A family dynamic on ice

Maverick men’s hockey sophomore Ryan Sandelin credits his father for giving him a passion for hockey, a passion and skill that helped Minnesota State Mankato make it to the NCAA Frozen Four.  

Yet it’s his father who could stand in the way of the Mavericks taking the championship.

“He’s the one who got the skates onto my feet and brought me out to skate the first time,” said Sandelin.  “He’s a big factor of why I am where I am now.”

Ryan Sandelin after scoring the overtime game-winning shot against Quinnipiac March 27. From there, the Mavs bested the Gophers and are now in the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament.

Sandelin is enjoying MVP status for the recent series that gave the Mavericks their entry to the NCAA Frozen Four. From here the Mavericks will play St. Cloud State on April 8 and, should they win, will face the championship against either UMass or four-time national champs the Bulldogs of University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Sandelin’s father Scott is in his 21st year coaching Duluth.

“That would be a pretty special moment for our family if we were to play them,” Ryan said. “They’re the two-time defending champs, and to be the best you have to beat the best.”

Scott Sandelin, a Hibbing native, was an NHL player for seven seasons beginning in 1986 for the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota North Stars. He coached for several years with North Dakota before accepting the position as head coach of the UMD team in 2000. 

Ryan said the family—which includes a younger sister, Katie—has been a hockey household since his birth.

Scott Sandelin, coach of the UMD Bulldogs.

“I was actually born right after one of the games my dad was coaching when he was at North Dakota, so hockey’s been a part of my DNA since I was born,” Ryan said.

Scott rebuts that account somewhat: He wasn’t at the game.

“We were playing Notre Dame,” Scott recalled, “and I wasn‘t at the game but I had it on the radio while my wife was in labor. Notre Dame won the game. And I always joke that when he was born— every baby comes home crying, but he was really crying. So I said he was probably upset that we lost.”

Ryan’s mother, Wendy Sandelin, is diplomatic in tone in terms of who she’s hoping wins.

“Of course I would love for Ryan to win and for the Mavericks to win,” she said. “Because it’s the first [Frozen Four] and that’s amazing and you always want your kids’ dreams to come true. I think for them to be able to do that would be really awesome.”

That said…

“But my husband’s done some great things with UMD, and the possibility of winning four championships is also pretty exciting.”

That said…

“I would probably lean a little more purple than maroon. But it’s hard, it’s really hard. There’s no losers, is what I would say.”

Both father and son are focused on the immediate tasks before them—winning their first matches at the Frozen Four.

“It’s truly special to make it this far, but we’re not done yet,” Ryan said. “We’ve got business to finish. We’re obviously going to enjoy our accomplishment over the past weekend, but we gotta get back to work. We want to be the last ones standing come next Saturday.”

And should both teams win their next games and a showdown take place, neither seem too worried about the family dynamic being in any danger.

“To me it’s a win-win,”  Scott  said. “I’m just happy for him and their program to get the opportunity to go to the Frozen Four, just like us. If we’re both fortunate to meet, it means we won our first games and we get a chance to play.”

Ryan knows his role is to win.

“I don’t know how it’ll work in the end if we have that matchup in the final game,” he said. “I know either way it’s a bittersweet moment for everyone. Somebody’s gonna walk away a winner and somebody won’t. But we gotta get there first, and that’s the biggest piece.”

That said …

“Our group would definitely love the challenge to knock them off in the end.”