BOSTON — Denver’s Mike Benning was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after his Pioneers ran off to a 5-1 win against Minnesota State on Saturday.
But he could have been the goat. Not today’s Tom Brady-LeBron James-Wayne Gretzky sort of G.O.A.T., but the one who gets the blame for a bad situation.
Benning took a tripping penalty at 12:23 of the first period and was a bit angry with himself, watching Minnesota State take a 1-0 lead on the ensuing power play.
“Yeah, it really pissed me off, I’m going to be honest,” Benning said. “But it said to me, I had to contribute in a way.”
“They were outplaying us but at the end of the day they were only up 1-0,” said Denver’s Ryan Barrow. “So one shot changes the entire outlook on the game.”
Still, the Mavericks carried play and carried that 1-0 lead until 4:46 of the third period. Benning knew that the Pioneers had to chip away at it bit by bit.
Benning put a shot on Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay that Barrow caught on a rebound and poked home to tie the game.
That was the redemption for the power-play goal and it started to stem the tide.
“Once we gave up the first one, I thought we started leaking oil a little bit and couldn’t stop the bleeding,” said Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings.
Minnesota State’s Sam Morton was called for tripping 40 seconds later and that set up a Denver man advantage that the Mavericks killed. But before Morton could get back into the action, Benning’s one-timer from the left faceoff dot was the game-winner for the Pioneers.
Benning didn’t remember much detail on the goal after the game.
“I saw a shot and took it,” said Benning. “Went with my gut, and now we’re here. So I’m happy.”
That was all Denver needed, as it knocked Minnesota State off its game.
“When they got the second one I thought we started to chase it,” Hastings said.
“Obviously, I saw a shot and took it and Barrow saw a shot and took it and a lot of guys did, and were just kind of picking away at the game piece by piece,” said Benning. “And I think that’s how we found our success tonight.”
Benning also had a pair of assists in Thursday’s win over Michigan, including setting up Bobby Brink’s primary helper on Carter Savoie’s game-winner.
Benning avoided being the goat. And he may never be called the G.O.A.T. But will be remembered as the best player in Denver’s ninth national championship.
Goalie Magnus Chrona, Denver
Defenseman Mike Benning, Denver
Defenseman Jack McNeely, Minnesota State
Forward Carter Savoie, Denver
Forward Ryan Barrow, Denver
Forward Sam Morton, Minnesota State