With the No. 10 Minnesota State Men’s Hockey team’s thrilling victory over unranked Northern Michigan last Saturday, the Mavericks advanced to the NCAA Division I tournament for the ninth time in program history. The first-round matchup for the Mavericks is set to feature the No. 6 St. Cloud State Huskies in a rematch at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota.
The other first-round matchup in the Fargo region features the No. 1 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers squaring off against the unranked Canisius Golden Griffins. The winners of the two contests will meet Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the regional championship for a date to this year’s Frozen Four in Tampa Bay, Florida.
“To be at a regional with two other Minnesota teams and Canisius is an opportunity we were hoping we’d have when we started this season,” said Maverick head coach Mike Hastings. “We’re excited to be here and we look forward to the challenge.”
Historically speaking, the Huskies have had the Mavericks’ number in recent years, as SCSU head coach Brett Larson’s club has defeated Hastings’ club six times in their last ten matchups. Two of those six wins for the Huskies came earlier this season, where one goal was the deciding factor in both games.
Senior forward Grant Cruikshank was a standout for the Huskies during their earlier series against the Mavericks this season. The Delafield, Wisconsin native tallied three goals on the weekend against the Mavericks in addition to his 35 pts so far this season.
“If we want to get to that ultimate goal, we gotta focus on the process,” said Cruikshank. “Focusing on our game is huge for us and playing our game since we’ve been playing great hockey lately.”
In addition, the Huskies have gotten the beneficiary of a solid goaltending tandem throughout the entirety of their season in junior Dominic Basse and senior Jaxon Castor. Castor has gotten the better of Basse, however, as he leads the Huskies with a .920 save percentage and 2.07 goals allowed average.
The Mavericks have also gotten solid goaltending in the form of sophomore Keenan Rancier this season. Though the Mavericks were still in the search of a pure starter during their series with the Huskies earlier this season, Rancier has been able to solidify himself as the No. 1 this season.
In addition to being the wall behind the Mavericks’ 15-2-1 record since Jan. 1, the Victoria, British Columbia native currently sits third in the NCAA in goals allowed average at 1.813. Additionally, Rancier also sits tenth in the NCAA in goalie win-percentage at .672%.
The Mavericks are fortunate to own one of the best defensive rosters in the nation. Sitting at third in the nation in defensive scoring, the Mavs also sit at plus-49 this season and have only allowed 77 goals all year.
“They make us better every time we play them,” said Hastings. “We’re within the same border and I know we have different conferences we compete in. But when anyone within our state gets together and plays each other, I think it’s definitely a rivalry.”
Puck drop is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. today at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota.
Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu
Header Photo: After a dramatic win Saturday against Northern Michigan, the Mavericks are preparing for their first round in the NCAA tournament. (Dylan Engel)