Mavericks secure sixth-straight MacNaughton Cup
In one of the most dramatic finishes in Minnesota State Hockey history, the Mavericks split their series last weekend with the Michigan Tech Huskies to capture their sixth-straight MacNaughton Cup. This win earned the Mavs the most consecutive title wins by any program in Division I hockey history.
The Huskies took game one of the series 2-0 Friday night on the strength of senior forward Logan Pietila’s two point night. Looking to secure their first title since 2016, the Huskies fell short to the Mavericks as senior forward Cade Borchardt tallied the game-winning goal with 45 seconds left in the third period.
“Just fortunate and really happy for the guys and for all the people that came into the building this weekend,” said Mavericks’ Head Coach, Mike Hastings. “And I’m excited for what the next chapter is gonna be.”
Heading into this weekend, both teams knew this series would be a low-scoring affair as it featured two of the top goalies in the CCHA, in MSU sophomore Keenan Rancier and MTU senior Blake Pietila. Friday night’s contest proved just that as both goalies remained perfect up until the third period.
Freshman forward Kyle Kukkonen got the Huskies on the board at the 3:43 mark of the third period as he buried a juicy rebound off a point shot from freshman defenseman Evan Orr. The Huskies gathered an insurance marker with 1:34 left in the game off Logan Pietila’s empty-net goal.
“I thought we had some really good lucks and just didn’t cash in on them,” said Hastings. “Tip your hat to them; we’re gonna have to regroup and be better tomorrow.”
Being better the next game is exactly what the Mavericks had to do, because Tech’s win Friday-night secured them three points in the CCHA standings and moved them a point ahead of the Mavericks for first place. The Mavericks needed a regulation win to clinch the MacNaughton cup for themselves.
The goalies stood tall once again throughout the first period of game two, keeping zeros on the board for both teams. And it looked like the goalies would remain perfect through two periods, before senior forward Lucas Sowder fired a top-shelf snipe past Blake Pietila to give the Mavericks the lead late in the second.
The Mavericks opened the third period with an early powerplay gift as junior Husky defenseman Brett Thorne was sent to the box for holding. Junior forward David Silye would convert for the Mavericks as he deflected junior defenseman Akito Hirose’s point shot to give the Mavericks a 2-0 lead.
The Mavericks carried all the momentum behind their two-goal lead, but were quickly put on their heels as they relied on Rancier to stop a penalty shot. Senior forward Trenton Ashbrook converted on the penalty shot for the Huskies as he beat Rancier to cut the Maverick lead in half just over three minutes into the third.
With 1:31 left in the game and a loose scramble in front of Rancier, junior forward Ryland Mosely appeared to have tied the game up for the Huskies as he collected the loose change for the game-tying goal. After a prolonged discussion with the officials, Hastings challenged the call on the ice for goaltender interference on Rancier.
The Mavericks, along with several-hundred “officials” in the crowd, were adamant that there was goaltender interference after Rancier appeared to be cross-checked by Ashbrook moments before the goal occurred. But after a lengthy review session, the officials deemed there was goaltender interference and the goal was taken off the board.
The Mavericks once again had momentum after the call was overturned and were gifted a late powerplay seemingly putting the game away. But the Huskies weren’t going down without a fight as Kukkonen made a nifty move around junior defenseman Jake Livingstone and went five-hole on Rancier to tie the game with 1:05 left in the third.
However, the Mavericks still had plenty of time left on the powerplay, where they’d been two for three on the night. Once again, the Mavericks took advantage as senior forward Cade Borchardt went top shelf on Blake Pietila to send the crowd into eruption with 45 seconds left in the contest.
The dramatic finish to Saturday’s game ended a 3-2 victory for the Mavericks and propelled them to their sixth-straight MacNaughton cup.
“It was a roller coaster at the end and a fun game,” said Borchardt. “It was a crazy game and it was super fun.”
With their win Saturday against Michigan Tech, Minnesota State moved into first place in the CCHA and will receive home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Their first round series is set as the Mavericks will take on Lake Superior State this weekend in a best-of-three matchup.
Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Men’s Hockey team splits the series against Michigan Tech with a 2-0 loss Friday, Feb. 24 & 3-2 win Saturday, Feb. 25. Senior captain, Cade Borchardt (bottom right), scored the Saturday game-winning goal, earning the MacNaughton Cup for the sixth year in a row. (Dylan Engel)