Coming into the 2021-22 season, there were many questions about what the Minnesota State men’s hockey program would look like after losing many players from last season’s run to the Frozen Four.
After last weekend, those questions have been answered.
The Mavericks went into a sold out crowd at the Mullins Center as the No. 5 team in Division I hockey, and came out as the No. 1 ranked team after sweeping the defending National Champions, UMass.
It didn’t take long for the Mavericks to get things going on Saturday in their season opener.
Just 10 seconds in, the alternate captain for UMass, Matthew Kessel went to the box for an interference penalty committed immediately off of the opening faceoff.
After clearing the zone right after the penalty, Nathan Smith of MSU entered the zone and dropped down to the corner, and passed it behind the net to Cade Borchardt. Borchardt found the new alternate captain, Reggie Lutz circling to the faceoff dot, giving him the puck with the perfect opportunity to take a wrist shot and sent it right over Matt Murray’s shoulder, giving the Mavericks a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
From then on, the scoring was much quieter. It wasn’t until just over four minutes remaining in the third period where the Mavericks were able to seal the win when the transfer student Benton Maass took a shot from the point. Murray didn’t handle the puck cleanly with traffic in front of the net, allowing Nathan Smith to grab the rebound and shot it between Murray’s legs. The trickling puck didn’t quite make it past the goal line, as Julian Napravnik finally buried the puck from
the crease to give the Mavericks the 2-0 lead and eventual win.
Dryden McKay stayed hot throughout the entirety of the game, earning his 25th shutout of his career, just one short of matching Ryan Miller’s NCAA record from his time at Michigan State.
Going into Sunday, the Mavericks felt good about their standing and taking down the reigning champs, but were slow to start.
UMass struck first with a goal from Eric Faith just 4:17 into the game wanting to turn the tides from the night before.
The Minutemen added another just 30 seconds prior to the end of the period, and again 42 seconds into the second period.
UMass had to have been feeling a bit too optimistic with their 3-0 lead after getting shutout the night before, as the Mavericks kicked it into gear in the closing minutes of the second, and the entirety of the third.
Nathan Smith snagged his first goal of the season with 1:12 left in the second period, and again just 4:28 into the second, cutting the UMass lead to 3-2.
Just 15 seconds after the second goal, Ondrej Pavel scored his first career goal as a Maverick with the help of Jake Livingstone and David Silye, the transfer from Clarkson, tying the game at 3.
Livingstone, Napravnik, and Furry all scored one goal each within three minutes of each other, lifting the Mavericks over the Minutemen 6-3.
Despite the slow start, the five third period goals solidified the Mavericks as the No. 1 team in Division hockey after the first weekend of games, while UMass dropped to No. 7.
The Winnipeg Jets prospect Smith led the Mavericks in points over the weekend with two goals and three assists, while Napravnik led the Mavericks in shots with 12 over the weekend.
McKay starts out his season with a 1.52 goals against average, a .925 save percentage, and 37 shots on goal.
Feature photo by Matt Dewkett