BOSTON – Reggie Lutz broke a second-period tie and Minnesota State scored three times in the third in the Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday night to beat big-city rival Minnesota 5-1 and advance to the national championship game.
Minnesota State will play for its first NCAA hockey title Saturday night against Denver, which beat Michigan 3-2 in overtime in the the early semifinal.
“We’ll see,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “We'll take a kick at the can on Saturday.”
Hobey Baker Award finalist Dryden McKay stopped 16 shots for the Mavericks to earn his 38th win of the season. Benton Maass, Ondrej Pavel, David Silye and Brendan Furry also scored for Minnesota State.
“For big parts of the game, they kicked our butt,” Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said. “They scored exactly how we knew we had to defend. And then we were chasing the entire game.”
Justen Close made 27 saves for Minnesota before he was pulled for an extra skater with 3:51 left. But the Gophers, who have five NCAA championships in their Twin Cities trophy case, couldn't convert.
Furry delivered an empty-netter to seal the victory over the Mavericks' bigger, more decorated rivals.
“They’re the first team people think of, and they always will be,” McKay said. “I think it’s just kind of a cherry on top to beat them.”
In a Frozen Four of bluebloods that have combined for 22 NCAA titles, Minnesota State is the only school that has yet to win one. But the Mankato-based Mavericks were the winningest team in the country this year and the only one of the four to have reached the national semifinals last year as well.
Minnesota took the lead with 11 minutes left in the first period when MSU turned it over in the neutral zone to set up a two-on-none against the goalie. Matthew Knies and Bryce Brodzinski passed it between themselves three times before Knies slammed it past McKay on the Gophers' first shot of the game.
“Not the start we wanted, giving up a two-on-oh,” Hastings said. “Kind of hoping Dryden was going to be able to pull the bacon out of the fire, and it didn’t happen.”
Maass tied it on wraparound about seven minutes into the second period, and about six minutes later Lutz found himself with the puck on the side of the net. He swiped at it twice, unable to get it past Close, then went behind the net and wrapped it around to make it 2-1.
“When I was young, every time I would score a wraparound goal my dad would take me to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal,” Lutz said.
The Mavericks made it 3-1 with two minutes gone in the third when Jack McNeely's shot from the point was deflected in front by Pavel. Silye added another insurance goal with under seven minutes left.
“We’re a mature group. It doesn’t matter whether we’re up or down,” Dryden said. “We keep fighting, keep playing, and eventually we’re rewarded.”