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Mayhem in Mankato: Bemidji State falls short of Mason Cup in controversial overtime loss to MSU

Moments after No. 1 Minnesota State apparently vanquished the Beavers with a goal by Josh Groll in overtime to claim the CCHA Mason Cup Championship on Saturday in Mankato, BSU head coach Tom Serratore and his assistants contested the goal, arguing that one of the goalposts had lifted up and made the goal invalid.

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The Beavers react after officially falling to Minnesota State in a 2-1 overtime loss in the CCHA Mason Cup Championship game on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mankato.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pionee
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MANKATO -- The Bemidji State men’s hockey team would not let its season end.

Moments after No. 1 Minnesota State apparently vanquished the Beavers 2-1 with a goal by Josh Groll in overtime to claim the CCHA Mason Cup Championship on Saturday in Mankato, BSU head coach Tom Serratore and his assistants contested the goal, arguing that one of the goalposts had lifted up and made the goal invalid.

After a delayed review that took over an hour, the right people agreed with them, and overtime was restarted. But after another 2:09 of clock time, MSU’s Jack McNeely put an official end to the wild affair with a snipe that finished Bemidji State’s season for good.

“We were given a second life,” Serratore said. “A call had to be made, and it was the right call. It was odd, obviously, the time that elapsed, but we get back out there and we have an opportunity of winning a championship. And it just didn’t happen.”

The madness was near unprecedented. League officials awarded the Mason Cup to the Mavericks, the fans exited the arena and both teams left the ice. But the controversy surrounding the apparent game-winner boiled into a full-on investigation. Finally, the league called everyone back and returned the score to 1-1.

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The potential game-winning goal is reviewed by CCHA officials while Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore and Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings look on after the Mason Cup was awarded prematurely to the Mavericks on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mankato.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“It was a little bit confusing about what was going on there,” fifth-year forward Ethan Somoza said. “But we were just trying to stay ready in the locker room, just get Gatorade in us, get our sticks ready, keep our legs loose. I mean, we had to sit around for a while, but we were doing whatever we could to stay loose, and eventually we were called back on the ice.”

“I thought the most important thing was that we get the call right,” CCHA commissioner Don Lucia said after the game. “If it's a no goal and Bemidji State is eliminated, their season ends on that, I think that's very difficult to stomach.”

After winning three straight playoff games to reach the championship round, the Beavers (19-20) pushed the top-ranked Mavericks (35-5) to the brink, scoring first to take a 1-0 lead and ultimately forcing the extra session after MSU tied it. But even after the disallowed goal, it was once again Minnesota State that took home the hardware.

“(We were) just excited for a second life there when they told us we were going back,” Somoza said. “You think everything’s over, and then they bring you out, you got a second life. They got another one and ended it, but we were excited and we were hopeful when we got back out there again.”

The game was a microcosm of the resolve that the Beavers showed during their run to reach the championship. After dropping the opening game of its CCHA quarterfinal series with Bowling Green, BSU rallied to win two straight, then upset nationally ranked Michigan Tech on the road in the CCHA semifinals. And despite the disappointment of Saturday’s loss, Serratore wasn’t despondent – rather, he relished how his team never gave up in its quest to return to the NCAA Tournament.

“How we ended the season, with our backs against the wall, with a little adversity, that makes me feel good as a coach,” Serratore said. “And I’m proud of the guys, because I think that’s how they want to end it as well. That’s just human nature. It was a good ending. It’s a tough pill to swallow right now, because we were that close. We were so close. And I think as a group, our whole group, we thought we were going to win.”

Bemidji State took the lead in the second period when Alex Adams scored near the crease at 9:17, just moments after MSU goalie Dryden McKay stonewalled Adams with a save.

McKay's save was one of his 21 on the night. In the opposite crease, Mattias Sholl racked up 30 saves to keep the Beavers in the game.

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Dejected Bemidji State goalie Mattias Sholl (30) laments the 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota State before the goal was called off in the CCHA Mason Cup Championship game on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mankato.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pionee

BSU's 1-0 lead held for most of the period, but a late surge by the Mavericks led to a bar-down power-play goal by Brendan Furry from the left circle to tie it at one.

Neither team pushed one through in the third period, so the contest required overtime – and then it required it again.

Minnesota State 2, Bemidji State 1 (OT)

BSU 0 1 0 0 -- 1

MSU 0 1 0 1 -- 2

First period -- No scoring.

Second period -- 1, BSU GOAL, Adams (Kirkup), 9:17; 2, MSU GOAL, Furry (Livingstone, Morton), 17:16, PP.

Third period -- No scoring.

Overtime – 3, MSU GOAL, McNeely (Smith, Napravnik), 5:11.

Saves -- Sholl (BSU) 30; McKay (MSU) 21.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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