The Minnesota State Mavericks came up just short in their quest for their first national title, allowing a stunning comeback in a 5-1 loss to the Denver Pioneers in the NCAA Frozen Four National Championship Game.
Minnesota State set the tone early using its defense to out-shoot Denver 8-3 in the first period. Tilting the ice played to their advantage later in the opening frame when Sam Morton scored a power play goal at 14:02 that put the Mavericks on the board.
The goal was the first power play marker the Pioneers had allowed in their last 20 penalty kills and sent the Mavericks into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The Mavericks continued to execute their neutral zone trap to perfection, skating through a scoreless second period. But Denver tied the game at 4:46 of the third when Ryan Barrow put the puck past reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Dryden McKay.
The Pioneers' rally continued later in the third period when Morton was called for tripping at 5:26. Mike Benning ripped a one-timer into the net seconds after the power play expired to give Denver its first lead of the night at 7:33.
With momentum on their side, the good gates opened for the Pioneers for five third-period goals. Massimo Rizzo extended their lead at 13:34 when when he scored at the end of a 2-on-1 breakaway to make it a 3-1 game.
Denver added empty-net goals from Brett Stapley and Cameron Wright to seal their ninth national championship, which is tied with Michigan for the most in NCAA history.
The comeback was shocking as the Mavericks had one of the best defenses in NCAA history. Minnesota State came into the game with 55 goals allowed this season, which helped fuel an 18-game winning streak. The Mavericks had also been the No. 1 team in the nation dating back to January.
The disappointing loss ends the Mavericks' season with a record of 38-6.