A busy weekend has come to an end for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team, who finalized their regular season sweep of St. Thomas at Hockey Day Minnesota. The Mavericks came into the series against the Tommies with two wins, outscoring them 14-0 in those games.
The Mavs continued that trend this past weekend, adding 12 more goals to that total. The two teams started off the series in St. Paul on St. Thomas’ home ice, where the Mavericks defeated the Tommies 5-1.
MSU was unable to keep the Tommies from finding the net in this one, giving up the first goal to UST with just 2:09 remaining in the first period. A Nathan Smith interference penalty was all the Tommies needed to get on the board as they buried their first shot on goal.
It was all Mavericks from then on as the team found nylon five times in the remaining two periods of play. Senior defenseman Jack McNeely was the first of the Mavs to score, as he deked a Tommie defender and ripped a shot from the middle of the slot to tie the game.
Minnesota State defensemen continued to have outstanding games as the game went on, with freshman Bennett Zmolek and sophomore Jake Livingstone also finding the back of the net. Junior standout Smith tallied another goal and assist as well, bringing his total points this season to 37.
The two teams then had a much-deserved rest Friday before the long awaited Hockey Day Minnesota game. As Saturday rolled around, chilly single-digit temps engulfed Blakeslee Stadium.
As 10,000 fans piled into the stadium, snow sprinkled the scene while marking the highest home attendance of a Maverick’s home hockey game in team history. The Mavericks and Tommies both appeared in the game with Winter Classic inspired jerseys which made the night just that much more special.
Snow poured down on fans and players as the puck dropped. It took a bit of getting used to for both teams as snow blanketed ice restricted the puck’s movement.
It was at the 8:53 mark however where the Mavs struck first behind sophomore David Silye’s historic night. Silye was able to corral a rebound off Tommie goaltender Peter Thome’s right side and bury the first goal of the game.
Silye did not stop there, putting up his second goal of the game in similar fashion over Thome’s left shoulder to go up 2-0. The remainder of the first ended scoreless with the Tommies beginning the scoring in the second.
St. Thomas’ Tim Piechowski was able to beat Dryden McKay thanks to a perfect pass in front of the crease from teammate Andrew Kangas to bring the Tommies back within one. It was not long however before the Mavs shut down any momentum UST gained.
Senior forward Julian Napravnik began the Mavericks’ scoring run, collecting a perfect pass from junior Cade Borchardt in front of the net before shooting it past Thome to make the lead two once again. Just a few minutes later Smith got a goal of his own off yet another rebound.
The period’s scoring didn’t end there, with junior forward Sam Morton tallying his fifth of the season on a perfect one timer from just outside the right faceoff circle. The two teams then headed to the third period where, for the Tommies, the bleeding didn’t stop.
Junior forward Ryan Sandelin earned his 15th of the season to tie Smith for the team lead once again after tipping a McNeely point shot past the Tommie goaltender. A few minutes later both teams gave backup goaltenders a chance to play on the Hockey Day Minnesota ice. St. Thomas sent in former MSU goaltender Jacob Berger while Minnesota State sent in freshman Keenan Rancier.
As the game winded down the Tommies headed to the box for high sticking at the 8:27 mark. Silye took advantage of the power play, earning a hat trick on yet another rebound in front of the net past former Maverick Berger.
As the snowy scene came to a close, with the Mavericks coming out on top 7-1 in the first ever Hockey Day Mankato at Blakeslee Stadium. Silye earned the player of the game for his three-goal performance while McKay earned win no. 23 of the season.
“It was a week of making memories,” stated coach Hastings on Monday. “To coach in an outdoor game, it was a little bit of a bucket list item for myself. To be able to do it with the team we have and being able to host it… it is something I’m going to remember forever.”
In addition, the Mavericks have returned to their No. 1 spot in the USCHO Men’s Division I Hockey Poll in accordance with former No. 1 Quinnipiac’s recent loss to No. 8 Cornell this past weekend. Silye and McNeely have also been named the CCHA Forward and Defenseman of the Week respectively.
“He is as reliable of a defensman that we’ve had here” stated Hastings on McNeely. He continued to say, “Silye has realized what kind of threat he can be.”
The Mavs now look forward to their final eight games of the regular season with a home series against Arizona State coming up next. The two teams rarely play each other, with only three matchups between the out-of-conference opponents in history.
MSU has won the past two meetings between the two, with the Sun Devils capturing the first ever matchup between the two teams in a shootout.
Header Photo: The Minnesota State men’s hockey team scored seven goals in their rout of new CCHA foe St. Thomas in Mankato’s first time hosting Hockey Day Minnesota. The Mavericks had three different players with multiple points that included sophomore forward David Silye’s (10) hat trick in front of over 10,000 people at Blakeslee Stadium.