Minnesota State hockey to face off against Northern Michigan in CCHA semifinals

The semifinal round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s end-of-season tournament welcomes the Northern Michigan Wildcats to the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato to face the top-seeded Mavericks. 

Minnesota State clinched the No. 1 seed in the CCHA tournament after their regulation win against Bemidji State on Feb. 19 where they defeated the Beavers 5-1. The Mavs then went on to sweep Michigan Tech in the final regular season series before taking down St. Thomas in the quarterfinal round of the CCHA tournament by scores of 3-2 and 8-2. 

Northern Michigan’s ride to the fifth seed in the tournament came down to the final games of the season, where they finished off their regular season against Ferris State. The Wildcats split the series with Ferris, and inevitably got paired against fourth-seeded Lake Superior State to start the tournament. 

Northern Michigan started off the quarterfinal round strong, jumping out to a 1-0 series lead against the Lakers with a 5-1 win on Mar. 4. Lake Superior State claimed a win the next night to tie the best of three series, which would send the two teams into the final win-or-go-home game come Sunday.

A back-and-forth game three of the series would find the Wildcats victorious in a heart-clenching 5-4 win to move on to the semifinal round against MSU.

The two teams now find themselves competing for their chance at an appearance in the championship game, where the eventual opponents will compete for the Mason Cup. The semifinal round begins the start of the single elimination portion of the CCHA tournament, meaning that one game will decide all from here on out. 

The Mavs and Wildcats faced off four times during the regular season, with MSU holding the series advantage 3-1 over NMU. Minnesota State is undefeated on home ice versus all CCHA opponents this season, holding an 18-1-0 overall record at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. MSU’s one loss came to previously ranked No. 2 St. Cloud State back in October of 2021. 

Two of their 18 wins in the CCHA date back to Oct. 29th and 30th where they defeated Northern Michigan 4-2 and 7-0. The two would also battle in Marquette, Mich. in the new year, where the Wildcats were able to steal game one from the Mavs before losing 4-1 to MSU the following night.

The Mavericks will bring a 13-game winning streak into the game this weekend as well as wins in 22 of its last 23 outings. Standing at 33-5-0 are the mighty Mavs, who own the best record in all of NCAA Division I college hockey. 

The Mavericks have also been ranked No. 1 in the nation by the USCHO and USA Hockey Magazine Polls this week. This marks their 14th time ranked in the top spot this year as well as their seventh consecutive first place ranking. 

In a press conference following game one of the St. Thomas series MSU head coach Mike Hastings mentioned the playoffs are a different game. It is one and done from here on out and everyone is going to be playing their absolute hardest out on the ice. 

Junior forward Sam Morton stepped up to the occasion this past series and was tabbed as the CCHA Forward of the Week for his five-point weekend against the Tommies.

Morton scored three times in the series while also having two assists to go along with it. He ended the weekend with 11 shots on net and a plus four rating while on the ice. 

Morton was an unsung hero for the Mavs in the first series, and with the playoffs being a whole different type of hockey, Minnesota State will look for more players to step up.

The Mavericks and Wildcats are set to face off at 6:07 p.m. in Mankato on Saturday. 

Header Photo: Junior forward Sam Morton (6) was tabbed as the CCHA Forward of the Week for his five-point performance against St. Thomas this past weekend. Morton tallied three goals and two assists in the Mavericks’ quarterfinal sweep over the Tommies. (NMU Athletics)

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

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