Minnesota State hangs on to beat Harvard in NCAA tournament opener
The Mavericks won their third NCAA game in the last two seasons, edging the Crimson.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Minnesota State's senior class had been through this before.
When they were freshmen, they went out East for the NCAA tournament, stormed to a 3-0 lead, then watched it quickly evaporate in a 6-3 loss to Providence.
For a while on Thursday afternoon, it felt like it was happening again.
Minnesota State stormed to a 3-0 lead against Harvard in Albany's MVP Arena, then allowed two goals in the span of 48 seconds to bring the game within one.
This time, the Mavericks held on.
Minnesota State beat Harvard 4-3 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in the Albany Regional.
The Mavericks, who hadn't won an NCAA tournament game in program history until last season, now are within one win of a second-straight trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
On Thursday, Minnesota State threw a barrage of shots at Harvard early in the game, built a 3-0 lead on goals by Connor Gregga, Reggie Lutz and Brendan Furry before holding off a young, skilled Harvard team.
"We leaned on some guys who either saw that or were a part of it," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said of the 2019 NCAA tournament game. "You know what? I think those things that hurt a lot, you can learn quite a bit from. They seem to stick with you for a while.
"I think history. . . you learn from it. We've got a group of guys that we've been leaning on from Day 1. They're pretty battle tested. They've gone through some peaks. They've gone through some valleys."
Hastings said a key goal came early in the third period when Ondrej Pavel, who played junior hockey in Fargo, rushed up the left side and beat Harvard goalie Mitchell Gibson glove side to give the Mavericks a two-goal cushion.
Harvard scored a power-play, extra-attacker goal with 3:31 to go, but couldn't get the tying goal.
"I thought they lived up to their billing," Harvard coach Ted Donato said. "They were a tremendous team.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team. We stayed with it. We came out tentative in the first half of the game. Some of that is inexperience and some is the execution level Minnesota State had. I couldn't be more proud of the team as a whole."
The Mavericks had five players in their lineup Thursday who played in that 2019 game against Providence — Lutz, forward Julian Napravnik, defenseman Jack McNeely, defenseman Wyatt Aamodt and goalie Dryden McKay (19 saves).
"If there's a guarantee you can get at this tournament, it's that it's never easy," Hastings said. "Tonight wasn't easy."