WCHA Week 15: Light Week With Three League Series, Including Two 2015 Playoff Rematches
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Bemidji State hosts Ferris State for a pair of games this weekend

Opening Face-Off

- Three WCHA Teams in USCHO.com Top 20: For the first time since the Oct. 12 poll, the WCHA has three teams in the USCHO.com rankings: No. 17 Michigan Tech, No. 18 Bowling Green and No. 20 Minnesota State. The Huskies, 2-0-2 in 2016 and 4-1-2 in their last seven games, are back in the poll for the first time since Nov. 30.

- Winning Hockey: The WCHA has 60 percent of its membership (six of 10 teams) playing .500-or-better hockey, the third-best league-wide distribution among all NCAA conferences (ECAC Hockey has nine of 12 teams at-or-above .500 for 75 percent, while the NCHC has five of eight for 62.5 percent).

- Competitive Balance: Seventeen (17) of the first 44 WCHA series this season have resulted in splits, with an additional four ending in a pair of ties. There have been just 14 league sweeps to date, along with nine three-point weekends. As a result, three teams are within three points at the top of the WCHA standings, six points separates first place from fourth, and there is just a five-point gap between fourth place (and home ice for the league playoffs) and the current two-way tie for eighth.

- Don't Leave Your Seats: Forty-seven (47) of the first 88 WCHA games have been either ties (17) or one-goal decisions (30), with 26 overtime contests. Twenty-one (21) league games have 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.

- Ringing in the New Year: Bemidji State is unbeaten in six games (5-0-1) since the calendar flipped to 2016, moving above .500 (10-9-4) for the first time since Oct. 16 (1-0-1). The Beavers are tied with Dartmouth and RIT for the most wins in the country since Jan. 1, while their .917 winning percentage ranks second nationally. (Massachusetts Lowell is 3-0-0). BSU is averaging 4.17 goals per game this month and has outscored its opponents by an average of 2.50 goals per contest, tied for the third-best mark in the country.

- Quickly Around the WCHA: Over his last three starts (since Dec. 18), UAH junior G Matt Larose has gone 2-0-1 with a 1.51 GAA and .957 save percentage (while averaging 36.3 stops per contest) ... UAA's 14 league points are already two more than they had all of last season (12) ... UAF senior Fs Nolan Huysmans (3g-5a) and Tyler Morley (4g-4a) are part of a three-way tie for the WCHA points lead in January with eight apiece ... BSU sophomore F Gerry Fitzgerald has a six-game point streak (4g-4a--8pts) since returning from injury Jan. 2, while sophomore G Michael Bitzer is 4-0-1 with a 0.98 GAA and .958 save percentage in five starts since Jan. 3 ... BGSU has played an inordinate amount of close games in its first 25 contests, including eight overtime games (2-1-5), six decided in regulation by one goal (3-3) and seven two-goal affairs (5-2) ... FSU is one of two WCHA teams (MTU) with 10 different double-digit scorers, including senior D Simon Denis (4g-6a--10pts) - the Bulldogs' lone holdover from their 2012 Frozen Four team ... All nine of LSSU's game-winning goals have been scored by freshmen, while Lakers' rookies have 68 combined points - tied for most among any WCHA class (FSU's juniors) ... MTU senior F Alex Petan leads the league with 12 goals and 21 points in league play ... MSU has not allowed a power-play goal in the last 10 games, killing off 31-straight penalties ... NMU senior G Mathias Dahlström earned the win Saturday against Alaska (35 saves, including 20 in the third period), his first start since Oct. 16 and just his second since suffering an in-game injury Jan. 30, 2015.


By the Numbers

- 97: Career points for UAA senior Blake Tatchell (28g-69a), three shy of becoming the 23rd Seawolf to reach the 100-point milestone. Tatchell would also join MTU's Alex Petan (121 pts) and UAF's Tyler Morley (113) as active WCHA players in the Century Club.


The Week Ahead

- Ferris State at Bemidji State: Fourth place in the WCHA standings is on the line as the Bulldogs (19 points) visit the sixth-place Beavers (17). Ferris State has taken at least two points from every league series this year, while Bemidji State has seven points in its past four WCHA games. The teams split Dec. 4-5 in Big Rapids (BSU, 2-0; FSU, 2-1), while the last meetings in Bemidji were the 2015 WCHA playoffs - which the Bulldogs swept with an epic, triple-OT win in Game 2.

- Alaska Anchorage at No. 19 Bowling Green: The Seawolves continue their two-week stay in the Lower 48 with a trip to Ohio to face the 19th-ranked Falcons. The teams split a series in Anchorage on Oct. 30 (UAA, 4-2) and Nov. 1 (BGSU, 2-0).

- Lake Superior State at No. 20 Minnesota State: The 20th-ranked Mavericks return to the Verizon Wireless Center, where they are 7-1-0 in WCHA play this season. The Lakers are 6-4-2 in their last 12 league games. This is the first meeting between the teams since Minnesota State swept LSSU out of the 2015 WCHA playoffs.


The Week in Review

- Ferris State used balanced scoring and solid goaltending to win the series finale and take three points from visiting Alabama Huntsville.

- Two teams jockeying for playoff position each earned an important win, with Alaska Anchorage and host Lake Superior State playing to a split.

- In a matchup of league title hopefuls, host Michigan Tech earned three key points against No. 19 Minnesota State in Houghton - including the Huskies' first win against the Mavericks in 10 tries.

- Both teams used late-game magic - an OT winner for Alaska and a three-goal third period for Northern Michigan - to split a series in Marquette.

- Sophomore goaltender Michael Bitzer made 35 saves in consecutive shutouts and Bemidji State ran its unbeaten streak to six games with a nonconference sweep of visiting Arizona State.

- No. 16 Bowling Green surrendered the game-winning goal with just two seconds remaining in regulation, dropping a tough 2-1 decision at Miami in a nonconference matchup of Ohio rivals.

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


at Ferris State 3, Alabama Huntsville 3 - OT
at Ferris State 4, Alabama Huntsville 1
Jan. 15 and 16 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.

Ferris State used balanced scoring and solid goaltending to win the series finale and take three points from visiting Alabama Huntsville.

Kenny Babinski's late heroics lifted the host Bulldogs to a 3-3 draw Friday, as he scored the tying goal with an extra attacker and just 1:03 remaining in regulation. His marker capped a wild, four-goal third period that saw Ferris State take a 2-1 lead just 34 seconds into the frame (Jared VanWormer goal), before UAH rallied for a 3-2 lead on goals by Matt Salhany and Tyler Poulson. Chargers' goalie Matt Larose had a 46-save effort, making at least 14 stops during each period and one more in overtime.

Simon Denis, Tyler Andrew (game-winner), Brandon Anselmini and Chad McDonald all found the back of the net for Ferris State in a 4-1 win Saturday, with the Bulldogs scoring the game's final three goals. Freshman goaltender Darren Smith made 20 stops for the win.


at Lake Superior State 4, Alaska Anchorage 2
Alaska Anchorage 3, at Lake Superior State 1
Jan. 16 and 17 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Two teams jockeying for playoff position each earned an important win, with Alaska Anchorage and host Lake Superior State playing to a split.

The host Lakers used a three-goal third period to rally for a 4-2 win in Saturday's series opener. Trailing 2-1 entering the final frame, a trio of LSSU freshmen found the back of the net - Josh Nenadal (tying goal), Diego Cuglietta (game-winner) and Mitch Hults (empty net). Hults also scored in the second period, while Alex Globke had a pair of assists. Lakers' goaltender Gordon Defiel made 26 saves for the win.

Owen Headrick gave LSSU a 1-0 lead just 2:18 into Sunday's game, but Alaska Anchorage scored the game's final three goals (one in each period) for the win. Connor Wright (tying goal), Anthony Conti (game-winner) and Austin Azurdia all scored for the Seawolves, while Olivier Mantha made 34 saves in the UAA net.


at Michigan Tech 2, No. 19 Minnesota State 2 - OT
at Michigan Tech 3, No. 19 Minnesota State 1
Jan. 15 and 16 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.

In a matchup of league title hopefuls, host Michigan Tech earned three key points against No. 19 Minnesota State in Houghton - including the Huskies' first win against the Mavericks in 10 tries.

Friday's series opener featured Mavericks' freshman goaltender Jason Pawloski (27 saves) going toe-to-toe with Tech senior Jamie Phillips (30 saves, including three in OT) during a 2-2 draw. The teams traded goals during regulation, with Mark Auk scoring the tying marker at the 10:43 mark of the third period. Alex Petan also scored for the Huskies, with Zach Stepan and Jordan Nelson tallying the Minnesota State goals.

Petan's two goals led Michigan Tech to a 3-1 win Saturday - the Huskies' first against Minnesota State in 10 games dating back to Feb. 4, 2012. Petan's first goal stood as the game-winner, while his second gave the Huskies a two-goal cushion late in the third period. Malcolm Gould had a two-point effort for Tech (1g-1a), while Phillips turned aside 25-of-26 shots for the win.


Alaska 3, at Northern Michigan 2 - OT
at Northern Michigan 5, Alaska 3
Jan. 15 and 16 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.

Both teams used late-game magic - an OT winner for Alaska and a three-goal third period for Northern Michigan - to split a series in Marquette.

Alec Hajdukovich was the Nanooks' hero in Friday's series opener, scoring at the 3:11 mark of overtime to lift Alaska to a 3-2 win. Freshman Ryker Leer scored his first collegiate goal for UAF and senior Nolan Huysmans gave the visitors a 2-1 lead early in the third period, but the Wildcats' Barret Kaib tied the game with his marker at the 11:45 mark. Rookie Nanooks' netminder Jesse Jenks made 25 saves in the win.

Saturday's game marked the return to the Northern Michigan net of senior goaltender Mathias Dahlström, making first start since Oct. 16 and only his second since suffering an injury in the first period of a game at Alaska Anchorage on Jan. 30, 2015. Dahlström made 35 saves, including stopping 20-of-21 shots during the decisive third period, as the Wildcats scored three times for a 5-3 win. All three NMU goals in the final stanza came from defenseman, with Ryan Trenz tying the game, Kaib scoring the game-winner and Brock Maschmeyer adding a short-handed, empty-net strike. Wildcats' freshman Denver Pierce added a goal and assist, while Hajdukovich, Tyler Morley and Huysmans all scored for Alaska.


at Bemidji State 5, Arizona State 0
at Bemidji State 2, Arizona State 0
Jan. 15 and 16 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.

Sophomore goaltender Michael Bitzer made 35 saves in consecutive shutouts and Bemidji State ran its unbeaten streak to six games with a nonconference sweep of visiting Arizona State.

Ten different BSU players logged at least a point Friday, led by Jay Dickman (first career two-goal game for the freshman), Ruslan Pedan (2g), Gerry Fitzgerald (1g-1a) and Nate Arentz (2a). The Beavers scored twice in the first period, twice in the second and added one more in the third, while Bitzer turned aside all 17 shots he faced en route to the 5-0 victory.

Locked in a scoreless tie entering the third period Saturday night, Bemidji State got goals from Philip Marinaccio (game-winner) and Gerry Fitzgerald for a 2-0 win and sweep. Bitzer made 18 stops for his second-straight shutout.


at Miami 2, No. 16 Bowling Green 0
Jan. 16 at Steve Cady Arena; Oxford, Ohio

No. 16 Bowling Green surrendered the game-winning goal with just two seconds remaining in regulation, dropping a tough 2-1 decision at Miami in a nonconference matchup of Ohio rivals.

The Falcons took an early 1-0 lead on a Kevin Dufour goal just 5:55 into the first period, but could not score the rest of the way. The host RedHawks tied the game in the second before scoring the late winner.