‘Beyond Special’: MSU sweeps Bemidji State to clinch fifth straight MacNaughton Cup

The Minnesota State men’s hockey team returned back to the Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center this past weekend after their one-week break. The team had previously traveled to Bowling Green before their week off, defeating the Falcons 3-1 and 5-0. 

The week off gave time for the team to work on areas of their game as well as a chance to watch their fellow Maverick teammate Nathan Smith and head coach Mike Hastings compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. 

Team USA eventually got knocked out of the games in the quarterfinals on Feb. 16 with the Mavericks back home not knowing the next time they would see their fellow teammates. 

In a presser on Feb. 16 associate head coach Todd Knott said, “I do not. It is so new for them” on whether he knew when Hastings or Smith would return back to the States. 

To everyone’s surprise Hastings returned to the building for the first game of the series against Bemidji State and was behind the bench back to his head coaching duties. 

The Mavericks were prepared to perform for their head coach, getting into the swing of things right away on Friday with a goal from junior defenseman Jake Livingstone. A boarding penalty at the 10:05 mark of the first period gave the Mavericks their first man advantage.

Senior Benton Maass collected a pass from Livingstone near the blue line and immediately passed it back for Livingstone to snipe the puck in the top corner of the net to give MSU a 1-0 lead on the power play. 

With less than five minutes to go in the period, the Mavericks found a fast break opportunity. Lutz collected a half-ice pass from junior Ryan Sandelin and sped past a Bemidji defender before sneaking the puck under the BSU goaltender’s left arm. 

Just over half of the second period went by without a score, until MSU junior winger Lucas Sowder tapped the puck towards junior Cade Borchardt while getting hooked, who eventually backhanded it into the open net. 

Only two minutes later, senior winger Julian Napravnik collected a pass at the top of the faceoff circle and eventually ripped a pass to a net-crashing Wyatt Aamodt who was able to tip it in for the 4-0 lead.

The third period allotted goals for both squads with the final score coming down to 5-1. 

Following Friday’s game, while reminiscing on his 30-hour travel day back from the Olympics, Hastings said, “I had some time today coming back,” with a laugh. 

Minnesota State then moved onto Saturday where they would celebrate their seniors on their final season as a Maverick. 

Hastings looked back on the success the seniors have achieved over the past years. “You cannot paint the script and have someone believe it from what they have done since the beginning of their time here to where they are at right now,” said Hastings, “It is beyond special.”

The Mavericks celebrated seniors Jack McNeely, Andy Carroll, Reggie Lutz, Dryden McKay, Aamodt, Maass, and Napravnik before the game and all of their accomplishments with the team. 

The Mavericks thanked their seniors in the only way they knew that night, claiming a 5-1 regulation win.

MSU got off to a slow start in the first period, trailing in the shots on goal category 1-7 halfway through. It didn’t matter, however, as they still managed to light the lamp first.

Sophomore David Silye collected the puck in the offensive zone corner and dished the puck middle to a net-crashing Sowder, who gave the Mavs a 1-0 lead.

Not too long later Napravnik got his first goal of the night, as he collected a rebounded puck off the Bemidji goaltender’s blocker to up the lead to two. 

Borchardt and sophomore Ondrej Pavel tallied goals in the second period, giving the Mavs a 4-0 lead heading into the final period of play. 

BSU got on the board first on a goal from Will Zmolek, brother of Maverick freshman defenseman Bennett Zmolek, to bring the MSU lead down to three. Under two minutes later the Mavericks brought the lead back up to four as Napravnik buried his second goal of the game on a two-on-one break. 

With the 5-1 win, the Mavericks claimed their fifth straight MacNaughton Cup, which is awarded to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular season champion. The Cup is made from 40 pounds of handcrafted silver and is the second oldest trophy in hockey, only behind the prestigious Stanley Cup. 

“Winning it every year in general is a great feeling, but knowing as a senior you will be leaving soon, it just sums everything up,” explained Napravnik postgame. 

The Mavericks will now travel to Michigan Tech’s home ice for their final regular season series before the CCHA tournament. After winning the MacNaughton Cup, the Mavericks will have home ice advantage all throughout the CCHA playoffs heading into the NCAA tournament. 

Header Photo: The Mavericks won their fifth straight MacNaughton Cup on Saturday in a 5-1 win over CCHA rival Bemidji State. With the win, MSU clinches home ice in the CCHA playoffs. (Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter)

Write to Kole Buelow at kole.buelow@mnsu.edu.

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