Dryden McKay allowed a goal last Saturday for the first time in nearly a month.
From the time Bemidji State's Tyler Vold scored with 4:31 remaining in a 5-4 Minnesota State University, Mankato, victory in Mankato on Dec. 18, until Lake Superior State's Miroslav Mucha scored with 5:50 to play in the second period last Saturday, McKay spent 217 minutes, 37 seconds in the MSU net without allowing another goal.
As impressive as that sounds, it's only the second-best shutout mark of the junior goalie's college career.
Just as he did this season, McKay strung together three consecutive shutouts a year ago and held opponents scoreless for a 234:25 stretch during a three-week run in February in which he blanked Northern Michigan once and Alabama Huntsville twice.
This season's streak may not have been as lengthy as last season's, but it was equally impressive -- if not more so -- than a year ago.
Last season, McKay had one of the country's top offenses in front of him, a team that averaged 33.7 shots on goal and 4.0 goals per game. The Mavericks' offense has proven nearly as powerful this season, averaging 3.56 goals and 36.9 shots per game.
But McKay's stretch last season spanned 21 days, starting in a 7-3 win against Northern Michigan on Feb. 7, 2020, and ending in a 3-1 loss at Bemidji State on Feb. 28, 2020. This year, McKay's streak spanned 28 days, from a 5-4 win against Bemidji State on Dec. 18 through last Saturday's 6-2 win at Lake Superior State. It also spanned a holiday break in late December and the postponement of a two-game series against Michigan Tech (originally scheduled for Jan. 8-9).
Both of McKay's shutout streaks over the past two seasons covered parts or all of five games. Last year, 191:49 of his streak was played on MSU's home ice. This season, just 4:31 of his streak was played in Mankato.
His three shutouts during this season's streak give him five for the season and 19 for his Mavericks' career. That number is tied for the fourth-best all-time in NCAA history with Cornell senior Matthew Galajda, former Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig (2013-16) and former Cornell star Ben Scrivens (2007-10).
Starting with this weekend's home series against Ferris State (1-8-0 overall), No. 2-ranked MSU (7-1-1) has 14 more regular-season games on its schedule. McKay needs one more shutout to tie Vermont's Joe Fallon for the third-most all-time (20), and he needs two more shutouts to match the WCHA career mark of 21 set by Bemidji State's Michael Bitzer (2015-18). Michigan State's Ryan Miller (1999-2002) holds the record, with 26.
Only five other goalies in the nation this season have more than two shutouts and all of them have played at least 11 games.
McKay's shutout streak is another bullet point on the list of reasons the Downers Grove, Ill., native should be near or at the top of the list for many goaltending awards following this season. Among goalies who have played five or more games, McKay ranks third in the country in save percentage (.952), first in goals-against average (1.01), first in shutouts (5) and second in win percentage (.875).
Another Alaskan In The Pipeline
MSU has a handful of players on its roster this season who know what it's like to have success playing hockey in Alaska.
Another one will soon join the program.
Zach Krajnik, a 5-feet-11, 181-pound center who grew up in Eagle River, Alaska, then starred with the Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League, announced this week that he has committed to play for Minnesota State. Krajnik will transfer to MSU from the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
Krajnik is a freshman who didn't play a game with the Seawolves, who announced last August that the men's hockey program would be cut following the 2020-21 season due to budgetary concerns. Then, in mid-November the university announced that none of its indoor winter sports teams would be permitted to play this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting an early end to the men's hockey program.
Krajnik announced his decision to transfer to MSU on social media on Wednesday, writing: "First off I'd like to thank the coaching staff and everyone at @UAAHockey for everything they've done for me. With that being said I am proud and honored to announce my commitment to further my education and athletic career @MavHockey #hornsup."
Krajnik joins current MSU freshman forward Tanner Edwards as native Alaskans on the Mavericks' roster. Edwards is a native of Anchorage, which is approximately 15 miles southwest of Krajnik's hometown of Eagle River. Krajnik, a left-shot centerman, had 23 goals and 52 points in his senior season at Chugiak High School. He then recorded 42 goals and 132 total points in 155 games for Kenai River from 2017-20.
Current MSU seniors Reggie Lutz and Todd Burgess also found success on the ice in Alaska, leading the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to the NAHL national championship in 2016. Burgess had an astounding 43 goals and 109 points that season, while Lutz had 39 goals and 63 points.
Other native Alaskans who have played at MSU under head coach Mike Hastings are forward Ryan Schwalbe, who played in 67 games from 2015-19 and now plays professionally in Sweden; goalie Stephon Williams, who won 51 games in three seasons (2012-15) before playing professionally in the AHL, ECHL, Slovakia and Germany; and Eli Zuck, a forward who recorded 44 points in 117 games at MSU from 2009-13.
MSU In The Polls
After a sweep at then-No. 19 Lake Superior State last weekend, Minnesota state (7-1-1 overall) moved up to No. 2 in this week's USCHO.com national poll and in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national rankings. MSU received three first-place votes in the USCHO poll, which includes 40 voters from across the country. The Mavericks' opponent this week, Ferris State is unranked. Bowling Green is the only other WCHA team in the USCHO poll, at No. 5. Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State received votes. Boston College is No. 1.
MSU is at home for three consecutive weeks. Following this weekend's series against Ferris State at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center (5:07 p.m. Saturday, 3:07 p.m. Sunday), the Mavericks are scheduled to host Alabama Huntsville on Thursday, Jan. 28 (4:07 p.m.) and Friday, Jan. 29 (2:07 p.m.). Then comes the showdown series against Bowling Green at MCHSEC on Friday, Feb. 5 (7:07 p.m) and Saturday, Feb. 6 (6:07 p.m.).
Ferris State at a glance
Ferris State comes into this weekend's series riding the momentum of its only victory so far this season, a 7-0 blanking of Division III Trine University last weekend at Ferris State.
The Bulldogs are 1-8-0 overall and 0-3-1 in WCHA play. They haven't been blown off the ice by opponents, though, as four of their eight losses have come by one goal and two others have come by two goals. The one-goal setbacks include a loss against No. 5-ranked Bowling Green, two against Northern Michigan and an OT loss to Alabama Huntsville.
Ferris has been solid offensively, ranking 21st in the country at a 3.0 goals-per-game average. But the bottom drops out for the Bulldogs on the other end of the ice, where they are allowing 4.11 goals per game (47th out of 51 teams) and 31.22 shots per game (31st).
Junior forward Justin Michaelian is FSU's leading scorer, with nine points, while freshman forward Mitch Deelstra and junior forward Ethan Stewart have a team-best five goals each. Junior Roni Salmenkangas has started a majority of the Bulldogs' games, going 1-4-0 so far with a 3.89 goals-against average and an .874 save percentage.
Bulldogs head coach Bob Daniels is in his 29th season and has a 462-497-104 career mark. FSU assistant coach Mark Kaufman, in his 15th season with the program, was recently named the recipient of the Terry Flanagan Award from the American Hockey Coaches Association. Named in honor of a former University of New Hampshire player and Bowling Green assistant coach, the award honors an assistant coach's career body of work. Each year, only one assistant coach in the game is honored.
WCHA Power Rankings
1. Minnesota State (7-1-1): The Mavericks jumped up to No. 2 in the country after sweeping then-No. 19 Lake Superior State last weekend. They open a three-week homestand this weekend against Ferris State, then host Alabama Huntsville in a non-conference series before a showdown with Bowling Green, Feb. 5-6.
2. Bowling Green (14-4-0): The No. 5 Falcons have lost three of their past five games. They lost an exhibition game 5-1 against the U.S. National Team Development Program on Jan. 11, then swept two games at home against Northern Michigan before being swept by Bemidji State this week. BGSU has a home series against Michigan Tech next weekend before it comes to Mankato.
3. Michigan Tech (6-3-1): The Huskies have a home-and-home series Saturday and Monday against rival Northern Michigan, but due to positive tests within their own program, they haven't played since Jan. 3.
4. Bemidji State (5-4-2): The Beavers are heating up after a 2-4-2 start, having won three consecutive games, all against Bowling Green.
5. Lake Superior State (6-3-3): After getting swept at home by Minnesota State -- by a total score of 9-2 -- the Lakers face another tough test this week, at surging Bemidji State.
6. Northern Michigan (2-8-0): The Wildcats have dropped six consecutive games, all against ranked teams, and have scored six total goals in those games.
7. Alabama Huntsville (2-5-1): The Chargers, on the heels of their first two victories of the season, had to postpone series last week and this week. They're due to play at Minnesota State on Thursday and Friday.
8. Ferris State (1-8-0): The Bulldogs gained some confidence with their first win of the season last Saturday, against Trine University, a winless Division III program. The competition gets considerably tougher for FSU this week, playing at Minnesota State.