If this years NCAA tournament showed us anything, it’s that March Madness doesn’t just apply to basketball. Currently there have been four upsets with one in the first round (Bemidji-Wisconsin) and three in the quarterfinals (North Dakota, Boston College, and Minnesota). Out of the four teams left, three of them are Minnesota based and for the Minnesota State Mavericks, it will be the first Frozen Four in program history.
SCSU vs. MINNST 4/8 5PM EDT
St. Cloud State will be a tough out considering the programs success of recent. However, if the Minnesota game showed us anything, it’s the Mavericks are a well coached, disciplined team. If they can execute their game plan, Minnesota State can beat anyone in this tournament. Not to mention Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay, who leads the NCAA in GAA, SV%, and Goalie winning percentage. Furthermore, no team gets more offense from the blueline than the Mavericks.
Winner: Minnesota State
UMD vs. UMASS 4/8 9PM EDT
UMD. You can pretty much just chalk them in every year. This team continues to find a way to win while setting records in the process. Their quarterfinal game against North Dakota set the record for the longest NCAA tournament game after freshman Luke Mylymok scored two minutes and thirteen seconds into the 5th OT to send the Bulldogs back to the Frozen four in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, UMASS has been cruising through the tournament disposing of both Lake Superior State and Bemidji State by a margin of four goals each. Ultimately, UMD always finds a way, has an elite coaching staff and are more battle tested. I’m going Bulldogs here.
Winner: University of Minnesota Duluth
— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) March 28, 2021
Championship Game 4/10 7PM EDT
My prediction here is MINNST VS UMD. Although it’s been a tournament of upsets I am not going with the upset here. Its weird though. Because that means I am going with five seed Minnesota State who has never been to the frozen four over the reining 2019 champions. It’s hard to go against the Bulldogs, their staff, and their continued success; however, the Mavericks lead the NCAA in quite a few departments and have proven to be a disciplined and sound team. Not to mention, they were a legitimate team all year long making consistent appearances in the top 10 of the NCAA’s rankings. And while they may not be the most experienced team in the field, they are the oldest with an average age of 22 years and eight months.
NCAA Hockey 2021 Champion: Minnesota State Mavericks
With most of the big programs such as Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Boston College, etc… out of the tournament, the prospect pool has dimmed a bit. Now we are seeing a lot of the top NHL college prospects sign with their respective NHL teams.
The Canadiens have agreed to terms on a three-year ELC with forward Cole Caufield. (2020-21 to 2022-2023)
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 28, 2021
Zac Jones – NYR 2019 3rd round #68 overall – Sophomore defenseman had 23 points in 27 regular season games. Following up his great freshman year with a great sophomore year on the blueline, leading Minutemen defenseman in assists and points.
Wyatt Kaiser – CHI 2020 3rd round #81 overall – Led all Bulldog defenseman in points this season with 10 in 27 games.
Noah Cates – PHI 2018 5th round #137 overall – Underperforming a bit considering last years standards but got a “C” this year in his junior season. Could report to Lehigh Valley after this season.
Cole Koepke – TBL 2018 6th round #183 overall – Scored 2nd goal to give Bulldogs two goal advantage in 5OT thriller against North Dakota. Led all Bulldogs in goals with 14 on the season.
Nick Swaney – MIN 2017 7th round #209 overall – Tied for first in points with 27 in 27 games for UMD. The Minnesota native will likely sign with his hometown Wild after the season.
Nathan Smith – WIN 2018 3rd round #91 overall – 3rd on the team in points and tied for the team lead in goals. Only in his sophomore season, the forward is building on what was a solid freshman season.
Dryden McKay – N/A – Undrafted goalie who is having a phenomenal year. Led NCAA in GAA, SV%, and goalie winning percentage. He’s helped to carry Mavericks deep this year and has posted above a .925 save percentage in each of his three years with Minnesota State.
Cade Borchardt – N/A – Undrafted forward exploded in his second year in purple and gold after finishing with no points in his freshman season.
St. Cloud State:
Veeti Miettinen – TOR 2020 6th round #168 overall – Late round Fin who could be a great value pick in the sixth round. Veeti led St. Cloud in points with 24 this year for the Huskies as a freshman.
Nick Perbix – TBL 2017 6th round #169 overall – Led all Huskie defenseman in scoring this year. Relied upon heavily by the Huskies in numerous situations.
As I mentioned, with most of the big programs out there aren’t the big name prospects that were accustomed to keying in on. Nevertheless, the talent pool is growing in the NCAA and some players are just late bloomers.