BOSTON — You could practically hear the printing presses cranking out Minnesota State championship T-shirts in between the second and third periods of Saturday night’s NCAA men’s Division I final, even though the scoreboard indicated a one-goal game.
So dominant were the Mavericks in the first two periods (an 18-8 shot advantage and a 23-12 edge in faceoffs won), it looked like Denver would need a miracle not just to score the equalizer, but even to generate a decent scoring chance. The Pioneers had been 0-for-2 on a pair of lackluster power plays, each of which featured a Minnesota State breakaway that almost resulted in a goal.
But a stretch of 2:47 in the third resulted in two Denver goals that put the Pioneers up for good and on its way to what turned out to be a 5-1 rout for their ninth national championship.
“Big stage, you know, you’re getting a little timid, you’re not really talking,” said Denver’s Mike Benning, who scored the game winner at 7:33 of the third period. “Once we started helping each other out, it made a huge difference.”
Ryan Barrow ended Denver’s scoring drought at 4:46 of the third with his eighth of the season, burying the rebound of a wicked slap shot off the stick of Benning.
Magnus Chrona was the glue that held Denver together through the first two periods, keeping the Pioneers in the game with 17 saves (he had 27 on the night).
“After the first one, I thought almost immediately that we were going to get a second goal,” Chrona said. “And after that, it was pure joy. I was trying to stay in the moment for the time, and enjoy it.”
Despite the gaudy stats that suggested the Mavericks were 20 minutes away from their first NCAA title, Denver coach David Carle was more concerned with how his team was playing rather than how much they were being outshot.
“That’s all that matters is the scoreboard,” Carle said. “We were always one shot away from it. Did our guys have to make some saves? Absolutely. Were we playing our best? No, we weren’t.”
Carle said he sensed his team was starting to turn the corner late in the second period.
“We did get a couple looks, not nearly as many (as) we would like, and again, they played great,” Carle said. “I give their staff and their team a lot of credit. Sometimes it takes all 60 minutes, and we utilized the last 20.”