Mike Hastings and Brett Larson both said it.

A handful of media members and fans noted it on social media, too.

Last weekend's matchup of the top-two ranked teams in college hockey felt like a playoff series in March, not a regular season series in the second week of October. Minnesota State's split with St. Cloud State lived up to the hype in every way. The top-ranked Mavericks pulled out a 1-0 victory on Friday night, thanks to a Nathan Smith power-play goal and Dryden McKay's NCAA record-tying 26th career shutout. No. 2 St. Cloud State responded with a 3-1 victory on Saturday.

It was a hard-hitting, defensive-minded, well-played physical series between two teams who clearly understood the importance of an early season non-conference series. In other words, both teams understood that a win, a loss or a tie in October can and will make a big difference in the PairWise Rankings come March.

"It was a very physical series," MSU coach Mike Hastings told The Rink Live this week. "We came out of it with some bumps and bruises, but that's about it. All of our guys are available (this weekend).

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"We learned a little bit about ourselves. St. Cloud is a very good hockey team. It was a really good series. Both teams could have won or lost either game. I talked to 'Lars' on Saturday night and he said 'do you remember October hockey being like this?' I said 'no, I definitely don't.'"


Zeroing in on history: A look at all 26 of Dryden McKay’s college shutouts

TRL reporters' question: What is the biggest surprise in the early going for the team you cover?

The No. 1-ranked Mavericks (3-1-0 overall) will get another dose of March hockey in October this weekend. They traveled to Duluth on Wednesday to prepare for the annual Ice Breaker Invitational, a four-team tournament that this year features four of the top 10 teams in this week's USCHO.com national poll.

MSU opens the Ice Breaker at 4 p.m. today against No. 10-ranked Providence (3-0-0). That game is followed by a top-5 clash between No. 3 Michigan (2-0-0) and the Ice Breaker's host school, No. 5-ranked Minnesota Duluth (2-0-0). All games can be streamed live on NCHC.TV; the full-tournament package costs $24.95.

"They're extremely well coached and obviously feeling good about how they're playing," Hastings said of Providence. "We're the only team (in the Ice Breaker) that's lost a game this year. ... You watch them on tape and they're very structured. Their power play and penalty kill are very good, clicking at numbers that are toward the top of the country. They have great goaltending and their best players have been their best players, contributing a lot for them offensively."

Ice Breaker Invitational

Who (USCHO rank/USA Today rank): No. 1 Minnesota State (3-1-0), No. 3 Michigan (2-0-0), No. 5 Minnesota Duluth (2-0-0), No. 10 Providence (3-0-0).

Today: Minnesota State vs. Providence, 4 p.m.; Michigan vs. Minnesota Duluth, 7:37 p.m.

Saturday: Michigan vs. MSU/Providence, 4 p.m.; Minnesota Duluth vs. MSU/Providence, 7:37 p.m. (the winners of Friday's games will play against each other on Saturday, as will the losers of Friday's games)

Where: Amsoil Arena, Duluth

Follow along: Live blog at TheRinkLive.com; Live streaming at NCHC.TV ($24.95 for the entire Ice Breaker); Radio, 1420-AM KTOE.

Social Media: On Twitter, follow The Rink Live's Matt Wellens (@mattwellens) and Jason Feldman (@PBFeldy), Shane Frederick (@puckato), MSU men's hockey (@MinnStMHockey), Providence (@FriarsHockey), Minnesota Duluth (@UMDMensHockey) and University of Michigan (@UMichHockey).

Silye shining early

David Silye's numbers from his freshman season of college hockey don't jump off the stat sheet. But the Minnesota State coaching staff knew how valuable the native of Arnprior, Ontario, could be when they saw his name show up in the NCAA transfer portal in the offseason.

Silye had three assists in 17 games at Clarkson a year ago as he adjusted to college hockey. This season, in a new home, Silye is already showing poise and maturity beyond his sophomore status. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound centerman has two points through four games as a Maverick and he has shown he can be counted on in crucial situations.

Sophomore center David Silye, a transfer from Clarkson, has had an immediate impact on the Minnesota State University men's hockey team this fall. Silye has two points through four games for the top-ranked Mavericks.
Contributed photo / Minnesota State University athletics
Sophomore center David Silye, a transfer from Clarkson, has had an immediate impact on the Minnesota State University men's hockey team this fall. Silye has two points through four games for the top-ranked Mavericks. Contributed photo / Minnesota State University athletics

No situation has been bigger for Silye in his brief MSU career than the one he was in Friday night, with the Mavericks holding a 1-0 lead against St. Cloud State and just 12 seconds remaining in the third period. The Huskies had pulled goalie David Hrenak for an extra attacker with a faceoff coming in MSU's zone, to the left of goalie Dryden McKay.

"I asked on the bench and he said he wanted it," Hastings said of Silye's eagerness to take that key faceoff. "I paused and said 'You don't need to wear an 'S' on your chest and put on a cape tonight for us. He said 'no, coach, I've got it.' So I said 'OK, go ahead.'"

Hastings' confidence in one of his newest centers paid off.

Silye won the faceoff cleanly, the Mavericks cleared the zone and the Huskies didn't have a chance to pressure McKay in the closing seconds.

"He'd shown that he had been very good on the faceoff dot for us," Hastings said of Silye. "Those are opportunities where, you want guys to thrive in those situations. He wanted to be in there in that situation and I thought he performed very well."

Prior to his one season at Clarkson, Silye spent four seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League, one of the best Junior A leagues in Canada. He played two seasons for the Nanaimo Clippers and two for the Penticton Vees, where he was named the team MVP in 2019-20.

Silye, whose father, Jim, played six seasons for Calgary in the Canadian Football League, totaled 59 goals and 181 points in 218 games in his four seasons in the BCHL.

"He's got a maturity about him," Hastings said. "Yes, he's a new player for us, with the whole COVID situation last season and him being at Clarkson then coming here, he's had a really good career so far. His numbers and his time in Penticton, he was a leader there and he has come in here and let his actions speak for him.

"He's not the loudest guy in the world, but he has come in and gone to work. He's earned the respect of his teammates and the coaching staff."

Scouting the Ice Breaker

PROVIDENCE: The No. 10-ranked Friars are up first for MSU this weekend, at 4 p.m. today. They have rolled past their first three opponents, soundly defeating Army (7-0), Merrimack (5-2) and American International (5-1), which was an NCAA tournament team a year ago.

The Friars have eight of their top 10 scorers back from last season, led by junior forward Parker Ford (7-12—19) and Patrick Moynihan (6-9—15), a 2019 sixth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils. Sophomore forward Brett Berard, a U.S. National Team Development Program product and a 2020 fifth-round pick by the New York Rangers, has jumped up early this season and leads the team in scoring thorugh three games (3-2—5), while four players, including Ford, have four points each.

Providence is backstopped by a player familiar to MSU fans. Jaxson Stauber, a junior from Plymouth, spent the 2019-20 season with MSU, where he played in one game. He has excelled for the Friars, going 11-7-5 last season with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. The son of former Gophers goalie and 1988 Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber, Jaxson has seized the starting job for the Friars this year, posting a 3-0-0 record, a 1.02 GAA and a .958 save percentage so far.

MICHIGAN: The No. 3-ranked Wolverines are loaded with 13 NHL Draft picks, including an incredible seven first-rounders, the most that any college hockey team has ever had (North Dakota had six in the 2005-06 season). The Wolverines first-rounders are significant first-rounders. Owen Power went No. 1 overall to Buffalo this year. Matty Beniers went No. 2 overall, while Luke Hughes was taken at No. 4 and Kent Johnson went at No. 5. The Wolverines' other first-rounders are Mackie Samoskevich (No. 24), Brendan Brisson (No. 29 in 2020) and John Beecher (No. 30 in 2019).

That firepower has been noticeable so far, as Michigan has scored 20 goals in three games, counting a 7-1 exhibition game victory against Bowling Green. The Wolverines outgunned in-state rival Lake Superior State in two games last weekend, winning 6-1 and 7-4. Power had a goal and four assists in the series, while Brisson had three goals and two assists.

Buffalo draft pick Eric Portillo, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound sophomore, started both games in goal against Lake State last weekend.

MINNESOTA DULUTH: The Bulldogs, ranked No. 5 in the country, were a Frozen Four participant last season, like MSU. UMD fell to eventual national champion UMass in the national semifinals. The Bulldogs have one of the more veteran-heavy rosters in the country, with five fifth-year players in addition to six seniors. They also have seven NHL Draft picks on the team. They're led by senior captain Noah Cates, a 2017 fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers; sophomore defenseman Wyatt Kaiser (2020 third-round pick by Chicago) and Warroad native Kobe Roth, a key component of two of the Bulldogs' recent national championship teams.

In goal, junior Ryan Fanti and sophomore Zach Stejskal both played one game in last weekend's season-opening home-and-home series against Bemidji State. The two shared time in net a year ago, too, when Fanti started 19 games and Stejskal started nine.

Around the CCHA

St. Thomas at Lake Superior State: The only in-league series of the weekend features the newest Division I program, St. Thomas, making its second consecutive trip to UP Michigan to take on last year's WCHA playoff champion, Lake State. The home-standing Lakers have lost three consecutive games since opening the season with a 4-3 OT win at Omaha. The Lakers (1-3-0) were thumped at Michigan twice last weekend, 6-1 and 7-4. The first four games at the D1 level have been a mixed bag for the Tommies., who are 0-4-0 after being swept by St. Cloud State and Northern Michigan. St. Thomas has been outscored 26-6 so far. Following this weekend's series at LSSU, they play five of their next eight games at home.

Northern Michigan vs. USNTDP/Notre Dame: Northern Michigan finished the season strong last year, making a run all the way to the WCHA championship game, where it lost to Lake Superior State. The Wildcats started strong this year, tying Michigan Tech in an exhibition game, then sweeping St. Thomas last weekend. NMU will be tested this weekend, with home games against a U.S. National Team Development Program U18 club loaded with Division I recruits, and then a Saturday night showdown with No. 17-ranked Notre Dame.

Michigan Tech vs. Notre Dame/USNTDP: Tech and Northern Michigan will swap opponents this weekend. Tech will host Notre Dame tonight and the USNTDP on Saturday. Joe Shawan's Tech club opened some eyes around the country last weekend, when it went to Wisconsin and convincingly swept the Badgers by scores of 5-2 and 5-1. Senior forward Alec Broetzman (2-3—5) and junior forward Logan Pietila (3-1—4) led the way offensively for the Huskies in their wins at Madison.

Bemidji State vs. North Dakota: Bemidji State remained ranked in the top 20 — at No. 20 — this week despite being swept by Minnesota Duluth in its season openers last weekend. The respect the Beavers receive in the national poll is more about the manner in which they lost, than the fact that they lost twice. They fell to UMD 4-2 and 2-1, on the heels of a 2-1 loss to North Dakota in an exhibition game a week prior. Much like Minnesota State, the Beavers are testing themselves early and often against quality opponents this season. Following this weekend, their next five series (which takes them to the end of November) are against, in order: at Northern Michigan, vs. Bowling Green, at Lake Superior State, vs. Michigan Tech, and at Arizona State.