With its 7-2 steamrolling of Ferris State last weekend, the Minnesota State Men’s Hockey team returns home to host Northern Michigan for a winner-take-all game Saturday for the Mason Cup.
The Mavericks held a convincing 4-2 lead over the Bulldogs in last Saturday’s contest heading into the third period, but three goals in the latter half of the period propelled the Mavs to their second straight Mason Cup Final.
Sophomore goaltender Keenan Rancier made 19 saves en route to a .905 save percentage against the Bulldogs.
The road to the Mason Cup for the Wildcats looked rather similar as they pummeled Michigan Tech 4-0 on the road Saturday. Brothers Rylan and Michael Van Unen each tallied one goal in a game that saw their freshman netminder, Beni Halasz, pick up his third shutout of the season.
With their dominating wins and hot streaks since the turn of the calendar year, it only makes this Saturday’s contest all the more interesting. The Mavericks hold a 14-2-1 record since Jan. 1 including a series sweep against Northern Michigan, while the Wildcats sit at 9-1-0 since Feb. 4.
And while their Jan. 6-7 matchup in Marquette seems like good news for Maverick fans, it’s safe to say that wins at home haven’t come easy for the Mavericks this year — an uncharacteristic statistic of Maverick head coach Mike Hastings’ teams. The Mavericks own a 13-7-0 record at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center this year with six of those wins being decided by one goal.
Good news for Maverick fans is the Wildcats haven’t done much better on the road with an 11-8-0 overall record including a series split with the Mavs in mid-November. But a win on the road against the No. 2 team in the conference last weekend ought to spark a boost of confidence heading into this weekend.
Confidence and composure will be a huge test for the two young netminders likely to start in Saturday’s game. But both have also shown consistency all year long in their respective categories.
Rancier leads the CCHA in goals allowed average with a minuscule 1.81, and sits third in save percentage with a .916 behind only Halasz and Blake Pietla of Michigan Tech. Halasz has made a name for himself this season as well as the freshman sits fourth in the CCHA in saves per game and goals allowed average.
The Mavericks also have a lot to be proud of heading into this weekend beyond their goaltending. The CCHA recently announced that junior Maverick defenseman Jake Livingstone was named the league’s Defenseman of the Year for the second straight season after accumulating 27 points in 26 conference games this season.
In addition, junior forward David Silye was named CCHA Forward of the Year which marks the second straight season a Maverick won the award. Silye, a unanimous decision to the league’s first team, leads the league in goals and sits second in points during conference play this season.
Both teams have been playing their best hockey heading into the final and most-anticipated game of the CCHA season with the winner getting a guaranteed spot in the NCAA tournament. Puck drop is set for 6:07 p.m. Saturday at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato.
Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu
Header photo: The MSU Men’s Hockey team plays Northern Michigan for the CCHA tournament championship game at 6:07 p.m. (Dylan Engel)