Bulldogs defeat Mavericks 3-2 in first round of NCAA Tournament
It was an early exit for the Minnesota State Mavericks this season, getting bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the opening round by the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, 3-2, in Sioux Falls, SD.
In the first round of the West Regional, the Mavericks had a mighty offense that tore through the WCHA conference sputter once again at the hands of a freshman-heavy defensive front of the UMD Bulldogs. Stumped was an attack that racked up 153 shots over the entirety of the season, held to 21 shots by UMD; the fewest MSU has amassed in a game since November 18th.
Even more aggravating than the overtime loss is the squandered start from MSU. The Mavericks looked like the team that averaged nearly four goals a night in the regular season. In the opening three minutes, senior forward, Zeb Knutson, had already found the back of the net following a feed from sophomore forward, Marc Michaelis.
Four minutes later, sophomore defensemen, Ian Scheid, capitalized on the second of four Duluth trips to the penalty box. In the first period, the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead on 12 shots at the UMD goaltender, Hunter Shepard; the goaltender finished with 19 saves on the evening.
However, the MSU lead was sniffed out in the wake of 26 minutes without recording a shot on Shepard. From the final minutes in the first period to the opening minutes of the third period, the Mavericks could not get the puck anywhere near the parameters of the net. The young Bulldogs had thrown a monkey wrench into the machine of the MSU offense that has proven to be delicate over the past month.
Junior forward, Karson Kuhlman, raced down the ice for an unassisted goal for the Bulldogs in the second to cut into the lead in half. Notwithstanding the 2-1 advantage, the Mavericks were on their heels. MSU had become accustomed to bludgeoning opponents with a blur of shots on goal, averaging 34.7 per game this season. Duluth’s onslaught on the puck, combined with the Bulldogs winning their man-to-man matchups, put the Mavericks into a bind to close out the game.
The Duluth push continued when freshman forward, Nick Swaney, scored in the final five minutes on a power play to force overtime. While MSU was forced to scramble in the wake of the offensive shut down and Connor LaCouvee’s slips in the net, the Bulldogs were surging.
It was UMD’s game to lose entering the extra period. With the game on the line, junior forward, Parker Mackay, netted his ninth goal of the season in the first 2:28 minutes of overtime.
In a classic turn of the phrase, “live by the sword, die by the sword”, the Mavericks became undone by their dependency on scoring. The antidote that made the pill more bitter to swallow was the embarrassment of St. Cloud State, losing 4-1 to Air Force, and thus clearing a route to the Frozen Four.
After the quick bout in the playoffs, the Mavericks concluded their 2017-2018 season. They close the season with a 29-10-1 record, with a 22-5-1 WCHA conference record. The Mavericks also burned through the final leg of their season with a 10-game winning streak, along with nine-weekend sweeps.
Photo: (Aditya Dhapare | MSU Reporter)