MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- One year ago, Minnesota State University Mankato beat the University of Minnesota men's hockey team in the NCAA regional, advancing to their first ever Frozen Four. Fast forward a year, and the teams meet again, one round deeper.
"They'll come out a little bit differently this time," said Mavericks junior forward Nathan Smith. "They're fast. They're skilled. And we're pretty defensive and gritty. But we're pretty skilled, too. So I think it'll be another good game."
The Mavs are coming off a good game to get to this point, beating Notre Dame 1-0. It was yet another shutout for goalie Dryden McKay, whose 34 career shutouts is best in college hockey history. He's also one of three finalists up for the Hobey Baker award.
"We've won a lot of games which has been really cool," said McKay. "Just kind of coming out of COVID here, and getting the fans back in the building, and kind of having, you know, the outdoor game, there's been a lot of cool moments. But hopefully there's another really big, cool moment."
With a win against the Gophers, the Mavericks would play in their first-ever national championship game. It's a sign of the direction the program is going.
"Yeah, it'd be huge," said McKay. "Just kind of solidifying what we know we've been building and kind of what people are starting to notice with us. And you know, it's that next step to get that first win and hopefully that second win."
"That's what this group and the people before us have always been about. Trying to make sure the program continues to progress," said Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings. "Honor those that came before us and then, you know, be a part of something special. It's fantastic when these guys get an opportunity to write their own history. And they've been able to do that here this year. And we're looking forward to the opportunity on Thursday."
The Mavericks play the Gophers in the NCAA semifinal this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Boston, Massachusetts.
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