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Fargo regional: SCSU, Minnesota State meet again, this time with the season on the line

Huskies will play the Mavericks for the third time this season and for the sixth time in three seasons.

St. Cloud State defenseman Spencer Meier, left, listens to forward Grant Cruikshank respond to a question during the Fargo regional press conference on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
Rob Beer / The Rink Live

FARGO — Two men's hockey teams that have been rivals since the 1969-70 season and have a lot of players with NCAA Division I Frozen Four experience will play one another at 4 p.m. Thursday (ESPNU) at Scheels Arena.

Sixth-seeded St. Cloud State (24-12-3) plays 11th-seeded Minnesota State (25-12-1) for the third time this season. The Huskies swept a nonconference series (3-2, 4-3) with the Mavericks on Oct. 21-22 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

This will be the sixth meeting between the teams in three seasons with the Huskies winning five of the last six games.

"It's my alma mater and I think they do things the right way," said Mavericks coach Mike Hastings, a former SCSU player and assistant coach. "They make us better every time we play them.

"I think there's a rivalry there. We're within the same border and have different conferences we compete in. But I will tell you that when anybody in our state gets together and plays each other, it's definitely a rivalry."


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In that series in St. Cloud this season, SCSU coach Brett Larson said that his team was fortunate to come away with two wins.

"I think (the rivalry) keeps building," Larson said. "(In 2021), we were in Mankato for the first two (games) in October and I remember both staffs talking to each other after and saying that it felt like the NCAA tournament in October.

"These two teams have just absolutely slugged it out every time they've played each other," said Larson, whose team has played one-goal games against Minnesota State in four of the last five meetings. "When we played in the Frozen Four (in 2021), it came down to the last shot ... I'll be honest with you, at our rink this year, I thought we played a real good game and deserved to win on Friday night. On Saturday night, even though we won that game, I think they dominated us. We were able to steal one there. These two teams have played really hard, really physical and kind of playoff-style hockey every time we've played each other in the regular season."

Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings, defenseman Jake Livingstone and Cade Borchardt listen to a question during the Fargo regional media day Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
Rob Beer / The Rink Live

Special teams, faceoffs

Both teams have effective power plays. The Mavericks lead the nation in power-play effectiveness (27.9%) and faceoff win percentage (60%). Of course, both of those numbers have the attention of the Huskies.

"(Faceoffs) have been a focus this week, that's for sure," Larson said. "We have to narrow that a little bit. If it goes 60-40 for them, they're starting with the puck a lot more than we are and that's clearly an advantage for them. We've had a lot of our time focused on faceoffs — not just our centers, but the other guys involved with those plays. We've got to get that closer to 50-50."

The Huskies are not slouches on the faceoff dot. Winning 53.3%, SCSU is tired for sixth in the nation.

At 76.4% on the penalty kill, the Huskies are 54th in the nation. That number has been better in the last three playoff games (all wins) at 85.7% (6-for-7).


Minnesota State forward David Silye (10) passes the puck past St. Cloud State forward Kyler Kupka (10) in the first period Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Silye will play

Minnesota State's leading scorer, David Silye, will be in the lineup Thursday. Silye, the CCHA Forward of the Year, did not make it through regulation of the CCHA championship game after taking an open-ice hit against Northern Michigan.

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But Silye, a junior center from Arnprior, Ontario, is expected to play Thursday.

"All good, he's good," Hastings said on Wednesday. "We just want to make sure we're doing the right things. That's why he was held out. But he was cleared soon after that."

Silye is third in the nation in goals (23), tied for second in power-play goals (12), tied for 23rd in points (39) and is winning 62.9% of his faceoffs.

St. Cloud State forward Jami Krannila (13) tries to steal the puck from Minnesota State forward Sam Morton (6) with Mavericks defenseman Jake Livingstone (23) and Huskies forward Micah Miller (15) looking on in the second period Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Key players

Besides Silye, the Mavericks also feature the two-time CCHA Defenseman of the Year in junior Jake Livingstone. Livingstone leads the team in assists (27), is tied for the team lead in plus/minus (plus-12) and is second in plus/minus (plus-12).

Livingstone said that his teammates have helped him with any extra attention that opponents have given him this season.


"I wouldn't say I've handled it by myself," Livingstone said. "(Defensemen) Akito (Hirose) and (Andy) Carroll have done huge parts along with all the freshmen. They've definitely helped a lot. I wouldn't say it's me.

"Handling the pressure — sometimes you do, some nights better than others. I just kind of go with the flow. You've got guys to lean on back there and my 'D' partner (Hirose) helps me out a lot ... It's not as hard as people would think."

Silye and Livingstone are both All-CCHA First Team picks and Hirose (27 points, plus-12) was named to the All-CCHA Second Team. Sophomore Keenan Rancier has emerged as the Mavericks' top goalie and won his last five starts. On the season, Rancier is 19-9-1 and is third in the nation in goals-against average (1.81) and is 22nd in save percentage (.916).

The Huskies feature All-NCHC First Team center Jami Krannila, who is tied for seventh in the nation in goals (21), tied for 19th in points (40) and tied for 25th in plus/minus (plus-22). Sophomore defenseman Jack Peart (23 points, plus-14) was named to the All-NCHC Second Team.

Graduate student center Grant Cruikshank is tied for fourth in the nation in goals (22), has 35 points and is winning 56.2% of his faceoffs.

The Huskies have had a goaltending platoon for most of the season with junior Dominic Basse (11-5-2, 2.30, .911) and senior Jaxon Castor (13-7-1, 2.06, .920). But Castor has started the last three games (all wins) and stopped 66 of 69 shots (.957 save percentage) in those games.

Micah Miller (15) of St Cloud State watches as Nolan Walker (20) of St Cloud State scores the game-winning goal against Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay (29) during the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game at PPG Paints Arena Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Frozen Four experience

Both teams have a majority of their rosters that have advanced out of a regional to a Frozen Four.


Of the 28 Mavericks on the roster, 21 have been to a Frozen Four.

Of the 27 Huskies on the roster, 13 have been to a Frozen Four. That includes Cruikshank, who went to the Frozen Four last season with Minnesota.

"Being there last year, I think it drives you a little bit more, especially (the Gophers) having lost to Mankato last year," Cruikshank said of trying to get back to the Frozen Four. "You're hungry for it — at least I am. There's a lot of guys in our locker room that have had that experience.

"We want to get to that ultimate goal and we've got to focus on the process and really look at the details of the game," Cruikshank said. "Focus on our game and we've been playing great hockey lately."

Minnesota State defenseman Akito Hirose (2) and St. Cloud State forward Micah Miller (15) chase the puck in the first period Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live


  • RECORDS/STREAK: MS 25-12-1, W5; SCSU 24-12-3; W3.
  • OVERALL SERIES RECORD: In Division I era (1993), SCSU, 35-19-5. All-time series goes back to 1969, MS 61-60-13 overall.
  • GOALS PER GAME/ALLOWED: MS 3.2/2.0, SCSU 3.2/2.2.
  • SHOTS PER GAME/ALLOWED: MS 32.9/21.1, SCSU 28.3./26.1
  • PP%: MS 27.9%, SCSU 25.3%
  • PK%: MS 82.7%, SCSU 76.4%
  • FO%: MS 60%, SCSU 53.3%

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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