After a four-game blip in December, Minnesota State turned the calendar to 2019 and hasn’t looked back as the Mavericks inch closer to an NCAA Tournament bid.
The return of head coach Mike Hastings sparked the team, which has claimed nine of 10 games since entering 2019, as it holds an 11-point lead in the WCHA.
Putting the electric power play and inherent youth aside, the Mavericks have been backed by freshman netminder Dryden McKay. The 21-year-old has started 12 consecutive games and is cementing himself among the best goalies in college hockey.
McKay’s development has launched the Mavericks to No. 6 in the nation and laid to rest the largest question mark entering the season. In fact, McKay has straightened that question mark into an exclamation point with a dominant campaign.
He’s been the inarguable top freshman netminder in the nation and is near the top in the four notable goaltending categories. At 16-5-1 overall, McKay holds a 1.91 goals-against average (seventh), a .921 save percentage (tied for eighth among goalies that have faced a minimum 500 shots), a .750 winning percentage (fifth) and three shutouts (tied for eighth).
During his 12 consecutive starts, McKay has surrendered just 21 goals (1.75 GAA) on 286 shots (.926 SV%) and has allowed more than two goals just twice. Narrowing his numbers to the WCHA, the freshman phenom sits first in win percentage, second in goals-against average, third in save percentage and second in shutouts.
McKay has fit into the Mavericks’ plan as seamlessly as he pictured Mankato fitting into his life when he committed in September 2017, a year after originally committing to Holy Cross of Atlantic Hockey before an uptick in recruiters presented him with more options.
“I chose Minnesota State because it was a perfect fit for me. They have a great business program, beautiful campus, brand new hockey facilities and an unbelievable coaching staff,” McKay told NeutralZone.net in 2017. “It is also relatively close to home. I was in touch with about five other schools after my decommitment to Holy Cross and went on one other visit, but after seeing everything Minnesota State had to offer I was convinced it was the place for me.”
The arrival of McKay has helped an already dangerous Mavericks team surge through the season with enviable depth at all three positions. Now, with six games left before the conference tournament and an aforementioned 11-point lead in the WCHA, McKay could receive some rest for senior Mathias Israelsson.
That potential playing time for Israelsson won’t bring any lesser degree of confidence in the team adding to the win column, as Israelsson sits at 7-1 with a 1.72 GAA, .908 SV% and one shutout.
Tune in this weekend to watch the Mavericks visit the 12-13-2 Michigan Tech Huskies live, right here on FloHockey, as they continue to build momentum toward a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
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