From Blue Earth to Boston, Dryden McKay's most recent shutout powers Mavericks Frozen Four return trip
Two of Minnesota State Mankato goalie Dryden McKay's most important shutouts have come in his most important games. For the second consecutive year he blanked an opponent in the regional final as the Mavericks head back to the Frozen Four.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Of the amazing 34 shutouts that Minnesota State Mankato goalie Dryden McKay has posted in his career, two of them have come in the Mavericks’ program’s two biggest wins.
For the second consecutive season, McKay blanked an opponent in a regional final game, and helped the Mavericks earn a return trip to the NCAA Frozen Four. On Saturday evening at MVP Arena, McKay turned aside all 23 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over Notre Dame, sending the Mavericks to Boston and a date with either Minnesota or Western Michigan on Thursday, April 7.
McKay, a senior from suburban Chicago and one of three finalists for the Mike Richter Award, was particularly sharp in the final 10 minutes when a desperate Irish team created traffic in the crease and threw puck after puck his way.
Nathan Smith scored the game’s only goal for the Mavericks (36-5-0) who won the CCHA regular season and playoff titles on the way to being a top seed in the Albany Regional.
"We had to earn it this weekend," said Smith. "Tonight was a battle from the first shift. If you're going to make it to the Frozen Four you're going to have to do something extra. And I thought we had the extra effort tonight that got us through."
Notre Dame (28-11-0) got 32 saves from Matthew Galajda but saw their season end one game shy of the program’s first Frozen Four trip since 2018. They did hold MSU's high-powered offense to just one goal, but it was not enough.
"We've done that all year long against high offensive powered teams. We don't have the offensive depth of some of the teams we play against, so our philosophy is to defend well and then transition from it," Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. "The problem tonight was we didn't get a lot of transition opportunities, and that's credit to them for the way they play."
In a tightly-played opening period, the Irish defense was able to hold the Mavericks at bay until the final minute. Off a faceoff play, Smith grabbed a rebound and snapped a shot into the vacant half of the net before Galajda could slide across the crease to get in the way.
In the scoreless second period, Irish defenseman Zach Plucninski took his team’s first penalty, and may have made the most important save of the game, blocking a shot by MSU’s Wyatt Aamodt, with Galajda out of position, that would have doubled the Mavericks’ lead.
The Irish pulled Galajda with more than two minutes to play, only to see the Mavericks clamp down defensively and not allow a serious scoring threat until the final horn sounded. The Mavericks blocked 15 shots in the game.
"At this time of year, what coaches can do best is get out of the way," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. "We can talk about the game plan, but at the end of the day, it's the heart and soul and the grit of the guys out there."
Hastings, who has a son at Northeastern University in Boston, joked that a family reunion on the East Cost had been a goal all season.
In last year’s Loveland Regional final, McKay shut out Minnesota 4-0 as the MSU program made its first Frozen Four trip, falling to St. Cloud State in the semifinal round in Pittsburgh.
Minnesota State 1, Notre Dame 0
Notre Dame 0-0-0—0
Minnesota State 1-0-0—1
First period — 1. MS, Nathan Smith 19 (Brendan Furry), 19:44. Penalties — Wyatt Aamodt, MS (tripping), 3:25.
Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Aamodt, MS (hooking), 1:47; Zach Plucinski, ND (Interference).
Third period — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — MS 13-13-7—33; ND 6-10-7—23. Goalies — Dryden McKay, MS (23 shots-23 saves); Matthew Galajda, ND (33-32). Power plays — MS 0-of-1, ND 0-of-3. Referees — Geno Bindo, Jeremy Tufts. Linesmen — Kevin Briganti, Bill Kingdon. Att. — 3,449.