Mavericks bounce Irish 1-0 and punch ticket to Frozen Four in Boston.
Albany, NY – A 1-0 game against Dryden McKay and the Minnesota St. Mavericks might as well be a 10-goal deficit some nights. Saturday night at MVPArena was one of those nights. Only it didn’t feel that way to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In the opening period, Notre Dame had fallen behind to North Dakota by a goal only to rally back for a 2-1 overtime win on Thursday. The problem is that it was Saturday, and they were facing Dryden McKay, Mr. Shutout.
Nathan Smith picked up the game’s only goal late in the first period for the Mavericks, and the team defense suffocated the Irish for the remaining forty minutes. The 1-0 win in the Albany Regional Final puts the Minnesota St. Mavericks in the Frozen Four for the second straight season. They will face the winner of Sunday’s Worcester Regional Final between the Western Michigan Broncos and Minnesota Golden Gophers.
“It was a bounce here and a bounce there,” said Minnesota St. head coach Mike Hastings. “We found a way to score a goal at the end of the period. Dryden (McKay) and the rest of the guys did a really good job of managing the game from there.”
“We won a lot of games, one-goal, two-goal games and he’s a huge part of that,” said Smith of the confidence McKay provides in close games. “We strive to be strong defensively in front of him, but, we have a huge confidence boost knowing when we get up one or two goals that we have him behind us.”
In the loss, Notre Dame goalie Matthew Galajda was equally as effective in goal for the Irish. He had his work cut out almost immediately as Mavericks forward Reggie Lutz made his way past an Irish defender and drove to the net, where Galajda made the first of his 32 of 33 saves.
The way Smith spoke of McKay was echoed by Notre Dame senior defenseman Adam Karashik when discussing Galajda’s play in the game. “It’s a great feeling to know the guy behind you has your back. He never quits on any puck so credit to him.”
The period’s best action came after the public address announcer announced ‘one minute remaining in the period”. Graham Slaggert had a slapshot from the left face-off dot saved by McKay at 19:04 of the first. Then, Jake Pivonka had a shot from the top of the crease shouldered away by McKay (20 saves). Minnesota St. forward David Silye had a chance at the other end saved by Galajda.
On the ensuing face-off came the game’s lone goal. Brendan Furry won the draw to Smith, who had a shot blocked; Furry fired off a shot that Galajda saved, but the rebound went to Smith to rifle in his 19th with sixteen seconds remaining. That was all the offense the Mavericks would need en route to their 16th straight win and McKay’s 34th career shutout, the NCAA record.
“Furry won the draw back,” Smith said. “He was pretty good tonight on the draw. I kind of expected it to come right between his legs And I just tried to get a quick shot on net. There was four guys in the lane, somebody was going to block it. He (Furry) found it and just put it off the pad (of Galajda) and I just tried to go to the net and it bounced right to me.”
“They’re tough to play against,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “they defend well, a lot of it’s with puck possession, its not just about defending, they do a good job possessing the puck. Also, they’ve got a lot of experienced guys, and that makes it challenging when you’re going up against a team with good depth and good experience and they have both.”
“It’s a one shot game. One shot and you tie the game up,” said Graham Slaggert, senior co-captain of the Irish. “The whole season we’ve been a team that knows we’re in every single game that we’re playing in. So it was just keep working hard, keep playing our structure. And, you know, we had belief that we could get one there. Just unfortunately didn’t happen for us.”
The stat sheet indicates that the Fighting Irish blocked 14 shots and the Mavericks blocked 15. It seemed like more than that as both teams were giving up their bodies for defense—something both coaches discussed.
“We’ve got guys that are willing to sacrifice,” said Jackson. “Adam (Karashik) blocks more shots in the country I think. We got other guys that are willing to do that too, sacrifice their bodies and when things break down, that’s when you need guys who are willing to pay the price, to deny second chances or to get into shot lane.”
Karashik led the Irish with four blocks, fellow defenseman Jake Livingstone led the Mavericks with six.
“You look over those last four or five minutes,” Hastings said. “I haven’t seen (game film) yet but I’m going to guarantee you we had to lsy down and block probably six or seven shots so they didn’t get to Dryden. Once they got there, they did a good job of cleaning up the mess.”
“I don’t really think there’s an easy way to get there,” said McKay getting to the Frozen Four. “I think we had to earn this weekend. Even Thursday when we got up 3-0 it was a battle over the rest of the game and tonight was a battle away from the first shift. So you know you if you’re gonna make it to the to the Frozen Four, you’re gonna have to earn it you’re gonna have to do something extra. I thought we had that extra effort tonight that that got us through.”