Pio My, Denver Captures National Championship

Pioneers score five goals in the third period to earn the school’s 9th NCAA Hockey title.

Boston, MA – It took over forty minutes, but once the Denver Pioneers solved the puzzle that is the Minnesota St. Mavericks defense and Hobey Baker Award-winning goalie Dryden McKay the flood gates opened. Trailing 1-0 heading into the third period, the Pioneers had managed only eight shots on goal. Twenty minutes, a dozen shots, and five goals later, Denver was crowned NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Champions with a sell-out TD Garden crowd.

The 5-1 win snapped the Mavericks’ 18-game winning streak and put the Pioneers in a tie with Michigan for most National Championships in NCAA ice hockey.

“Our alumni group is very tight and it certainly was a goal to get to nine,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “The ultimate goal is to be the first one to 10, I will tell you. Winning Thursday against Michigan, the team at 9, was a huge step in that direction. And obviously tonight is an even bigger step.”

Denver sophomore Mike Benning was the first penalty of the game, and it cost the Pioneers when he went to the box for Tripping at 12:23.

Sam Morton capitalized on the man advantage when he beat Magnus Chrona five-hole to give the Mavericks the 1-0 lead at 13:59 of the first period. Lucas Sowder and Brendan Furry assisted on Morton’s ninth when Sowder gathered Furry’s rebound and swung a pass to Morton at the left face-off dot for the game’s only goal through two periods.

Minnesota St. Mavericks junior forward Sam Morton celebrates his first-period goal giving the Mavericks the 1-0 lead against the Denver Pioneers during the NCAA National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022.

The Mavericks had the game’s subsequent two penalties in the late first and early second periods. Denver didn’t generate much on either chance, while Minnesota St. had a solid shorthanded attempt on each.

Chrona turned away Josh Groll on the first one and David Silye on a breakaway during the second one. The 6′-5″ junior from Stockholm, Sweden, made 24 saves during 60 minutes of action.

“Magnus made save after save there in big moments. I think that gave the guys life that he’s putting it on the line for us,” said Carle of Chrona’s performance. “We need to up our game. And again, in the second, I thought it was an opportunity for us to take a breath again and come out and play Denver hockey for the last 20.”

Denver Pioneers goalie Magnus Chrona makes one of his 24 saves during the Pioneers’ 5-1 win over the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship game at TD Garden on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

“They were outplaying us, but at the end of the day they were only up 1-0,” said senior assistant captain Ryan Barrow. “So one shot changes the entire outlook on the game.”

Barrow was just the man to take that shot that changed the course of the game. At 4:46 of the third period, the 6′-2″ forward found himself alone in front of McKay as Benning fired off a shot from the right circle. McKay saved it, but Barrow knocked the rebound past McKay to even score 1-1.

“I think we’re a defense-oriented team. Obviously we’re trying to defend hard,” said Morton. “We didn’t want to let up a goal, but usually you need more than one to win a hockey game. I think it deflated us a little bit.”

With Mavericks goal scorer Morton off for Tripping at 5:26, the Pioneers capitalized on the man advantage shortly before it expired when Benning beat McKay with a one-timer from the left face-off dot at 7:33. Carter Mazur and Justin Lee assisted on Benning’s 15th.

“I’m just kind of overwhelmed with everything,” said Benning of his goal. “But I saw a shot and took it. Went with my gut, and now we’re here. So I’m happy.”

The Denver Pioneers and some fans celebrate Mike Benning’s game-winning goal against the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the NCAA National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022. The Pioneers won 5-1 to earn the school’s ninth hockey title.

“I thought I gave up a rebound on that (first) one. They capitalized,” said Mavericks goalie McKay. “Then we took a penalty shortly after. It was just a bad bounce. And then a guy makes a nice shot on the power play. All of a sudden it’s 2-1, and just never really recovered. It would have been nice to make a few more saves for the guys, keep it at one or two,but it just didn’t happen.”

“It was a heck of a shot. They worked it around the power play and the guy just opened it up for a one-timer, went by my D’s face and right over my shoulder,short side. Good shot by him,” said a dejected McKay.

“They’re a pretty sound team, they’re older,” said Benning of the Mavericks. “He’s a really good goalie but he’s not perfect. So obviously I saw a shot and took it. And Barrow saw a shot and took it. We just kind of picked away at the game piece by piece. And I think that’s how we found our success tonight.”

Six minutes later, Massimo Rizzo made it 3-1 Pioneers when he buried a Mazur pass during a two-on-one from the bottom of the right circle for his 12th.

Denver Pioneers Massimo Rizzo beats Minnesota St. Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay with a one-timer on a two-on-one during the Pioneers’ five-goal third period in the National Championship game at TD Garden on April 9, 2022.

The last two Pioneer goals came courtesy of empty-net goals. The 4-1 strike came at 17:28 when senior centerman Brett Stapley fired in a shot from the neutral zone for his 18th.

Thirty-two seconds later, senior Cameron Wright added a backhander from the right-side boards to cap off the evening 5-1. Mazur picked up his third assist on the evening on Wright’s 23rd.

“Words don’t describe the feelings. I’m so proud of our team and what they could accomplish this year. It means the world to our staff and players to be a part of this journey with these guys,” said Carle. “It was just so much fun. They committed to each other every day to get better. It was not easy, but they continued to stick with it.”

“We faced our biggest test tonight,” added Carle. “Mike Hastings and his staff have an excellent hockey team. They made us earn it. You have to earn this trophy. And our guys earned it tonight. And we are so proud of them.”

The National Champion Denver Pioneers. Left to Right, Head Coach David Carle, goalie Magnus Chrona, forward Mike Benning, and forward Ryan Barrow.

“I thought we got off to a good start, even a good 40 minutes,” said Hastings of his Mavericks. “Once we gave up the first one, I thought we started leaking oil a little bit and couldn’t stop the bleeding. They scored a power play goal to get it to two. And then we started chasing the game a little bit.”

“I think tonight’s a perfect example of understanding that a minimum of 60 minutes at this time is going to be something that you have to have. And I thought we had a good 40 and not a great last 20,” Hastings added.

The Pioneers raised the National Championship trophy for the third time in the city of Boston. The first came in 1960 at the old Boston Garden, the second at TD Garden in 2004, and again Saturday night.

“We have four now since the turn of the century, I think that’s the most out of anybody. We’ve done it with three different head coaches, that’s very impressive,” Carle said of the DU legacy. “You come here to try to win championships.”

“It’s not easy to play at Denver. We challenge recruits when they come on campus. We challenge our players. We hold them accountable,” said Carle. “It’s a big responsibility to play in our program. And ultimately, it takes people who are ‘team first’ and who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. So to do it again in Boston, that team really did put Denver hockey back on the modern map. And we’re here to stay.”

NCAA Final Preview – Denver vs. Minnesota St.

Pioneers and Mavericks Face-off for National Championship

Boston, MA – All of the hard work competing at the NCAA level came to fruition for one school tonight. Will it be a return to the promised land for one of college hockey’s storied programs, the Denver Pioneers? The Pioneers have won the National Championship eight times, most recently in 2017. Or will it be the new kid on the block, the Minnesota St. Mavericks? The Mavericks are playing in their first National Championship game after jumping to Division I hockey in the 1996-97 season.

The Frozen Four at TD Garden has lived up to the hype. The title game should be one for the ages as college hockey’s top two offensive teams take the ice for an 8:00 pm EST start on Saturday night.

The Mavericks have been the best team since the 2021-22 season. They came east to open the season against the defending National Champion Massachusetts Minutemen, where they promptly swept the Minutemen. The Pioneers have had to push the proverbial cart up the mountain to get to this point. Their season has been a steady climb to get to this point.

On Thursday, the Pioneers and the Mavericks used their defensive prowess to stifle talented Michigan and Minnesota teams to reach the finals. Most commentators expected a high-scoring affair that didn’t materialize in the Denver vs. Michigan game. The Pioneers limited the high-flying Wolverines to just 21 shots on goal through three-and-a-half periods of action in their 3-2 overtime win.

The Mavericks have the game’s best goalie in Dryden McKay. Their defense and McKay shut down the Gophers’ offense after allowing a goal on their first shot during a two-on-oh opportunity in the first period of their 5-1 win in the nightcap at the Garden.

“What you do with the puck is one thing, but it’s just as important what you’re doing without the puck to get it back,” said Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings. “Both teams, you watch Denver. They’re about as detailed a team that I’ve seen with their sticks, getting back on top, what they did to an incredibly talented Michigan team. When we got behind in the game (against Minnesota), I thought it was still really important that we continue to defend so they didn’t extend the lead, then when we didn’t have the puck get it back so we could get on offense.”

“I just think there are two sides to the game. You have to be committed to both sides of that I think to be effective at this time (of the year). That’s why I think both teams moved on with the opportunity for Saturday,” added Hastings.

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.

“We have our way of playing the game,” said Denver head coach David Carle. “I think it’s adaptable to any style we go against. We’re comfortable in a lot of different types of games. That’s a credit to the players and their ability to stick to our game plans and stick to our structure and be able to execute in different ways based on what the game’s calling.”

“I think it’s predictable and fast,” said Carle of the Pioneers’ transition game. “Our D doesn’t hang on to the puck too long. I think our forwards like to get the puck quicker so they can have the puck, can do what they do, attacking off the rush, or getting pucks in behind defensive opponents. It allows our team to play fast and make our opponents uncomfortable.”

McKay won the Hobey Baker Award for being college hockey’s top player on Friday. It is just the third time a goalie has won the award in the competition’s 42-year history. A netminder won the award in 2001 when Michigan State’s Ryan Miller won. McKay’s statistics speak for themselves, 38-4 record, including an 18-game winning streak. The senior carries a 1.27 goals-against average, second-best overall, and a .934 save percentage, good for third. McKay has ten shutouts on the season and is the NCAA career record holder with 26.

Carle and the Pioneers know what is ahead of them in McKay and the Mavericks.

“They’re in this game for a reason, too. There’s not a lot of weaknesses just like there weren’t in Minnesota or Michigan,” said Carle. “We played three really good teams thus far. This will be the fourth one. I think there are some similarities with the level that they defend at with Lowell and Duluth. We’ve had success against those teams doing things a certain way.”

“I think that’s a great experience that we have coming into the game,” added Carle on Denver’s route through the tournament. “Coach Hastings and their staff and players, they’ve obviously built something really special that we respect and are excited for the challenge to play them for a banner and a big trophy come Saturday night.”

Senior Cameron Wright echoed his coach’s sentiment on the similarities between the styles of previous opponents.

“One thing that helps is our regional. They (MSU) play so much similar to Lowell and Duluth,” added the 6′-1″ winger from Newmarket, Ontario. “That’s a good starting point for us. I think just playing our game. We’ve been successful quite a bit this year. So continue to do that and hope we can get the job done.”

The question mark for the Pioneers coming in was their goaltending situation. Magnus Chrona has quieted that talk after holding the Wolverines to two goals in the semifinal. The 6′-5″ Swede has allowed five goals in the Pioneers’ previous three postseason games and only seven in their last six, including the NCHC Conference playoffs.

“It’s playoff hockey, and it can’t get better than that,” said Chrona. “I think we’re having a great time out there with each other. It’s just fun to be a part of.”

There’s a plethora of talent on each team, like Hobey Baker Hat-Trick nominee Bobby Brink and Cole Guttman on Denver and Nathan Smith and Julian Napravnik on the Mavericks. But, some other players have been chipping in in remarkable ways.

Keep an eye on Denver’s Carter Savoie. The 5″-10″ sophomore has been outstanding all season but lights out during the Pioneers’ run through the NCAA tourney. Savoie has a goal in all three games thus far, including two straight game-winning goals to keep Denver alive. When the lights are shining, Savoie is there to bask in the glow.

Wright has been equally as important during the NCAA’s. He had the game-winner against UMass-Lowell in the opening round in Loveland, CO., and scored against the Wolverines in the third period to briefly give the Pioneers the lead.

The Mavericks have had more balance from their scoring but keep an eye out for Reggie Lutz and Ondrej Pavel. At opportune times, each has two goals in the tournament, which has been the Mavericks’ calling card. Strong defense and getting timely goals.

Each team has celebrated at one of the TD Garden ends, but only one will have the ultimate celebration. Stay tuned.

 

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.

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 St. Outlasts Harvard in Albany Regional Opener

Fourth Line Keys Win in Opening Game

Albany, NY – The Minnesota St. Mavericks weathered a Harvard Crimson comeback late in the game to advance to Sunday’s Regional Final at MVP Arena against the winner of Notre Dame vs. North Dakota. Harvard spotted the favored Mavericks a two-goal lead in the first period only to fall a goal short, 4-3. 

Ondrej Pavel‘s early third-period goal was the difference maker as sophomore defenseman Akito Hirose assisted on three goals, and sophomore Josh Groll had two assists, one for each linemate Pavel and Connor Gregga. Richter Award top three finalist Dryden McKay turned back 19 of 22 Crimson shots to earn his NCAA leading 36th win. 

“If there’s a guarantee that you could get at this tournament. It’s that it’s never easy,” said Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings. “Tonight wasn’t easy. I thought we had a real good start. Then we got a little loose but I want to give Harvard credit on making it happen. Creating turnovers and then finding a way to to make a play to get it back to a three-two game.”

“I thought we did a good job of resetting coming out in the third period,” added Hastings. “Ondrej Pavel makes a real nice, hard play and ends up getting in and makes no mistake about it and gives us a two-goal lead.”

“It was a little bit of bend don’t break. At this time, it’s nice to be moving on. But as we knew it would be it’d be an incredible battle against Harvard and it was,” said the 10-year bench boss.

The Mavericks broke through on Mitchell Gibson at 14:12 of the first period. A scramble in front of the Crimson goal led to a slapshot from the blue line from defenseman Hirose that winger Gregga tipped by Gibson (36 saves). Hirose and Josh Groll assisted Gregga’s sixth goal.

The Crimson compounded their misfortune with a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty at 16:56. It took less than a minute to double up their lead in the nation’s third-ranked power-play.

Reggie Lutz blasted a one-timer from the right circle past Gibson at 17:46 to make it 2-0. Hirose had the helper on Lutz’s power-play strike.

 

Junior Brendan Furry‘s wrist shot from the slot put the Mavericks ahead 3-0 just 2:06 into the second period. Furry’s 12th was unassisted.

A scramble in the Harvard crease led to a penalty shot awarded to Minnesota St.’s Julian Napravnik at 10:02. Gibson quickly padded away Napravnik’s snap snot with a blocker save. 

“I think it certainly did,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato on whether Gibson’s save on Napravnik gave the Crimson momentum. “He was really on his game from the from the very beginning and gave us a chance even though we were giving up some real quality chances. He gave us a chance to stay around so that when we did get a couple goals, we were able to turn it into a little bit more of a game in the second half I think that is mainly because of his great effort.”

Harvard came alive late in the second when Sean Farrell beat McKay when he just flung the puck on goal from below the goal line. The puck bounced off McKay, who jumped up in the air, and into the Mavericks’ net at 16:42. Farrell’s 10th put the score at 3-1 Minnesota St.

Minnesota St. Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay watches as Harvard Crimson forward Sean Farrell’s shot glances off his skate in the second period of Thursday’s NCAA Albany Regional game at MVP Arena in Albany, NY, on March 24, 2022.

Just forty-eight seconds later, Alex Gaffney cut the deficit to 3-2 when he beat McKay with a shot through the legs from the low slot. Alex Laferriere assisted on Gaffney’s seventh. 

Immediately off the face-off from Gaffney’s goal, the Maverick’s struck iron when Groll beat Gibson with a slap shot. 

Pavel put the Mavericks back on top by two goals at 5:59 of the third when he ripped a shot from the left circle top corner past Gibson to make it 4-2.

“I believe they were they were unbelievable tonight,” said Pavel of his linemates Groll and Gregga. “I ended up getting that goal but it was all because we got a good play from our defenseman, Josh Groll then chips it by their by their defenseman. Then we’re just going down hill and I owe a lot to them for for the success that our fourth line is having.” 

A Tripping penalty on Mavericks’ Smith gave the Crimson a power-play at 14:38. 

With Gibson on the bench for the extra attacker, senior captain Casey Dornbach cut the deficit when firing a cross-ice pass from Farrell past McKay for his eighth goal. 

Harvard pulled Gibson again but could not beat McKay to force overtime as time wound down on their season. 

“We’ve been in that situation a few times this year, and been able to come back completely,” said Dornbach. “So we definitely had confidence there. It just shows the resilience of this group that we’ve had all year. It’s been the best team I’ve been a part of since being at Harvard. And I think we all wanted to do it for each other and obviously fell short tonight.”

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.

 

Mavericks Crash UMass Party

Amherst, MA – A festive and historic night on The University of Massachusetts-Amherst campus quickly turned sour as the Minutemen fell behind the Minnesota State Mavericks early and never recovered. Senior goaltender Dryden McKay turned back 18 shots, and Nathan Smith notched two assists in the Mavericks 2-0 win. The 8,412 in attendance at the Mullins Center may have come away disappointed in the game’s result,… Continue reading Mavericks Crash UMass Party