BOSTON – The NCAA's transfer portal, coupled with the extra season granted because of COVID-19, has caused a seismic shift in college sports, and that has been felt at the men's Frozen Four at TD Garden.
Both of Saturday night's national finalists, Minnesota State Mankato and Denver, received key contributions from transfers throughout the season and during Thursday's semifinals.
Mavericks defenseman Benton Maass, who spent the past four seasons at New Hampshire, tied the score 1-1 in the second period against the Gophers on Thursday. David Silye, a sophomore forward who spent the 2020-21 season at Clarkson, assisted on Reggie Lutz's go-ahead goal in the second period and stretched the Mavericks lead to 4-1 with a third-period goal. Josh Groll, a sophomore forward who played last season at Michigan, assisted on Ondrej Pavel's goal that put Minnesota State up 3-1 early in the third.
Maass, an Elk River native, was right at home in Boston, only 70 miles from New Hampshire's campus in Durham.
"I had a unique opportunity to go out and play four years out there right after high school, which was a great time,'' said Maass, who has three goals and 11 assists this season. "I consider it a second home, definitely. Then with COVID hitting, we kind of got word we might be getting another year of eligibility. I had had talks already with the Mankato staff the first time around, being recruited. Those talks kind of picked up when I went to the transfer portal again. It kind of all fit into place.
"I had a good Zoom with Coach Hastings,'' he added. "I think I committed to him about 20 minutes later.''
Hastings knows the transfer portal is here to stay and that its part of building a roster.
"We've been blessed. You can see the impact that Benton has had, David Silye, Josh Groll,'' Hastings said. "All three of these young men have had an impact on our program in a short period of time. That has to do with the makeup of the human beings and the young men themselves. They've come in with the idea we're going to earn everything we get.''
For Denver, Cameron Wright scored in the third period of the Pioneers' 3-2 overtime win over Michigan. The forward spent the previous four seasons at Bowling Green and has contributed 22 goals and 10 assists this season.
"When NCAA gave us that extra year of eligibility, it was a no-brainer when you talked to D.C. [coach David Carle] and the coaching staff to come, obviously to be able to play in games like this, to be able to play for the national championship,'' Wright said. "Like D.C. said, the teammates and coaching staff have from Day One given me an opportunity and accepted me. I'm very grateful for that. It's definitely something that I recommend to guys if they have the opportunity to do it.''
Carle sees the benefits of the transfer portal but also wants it used correctly.
"It's obviously a real changing landscape in college hockey,'' he said. "Hopefully in the long-term it's put in place for the betterment of the players. That's really important.''