During the 1970's & 1980's, one of the most successful college hockey teams in America was Mankato State University in Southern Minnesota. Never heard of 'em? That's because they were a Division II powerhouse. They won the National Division II Championship in 1980 and were a force on the ice until, well, until Divison II started to disappear. In 1985 the Division II hockey playoffs went on hiatus, as Mankato continued to dominate, but this time on the Division III level. As the mid-90's approached, Mankato State returned to a shaky Division II and plotted their course for the big time, Division I hockey. Division II hockey eventually ceased to exist.
Mankato State joined Division I in 1996 under their legendary coach Don Brose and were a respectable 17-14-3. Mankato State was coincidentally re-branded as Minnesota State during the hockey team's transition from Division II to Division I. Shortly after joining the WCHA, Coach Troy Jutting led the team to a 20-11-10 record in the 2002-2003 season, but, more importantly, he led the Mavericks to their first appearance in the Division I hockey playoffs, the Frozen Four. The Mavericks were quickly escorted out of the Division I hockey playoffs by Cornell.
For 10 years after the magical 2003 season, the Mavericks lingered around .500. In 2012, Minnesota State hired Mike Hastings. The Mavericks' fortunes immediately improved as they went back to the Frozen Four in Hastings' first year. Only to be eliminated by Miami of Ohio in the first game.
The Mavericks returned to the Frozen Four the very next year. And were out in the first game to UMass Lowell.
And then the Mavericks returned to the Frozen Four again in 2015. But this time was different. They won the WCHA, they won their league tournament and they were the number 1 seed in the country. They were 29-7-3 and were one of the favorites in the Frozen Four, history be damned. Then they lost their first game to the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The Mavericks were good in 2016 and 2017, but not Frozen Four good. Coach Mike Hastings got a 10 year, yes you read that right, a 10 year contract extension, that not only gave him a pay raise, but also included enhancements and improvements to the hockey program.
This, 2017-2018, this was the year. After finishing 29-9-1, the Mavericks got an at-large berth and were favored against in-state rivals Minnesota-Duluth. The game started at 7:30 last night....
So I live in Ohio now and I tried to watch the game. You can watch anything in America for the right price. Found out I could buy the stream for the game through the ESPN 3 feed, but I was going to have to pay a monthly service fee. You know, I would have paid a one-game charge, but screw those corporate weasels at ESPN. I didn't want to watch the game anyhow. (Oh, ESPN, I'm already pissed at you as it is, all I wanted was to watch a Frozen Four hockey game.....but I digress.)
I went about my business for the evening and as other family members went on their assorted gadgets, I snuck off to the corner of the house and downloaded the KTOE Mankato feed. Listening to hockey isn't the same, but this, this was supposed to be the Mavericks night. They were up 2-0 after the first period.
As I listened to the second period, I started to notice something. The Mavericks weren't taking any shots. I'm not using hyperbole, THEY TOOK NO SHOTS IN THE SECOND PERIOD. Even though the Mavericks were still winning 2-1, I knew they were in the soup. Of course Minnesota-Duluth tied the score in the third and sent the game into overtime.
After a long, long intermission, I had thought that Minnesota-Duluth won the game 1 minute into overtime....
But wait, a Bulldogs' skate was in the crease! Goal disallowed! Maybe Minnesota State....
Forget it, Minnesota-Duluth scored again, like 30 seconds later, game over.
3-2 loss in the first round of the Frozen Four.
The sting is still fresh as I angrily type away. I mean, what can you do? It's just, after 20 years, 1 playoff hockey win would be nice, just 1. And forget about me. What about poor Don Brose? That guy built the program from dust. He ain't getting any younger.
Now this isn't College Basketball, where there's like 300 Division I teams, it's Division I hockey. There are only 60 teams in Division I hockey. After nearly 50 years of existence and 20 years in Division I, Minnesota State is still looking for their elusive first Frozen Four win.
Yeah, I went to Mankato State, but I didn't graduate from Mankato State. That doesn't stop them from being my favorite College Hockey team. When I'm Don Brose's age, and the Mavericks do finally win a game, I'm driving back to Mankato, from whatever Nursing Home I'm living at at the time, and I'm having my own victory riot, Philly Style, I'M SETTIN' THAT CITY ABLAZE.