Fargo regional notebook: Mavericks one period short, but seeking to play 12 more
Sights and sounds from Wednesday's practice day at Scheels Arena, where Minnesota State Mankato, St. Cloud State, Minnesota and Canisius all seek two wins and a trip to Florida for the Frozen Four.
FARGO — The Minnesota State program’s second Frozen Four trip ended in heartbreak last April. The Mavericks led Denver 1-0 in the third period of the national title game before DU mounted a furious comeback, scoring five unanswered goals to claim the Pioneers’ ninth NCAA hockey title. On Wednesday, two MSU veterans reflected on trips to the Frozen Four in 2021 and 2022, and how they continue to look for one more successful period this season.
“That’s why we play, to make it to the Frozen Four, and not only to make it there but to win it,” said senior forward Cade Borchardt. “We’ve earned it as a group the previous two years, making it there but we came up one period short and we’re definitely hungry.”
Junior defenseman Jake Livingstone admitted that coming so close to a title last season in Boston stings a little bit more than in Pittsburgh the previous year when the Mavericks had a third period lead over St. Cloud State in the semifinals, only to fall victim to a late comeback by the Huskies.
Still, MSU even having a place in the NCAA tournament was looking unlikely late in their third period of their CCHA title game with Northern Michigan last weekend, until the Mavs’ rallied from two goals down in the final minutes, then won in overtime to get back to the field of 16. Their coach said as much as it is a fact of life for his upperclassmen, the notion that they were one period short has not been a team mantra this season. Especially when they went into the holiday break with a pedestrian 10-10-1 mark.
The team needed to forget about the last Frozen Four, or the next one, and concentrate on the more immediate future.
“When we were close to .500 at Christmas, we weren’t having any conversations about Frozen Fours,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “The strength of this group in the second half … has been their dailies. They focused on what they were able to control and because they did that, that allowed us to go a week, which allowed us to go to Friday and then Saturday and then the page turned over again. This group has focused on that since Christmas.”
Memories of Scheels, good and bad
If you have played in the USHL or have coached college hockey in the past decade, there’s a good chance that these games inside Scheels Arena are not your first. For the St. Cloud State Huskies, there are good and bad memories associated with a visit to the centerpiece of southwest Fargo’s Urban Plains neighborhood.
Huskies captain Spencer Meier spent his last pre-college season with the Fargo Force and won the 2018 Clark Cup in Fargo. He was back at Scheels the next season for a less enjoyable trip to the rink, as the top-ranked Huskies were upset by AIC in their tournament opener.
“We won the Clark Cup and that was awesome. We had a fun team and it was a great year. Fargo was great … it was overall just a great time,” Meier said. “And then, coming back here, we did lose one, but overall this place was great to me and it’s nice to be back.”
Brett Larson was a rookie head coach for that AIC loss, but two years prior got one of his bigger thrills as an assistant. Larson had coached at both Ohio State and Minnesota Duluth when those teams met in the first round in Fargo in 2017, and his Bulldogs prevailed in overtime. As memorable as the triumph over the Buckeyes was, it was the previous game – where Boston University prevailed over North Dakota in a controversial overtime game played before a raucous green-clad audience.
“That was an interesting one … you’re down underneath in your locker room and you can hear this place just going crazy,” Larson recalled. “The building was absolutely packed and buzzing and then we get out there and there’s one section of Duluth people, a couple Ohio State people and the rest of the place was empty. Everyone had left.”
Larson’s Bulldogs beat Ohio State and then BU, both in overtime, on the way to the Frozen Four in Chicago. There they beat Harvard before falling to Denver in the national title game.
Maverick has Fargo support
Minnesota State defenseman Andy Carroll still has business to take care of in Fargo. But when he’s finished with his hockey career, a job as a pro shop assistant at Fargo Country Club awaits.
Waiting for his new hire is no problem for FCC head professional David Schultz.
Carroll will play at 4 p.m. Thursday when his Mason Cup-winning Mavericks face off against St. Cloud State in the NCAA regional in Fargo.
Carroll had worked at Northfield (Minn.) Golf Club in his hometown for several years.
“I thought it was fantastic that he's interested in coming to the area and we're looking for great people at FCC, so it was a perfect match,” Schultz said.
Schultz, who played high school hockey in Fargo, said he’s anxious to see his new hire play at Scheels Arena on Thursday. And as for Carroll’s job at FCC?
“We want to do it sooner rather than later but we want them to play well and go all the way,” Schultz said.