MANKATO — The Minnesota State men’s hockey team (24-12-1) will host Northern Michigan (21-16-0) in the CCHA tournament championship game at 6:07 p.m. Saturday at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center.
The game can be heard on KTOE AM-1420, and will be broadcast on KEYC Circle 12.3.
Here are five things to know about the matchup:
1. High stakes: Northern Michigan needs to win Saturday to qualify for the NCAA tournament via the CCHA’s automatic bid, and the Mavericks are likely in the same position. According to College Hockey News’ Pairwise probability matrix, MSU, which is currently 13th in the Pairwise, has only a 6% chance of earning an at-large bid in the event of a loss, entering play Friday.
“I’ll take a quote out of my dad’s book: ‘Just win and that’s all you’ve got to worry about.’ Win and you’re in,” MSU forward Ryan Sandelin said. “All the other scenarios don’t really matter to us. We get to control our destiny.”
2. High anticipation: The game was announced as a sellout Friday afternoon and is unofficially the quickest sellout in program history. There was a massive line to buy tickets after MSU’s semifinal victory Saturday, and there was another long line to buy tickets Thursday.
“We have the best fans in the country. ... The quick sellout shows how much they’re behind us,” Sandelin said. “They’re going to be there for us tomorrow night, and we’re going to have to give them a reason to cheer.”
3. Silye and Livingstone: MSU defenseman Jake Livingstone was named the CCHA’s Defenseman of the Year earlier this week, while David Silye was named the league’s Forward of the Year. Livingstone won the same award last season and was picked to the preseason All-CCHA team, so many thought the award was coming. That wasn’t the case for Silye, who has excelled in his second season in the MSU program. He led the CCHA with 18 goals in 26 league games and has 39 points this season (23-16—39).
“He’s been a guy that has still not forgotten his roots from when he was a third-line center a year ago,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “He’s still one of the first guys that goes over the boards penalty killing.”
4. Key matchup: The power play has carried MSU during its current four-game winning streak, going 10-for-17. The Mavericks rank first in Division I on the power play at 29.05%. MSU will face one of the nation’s toughest penalty kills Saturday, as Northern ranks fifth in Division I at 85.44%
5. Scouting the Wildcats: Northern got off to a slow start in the second half, but is currently on a seven-game winning streak. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 38-13 during that stretch and are coming off an impressive 4-0 win at Michigan Tech in the CCHA semifinals. Andre Ghantous (13-25—38) and AJ Vanderbeck (13-19—32) are Northern’s top scorers.
“They’re one of the best teams in transition that we’ll see all year,” MSU defenseman Andy Carroll said. “We’ve addressed that and we know we need to be detailed in all three zones.”
Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.
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