Going into the NCAA tournament, the Minnesota State hockey program had never won a game in its history at the national level.
But they were certain they would rewrite the narrative that weekend.
For the first time ever, the Mavericks are headed to the NCAA Frozen Four, hosted in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Their journey began with an intense overtime win against the Quinnipiac Bobcats, followed by one of the cleanest games the Mavs have played this season in a 4-0 win against the University of Minnesota Gophers.
The Mavericks started out their opening game of the tournament slower than usual, with Quinnipiac getting two early first period goals. The Mavericks would not get on the board until late in the second period, when Julian Napravnik connected with Jake Jaremko for their first goal of the tournament, cutting the Bobcats lead to 2-1.
Quinnipiac extended the lead to 3-1, with hopes of moving on to the second round for their chance at the Frozen Four.
With just over five minutes remaining, Nathan Smith buried one with the help of Wyatt Aamodt and Dallas Gerads, making it 3-2, and MSU had another chance to come back.
After pulling Dryden McKay for the extra attacker, Cade Borchardt managed to get one past Hobey Baker finalist, Keith Petruzzelli, sending the game into overtime.
It didn’t take long after that for the game winner.
Just 1:25 into the overtime period, Ryan Sandelin scored the game winning goal, sending the Mavericks to the regional finals for the first time ever, where they took on the University of Minnesota.
The next day, the Mavericks knew they had to get going immediately against the No. 1 seed in the region.
And they did just that.
Ten minutes into the first period, Sam Morton recovered his own rebound on a wrap around opportunity, and slipped the puck just under Jack LaFontaine’s glove. In typical Maverick fashion, only two minutes later the Mavericks jumped out to a fast 2-0 lead, when the Regional MVP, Sandelin, deflected Jack McNeely’s shot from the point.
The scoring quieted down until the third period, but the Mavs kept pressuring Minnesota throughout the first two periods of play.
In the first 40 minutes, MSU held the Gophers to just nine shots, something the Big 10 conference champions aren’t quite used to.
Just under 10 minutes into the third, Smith scored his second goal of the tournament with the help of Borchardt and Napravnik. Jake Livingstone secured the win with a bar-down from center ice on the empty net, scoring their fourth goal of the contest.
“I’m pretty sure no one will be sleeping from all the excitement tonight,” Minnesota State captain Riese Zmolek said after the team’s win.
The Richter Award finalist, McKay, earned his 10th shutout of the year, and 24th shutout in his collegiate career, stopping all 22 shots he faced.
“It speaks to the culture coach Hastings creates here,” McKay said, addressing the shutouts. “There have been plenty of nights where there are team shutouts, and I think that was the case tonight.”