Max Coatta remembers the feeling well. His Minnesota State Mavericks, after nearly scoring in overtime of last year’s NCAA West Regional semifinal in Sioux Falls, saw Minnesota Duluth end their season two minutes, 28 into the extra session.
“That definitely sticks with us,’’ Coatta said of the season-ending 3-2 defeat. “Nobody in the locker room will ever forget about that.’’
A year later, the Mavericks are back in the NCAA tournament, this time as the No. 1 seed in the East Regional in Providence, R.I. Minnesota State (32-7-2) will meet Providence (22-11-6) at noon Saturday (ESPNews).
The Mavericks, the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament behind St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth, are seeking the program’s first trip to the Frozen Four. To reach that goal, they first must win an NCAA tournament game as a Division I program. Last year’s loss to UMD left them 0-5 in NCAA play.
Coatta, a senior captain from Minnetonka, doesn’t shy away from the program’s NCAA history.
“We know what happened last year and we also know the program hasn’t won a game in the national tournament yet,’’ he said. “Those are things we know and things that we want to change, and we want to change it come Saturday.’’
To do so, Minnesota State will try to bottle the magic that they used to win the WCHA tournament championship. Last Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center, the Mavericks trailed Bowling Green 2-0 late in the third period before scoring two goals in the final 1:44 of regulation, both with goalie Dryden McKay pulled, then 1:37 into overtime. Fittingly, it was Nick Rivera who scored the winner. Last year against UMD in Sioux Falls, Rivera shot the puck at an open net against Minnesota Duluth in overtime, only to have a teammate get pushed into the net, stopping the puck before it got in.
That the Mavericks had to scrap and claw to win their conference tournament is a positive to Coatta.
“Not all the games are going to work out perfectly, and come playoff time there’s going to be a lot of adversity,’’ he said. “There’s confidence in knowing that if things aren’t going our way or we’re not playing our best, we still can find a way to win.’’