WCHA Week 11: Alabama Huntsville Hosts Colorado College In Only Series This Weekend; League's Midway Point Sees Seven Teams At Or Above .500 In WCHA Play
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UAH is the only WCHA team in action this weekend, when the Chargers welcome Colorado College to Huntsville for the first-time ever.

Opening Face-Off

- Falcons and Mavericks Rise in Top 20: The WCHA's two hottest teams, Bowling Green and Minnesota State, rose in the national polls. The Falcons are No. 12 in the USCHO.com rankings (up two spots) and No. 13 in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine ledger (up one). The Mavericks are now No. 18 in the former (up two spots) and are receiving votes in the latter rankings. A third WCHA team, Michigan Tech, is receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll.

- Unbeaten Streaks: Bowling Green (7-0-2) and Minnesota State (5-0-4) are both riding nine-game unbeaten streaks, matching Penn State for second-longest in the country (behind only unbeaten Providence's season-long, 15-game run).

- Competitive Balance: At the exact halfway point of the league schedule, with 70 of the 140 conference games having been played, seven teams are .500 or better in WCHA play. While the WCHA enters the holiday break with 70 percent of its membership at or above the .500 mark in league play, no other conference has more than 54.5 percent of its teams playing at least break-even hockey in conference games.

- Exciting Second Half Ahead: This league-wide competitive balance, in which any team can win on a given night, sets up what should be an intriguing second half in the WCHA. Only three points separate the top three teams in the standings, there is a four-point gap between fourth and sixth place, and only six points mean the difference between fourth place (and home ice for the WCHA playoffs) and eighth. Finally, only four points separate the current bottom three teams, with only one of those qualifying for the postseason.

- Don't Leave Your Seats: Forty-one (41) of the first 70 WCHA games were either ties (14) or one-goal decisions (27). Twenty-three (23) league games featured a tie-breaking, third-period game-winning goal (including seven in the last five minutes of regulation), with an additional nine victories coming in overtime.

- Quickly Around the WCHA: UAH has received the most production from its sophomore class (14g-28a--42pts), including 14 from scoring leader Max McHugh (who is third in the league with 11 helpers)...With 12 league points, UAA (5-5-2) has already matched its entire 2014-15 output (5-21-2)...Behind freshman G Jesse Jenks, UAF snapped a seven-game winless streak with a 1-0-1 weekend in the Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup...BSU continues to lead the WCHA and ranks sixth nationally for penalty-kill efficiency at 89.9 percent...BGSU sophomore G Chris Nell has six career shutouts (including a WCHA-high three this season), one shy of the school record...FSU posted just its second two-game winning streak of the season Dec. 5 and 11, as junior G Charles Williams logged a 1.50 GAA and .948 save percentage...LSSU's freshman class leads WCHA rookies and is tied for fifth nationally with 54 points (20g-34a)...MTU, which opens the second half with four neutral site games, is unbeaten in its last eight road contests (6-0-2)...MSU junior F Michael Huntebrinker, who has already established career highs for goals (4), assists (9) and points (13), is on an eight-game point streak (4g-6a--10pts)...NMU, which leads the nation in overtime games (8) and ties (6), recorded its first bonus-hockey win of the season Saturday night when Dominik Shine delivered the OT game-winner.


By the Numbers

- 4: Goalies - including two freshmen - with league save percentages at .937 or better in WCHA play, all of whom would rank in the league's all-time single-season top-three if the campaign ended today. BGSU's Chris Nell is at .943 in conference games, followed by UAF's Jesse Jenks, LSSU's Gordon Defiel and NMU's Atte Tolvanen (all .937).

- 18: Points in WCHA play by the conference's scoring leader at the midway point, MTU senior Alex Petan (9g-9a). He has a three-point lead over MSU's Teddy Blueger (4g-11a--15pts). Petan also sits atop the WCHA's overall leaderboard with 19 points, one ahead of teammate Tyler Heinonen (11g-7a) and FSU's Gerald Mayhew (6g-12a).

- 14 and 16: Conference-only (7g-7a) and overall points (7g-9a) by FSU freshman Corey Mackin, both tops among WCHA rookies.

- 1.42 and 1.46: Conference-only and overall goals-against average for Nell, best among WCHA goaltenders in both categories. Nell ranks fourth nationally for GAA and fifth with a .943 save percentage.


Looking Ahead

- Colorado College at Alabama Huntsville (Dec. 18-19): UAH is the only WCHA team in action this weekend, when the Chargers welcome Colorado College to Huntsville for the first-time ever. The teams will meet in a two-game nonconference set.

- Holiday Tournaments: Host Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan (for the first time since 1998) will play in the Great Lakes Invitational (Dec. 29-30 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, along with Michigan and Michigan State); Lake Superior State is at the Catamount Cup in Burlington, Vt. (Dec. 29-30, playing Vermont and Brown); and Ferris State will participate in the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis (Jan. 1-2, along with Harvard, Connecticut and host Minnesota).


The Week in Review

The Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup got off to another thrilling start, with Alaska riding the stalwart goaltending of freshman Jesse Jenks to a win and tie at Alaska Anchorage.

Previously winless in four tries at the Sanford Center, No. 14 Bowling Green earned an impressive road sweep at Bemidji State behind WCHA Defensive Player of the Week Chris Nell.

Michigan Tech senior Alex Petan delivered a WCHA Offensive Player of the Week performance and the Huskies earned three road points at Lake Superior State.

No. 20 Minnesota State maintained its two-point lead atop the WCHA standings with a hard-fought sweep over visiting Alabama Huntsville.

Two teams separated by just two points for fourth place in the WCHA standings played a tightly-contested series in Marquette, with Ferris State and Northern Michigan each picking up a win.

Full recaps, box scores and select video highlights are available online at wcha.com.


Alaska 2, at Alaska Anchorage 1
Alaska 1, at Alaska Anchorage 1 - OT
Dec. 11 and 12 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska

The Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup got off to another thrilling start, with Alaska riding the stalwart goaltending of freshman Jesse Jenks to a win and tie at Alaska Anchorage.

Jenks began his stellar weekend with a 25-save effort in the Nanooks' 2-1 win Friday, allowing only a second-period penalty shot by the Seawolves' Alex Jackstadt. Marcus Basara opened the scoring for UAF 3:25 into the second period, while Alec Hajdukovich broke the 1-1 tie with the game-winning goal at the 5:22 mark of the third period.

Saturday was another taut defensive contest, with Jenks and UAA's Olivier Mantha (25 saves on the night, 50 for the weekend) going toe-to-toe in a 1-1 draw. Connor Wright gave UAA an early 1-0 lead with a goal at the 2:04 mark of the first period, but from there Jenks closed the door en route to a 32-save effort - including a combined 15 during the third period and overtime. UAF's Tyler Morley scored the equalizer at 16:20 of the second period.


No. 14 Bowling Green 4, at Bemidji State 1
No. 14 Bowling Green 2, at Bemidji State 0
Dec. 11 and 12 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.

Previously winless in four tries at the Sanford Center, No. 14 Bowling Green earned an impressive road sweep at Bemidji State behind WCHA Defensive Player of the Week Chris Nell.

The visiting Falcons jumped out to a 2-0, first-period lead Friday behind goals from Mitch McLain and Brandon Hawkins (game-winner), then added a pair of third-period markers for a 4-1 victory. Freshman Stephen Baylis scored his first career goal, Mark Friedman added an empty-netter and Nell made 14 saves. Cory Ward scored the lone Bemidji State goal.

Nell stole the show in a 2-0 BGSU victory Saturday, stopping all 28 shots he faced for his sixth career shutout. Both Falcons' goals came in the second period, off the sticks of Pierre-Luc Mercier (game-winner) and John Schilling.


Michigan Tech 1, at Lake Superior State 1 - OT
Michigan Tech 6, at Lake Superior State 2
Dec. 4 and 5 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska

Michigan Tech senior Alex Petan delivered a WCHA Offensive Player of the Week performance and the Huskies earned three road points at Lake Superior State.

The Huskies and Lakers skated to a 1-1 tie Friday night. LSSU freshman Matt McArdle scored his first career goal at the 5:54 mark of the first period, followed just 45 seconds later by Petan, who netted the equalizer. Tech senior Jamie Phillips (20 saves) and LSSU freshman Nick Kossoff (27 stops) shut the door thereafter.

Saturday night was a different story, as Michigan Tech scored four times in the first period en route to a 6-2 victory. Petan led the way with a pair of power-play goals, including the game-winner, before later adding an assist. Joel L'Esperance also scored twice, while both Jake Lucchini and Mark Auk found the back of the net. Phillips negated LSSU's 37-20 advantage in shots by making 35 saves for the win.


at No. 20 Minnesota State 2, Alabama Huntsville 1
at No. 20 Minnesota State 4, Alabama Huntsville 1
Dec. 11 and 12 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.

No. 20 Minnesota State maintained its two-point lead atop the WCHA standings with a hard-fought sweep over visiting Alabama Huntsville.

The visiting Chargers scored first Friday night, as they made Chad Brears' goal at the 12:06 mark of the first period stand all the way until the final stanza - when Minnesota State's hottest playmakers took over and lifted the hosts to a 2-1 victory. The Mavericks tied the game just 1:06 into the third period on a goal by Michael Huntebrinker, then went ahead to stay on Teddy Blueger's tie-breaking, game-winning strike at 16:20.

UAH again scored first Saturday on a first-period marker by freshman Jetlan Houcher; and again, Huntebrinker was there with the equalizer, this time as part of a three-goal MSU outburst in the second period. C.J. Franklin scored the game-winner, while sophomore Jaden Schmeisser had a two-point effort that included his first career goal. Huntebrinker added an empty-net tally, while freshman goaltender Jason Pawloski made 14 stops.

Chargers' junior netminder Carmine Guerriero had a pair of 30-save efforts, making 67 stops on the weekend.


Ferris State 4, at Northern Michigan 2
at Northern Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 - OT
Dec. 11 and 12 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.

Two teams separated by just two points for fourth place in the WCHA standings played a tightly-contested series in Marquette, with Ferris State and Northern Michigan each picking up a win.

The host Wildcats took a 2-1 lead just 41 seconds into the third period Friday on Darren Nowick's second goal of the game, but the Bulldogs scored the game's final three goals for a 4-2, series-opening win. Freshman Trevor Recktenwald tied the game with his first collegiate goal, Andrew Dorantes netted the game-winner with just 2:05 remaining in regulation and Corey Mackin sealed the contest with an empty-net score. FSU junior Charles Williams earned his second-consecutive victory in the cage with 25 saves - including 11 in the third period.

In its eighth overtime game of the season, Northern Michigan earned its first bonus hockey victory Saturday when Darren Nowick scored just 42 seconds into the extra frame for a 3-2 triumph. Ferris State's Gerald Mayhew fored overtime when he scored at the 17:21 mark of the third period, negating consecutive goals by NMU's Robbie Payne (at 19:31 of the second and 1:43 of the third). Wildcats' freshman goaltender Mathias Israelsson earned the win in his collegiate debut, stopping 29-of-31 shots. FSU rookie Darren Smith made 27 saves in the loss.