Hockey is the official sport in the state of Minnesota. So, it should be no surprise that one of the semifinals in the Frozen Four is a battle for supremacy in the Land of 10,000 Lakes when the No. 1 seed Minnesota State (Mankato) Mavericks take on No. 2 seed Minnesota Golden Gophers. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden on ESPNU.
The Golden Gophers are a college hockey blueblood, yeah I’m shocked too. This is their 22nd Frozen Four appearance with five NCAA championships. Minnesota’s last Frozen Four was in 2014 and its last title in 2003.
Minnesota State isn’t a blueblood, but the Mavericks aren’t “newbloods” either. As my friend and state of Minnesota hockey aficionado Jessi Pierce tells me, “Minnesota State are the blue-collar kids that work hard, while the other Frozen Four teams are the cake eaters.”
Still the Mavericks have a respectable tradition in college hockey with nine Frozen Four appearances and an NCAA championship in 1980. Most of Minnesota State’s success came in the 1980s, but the Mavericks made the Frozen Four last year, losing 5-4 to St. Cloud State in the semifinal.
No. 1 Minnesota State (Mankato): 37-5-0
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll Ranking: 1
First round: Won over Harvard, 4-3
Quarterfinal: Won over Notre Dame, 1-0
Players to Watch
Goalie Dryden McKay: 37-4 record, .934 save percentage and 1.28 goals-against-average; Hobey Baker Award finalist; All-CCHA First Team.
Defenseman Jake Livingstone: nine goals, 30 points; All-CCHA First Team.
No. 2 Minnesota (26-12)
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll Ranking: 4
First round: Won over UMass, 4-3
Quarterfinal: Won over Western Michigan, 3-0
Players to Watch
Forward Ben Meyers: 17 goals, 41 points; Hobey Baker Award Finalist; All-Big Ten First Team; 2022 Olympian (Team USA)
Defenseman Jackson LaCombe: three goals, 30 points; All-Big Ten Second Team; No. 39 pick in 2019 NHL Draft (Anaheim Ducks)
Defenseman Brock Faber: two goals, 14 points, All Big-Ten First Team; No. 45 pick in 2020 NHL Draft (Los Angeles Kings)
Minnesota State: McKay (37-4 three shutouts, .934 save percentage and 1.28 goals-against-average, NCAA-record 34 career shutouts)
Minnesota: Justen Close (14-4, 1.83 goals-against average, .929 save percentage)
Minnesota vs. Minnesota State odds on DraftKings Sportsbook
Puckline: Minnesota +1.5 (-220), Minnesota State -1.5 (+170)
Over/under: Over 6.5 (-130), Under 6.5 (+100)
Moneyline: Denver +135, Michigan -165
Moneyline: Minnesota State
Goal total: Under 5
This is a battle of age, size and experience against speed and skill. Minnesota State isn’t loaded with NHL prospects with just two members of the roster drafted by the League. They are, however, a group that believes the sum is greater than its parts. Dryden McKay has played up to the level of the Hall of Fame goalie he was likely named after. Minnesota has 14 NHL draftees in the game, the most of any Frozen Four school and that’s not including Meyers, who will be the most coveted college free agent on the market. Close has stepped in admirably for Jack LaFontaine after the latter left the team midway through the season to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes. Expect Minnesota State to slow the game down, play with patience and force the Gophers to play the chip and chase game and eventually frustrate them. The Mavericks will take advantage of their opportunities when they are presented and McKay will close the door once a lead is secured.
Prediction: Minnesota State 3, Minnesota 1
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 888-789-7777/visit ccpg.org/chat (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-877-770-STOP (7867) (LA), 877-8-HOPENY/text HOPENY (467369) (NY), visit OPGR.org (OR), call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN), or 1-888-532-3500 (VA). 21+ (18+ NH/WY). Physically present in AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/LA/MI/NH/NJ/NY/OR/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.