Stern, a Lino Lakes native, said the competition should be fierce and not just because the teams all hail from the same state.
“Minnesota is No. 1 in the nation, and St. Cloud is in the top five,” he said. “You look at us, and we’ve made an impact, and Duluth has made an impact around their league. I’m looking forward to any team we play against. We’re going to have to bring our game every night.”
On Wednesday, the tournament’s trophy was unveiled by Minnesota. According to a press release, it was designed by Sterling Trophy of Anoka, made out of a red oak tree from the Glen Skrove Farm in Mora and turned by Doug Johannsen of Ramsey. The hickory base, hand-crafted trophy by Bill Durant of Anoka, is topped with a birch star surrounded with pucks from all five teams.
But there’s more on the line than a trophy and in-state bragging rights. The final nonconference games of the season for the Mavericks likely have postseason repercussions. Wins or losses could mean significant moves up or down the Pairwise Rankings, which determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field.
“Especially coming off the weekend we just had,” sophomore forward Dylan Margonari, a Pennsylvania native said, referring to the Mavericks’ WCHA sweep over then-No. 2-ranked Ferris State. “We put a statement down; now we hope to follow it up.”
Minnesota is first in the Pairwise, and St. Cloud State is eighth. Minnesota State is 17th, and Minnesota Duluth is 25th.
The Mavericks played a series at Minnesota in November and lost both games, 4-1 and 3-0.
“Any time you play another team in the state, it’s kind of an easy game to get up for,” Margonari said. “We have to bring our game no matter who we play.”