As the Hockey Day Minnesota festivities come to an end, it is now time for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team to look forward to their upcoming series against Arizona State. The Mavericks will remain home for this series, but will return back to the Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center after their one game stint at Blakeslee Stadium on campus.
The Mavs most recently reclaimed their No. 1 spot in NCAA Division I hockey due mostly in part to former No. 1 Quinnipiac’s overtime loss to No. 8 Cornell and MSU’s sweep of St. Thomas this past weekend. The Mavericks and Sun Devils do not play each other very often as out of conference opponents, but they have competed three times against each other in recent years.
The Mavs have won the past two meetings between the two teams, where they claimed 5-0 and 4-1 wins over the Sun Devils in the 2019-20 season.Their first matchup went in favor of ASU however, where the two teams skated into a 2-2 overtime tie before the Sun Devils won the match in a shootout.
Arizona State made the jump to Division I a short seven years ago and has been an independent organization ever since meaning they are not claimed by a conference. Minnesota State is doing very well in their conference this season, the CCHA, where they sit in first place with a 17-3-0 record in CCHA play.
The No. 1 Mavericks come into the series 23-5-0 overall in comparison to unranked Arizona State’s 15-12-0 record. With their recently claimed No. 1 spot back, MSU has now been rated first for the eighth time this year.
In addition, the team has been rated in the top five of all 16 polls released by the USCHO and USA Hockey Magazine this year. As we come closer to the NCAA tournament, it is also important to note where the team stands in the USCHO PairWise Rankings.
This system of rankings is used to seed teams in the NCAA tournament and is truly the only one that matters when it comes to the final week in the season. The PairWise Rankings currently have MSU ranked at No. 2 behind the Michigan Wolverines, with Denver, Western Michigan, and St. Cloud rounding out the top five.
Out-of-conference foe Arizona State currently sits at No. 21, and will need to make a push into the top 16 in order to have any chance at making the NCAA tournament. Since the Sun Devils are also an independent team, they will not be able to earn an NCAA bid by winning their conference, making it that much more important the team cracks into the top 16 soon and stays there for the rest of the year.
Senior netminder Dryden McKay has earned his spot as one of the best in college hockey once again this season thanks to his .930 save percentage and 1.24 goals against average. The NCAA career shutouts leader is 23-4-0 on the season and is closing in on his 100 career win where he currently sits at 98.
Three-time CCHA Forward of the Week Nathan Smith leads Division I hockey in scoring with 15 goals and 23 assists for a monstrous 38 point total heading into the series against Arizona State. The junior forward’s 15 goals on the season is tied for first with junior forward Ryan Sandelin who sits comfortably at 23 points on the year.
Senior winger Julian Napravnik has been having a great year for the Mavericks as well, where he recently moved into a tie for third in scoring in NCAA Division I hockey at 32 points. Junior center Brendan Furry has also most recently cracked the top ten with 30.
Despite being far from ranked No. 1 in college hockey, the Sun Devils have some offensive power of their own behind graduate forward Colin Theisen and sophomore forward Matthew Kopperud. The two Arizona State forwards come into the series with 32 and 31 points of their own, which both crack the top ten.
The Sun Devils impressively fare well against top 20 ranked teams, with wins over No. 11 Northeastern, a sweep of No. 9 Cornell, a sweep of No. 18 Clarkson, and a win over No. 20 Bemidji State. The No. 1 Mavericks now become their most difficult test to date.
Mike Hastings expressed his concern in a press conference over ASU’s reputation saying, “We need to be on our A game.”
Both teams come into the series riding a three-game win streak, where the Mavericks most recently swept St. Thomas, and the Sun Devils swept the RIT Tigers.
Header Photo: Mavericks’ senior netminder Dryden McKay (29) has a .930 save percentage on the year as well as a 1.24 goals against average. McKay is the NCAA Division I shutouts leader and is closing in on 100 career wins.