The State of Hockey is Heavily Involved In the NCAA Once Again


Will Schiffler, Contributor

Minnesota has been known as the State of Hockey forever, but once again, Minnesota has multiple teams playing in the Division 1 playoffs to chase a National Championship. Four Minnesotan teams will appear in the collegiate playoffs this spring: the University of Minnesota Gophers, St. Cloud State University Huskies, Minnesota State University Mavericks, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. 

The University of Minnesota Gophers come into the tournament after falling to the University of Michigan in the Big 10 Championship Game last weekend, which occurred in Minneapolis at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The Gophers are led by Hobey Baker Finalist Ben Meyers from Delano, Minnesota. Meyers has recorded 16 goals and 37 points in 31 games as a captain for the Gophers this season. Meyers also appeared in the 2022 Olympic Games on team USA, where he recorded four points in four games. Coach Bob Motzko looks to coach his team to a National Championship in his 17th season as a Division 1 head coach and his fourth at the University of Minnesota. The Gophers open up the tournament on the road in Worcester, Massachusetts, against the defending National Champions, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The Gophers will rely on their veteran leadership from Samuel Walker, Ben Meyers, and Blake McLaughlin to capture their first National Championship since 2003, when coach Bob Motzko was an assistant coach. The Gophers will play Friday, March 25 at 5:00 P.M.

This year, St. Cloud State University is looking for redemption after losing 5-0 in the National Championship to the University of Massachusetts last spring. The Huskies are a deep team that consists of many upperclassmen with a ton of experience in the NCAA tournament. Two-time Senior Captain Spencer Meier leads St. Cloud State to their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament. The Sartell, Minnesota native, has recorded five goals and 18 points in 35 games as a defenseman for the Huskies. The Huskies also look for Senior defenseman Nicklaus Perbix to contribute to the quest for a National Championship. He has 31 points on the season. Perbix played for Team USA in the Beijing Winter Olympics along with head coach Brett Larson. The Huskies open the tournament against the second seed Quinnipiac in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Huskies will need to find a way to score against the best defensive team in all of college hockey this season. This season, Quinnipiac has only allowed 1.05 goals per game. St. Cloud State will be in action at 7:00 P.M. Friday, March 25 to extend their season against a tough Quinnipiac hockey team. 

The third team from Minnesota competing in the national tournament is the Mankato State Mavericks. After one of the most controversial hockey games in recent times, Mankato looks to make a deep run in this year’s national tournament. With an impressive 35-5 record this season, the Mavericks have performed exceptionally well in all parts of the game. Last year, Mankato State made it to the Frozen Four, where they lost to St. Cloud State, who then moved onto the National Championship Game. The Mavericks return most of their roster and are looking to make it further than last year. Forward Nathan Smith leads Mankato, who has scored 18 goals and 49 points this season. Smith looks to continue leading the Mavericks toward the Frozen Four alongside goaltender Dryden McKay. In 39 games this year, McKay has recorded a 1.27 goal allowed average and a .934 save percentage. The Mavericks go into the tournament as the number one seed of their region and will play Harvard on Thursday, March 24 at 11:00 A.M.

The last Minnesotan team to appear in the national tournament is the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have been the most successful Minnesota school as of late as they have one three Championships since 2011. Leading scorer Blake Biondi leads the Bulldogs into the tournament with 17 goals and 28 points. The Bulldogs are among the deepest teams going into the tournament, with four lines that all can produce offensively. UMD will rely on their experience playing in the national tournament and the success they have seen under head coach Scott Sandelin. UMD will travel to Loveland, Colorado, to play Michigan Tech at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, March 24 to embark on their journey towards another National Championship.