- Falcons and Mavericks in Top 20: After playing to a pair of 2-2 draws last weekend, two teams with seven-game unbeaten streaks - Bowling Green (5-0-2) and Minnesota State (3-0-4) are the WCHA representatives in the national polls. The Falcons are No. 14 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings, while the Mavericks - who are 8-2-4 in their last 14 contests - are back in the USCHO.com poll (No. 20) for the first time since the second week of the season. Two additional WCHA teams - Michigan Tech and Alaska Anchorage - are receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll.
- Competitive Balance: Nearing the halfway point of the league schedule (this weekend marks the exact half-way point, after which 70 of the 140 games will have been played), seven teams are .500 or better in WCHA play. The standings reflect a tightly-contested circuit in which every night brings a challenge: Only four points separate the top four teams, while an additional four points mean the difference between fourth place (and home ice for the WCHA playoffs) and eighth place.
- A Superior Turn: The owner of the WCHA's second-best winning percentage in conference play since the calendar turned to November? None other than Lake Superior State, which has gone 4-1-3 (.688) in its last eight league games. Led by sophomore Gordon Defiel (league-best 1.38 conference GAA since Nov. 1) and freshman Nick Kossoff (36-save shutout this past Saturday), LSSU has yielded just 10 goals over that eight-game span for a league-best 1.25 per-game average. The Lakers, who swept Alaska in Fairbanks this past weekend, are unbeaten in WCHA road games this year (3-0-3).
- No Place Like...the Road?: Alaska Anchorage (at Michigan Tech) and Lake Superior State (at Alaska) posted road sweeps last weekend, lifting road teams to an overall 27-21-12 mark through the first 60 WCHA games.
- "Madhouse on Mercer": Bowling Green has made sure its home arena has lived up to the moniker, with a 13-game home unbeaten streak (9-0-4) that is the longest current run in the country. The Falcons are 5-0-4 on home ice this season and are 15-3-5 in their last 23 home contests.
- Elsewhere Around the WCHA: UAH snapped a seven-game winless skid last Saturday with a 1-1 tie behind a season-best 36 saves by Carmine Guerriero...At 8-6-2, UAA has already equaled its victory total from last season (8-22-4) and, with 11 league points, is one shy of matching its 2014-15 output...UAF Alternate Captain Zach Frye is tied for the lead among WCHA defensemen with 11 points (2g-9a)...BSU, which is 3-1-1 in its last five games, is sixth nationally in combined special teams at 55.9 percent (including 13 power play goals at home, tied with Penn State for the most)...In all seven of its WCHA series, FSU has earned two points...MTU is riding a six-game road unbeaten streak (5-0-1)...MSU freshman G Jason Pawloski is undefeated (5-0-4) and leads all NCAA rookies with a 1.75 GAA...NMU has skated to an NCAA-high six ties.
By the Numbers
- 7: Consecutive games with a goal by Tyler Heinonen, the longest by a Michigan Tech player since Gord Salt scored in 10-straight during the 1978-79 season. He is tied for second nationally with eight goals since the streak began Nov. 14.
The Week Ahead
- Final WCHA League Games of 2015: This weekend's full slate of five WCHA series marks the final conference games of the 2015 calendar year. After Saturday, only UAH's two-game nonconference set with Colorado College on Dec. 18-19 remain prior to the Holiday Tournaments (MTU and NMU at the Great Lakes Invitational, Dec. 29-30; LSSU at the Catamount Cup, Dec. 29-30 and FSU at the Mariucci Classic, Jan. 1-2). The WCHA schedule will resume with a single series Jan. 2-3, before a four-series weekend Jan. 8-9.
- Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup and Michigan Rivalries Highlight Weekend: Alaska Anchorage hosts Alaska at the Sullivan Arena in the first two games of the annual Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup, won by the Nanooks six-years running. All four Michigan schools will stay in the state this weekend, with UP rivals Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, and Northern Michigan welcoming Ferris State.
- Chargers-Mavericks and Falcons-Beavers: The other two WCHA series this weekend take place in Minnesota, as Alabama Huntsville visits 20th-ranked Minnesota State and Bemidji State hosts No. 14 Bowling Green.
The Week in Review
- In a series between two of the top three teams in the WCHA standings, both Minnesota State and No. 14 Bowling Green came away with two points each following a pair of 2-2 ties at the BGSU Ice Arena.
- Northern Michigan skated to a win and tie against host Alabama Huntsville in another tightly-contested series.
- Lake Superior State earned its first road sweep since Feb. 2014, scoring all six of its goals from special teams play en route to a pair of victories at Alaska.
- Meeting for the first time since the 2015 WCHA playoffs, Bemidji State and Ferris State split a pair of taut defensive contests in Big Rapids.
- Alaska Anchorage twice erased 2-1, third-period deficits to earn a series sweep in Houghton over No. 17 Michigan Tech.
- Full recaps, box scores and select video highlights are available online at wcha.com.
Minnesota State 2, at No. 14 Bowling Green 2 – OT
Minnesota State 2, at No. 14 Bowling Green 2 – OT
Dec. 4 and 5 at BGSU Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio
In a series between two of the top three teams in the WCHA standings, both Minnesota State and No. 14 Bowling Green came away with two points each following a pair of 2-2 ties at the BGSU Ice Arena.
Minnesota State got off to a great start Friday night, riding first-period goals by Zeb Knutson and Michael Huntebrinker to a 2-0 lead that they carried deep into the third period. However, Bowling Green finally got things going in the last five minutes of regulation, when Brandon Hawkins found the back of the net to cut the lead to 2-1 at the 16:18 mark. Going a man down with under a minute left, the Falcons pulled their goaltender to make it 5-on-5 hockey and, with just 6.7 seconds left in regulation, Ben Murphy scored to force overtime. MSU held a 3-1 advantage in shots, but neither team could score as BGSU's Chris Nell (33 saves) and the Mavericks' Jason Pawloski (19 stops) held serve.
Saturday's rematch ended with the same results, but this time it was Minnesota State that had to come from behind. A two-goal night from BGSU's Mark Cooper put Bowling Green ahead 2-1 heading into the third period. But, 7:34 into the final stanza, Knutson scored on the power play to even the game and force the eventual 2-2 draw. Pawloski (31 saves) and Nell (22 stops) again had excellent performances between the pipes.
Northern Michigan 4, at Alabama Huntsville 3
Northern Michigan 1, at Alabama Huntsville 1 – OT
Dec. 4 and 5 at Van Braun Center; Huntsville, Alabama
Northern Michigan skated to a win and tie against host Alabama Huntsville in another tightly-contested series.
Scoring went back-and-forth between the two teams during the Friday night series opener. The game was not decided until 19:43 of the third period, when Dominik Shine was issued a short-handed penalty shot that he converted to complete a hat trick on the night and give the Wildcats a 4-3 victory. Alabama Huntsville outshot Northern Michigan 47-22 in the contest, but NMU goaltender Atte Tolvanen made an impressive 44 shots to keep the Wildcats in the game. Max McHugh, Chad Brears and Jetlan Houcher all scored for the Chagres, while NMU's Darren Nowick had a game-tying goal in the third period.
Trailing 1-0 after John Siemer scored for the Wildcats just over four minutes into the second period Saturday night, the Chargers evened the contest with an early third-period goal from Frank Misuraca -- his first of the season. Northern Michigan outshot Alabama Huntsville 15-3 in the third period alone, but was unable to convert as Chargers' junior G Carmine Guerriero made a season-high 36 saves.
Lake Superior State 4, at Alaska 2
Lake Superior State 2, at Alaska 0
Dec. 4 and 5 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska
Lake Superior State earned its first road sweep since Feb. 2014, scoring all six of its goals from special teams play en route to a pair of victories at Alaska.
All four Laker goals Friday night came from special teams, including a short-handed goal during the second period from Diego Cuglietta that was the eventual game-winner. A power-play goal from Chad Staley got the Nanooks within one during the third period, but the Lakers' special teams capitalized once again on the power play when Gus Correale made it a 4-2 lead that UAF could not come back from. Alex Globke and Anthony Nellis scored the other LSSU goals, while Justin Woods lit the lamp for the Nanooks.
The Lakers held on to a 1-0 lead throughout most of Saturday's game, partially in thanks to the efforts of freshman netminder Nick Kossoff, who stopped all 36 shots that he faced - including 19 in the first period alone - for his second career shutout. Fellow rookie Gage Torrel scored the first goal for the Lakers while short-handed during the second period and J.T. Henke sealed the victory with an empty-netter.
Bemidji State 2, at Ferris State 0
at Ferris State 2, Bemidji State 1
Dec. 4 and 5 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.
Meeting for the first time since the 2015 WCHA playoffs, Bemidji State and Ferris State split a pair of taut defensive contests in Big Rapids.
Bemidji State scored the only two goals on Friday night en route to a 2-0 victory. The shots were even at 25 apiece, but the Bulldogs could not solve Bemidji State netminder Michael Bitzer, who stopped all 25 shots he faced. BSU's Brendan Harms scored in the first period for the game-winner, while Markus Gerbrandt scored with 2:35 remaining in regulation to seal the win.
For the second straight night, the Beavers got on the board first when Jordan Heller scored his first goal of the season during Saturday night's first period. The FSU power play came up big in the second period, as Gerald Mayhew tallied his fourth goal of the year and tied the game up 1-1. The tie stood until 14:28 of the third period, when Andrew Dorantes made a great play to get the puck to Corey Mackin, who scored to give the Bulldogs a late 2-1 lead and a win on home ice. FSU goaltender Charles Williams, making his first appearance since Nov. 14, stopped 30-of-31 shots for the victory.
Alaska Anchorage 3, at No. 17 Michigan Tech 2
Alaska Anchorage 3, at No. 17 Michigan Tech 2
Dec. 4 and 5 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.
Alaska Anchorage twice erased 2-1, third-period deficits to earn a series sweep in Houghton over No. 17 Michigan Tech.
The Huskies looked to have the momentum in Friday night's series opener, going up 2-1 and outshooting the Seawolves 25-12 after the first two periods. Alaska Anchorage was able to rally back with two goals of their own, including the game-winner by Tad Kozun with just 1:21 remaining, to win 3-2. UAA freshman Sean MacTavish scored the Seawolves' first two goals, including the tying marker at the 11:49 mark of the third period, while Olivier Mantha made 32 saves. Alex Petan and Tyler Heinonen both scored second-period goals for Michigan Tech.
The Seawolves found themselves down by a goal heading into the third period once again during Saturday night's series finale. Chase Van Allen started the UAA rally with a game-tying goal just 38 seconds into the final stanza, before Brad Duwe found the back of the net for an unassisted goal that put the Seawolves up 3-2 at the 14:49 mark. Mantha (24 saves) once again held off the last-minute offensive surge from Michigan Tech to help secure the win and sweep. Heinonen and Jarret Brown scored the Huskies' goals, while Matt Wintjes made 24 saves in his first start of the season.