Frozen Four notebook: It’s UMass vs. the state of Minnesota

  • The St. Cloud State Huskies practice during a Division I Men's Ice Hockey practice day held at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. JUSTIN K. ALLER / NCAA PHOTOS via GETTY IMAGES

Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2021 10:22:46 PM

The state of Minnesota looms large over the 2021 Frozen Four, even from 1,000 miles away.

Three of the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament’s semifinalists are from the Land of 10,000 Lakes: Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.

“Each community in Minnesota, I feel like, has a deep care for their hockey team,” St. Cloud State senior Micah Miller said. “It’s great for hockey and great for Minnesota.”

It’s the first time a Frozen Four has featured three teams from the same state since Michigan put three in the 1992 edition. Of the 108 players on Frozen Four rosters, 43 hail from Minnesota. All three Minnesota school coaches are representing their home state.

Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings moved to Minnesota from Oregon when he was seven years old.

“I was dropped right in the middle of what hockey country is. It was going out and playing outdoors. It’s ingrained. I was thrown into the net when I first started playing, and that’s because I couldn’t skate a lick,” he said. “As it progressed, all the people in my neighborhood and my community, they were playing hockey. That’s what you did in the state. I think it’s something special.”

Minnesota plays its state high school championships at the Minnesota Wild’s Xcel Energy Center. It sells out.

“Trying to explain that environment to someone that’s never been there is difficult to do,” Hastings said. “It’s part of being a Minnesotan, and it’s something we’re all very proud of.”

UMass junior Garrett Wait knows it well. The Edina, Minn., native was raised in it and played at the University of Minnesota for two years. He’s the only Minnesotan representing UMass.

“They call it the state of hockey for a reason. It’s embedded deep in the culture,” Wait said. “At some point in Minnesota, everybody has something to do with hockey.”

All of the Minnesota representation leaves UMass to carry the banner for both the rest of the country and hockey in the northeast.

“Being the only team, we take pride in that,” UMass junior Bobby Trivigno said. “I think we can definitely compete with these teams. We do take pride in being from the east coast.”

FAMILY AFFAIR – Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin’s son, Ryan, plays for Minnesota State. The elder Sandelin watched his son’s team clinch a berth in Loveland, Colo., the day after the Bulldogs survived five overtimes against North Dakota to punch their ticket.

The Mavericks will face St. Cloud State at 5 p.m. Thursday before the Bulldogs’ game against UMass at 9 p.m.

“We had a pretty excited household,” Scott Sandelin said. “I’ll watch his game (Thursday) in some capacity. It’s a pretty exciting time, it’s a pretty unique situation that we’re both here. Hopefully we’re fortunate to play each other. We’ll deal with that later.”

The two programs also have an additional father-son connection: Mavericks associate athletic director for communications Paul Allan’s son Sean Allan is the primary media contact for Minnesota Duluth.

MAJOR AWARDS – Hastings was awarded the 2021 Spencer Penrose Award as Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Coach of the Year on Tuesday. It was his second time winning the award, also claiming it in 2015. 

UMass coach Greg Carvel was the runner up. He won the award in 2019.

The Hobey Baker and other major hockey awards will be announced in a ceremony Friday.

Minnesota State goalie Dryden McKay is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker, along with Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield and North Dakota’s Shane Pinto.

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES – The Frozen Four is in Pennsylvania for the third time. It visited the commonwealth in consecutive seasons early last decade. The 2013 Frozen Four was in Philadelphia, then the 2014 edition was hosted in Pittsburgh.

BIRTHDAY BUDDIES – Two of the four coaches were born in August: UMass’ Greg Carvel and Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Sandelin. Sandelin is the oldest coach at 56, while St. Cloud State’s Brett Larson is the youngest at 45.

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