Ticket Punched: Mavericks advance to NCAA men’s ice hockey Frozen Four

Today’s game between Minnesota State and Notre Dame was not one for the weak at heart, as one goal was the decider of all. 

The Mavericks came into this game as the one seed in the Albany Regional, facing Harvard in round one of the NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament. Despite Harvard being the four seed, they put up a great fight against arguably the best team in the country, the Minnesota State Mavericks. 

In the end, the first-seeded Mavs prevailed, winning in a close one 4-3. Sophomore Ondrej Pavel’s third period water bottle-popping snipe proved to be the game-winner, as MSU moved on to the Albany Finals.

On the other side of the Albany Regional battled North Dakota and Notre Dame, the two and three seeds respectively in the region. It was a defensive battle, as both teams headed into overtime tied at one. 

At the end of the day, Notre Dame came out on top capitalizing on a power play in overtime. Notre Dame captain Graham Slaggert beat the North Dakota netminder blocker side on the play, as the Fighting Irish won in extra time to face MSU in the Albany finals. 

The Fighting Irish got off to the hotter of starts between both teams, but the Mavericks closed out the period on top in the shots on goal category. In the waning seconds of the period, junior forward Nathan Smith capitalized on the Mavs’ best scoring chance of the night. 

The two teams faced off in Notre Dame’s zone with 19.9 seconds remaining, and a shot was made by junior center Brendan Furry off the drop. Graduate goaltender Matthew Galajda made the kick save with his left pad, but Smith collected the rebound immediately and fired the puck into the open net with 16 seconds left in the first. 

The goal marked Smith’s 19th goal of the season and 50th point of the year. With the goal, Smith became the fourth Maverick player ever to reach the 50-point plateau in Minnesota State’s Division I era. 

The second period was heart-clenching for both sides, as a defensive battle started to take place. Several scoring chances for both teams occurred, but no one was able to find the back of the net as the two teams headed into the final period of play with MSU leading 1-0. 

Notre Dame’s greatest scoring chance came in the final minutes of play, as they caught Minnesota State on their back foot on the attack. A scramble occurred in front of the net after a puck was fired off the post by a Notre Dame attacker. 

The puck bounced around players in the crease, and before you knew it, nearly everyone was crowded in front of the net trying to track the loose puck. Eventually, the puck made its way out of the crease without a whistle and calmed down the madness for anxious players and fans. 

The Fighting Irish were eventually forced to pull their goalie down one, but they could not break through the Mavericks’ solid defensive play ending their season in the Albany finals. 

Senior goaltender Dryden McKay recorded his 10th shutout of the season on the night, saving 23 shots and improving his record on the season to 37-4-0. McKay is a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the top goaltender in college hockey and extends his NCAA Division I men’s hockey single-season win record and NCAA Division I career shutouts record with the win. 

For Minnesota State, they move on to the semifinals also known as the “Frozen Four” which will take place in Boston, Mass. Apr. 7th through 9th. As of now, the Mavs will await the winner of Western Michigan and Minnesota which takes place Sunday, Mar. 27 at 3 p.m. 

With the win, the Mavericks advance to their second straight final four. Last year the Mavs were a quick out, losing to St. Cloud State 5-4. 

Header Photo: Minnesota State celebrates their second straight Frozen Four appearance as they defeated Notre Dame 1-0 on Saturday, Mar. 26. The Mavericks await the winner of Western Michigan and Minnesota to find out who they will face in the semifinals. (Matt Dewkett/Maverick Athletics)

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

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