WCHA Week 19: Huge League Points On The Line In Four WCHA Series; Top Five Teams Still Alive For MacNaughton Cup, Lower Five Separated By Just Seven Points
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Bemidji State hosts Michigan Tech this weekend. These two teams, who are a combined 13-3-5 since Jan. 1, meet for the only time this season.

Opening Face-Off

- Polling Place: No. 14 Michigan Tech and No. 19 Minnesota State are carrying the WCHA banner in the USCHO.com poll this week, with the Huskies holding the same spot in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings.

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

- Ringing in the New Year: Three WCHA schools have played some of their best hockey of the season since the calendar flipped to 2016. Michigan Tech is undefeated in its eight games (5-0-3), Ferris State is 6-1-2 and Bemidji State is 8-3-2.

- Down the Stretch They Come: With just three regular season weekends left, each of the top five teams in the WCHA standings are still alive to win the MacNaughton Cup (with the current fifth place team mathematically able to either hoist the Cup for finish in last place), while the top three schools can reach the same maximum number of overall league points (41).

- Talking Playoffs: Minnesota State, Bowling Green, Michigan Tech and Ferris State have all clinched a berth in the 2016 WCHA playoffs.

- Any Given Weekend: Twenty-six (26) of the first 56 WCHA series this season have resulted in splits, including five that ended in a pair of ties. There have been just 19 league sweeps to date, along with 11 three-point weekends. Here is how each team has fared in WCHA series this season, sorted by the highest percentage of league weekends with two-plus points: Ferris State, 100 percent (12-for-12, with zero, zero-point weekends; zero, one-point weekends; nine, two-point weekends; two, three-point weekends; and, one, four-point weekend); Minnesota State, 91.7% (11-for-12; 0-0, 1-1, 2-6, 4-5); Bowling Green, 90.9% (10-for-11, 0-1, 1-1, 2-6, 3-0, 4-4); Michigan Tech, 90.9% (10-for-11; 0-1, 1-0, 2-4, 3-3, 4-3); Northern Michigan, 90.9% (10-for-11; 0-1, 1-0, 2-7, 3-2, 4-1); Lake Superior State, 63.6% (7-for-11; 0-3, 1-1, 2-5, 3-1, 4-1); Bemidji State, 54.5% (6-for-11; 0-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-1, 4-2); Alaska Anchorage, 54.5% (6-for-11; 0-4, 1-1, 2-4, 3-1, 4-1); Alaska, 54.5% (6-for-11; 0-4, 1-1, 2-5, 3-1, 4-0); and, Alabama Huntsville, 36.4% (4-for-11; 0-4, 1-3, 2-3, 3-0, 4-1)

- Don't Leave Your Seats: Fifty-nine (59) of the first 114 WCHA games have been either ties (21) or one-goal decisions (38), with 32 overtime contests. Twenty-six (26) league games have featured a tie-breaking, third-period game-winning goal (including nine in the last five minutes of regulation), with an additional 11 victories coming in overtime.

- Quickly Around the WCHA: UAH junior G Matt Larose leads the WCHA and ranks fourth nationally with a .954 save percentage since Dec. 18 ... UAA senior F Blake Tatchell is one point away from becoming the 23rd Seawolf in program history with 100 career points (30g-69a) ... Despite missing the last series due to injury, UAF senior F Tyler Morley is still tied for the league's overall goal-scoring lead with 14 markers ... BSU is 41-of-44 (.932) on the penalty kill since Jan. 3, is at .894 overall in WCHA play to lead the league and is fourth nationally at .898; since moving to the D-I level, the Beavers have never allowed fewer than 20 PPGs in a season (12 this year) ... Three BGSU student-athletes - Pierre Luc-Mercier, Matt Pohlkamp and Tomas Sholl - were recently accepted into the National College Athlete Honor Society ... FSU senior D Brandon Anselmini has 10 points in his last 10 games (1g-9a), pacing WCHA blue-liners over the span (since Dec. 11) ... LSSU snapped a six-game losing streak and a coinciding 0-for-23 stretch on the power play, when J.T. Henke buried the game-winner last Saturday with the man advantage ... MTU is undefeated in its last 10 true road games, going 7-0-3 dating back to an Oct. 23 loss at Northern Michigan; the Huskies are 10-3-4 overall away from Houghton this year (including neutral site games) ... MSU senior F Teddy Blueger has 21 points in his last 19 games (5g-16a); the WCHA's overall scoring leader (8g-20a=28pts) is now second in the conference scoring race with 23 points (5g-18a) ... NMU head coach Walt Kyle earned his 250th career victory Feb. 13. Currently in his 14th season behind the Northern Michigan bench, he owns a 250-236-63 career record.


The Week Ahead

- Lake Superior State at Alaska Anchorage: The seventh-place Lakers and eighth-place Seawolves are separated by two points, both also trying to fend off ninth-place Alaska. The teams split a series last month in Sault Ste. Marie.

- Bowling Green at Alaska: The Falcons can draw within two points of idle Minnesota State atop the WCHA standings, while the Nanooks are fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot. This will be the only meeting of the year between the schools.

- No. 14 Michigan Tech at Bemidji State: These two teams, who are a combined 13-3-5 since Jan. 1, meet for the only time this season. The Huskies are hoping to gain ground on idle MSU in the MacNaughton Cup race. The Beavers are still alive for home-ice advantage.

- Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan: The Chargers breathed new life into their playoff hopes with a pair of ties against front-running MSU last weekend, while the Wildcats are four points back of a home-ice spot. NMU earned three points at UAH in Dec.

- Ferris State at No. 6 Michigan: The final nonconference game of the regular season sees Ferris State traveling to Ann Arbor, Mich.


The Week in Review

- In a matchup of the current first- and last-place teams in the WCHA standings, No. 17 Minnesota State and host Alabama Huntsville skated to a pair of ties. The Mavericks held a massive 87-38 edge in total shots, but hot goaltending from UAH's Matt Larose and a clutch short-handed goal in the finale allowed the home team to escape with two points.

- Ferris State clinched a WCHA playoff berth with a win in the opener, but visiting Northern Michigan rallied from a 2-0 deficit to salvage a split and remain on the Bulldogs' heels for a home-ice postseason spot.

- Sophomore goaltenders Michael Bitzer (Bemidji State) and Gordon Defiel (Lake Superior State) engaged in a weekend-long duel that resulted in a win apiece for the Beavers and Lakers.

- Four months to the day after their 2015-16 season opener was postponed due to a power outage at the AMSOIL Arena, Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth finally got to play - and Beavers' senior F Markus Gerbrandt made sure it was worth the wait with a third-period game-winner.

- Bowling Green sophomore G Chris Nell made a career-high 45 saves, but it was not enough in a 4-1 loss to visiting Miami.

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


No. 17 Minnesota State 3, at Alabama Huntsville 3 - OT
at Alabama Huntsville 1, No. 17 Minnesota State 1 - OT
Feb. 12 and 13 at Von Braun Center; Huntsville, Ala.

In a matchup of the current first- and last-place teams in the WCHA standings, No. 17 Minnesota State and host Alabama Huntsville skated to a pair of ties. The Mavericks held a massive 87-38 edge in total shots, but hot goaltending from UAH's Matt Larose and a clutch short-handed goal in the finale allowed the home team to escape with two points.

UAH opened the scoring Friday night on Madison Dunn's first career tally, a power-play strike. The two teams exchanged goals back-and-forth throughout the contest, but it was MSU's rare own-goal with a delayed penalty that allowed UAH to go up 3-2 heading into the third. Minnesota State's Bryce Gervais scored his second goal of the game, this time on the power play with 13:50 remaining, to tie the contest and force overtime. The Mavericks had a 7-1 advantage in shots in the extra frame, but Larose stood strong for the tie.

Larose set the 2015-16 season standard for a WCHA goaltender with 49 saves in Saturday's series finale, allowing just a single Minnesota State goal. The Mavericks had that 1-0 lead (thanks to a C.J. Franklin power-play marker) with just 63 seconds remaining in regulation; however, UAH's Matt Salhany delivered a clutch, short-handed goal to tie the game. Larose put the capper on his 83-save weekend with six more stops in the extra session.


at Ferris State 5, Northern Michigan 1
Northern Michigan 3, at Ferris State 2
Feb. 12 and 13 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.

Ferris State clinched a WCHA playoff berth with a win in the opener, but visiting Northern Michigan rallied from a 2-0 deficit to salvage a split and remain on the Bulldogs' heels for a home-ice postseason spot.

Freshman Corey Mackin led the Bulldogs in Friday's series opener, assisting on three of Ferris State's four second-period goals en route to a 5-1 win. The Bulldogs received goals from five different players, while running their unbeaten streak to eight-straight games. NMU freshman G Atte Tolvanen made 22 saves during a scoreless first period. Northern Michigan at Ferris State (cont.)

Saturday's rematch looked like it would repeat the outcome from the previous night, with the Bulldogs going up 2-0 during the first half of the second period. The two-goal lead lasted only 70 seconds, however, as Northern Michigan's Gerard Hanson got his team within one, followed by a Denver Pierce strike to tie the game 2-2 with just 34 seconds left in the second period. The Wildcats completed their comeback thanks to a game-winning goal by Darren Nowick at 15:26 of the final period.


Bemidji State 2, at Lake Superior State 1
at Lake Superior State 3, Bemidji State 0
Feb. 12 and 13 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Sophomore goaltenders Michael Bitzer (Bemidji State) and Gordon Defiel (Lake Superior State) engaged in a weekend-long duel that resulted in a win apiece for the Beavers and Lakers.

BSU's John Parker and LSSU's Jake Hand exchanged first-period goals, with the freshman Hand picking up his first collegiate marker. The score remained deadlocked until the 8:15 mark of the third, when Brendan Harms lifted the Beavers to a 2-1 victory with a power-play, game-winning goal. Bitzer and Defiel each made 25 saves apiece.

Locked in a scoreless tie for the first 53 minutes Saturday night, J.T. Henke broke the Lakers' 0-for-23 stretch on the power play - and eventually LSSU's six-game losing streak - with the game's first goal. Aidan Wright and Gage Torrel added empty-net scores in the final minute, which was more than enough to back Defiel's 30-save shutout.


Bemidji State 2, at Minnesota Duluth 1
Feb. 9 at AMSOIL Arena; Duluth, Minn.

Four months to the day after their 2015-16 season opener was postponed due to a power outage at the AMSOIL Arena, Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth finally got to play - and Beavers' senior F Markus Gerbrandt made sure it was worth the wait with a third-period game-winner.

Sophomore D Brett Beauvais got BSU on the board just 1:47 into the contest with his first goal of the season. After UMD tied the game later in the opening period, Michael Bitzer (25 saves) made sure the game remained tied until Gerbandt could net the winning marker at the 10:00 mark of the final stanza.


Miami 4, at No. 19 Bowling Green 1
Feb. 12 at BGSU Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio

Bowling Green sophomore G Chris Nell made a career-high 45 saves, but it was not enough in a 4-1 loss to visiting Miami.

The Falcons got on the board first on a power-play goal by Brent Tate with 8:18 remaining in the opening period. However, the RedHawks' relentless offensive attack produced two goals apiece in the second and third periods and accounted for a 49-22 advantage in shots. Nell turned aside 16 shots in the first period, 12 in the second and 17 more in the third, while Miami's final tally was an empty-net goal.