Mavericks set their sights on goal: Pittsburgh

The Mavericks are headed to Loveland, Colo. this week, where they will take on the No. 10 Quinnipiac Bobcats.

Minnesota State (20-4-1), who dropped to No. 5 this week in the USCHO poll, will play in their first NCAA tournament game in almost two years. The last time they played in a tournament game the Mavericks fell to eventual Frozen Four participant Providence by a score of 6-3.

Quinnipiac (17-7-4) finished atop the ECAC regular season standings with a conference record of 10-5-4. Due to COVID-19, the only other participants in the ECAC this season were Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and Colgate.

The Mavericks were selected into the field by the committee after Lake Superior snagged the automatic bid for the WCHA, whereas Quinnipiac had a bit of a different road to the tournament.

After Clarkson’s season was cut short the week prior to the ECAC tournament due to a violation to COVID-19 protocols, just three teams remained in the conference, giving Quinnipiac a bye straight into the finals. St. Lawrence and Colgate battled it out in the semifinals, with St. Lawrence taking the 5-4 overtime win. SLU went on to beat Quinnipiac in the ECAC Championship game earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament following a 5-8-2 regular season.

Just one day after the 3-2 overtime championship win for SLU and the day of the NCAA Selection Show, St. Lawrence administered a positive COVID-19 test, disqualifying them for the NCAA tournament, and handing over their automatic bid to Quinnipiac.

The 2021 season will be the Bobcats’ seventh NCAA tournament appearance, and their sixth appearance since 2013. Their last appearance in 2019, the Bobcats made it past the first round in a 2-1 win against Arizona State, but lost to the eventual tournament champions, Minnesota-Duluth.

The Quinnipiac squad is led by forward Odeen Tufto, the leading scorer in the ECAC with 7-38-45. In Tufto’s last five games, he scored three goals and seven assists, including a goal and assist in the championship game against St. Lawrence.

The Bobcats also administer great goaltending in Kieth Petruzzelli. Petruzzelli has started all 28 games for QU, holstering a 17-7-4 record. The senior goaltender has also recorded a .928 save percentage and 1.83 goals against average, both good for top ten in the NCAA.

MSU will challenge Quinnipiac’s efforts with the depth of their roster, having contributing members all the way down to the extra skaters.

The Mavs have four skaters above 20 points, and another eight skaters above 10. Julian Napravnik leads the effort with 10-15-25, including scoring the game-winning goal in the Mavericks first quarterfinal win against the Ferris State Bulldogs.

Dryden McKay is looking to avenge himself after his last showing against Northern Michigan in a very uncharacteristic night. McKay led the WCHA in goals against average with 1.07, and save percentage with .945. Following the Mavericks loss to the Wildcats, McKay fell to 1.40 goals against average and a save percentage of .930. The Hobey Baker top ten finalist and three-time WCHA Goaltender of the Year has recorded nine shutouts on the season and 23 across his career, the second most all-time in the NCAA, just short of Ryan Miller’s 26 shutouts at Michigan State.

“We’re excited,” head coach Mike Hastings said shortly after the field was announced on Sunday.

The other regional matchup consists of the third seed University of Minnesota Gophers against the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. 

For the first time ever, the field consists of all five NCAA Division I hockey schools with Minnesota State, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud, and Bemidji all earning bids to the national tournament.

The Mavericks will play their first regional match Saturday, at 4 p.m. in Loveland, Colo.

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