WCHA Week 20: Now The Fun Really Begins - Two Weekends, Twenty Games; Five League On Tap This Weekend With Everything Up For Grabs
photo
Second-place Bowling Green hosts fourth-place Ferris State in a key series this weekend

Opening Face-Off

- Polling Place: No. 14 Michigan Tech and No. 18 Minnesota State (up one spot) 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).

- Wild About the 'Cats: Northern Michigan has the country's fifth-best winning percentage in February, going 5-1-0 (WCHA-high .833 mark). The Wildcats are 8-4-0 since Jan. 1 and have jumped into a tie with Ferris State for fourth place in the WCHA standings.

- Ringing in the New Year: Along with NMU, three other WCHA schools have won at a .630-or-better clip since Jan. 1: Michigan Tech is seventh nationally with a .750 mark (6-1-3), Bemidji State is 9-4-2 (.667) and Ferris State is 6-3-2 (.636).

- Down the Stretch They Come: With just two regular season weekends left, all 10 WCHA schools have played 24 league games and the stage is set for another thrilling finish. The top five teams in the WCHA standings are separated by five points and are all still alive to win the MacNaughton Cup, with just two points separating front-running Minnesota State from second-place Bowling Green and Michigan Tech. The top-five schools have all clinched playoff berths, but not a single home-ice spot has been officially locked up yet. Not a single team has been eliminated from playoff contention, with two points the difference between the eighth- and ninth-place schools.

- Quickly Around the WCHA: UAH has eclipsed its goal total from last season with four regular season games left to play, as the squad has totaled 63 tallies in 2015-16 compared to 62 in 2014-15 ... UAA sophmore F Matt Anholt, the reigning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week, has a seven-game point streak (3g-6a) ... UAF sophomore F Tayler Munson snapped his own 13-game scoreless streak and the Nanooks' five-game skid (and nine-game home drought) with his short-handed game-winner with 8.8 seconds left Friday ... BSU has posted five shutouts, its highest total since 2007-08 (seven); sophomore G Michael Bitzer owns all of these, most in the WCHA and tied for fifth-most in the NCAA ... BGSU senior F Mark Cooper has moved up to a tie for third with 13 goals this season, and the Falcons are undefeated (9-0-2) when he scores ... FSU is the only WCHA school to have posted two points in each league weekend, doing so in all 12 conference series (nine, two-pont weekends; two, three-point weekends and one sweep) ... LSSU, which has surpassed its victory total from a year ago, has received all 11 game-winning goals from players not with the program last season (nine freshmen and two by sophmore transfer J.T. Henke) ... MTU is 6-1-3 in its last 10 WCHA games, outscoring opponents 35-17 in that stretch; the Huskies are 15-0-2 this season when scoring three-or-more goals ... MSU has tallied at least one power-play goal in eight-straight games and is 11-for-40 (.275) during that stretch ... NMU's Dominik Shine has 10 points (3g-7a) during a seven-game point streak and is now fourth in the WCHA scoring race (conference games only) with 22 (10g-12a).


By the Numbers

- 100: UAA's Blake Tatchell posted his 100th and 101st career points last weekend, becoming the third WCHA player to reach the 100-point milestone this year (joining UAF's Tyler Morley and MSU's Teddy Blueger). MTU's Alex Petan gives the WCHA four active Century Club members.


The Week Ahead

- Ferris State at Bowling Green: Arugably the biggest WCHA series this weekend is the one pitting two of the league's upper division teams, as the fourth-place Bulldogs visit the second-place Falcons. Ferris State is 5-1-2 in its last seven league games, including a 3-0-1 mark on the road. Bowling Green, meanwhile, is an impressive 6-1-5 in WCHA games played at the BGSU Ice Arena this season.

- Northern Michigan at Lake Superior State: One team is in the hunt for home ice (or more), one is trying to lock up a playoff berth - and both are hoping for the Cappo Cup when the Wildcats and Lakers meet in Sault Ste. Marie. The teams split a nonconference, home-and-home series in Oct., with LSSU holding a 7-6 advantage in goals scored (the Cappo Cup tiebreaker).

- No. 18 Minnesota State at Alaska Anchorage: Idle last week, the Mavericks renew their quest for a second-straight regular season title. The Seawolves, who were swept in Mankato in November, are two points ahead of in-state rival Alaska for the final playoff spot.

- Alaska at No. 14 Michigan Tech: The second series involving a playoff-hopeful Alaska school against a MacNaughton Cup contender takes place in Houghton, as the 14th-ranked Huskies host the Nanooks. Tech won both games in Fairbanks over Thanksgiving weekend.

- Alabama Huntsville at Bemidji State: The latest installment of the Chargers-Beavers rivalry takes place in Bemidji. UAH needs at least two points from the weekend (and some help from Minnesota State) to stay alive in the playoff chase.


The Week in Review

- Two teams fighting for playoff spots each won a third period and, by extension, a game over the weekend as Lake Superior State and host Alaska Anchorage split their series.

- Tayler Munson's short-handed goal with 8.8 seconds remaining gave host Alaska a 2-1 win in Friday's series opener, before Bowling Green bounced back to salvage a split with a 4-1 win Saturday

- Bemidji State opened the series with its first victory over Michigan Tech since Oct. 22 2011, before the 14th-ranked Huskies bounced back in a big way with a 9-2 win Saturday.

- Dominik Shine factored in both game-winning goals and Mathias Dahlstrom turned aside 33-of-34 shots as Northern Michigan posted its second-straight home sweep with two wins over Alabama Huntsville.

- Ferris State wrapped up nonconference play with a 5-2 setback to No. 6 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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


Lake Superior State 3, at Alaska Anchorage 2
at Alaska Anchorage 5, Lake Superior State 2
Feb. 19 and 20 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska

Two teams fighting for playoff spots each won a third period and, by extension, a game over the weekend as Lake Superior State and host Alaska Anchorage split their series.

In Friday's series opener, it was the Lakers who jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period. The roles would reverse in the opening minutes of the second frame; however, when the Seawolves scored a pair of goals within a 42-second span to tie the game up 2-2. The go-ahead goal did not come for the Lakers until 15:14 of the third period, when J.T. Henke scored on the power play to give LSSU a lead it would not relinquish. LSSU netminder Gordon Defiel made a total of 22 saves on the night, helping fend off an extra-attacker advantage for the Seawolves over the final 1:51 of the contest.

Saturday night saw another close contest, with UAA and LSSU tied 2-2 heading into the last half of the third period. However, Alaska Anchorage erupted with three goals in the final 12 minutes of play for the win. Nils Rygaard was the one to get things rolling for the Seawolves, netting his first collegiate goal (and the game-winner) at the 12:16 mark. UAA 's Chase Van Allen recorded three assists, while Matt Anholt's two goals sealed the 5-2 win.


at Alaska 2, Bowling Green 1
Bowling Green 4, at Alaska 1
Feb. 19 and 20 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska

Tayler Munson's short-handed goal with 8.8 seconds remaining gave host Alaska a 2-1 win in Friday's series opener, before Bowling Green bounced back to salvage a split with a 4-1 win Saturday.

Munson's Friday-night heroics snapped Alaska's five-game losing streak, and gave the Nanooks their first home win Nov. 6. Alec Hajdukovich put Alaska up 1-0 in the first, with the score remaining that way until BGSU's Tyler Spezia tied the game 4:30 into the third period. UAF freshman G Jesse Jenks made 33 saves for the win, while the Falcons' Chris Nell finished with 32 stops.

Bowling Green used a strong special teams effort and scored the game's first four goals en route to a 4-1 win Saturday. Matt Pohlkamp scored the game-winning goal and assisted on Mark Cooper's shorthanded tally in the second period, while Sean Walker added an assist and power-play goal.


at Bemidji State 3, No. 14 Michigan Tech 0
No. 14 Michigan Tech 9, at Bemidji State 2
Feb. 19 and 20 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.

Bemidji State opened the series with its first victory over Michigan Tech since Oct. 22 2011, before the 14th-ranked Huskies bounced back in a big way with a 9-2 win Saturday.

BSU sophomore G Michael Bitzer made 26 saves en route to his league-leading fifth shutout Friday, a 3-0 Beavers' triumph. The BSU penalty-kill unit kept MTU's WCHA-best power play unit quiet all game, shutting down all three attempts. Brendan Harms scored the first and third goals of the game, while Myles Fitzgerald also scored.

Tied 1-1 late in the first period Saturday, Michigan Tech's Alex Petan and Shane Hanna both scored within a 23-second span to jump start an 8-1 Huskies' run over the rest of the game. Tech scored four times in the second and added two more in the third. Joel L'Esperance led the way with a career-high four-point night (1g-3a), while Tyler Heinonen scored twice. Jamie Phillips made 27 saves for his WCHA-best 17th win of the season.


at Northern Michigan 3, Alabama Huntsville 0
at Northern Michigan 3, Alabama Huntsville 1
Feb. 19 and 20 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.

Dominik Shine factored in both game-winning goals and Mathias Dahlstrom turned aside 33-of-34 shots as Northern Michigan posted its second-straight home sweep with two wins over Alabama Huntsville.

The Wildcats came out strong in Friday night's series opener, scoring three goals in the first period alone with 23 shots on net. NMU's Shine opened scoring for the Wildcats with the game-winner at 4:20 of the first period. NMU kept things rolling in the middle of the first period when Anthony Paskaruk and James Vermeulen netted their first career goals in a two-minute span. Dahlstrom earned his first shutout of the season, stopping all 19 shots he faced.

In Saturday's rematch, it was the Chargers that got out to the first lead of the game with a goal from Brent Fletcher. A late first-period goal from Cohen Adair, followed by an early second-period power-play strike from Darren Nowick (assisted by Shine), put the Wildcats on top to stay. Zach Diamantoni added a goal, Dahlstrom made 14 saves and NMU killed off all four UAH power plays for the win.


at No. 6 Michigan 5, Ferris State 2
Feb. 19 at Yost Ice Arena; Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ferris State wrapped up nonconference play with a 5-2 setback to No. 6 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Kenny Babinski brought the Bulldogs within a 2-1 margin midway through the second period, but by the time Andrew Dorantes scored at the 16:23 mark of the thrid period, the Wolverines had tacked on three more.