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Beavers dethrone Minnesota State in blowout fashion to win MacNaughton Cup

Mar. 2—BEMIDJI — CCHA commissioner Don Lucia made the slow walk out to center ice with two teams on each side of him.

On his right stood the contingent from Minnesota State. Draped in long faces, they watched as four former Bemidji State men's hockey captains — Bryan Grand, Bob Fitzgerald, Jordan Heller and Howie Borden — carried a 40-pound prize to the table blanketed in a CCHA tablecloth.

To Lucia's left were the Beavers. They donned championship hats and ear-to-ear smiles, waiting for their turn to take a victory lap with the MacNaughton Cup — the oldest trophy in college hockey.

Lucia spoke softly into the microphone, saying, "To be the man, you have to beat the man."

He didn't exactly have the Ric Flair cadence, but the message put a poetic bow on Bemidji State's second-ever MacNaughton Cup triumph.

"It's new to me," senior Jackson Jutting said. "It's the first time I've won a big championship or had a trophy like that. ... The whole year, we've thought about winning that. To get my hands on that thing tonight, it feels pretty good."

The aforementioned "man" who sat atop the CCHA hails from Mankato, and has since 2017 — the last time the Beavers won the MacNaughton Cup. But Friday's league-clinching 6-0 victory over the Mavericks put the demons of recent years to bed. It's an experience fifth-year Kyle Looft has pictured hundreds of times.

"It's not the same," Looft said. "You definitely know the feeling is going to be good. But when you get it, it's even better. I've been on the wrong side of three games where trophies were on the line. We're done talking about those. We got one now, and we're working toward the next one."

Jutting started the scoring with a pair of goals before the media timeout in the second period. His linemate, Kasper Magnussen, added a third with eight minutes left in the middle frame. Jutting picked assists on Magnussen's and Donte Lawson's goal with 1:43 left in the period, totaling four points before the intermission.

"(Austin Jouppi), Kasper and I have built a lot of chemistry over the last couple of weeks," Jutting said. "We just capitalized on everything in that period. And again, it's a testament to the guys we have on our team. Everyone's bought into the game plan. When you know what everyone is doing and can trust everyone on your team, periods like that can happen."

Eric Martin added a fifth for BSU by banking a pass off Brandon Koch's skate. Bemidji State scored five times in a single period for the first time since 2020.

Adam Flammang made it 6-0 with a post-in shot early in the third, giving goaltender Mattias Sholl a six-goal cushion to earn his third career shutout.

"I'll take a shutout any day of the week because we gave up a lot of goals during the first half of the year," head coach Tom Serratore quipped.

Sholl stopped 28 shots, and Bemidji State blocked 16 more. Tony Follmer, who returned from an upper-body injury on Friday night, blocked three shots in the final minute of the game. It was a moment that resembled what Serratore calls "Beaver hockey."

"They get the big picture," Serratore continued. "There have been times during my coaching career where you have the game won, and you give up a sloppy (goal) or two. ... There's nothing like getting a goose egg, and that's a collective effort. It's not just Shollsy; it's the whole group. It's momentum; it's pride. You play (until) the final buzzer, and you don't let your guard down."

As the seconds dripped off the clock, each one felt longer than the last.

"We were looking around, and it seemed like there was a whistle every 30 seconds," Jutting said. "We were just trying to keep the clock going. We wanted that trophy in our hands, but it seemed like that third period went on forever."

Lucia presented the MacNaughton Cup to Looft, the Beavers' two-year captain. The Mankato native took a slow lap around the BSU defensive zone with all 40 pounds raised above his head.

Looft chose to exercise his fifth year, which was granted by the NCAA to players during the pandemic, but winning the MacNaughton Cup didn't validate his decision.

"I told (Serratore) last week, maybe two weeks ago, that I was so happy I came back," Looft said. "This program means so much to me, to my family. The alumni support, the fans, the coaching staff and the teammates I've been with over the last five years, (they) made the decision easy for me to come back. ... I was very happy I came back (before tonight), but this makes it even better."

Each player got their turn. Looft gave the cup to fellow fifth-year senior Carter Jones, who then gave it to Jutting. The trophy was passed around the seniors, then to the juniors, before trickling down to the freshmen.

Finally, Serratore got his turn. And after 23 years, he hasn't lost sight of what keeps him coming back.

"We don't play for us," he said softly. "We don't play for the players, and we don't play for the coaches. We play for the alumni who were there (and) the fans who were clapping and had our backs. When you hoist that trophy, that's who you play for. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than seeing people who appreciate the outcome, the job we did and making their night, their week, month — whatever it might be.

"Beaver hockey is something to grab onto. For me, just seeing everybody else appreciate a job well done is what makes it worth it, and our players are no different. To me, this stuff — winning the trophy, putting banners up and seeing the pictures — means a lot; it really does. But it'll mean more 15 years from now when you look back at your career and see the things you accomplished."

Bemidji State 6, Minnesota State 0

MSU 0 0 0 — 0

BSU 0 5 1 — 6

First period — No scoring.

Second period — BSU GOAL: Jutting (Jouppi, Looft) 1:18; BSU GOAL: Jutting (Magnussen, Jouppi) 9:57; BSU GOAL: Magnussen (Magnuson, Jutting) 10:54; BSU GOAL: Lawson (Chiddenton, McLean) 11:54; BSU GOAL: Martin (Jutting) 18:17.

Third period — BSU GOAL: Flammang (Chiddenton, Wolfe) 2:02.

Saves — Sholl (BSU) 28; Tracy (MSU) 23; Rancir (MSU) 7.