Men's WCHA Hockey

The State Of Minnesota Is Dominating The 2021 NCAA Hockey Tournament

The State Of Minnesota Is Dominating The 2021 NCAA Hockey Tournament

The state of Minnesota is putting on a seriously impressive showing by landing three teams in the 2021 Frozen Four.

Mar 31, 2021 by Jacob Messing
The State Of Minnesota Is Dominating The 2021 NCAA Hockey Tournament

The opening round of the 2021 NCAA Hockey Tournament featured all five Division I hockey programs from the state of Minnesota, adding to its unofficial nickname as The State of Hockey.

Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State, and the back-to-back defending champs — or back-to-back-to-back if you add 2020’s tournament cancellation — Minnesota Duluth have given Minnesotans a lot to brag about.

There is also the surprising run by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, which sit third in the Honda West Division, but I digress.

On Saturday, the state of Minnesota saw an unprecedented occurrence as each program played in succession in the five-game day.

Bemidji State entered the day with confidence, knocking out state rival and fourth-overall seeded Wisconsin 6-3 in the opening round. The Beavers weren’t the first game of Saturday’s packed schedule, but they fell 4-0 to UMass as the first Minnesotan team to be sent home.

St. Cloud State, the No. 1 overall seed from 2019, which was upset by an up-and-coming American International program, didn’t underestimate the state of Massachusetts again. This time around, the Huskies sent Boston University packing with a decisive 6-2 win. The following day, the Huskies knocked out No. 2 overall seed Boston College with another decisive game, winning 4-1.

As the third overall seed, the University of Minnesota opened their tournament on the packed day, ousting Omaha in the opening round with a 7-2 rout.

Minnesota State also opened their tournament on Saturday, as they lifted a weight off of their shoulders by winning their first opening-round game in DI program history, exorcising a 0-6 program record and 0-5 mark since coach Mike Hastings took over in 2012-13. Minnesota State defeated Quinnipiac 4-3 in overtime, after the Mavericks stormed back from a 3-1 deficit with all three goals coming in the final 16 minutes of the game.

The pair of wins by Minnesota and Minnesota State set them on a converging path, sending only the winner of their clash to the Frozen Four. That winner was ultimately Minnesota State by a 4-0 margin, earning Mike Richter Award finalist Dryden McKay his 10th shutout of the season.

The defending champions since 2018, Minnesota Duluth saw their opening round contest with Michigan canceled after the Wolverines withdrew following positive COVID-19 tests. In their first game, they knocked out No. 1 overall seed North Dakota in a wild 5OT game that spanned a total of 142:13. 

Freshman Luke Mylymok netted his second goal of the season 2:13 into the fifth overtime to finish the game, send the Bulldogs into the Frozen Four and put an end to North Dakota’s season.

The Frozen Four

With the 16-team field down to the Frozen Four, three of the five Minnesota-based programs remain in the running with one program guaranteed a spot in the championship game.

Minnesota State vs St. Cloud State

The Mavericks will face the Huskies on Thursday, April 8, at 5 PM for a single-elimination contest with the winner earning a spot in the championship game. The matchup ensures Minnesota at least one representative in the final game of the season.

The Mavericks hold a 22-4-1 overall record and feature the aforementioned McKay as one of the nation’s top goalies for the third consecutive season. They have broken through the first round, added to expectations with their second-round win and will now look for a shot at the title.

The Huskies sit at 19-10 overall, which speaks more to regular-season schedule strength rather than roster capability. They are a dominant third-period team that plays a full 60 minutes and rarely beats themselves.

Minnesota Duluth vs UMass

Shortly after the Mavericks and Huskies finish, the Bulldogs and Minutemen will face off to find out which college will join the winner of the earlier game in the final contest.

The Bulldogs will be after their third title in four years, which includes the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, in which no champion was crowned. As a conference rival of St. Cloud State, their 15-10-2 record is another reflection of the NCHC’s strong lineup, which also includes Denver, and 2021 tournament berths North Dakota and Omaha.

UMass will be looking for revenge after losing to Duluth in the 2019 championship game 3-0. They don’t feature defenseman Cale Makar like in 2019, but they’ve created a competitive culture and sit at 18-5-4. Junior netminder Filip Lindberg is having a career year, which says a lot after two incredible campaigns from 2018-2020.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.