minutemen have had the target on their backs all season and have gotten every team’s best punch night in and night out. Massachusetts has experience up and down their lineup. The senior class has experienced the highs and lows of NCAA tournament success. Bobby Trivigno leads the Minutemen, the 5′-8″ Hobey Baker Award hopeful with 20 goals and 28 assists for the team-leading 48 points, third-best in the NCAA. His 20 goals are fifth-best, and his assists are sixth-best overall.

When it comes to Trivigno, it’s more than just the numbers.

“He’s the most unique kid I’ve ever coached. It’s not even close,” said Carvel of Trivigno. “He never gets tired, he never has a bad attitude, and he never gets out-willed. Never, never, never. Every single day. He’s the hardest-working kid. He has a fire inside him. On match, not even close. Unbelievable.”

 

Junior Ben Meyers (16-21-37), senior Blake McLaughlin (12-20-32), and freshman Matthew Knies (12-17-29) lead the Gophers. Minnesota has 14 NHL draft picks on their roster, the most of any school. The Minutemen have six.

Minnesota’s roster is loaded with talent and can roll four lines, three with high-end talent. Massachusetts goalie Matt Murray will have his hands full on Friday night.

Murray, a graduate student, isn’t flashy and doesn’t get the attention that he deserves. The 6′-1″ St. Albert, Alberta native, is the career leader in wins (73) for the Minutemen and the record holder for shutouts with 14. This season Murray has started all but one game. He is 21-11-2 with a 2.27 GAA and a .919 SV%.

Bob Motzko’s team was 12-8 in early January when goalie Jack LaFontaine, a three-year starter in goal, left the team for the NHL. Junior Justen Close has gone 12-4 in the interim.

In his previous two years, Close had three starts. He now sits with a 1.89 GAA and a .928 SV%. in 16 games this season. The Gophers have rallied as a team since Close took over the netminding duties.

 

2022 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Albany Regional Preview

Reading, Ma – The 2021-22 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament kicks off on Thursday, March 24, in Albany, NY, at the MVP Arena. The first game features Minnesota St. Mavericks, overall number two seed, taking on the 15th seeded Harvard Crimson at noon EST. The nightcap features the seventh-seeded North Dakota Fighting Hawks against the ninth seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 6:00 pm EST. Harvard and Minnesota St. have never faced each other in NCAA competition. There hasn’t been a fight between the two UND’s since 2012-13, when the two split a pair in South Bend, Indiana.

The winner of this bracket will face-off against the winner of the Worcester Regional at TD Garden in Boston, Ma. on Thursday, April 7, in the Frozen Four.

(1) Minnesota St. Mavericks (35-5-0) vs. (4) Harvard Crimson (21-10-3)

The Minnesota St. Mavericks hovered around the top of the NCAA rankings all season. The Harvard Crimson was early season high-flyers before the losses piled up. Something that Mike Hastings‘ Mavericks squad hasn’t had to deal with too often this season. Minnesota St. comes into the NCAA Tournament’s opening game riding high on a 15-game win streak. The longest in the tourney.

The last time the Mavericks lost, January 14, 2022, 4-2 at Northern Michigan, the Crimson lost 3-0 at Quinnipiac, was sitting at 8-4-1 and staring down a month without two of their top scorers. Junior Nick Abruzzese and freshman Sean Farrell would soon be departing for the Beijing Olympics on Team USA. Harvard weathered their absence and stayed in contention in ECAC play. Since the duo returned, Harvard has lost twice and seems to have found their rhythm at the right time. On Saturday, 3-2 in overtime against Quinnipiac, Harvard won the ECAC tournament to earn their berth in the NCAA’s. Minnesota St. won the CCHA in a bizarre overtime finish against Bemidji St. 2-1. The Mavericks scored, celebrated, received the trophy only to overturn the goal forty minutes later.

Harvard beat the Bobcats twice since the Olympics ended. Those two wins put the Crimson at 2-2 against the NCAA field of 16, losing to QU and Northeastern early in their season. The Mavericks, meanwhile, have dispatched Massachusetts, Minnesota Duluth, and St. Cloud St. during non-conference games while sweeping Michigan Tech 4-0 (2 OT W’s) and lost to number one overall seed Michigan, 3-2, way back in October. Minnesota St. is an impressive 9-2 versus the field. The knock on the Mavericks was that they beat up the former WCHA’s weaker teams, now rebranded as the CCHA. Minnesota St. put that talk to rest last year in the NCAA tourney and continued t quash that notion in the early season non-con schedule.

Mavericks have senior Dryden McKay between the pipes, and once again, he’s been infallible. The 2022 CCHA Player of the Year holds the NCAA record for career shutouts (35) and has a 35-4-0 won-lost record. The Downers Grove, Illinois product has nine shutouts this season and is second in GAA at 1.27 and fourth in SV% on .934. McKay is on the short-list for the Mike Richter Award for the best goalie and the Hobey Baker Award.

Harvard will counter with junior Mitchell Gibson in goal. The 6′-1″ Phoenixville, PA., native is 18-9-1 on the season with one shutout, a 1-0 masterclass performance vs. Quinnipiac. Mitchell has a 2.11 GAA and .919 SV%, 13th and 22nd overall.

Harvard Crimson goalie Mitchell Gibson stopped 28 of 29 RPI shots in the Crimson’s 3-1 win over the Engineers on Sunday, March 13, 2022, at Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Allston, MA.

“I think it motivated him this weekend,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato of Gibson’s play against Hobey Baker Award finalist goaltenders. “His performance on Sunday (2 goals on 49 shots in Harvard’s 3-2 OT win), against (Yaniv) Perets and Quinnipiac, who’s had an incredible season, along with their team, I give Mitch a lot of credit. He was certainly the best goaltender in that game. I think at this time of year you need special efforts and special performances. Whether that’s goal scoring from a forward, or a defenseman where he manages the whole rink, or a goalie that gives his team confidence that they can withstand a little bit of a push by the other team or kill a big penalty.”

“Our team has certainly strengthened its backbone oer the last few weeks,” added Donato. “It certainly starts with Mitch Gibson and his play down the stretch.”

“Mitch is an amazing goalie, who is only getting better, and he’s heating up,” said senior captain Casey Dornbach. “He had some huge games for us. We’re going to need him back there. We have full trust in him to do that.”

The two teams have ample firepower should it be an off-night for the goaltenders. What Minnesota st has in experience Harvard has in pedigree. The Mavericks account for four of the nation’s top twenty point-getters; junior Nathan Smith (18-31-49) and senior Julian Napravnik (18-31-49) are tied in second. Smith is a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Junior Brendan Furry has an 11-30-41 statline good for 16th and classmate Cade Borchardt rounds out the top twenty on 15-1-25-40 points. Fellow junior Ryan Sandelin is tied for fourth in the country on 21 goals for the season. Mankato also leads the NCAA in goals as a team with 167.

Minnesota St. Mavericks forward Julian Napravnik carries the puck up the Mullins Center ice during the 2-0 win over the Massachusetts Minutemen on October 2, 2021.

Matthew Coronato leads Harvard (18-17-35) in points and goals. Abruzzese is next (9-23-32), followed by defenseman Henry Thrun (7-25-32) and sophomore Alex Laferriere (14-15-29). Thrun, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, leads the Crimson with his 25 assists which are fourth-best for defensemen nationally.

Thrun is one of 11 NHL picks on the Harvard squad. Farrell is a draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Coronato by the Calgary Flames, Abruzzese for Toronto, Laferriere by Los Angeles, and Gibson for Washington. Other players include junior John Farinacci – Arizona, Austin Wong – Winnipeg, upfront and Kyle Aucoin – Detroit, Jack Bar – Toronto, and Ian Moore – Anaheim on defense.

“They’re an older team, they have a lot of offense too,” said Dornbach. “So we’re going to have to be firing on all cylinders. They have some good players, we do too. I think it’s going to be a good matchup.”

(2) North Dakota Fighting Hawks (24-13-1) vs. (3) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (27-11-0)

The North Dakota Fighting Hawks head into Albany, having lost their previous game, a 4-2 loss against Western Michigan in the NCHC semifinals. It’s a safe bet that Brad Berry‘s bunch will be motivated for Thursday’s tilt against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Jeff Jackson‘s team also comes in on a loss, a 2-1 loss in the BIG Ten playoffs to Michigan.

The two schools are almost statistically even on the ice. Notre Dame has scored 126 goals on the season to North Dakota’s 118. The Irish average 3.32 goals a game while the Hawks are averaging 3.11. Notre Dame is averaging slightly fewer goals against than NoDak, 2.11 to 2.61. The Irish are also slightly older, slightly taller, and slightly heavier. Notre Dame has nine NHL picks to the Hawks seven. The teams are tied 17-17-3 in head-to-head action dating back to 1970-71.

North Dakota is 11-7-1 against the field. 7-2-1 at Ralph Englestad Arena, 4-4 on the road, and 0-1 at neutral sites. 9-5-1 vs. conference qualifiers and 2-2 against non-con. The Irish are 6-4 against the field. 1-0 against non-con opponents and 5-4 against Michigan and Minnesota. 3-1 at the Compton Family Ice Arena and 3-2 away from it. They are 0-1 in neutral sight games.

The Hawks will be without star defenseman and Hobey nominee Jake Sanderson, but they have missed him all season. Sanderson has missed 14 of 40 for the Grand Forks, ND school. They still have Ethan Frisch, Chris Jandric, Tyler Kleven, and Cooper Moore to work with. On offense, NoDak has gotten a phenomenal season from freshman Riese Gaber, who leads the team in goals and points (15-22-37). Seniors Connor Ford and Ashton Calder, 28 and 21 points each, Jake Schmaltz and Matteo Costantini, 24 and 21, a pair of first-year students, round out the 20 point club.

In goal, senior Zach Driscoll carries a 22-10-1 record, a .907 GAA, and a 2.36 GAA. Driscoll was here last year as the starter for Bemidji State and helped take the Beavers to the Regional final, where they lost to eventual National Champions Massachusetts, so he knows what to expect. His counterpart in goal for Notre Dame has also been around the block. Matthew Galajda has been here three times with the Cornell Big Red. The 6′-0″ transfer student missed last season because the Ivy League schools did not participate in sports. In his one season with the Irish, he has posted 17 wins with seven losses. He carries a 1.98 GAA and a .930 SV%. Galajda, an Aurora, Ontario native, split the early season duties with junior Ryan Bischel. Bishel went 10-4 with a 2.08 GAA and .924 GAA in 16 games before Galajda took over as the full-time starter in mid-February. The Irish have gone 7-2 since moving to Galajda.

Junior forward Max Ellis (16-12-28) and sophomore Ryder Rolston (10-17-27), senior defensemen Spencer Stastny (7-20-27), and Nick Leivermann (6-20-26) power the Notre Dame offense. The Irish have multiple players from their senior class that experienced the NCAA’s back in 2018-19, including Lievermann and Stastney, Graham Slaggert and Jake Pivonka.

 

Michigan Tops UMass 4-1

Ann Arbor, MI – The defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen had their first ever experience with the University of Michigan Wolverines and Yost Arena on Saturday. It wasn’t pretty for the Minutemen. Led by two goals from sophomore Brendan Brisson, the Wolverines’ top-line proved too much for the visiting Minutemen. Brisson and his linemates Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers factored into three of the four… Continue reading Michigan Tops UMass 4-1