Bemidji, Minn. --- Minnesota State secured its fifth MacNaughton Cup as regular-season champions of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a 4-1 win at in-state rival Bemidji State Saturday.
The Mavericks, who also claimed WCHA regular-season titles in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019, went 23-4-1-1 in league play this year, finishing six points ahead of Bemidji State in this year's regular-season standings.
The game started out with a quick pace as it wasn't until Minnesota State senior winger Nick Rivera tallied his tenth goal of the year, which came at the 6:35 mark of the opening period, that the contest had its first stoppage in play. Station at the edge of the crease, Rivera tapped in a cross-crease feed from Walker Duehr to give the Mavericks a 1-0 lead. That stood up as the lone goal of the opening period and marked the 28th time in 36 games this season that the Mavericks have scored first.
With 24.5 seconds remaining in the middle period, the Mavericks notched another goal to make it 2-0. Junior defenseman Riese Zmolek scored the eventual game winning goal, his third of the season, after Marc Michaelis worked a face-off win to Parker Tuomie who dropped it back to Zmolek who then worked his way across the blue line before putting the puck on net through traffic in front of BSU netminder Zach Driscoll.
The Beavers got on the board at 14:34 of the third period when Ethan Somoza tipped a point shot by Tommy Muck off the right post and in to bring the Beavers within one of the Mavericks.
The Mavericks closed out the game with a pair of empty net goals, first from Josh French and another Connor Mackey, to secure the 29th win of the season for the Mavericks and the fifth WCHA Championship in school history.
Sophomore netminder Dryden McKay stopped 38 of 39 shots in upping his record to 28-4-2 on the year. McKay also added his second assist of the season to his resume on French's empty-net tally that sealed the deal.
The Mavericks, now 29-5-2 overall and 23-4-1-1 in WCHA play, were outshot by the Beavers 39-35. The Mavericks and Beavers each finished the night 0-for-2 on the powerplay.
Next weekend, the Mavericks return home for round one of the WCHA Playoffs, a best-of-three weekend series with Alaska Anchorage the starts Friday.