Maverick hockey advances to CCHA championship

The Minnesota State men’s hockey team completed the semifinal round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament this past Saturday against the Northern Michigan Wildcats. The Mavericks came into the series with three wins out of four against the Wildcats on the season and would look to capture their fourth win to advance to the CCHA championship game for their chance at a Mason Cup.

 As Saturday rolled around, 4492 people packed into the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center to watch the two battle for the final time this season. MSU got off to a quick start, holding a 5-1 shots advantage in the first five minutes of action and brought an 8-4 advantage into the ten minute mark. Sophomore winger Connor Gregga got the Mavs on the board first at the 13:43 mark, scoring a nice top shelf goal after dangling around a NMU defender. 

Only 23 seconds later the Mavericks would score again, when sophomore forward David Silye collected a pass in the slot and fired the puck into the top corner of the net to claim a 2-0 lead. MSU would ride the 2-0 lead for the rest of the period, entering the first intermission holding a 13-6 shots advantage. Minnesota State really opened up the scoring in the second period, started off first by standout junior center Nathan Smith on the power play. Smith was able to bury the puck over Northern Michigan goaltender Charlie Glockner’s right shoulder, finishing off a nice tic tac toe passing play at the 5:08 mark.

Senior Julian Napravnik would enter the penalty box for tripping at the 7:55 mark, and the Wildcats would capitalize on the power play. NMU brought the puck into the zone behind the Mavericks’ net and swiftly passed it to a net-crashing Alex Frye who would tap the puck over senior netminder Dryden McKay’s shoulder to remain within two. The Wildcats’ momentum would not last long. Junior forwards Brendan Furry and Ryan Sandelin would create a fast break opportunity at the 10:53 mark, where Furry eventually ripped a shot off the netminder’s left pad but it was quickly rebounded by Sandelin to bring the MSU lead to 4-1. 

The scoring would not end there, with senior defenseman Andy Carroll getting in on the action at the 13:55 mark. Carroll collected the puck from junior Cade Borchardt at the top of the zone, dangling a stick-less NMU defender before burying another nice wrist shot to the top corner of the net. 

Only 31 seconds would go by before another Maverick goal, where freshman Will Hillman would find the back of the net for the first time as a Maverick. It was an awkward goal for Hillman, who was tangled with a Northern Michigan defender in the slot when he collected the puck. Hillman spun around and blindly wristed a shot top shelf, collecting his first career goal and second career point. 

Minnesota State would ride a 6-1 lead into the final period of play, and would continue their scoring woes on the power play. At the 12:14 mark, Napravnik would collect his third point of the night, burying a nice pass from Smith.

With the assist on the Napravnik goal, Smith would surpass 100 career points as a Maverick. MSU head coach Mike Hastings commented on Smith’s career milestone.“If you want to upset [Nathan] Smith, lock the weight room,” Hastings said with a laugh. “He does a lot of his own building physically and it draws a lot of confidence to his game… He is a very hungry player right now.” 

The Mavs would round out the final five minutes of the third period with another goal on the power play from senior defenseman Wyatt Aamodt to down the Northern Michigan Wildcats by a final score of 8-1. 

This marks the second straight game the Mavs have scored eight goals. Hastings commented on the offensive success saying, “We’ve been able to utilize our depth. It does not matter which group is out there… they are being rewarded for playing the game the right way. They’re being selfless and sharing the puck.” 

Header Photo: Freshman forward Will Hillman earned his first career collegiate goal for the Mavericks in their matchup against Northern Michigan in the CCHA semifinals to notch his second career point. (Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter)

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

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