WCHA Week 17: No. 18 Minnesota State Hosts No. 19 Bowling Green With First Place At Stake; No. 15 Michigan Tech And Lake Superior State Meet On American Sports Network
photo
Minnesota State hosts Bowling Green at Verizon Wireless Center this weekend

Opening Face-Off

- Three WCHA Teams in Top 20: For the third consecutive week, the WCHA has three teams in the USCHO.com rankings: No. 15 Michigan Tech (up two spots), No. 18 Minnesota State (up one) and No. 19 Bowling Green. The Huskies have also returned to the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings, holding down the 14th spot in this week's poll.

- Winning Hockey: The WCHA has 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).

- Competitive Balance: Seventeen (18) of the first 49 WCHA series this season have resulted in splits, with an additional four ending in a pair of ties. There have been just 16 league sweeps to date, along with 11 three-point weekends.

- Don't Leave Your Seats: Fifty-two (52) of the first 100 WCHA games have been either ties (19) or one-goal decisions (33), with 29 overtime contests. Twenty-two (22) league games have featured a tie-breaking, third-period game-winning goal (including eight in the last five minutes of regulation), with an additional 10 victories coming in overtime.

- Down the Stretch They Come: With five regular season weekends remaining, the stage is set for enticing races for the MacNaughton Cup (three teams within four points), for home ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs (just six points currently separate fourth place and eighth) and for the eighth and final postseason spot (three teams separated by only two points, with a fourth trailing by five).

- 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 jumped back into the national rankings with an undefeated January (3-0-3, including a 2-0-3 mark against ranked opponents); Bemidji State won more games in January (6-2-2) than they did in the season's first three months combined; and, Ferris State closed out a 3-1-2 month with a five-game unbeaten streak.

- Live on ASN (and TSN5): The WCHA returns for its second game on the American Sports Network (ASN) national college hockey package, as No. 15 Michigan Tech hosts Lake Superior State on Friday, February 5 at 8:07 p.m. ET. The game, which is part of Houghton's Winter Classic, will be broadcast live on select ASN affiliates nationwide and showcased to a Canadian audience on TSN5 as part of The Sports Network's college hockey lineup. Dave Ellis will handle play-by-play duties, alongside former University of Minnesota All-American and two-time All-WCHA performer Pat Micheletti.

- Quickly Around the WCHA: UAH sophomore F Max McHugh has jumped into the top-five in the league's conference (t-fourth with 17 points) and overall (t-fifth with 21 points) scoring races ... UAA's goal-scoring leader, sophomore F Tad Kozun, has 11 markers this year - nearly double the six he potted as a freshman in 2014-15 ... UAF senior F Tyler Morley leads the Nanooks in 13 offensive categories and is tied for second in the league with 24 overall points (14g-10a) ... at 4-2-1, BSU is tied for the most nonconference wins in the WCHA, while its .643 winning percentage is second (MTU, .667) ... BGSU ended January with 29 goals in nine games, its' highest-scoring month since January 2006 (32); in the last two weekends, the Falcons have climbed from 46th to 31st nationally in scoring offense ... During FSU's current five-game unbeaten streak, freshman G Darren Smith is 3-0-2 with 126 saves, a .933 save percentage and 1.74 goals-against average ... LSSU, currently in seventh place but just two points out of fifth, has two games in hand on every WCHA team but NMU ... MTU is 17-6-3 over its last 26 games against Michigan foes, including five series sweeps ... MSU's Bryce Gervais played in his 150th consecutive game on Sunday; the senior ranks fifth in the school's D-I era with 59 career goals ... Dominik Shine (9) and Darren Nowick (6) have scored half of NMU's 30 goals since December; Shine leads the league in goals and points (14) over that span.


The Week Ahead

- No. 19 Bowling Green at No. 18 Minnesota State: First place vs. second place, with huge league points on the line. The 18th-ranked Mavericks take a two-point lead over the No. 19 Falcons into this weekend's series. The teams skated to a pair of 2-2 ties on Dec. 4-5.

- Lake Superior State at No. 15/14 Michigan Tech: The Huskies host Winter Carnival festivities having moved into the top-15 of the national rankings. Tech earned three points at LSSU on Dec. 11-12, jump-starting the Huskies' current 5-1-4 stretch.

- Prior to being idle last week, the Bulldogs used consecutive three-point weekends to jump into fourth place in the league race. FSU is 3-0-2 in its last five contests, while Alaska is looking to snap a seven-game home WCHA winless skid (0-6-1). The teams played to a pair of ties Nov. 20-21 in Big Rapids, Mich.

- Alaska Anchorage at Northern Michigan: The Wildcats wrap up a six-game homestand with their only series of the year against the Seawolves. UAA has actually been a better road team in league play this year, going 4-5-1 away from the Sullivan Arena.


The Week in Review

- Michigan Tech ran its WCHA road unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2), and took an important three points at Bowling Green in a matchup of top-20 teams and league front-runners.

- In a series between playoff hopefuls that saw both games decided by tie-breaking, third-period goals, Alabama Huntsville and host Alaska Anchorage each left with a win and two points..

- Northern Michigan played host to Minnesota Duluth for the first time since Oct. 2010, and both teams picked up a nonconference win to split the series.

- Alaska played its first nonconference games since October, but departed Wisconsin with nothing to show for its two games with the Badgers.

- Bemidji State made an impressive run toward defending its North Star College Cup title, but came up short in the championship game against No. 3 St. Cloud State.

- No. 19 Minnesota State played a pair of exciting, one-goal games at the North Star College Cup, losing the first before defeating No. 20 Minnesota in the third-place game.

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


No. 17 Michigan Tech 4, at No. 18 Bowling Green 4 - OT
No. 17 Michigan Tech 4, at No. 18 Bowling Green 1
Jan. 29 and 30 at BGSU Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio

Michigan Tech ran its WCHA road unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2), and took an important three points at Bowling Green in a matchup of top-20 teams and league front-runners.

The Huskies got out to a quick start on Friday night, registering 17 shots and scoring twice to take a 20 lead after the first. MTU was still ahead by a 4-2 margin midway through the third period. However, Bowling Green found the back of the net twice in a 14-second span, tying the game 4-4 on goals by Brandon Hawkins and Brent Tate (12:51 mark). Alex Petan had a pair of assists for the Huskies in the 4-4 tie.

In Saturday's rematch, it was BGSU's Kevin Dufour who got the Falcons out to an early lead, scoring just 45 seconds into the game. From that point on however, it was all Michigan Tech. The Huskies tied the game at 1-1 with just eight seconds remaining in the first period, and then added three more in the last two periods for a 4-1 win. Tech outshot the Falcons 28-18 and received goals from Brent Baltus, Reid Sturos (short-handed game-winner), Petan and Dylan Steman. The loss was BGSU's first at home in WCHA play this season.


Alabama Huntsville 2, at Alaska Anchorage 1
at Alaska Anchorage 4, Alabama Huntsville 3
Jan. 29 and 30 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska

In a series between playoff hopefuls that saw both games decided by tie-breaking, third-period goals, Alabama Huntsville and host Alaska Anchorage each left with a win and two points.

Despite being outshot 30-24, the Chargers escaped with a 2-1 victory in Friday's series opener. UAH goaltender Matt Larose made an impressive 29 saves, including 13 stops in the third period alone. The score remained 1-1 (on goals by UAH's Adam Wilcox and UAA's Wyatt Ege) deep until the third, until a Seawolf defender made an inadvertent pass that deflected off UAA netminder Oliver Mantha's skate and in the net. Matt Salhany was credited with the game-winning goal.

UAH took a 1-0 lead with an early first-period goal during Saturday's rematch, but the Seawolves responded by scoring three unanswered goals and held on for the 4-3 win. UAA's Jarrett Brown led the way for the Seawolves, scoring the game-winning goal and recording an assist on the night as well. Alaska Anchorage owned a 31-12 edge in shots, while Tad Kozun, Blake Tatchell and Tyler Poulsen all scored.


at Northern Michigan 4, Minnesota Duluth 3
Minnesota Duluth 3, at Northern Michigan 1
Jan. 29 and 30 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.

Northern Michigan played host to Minnesota Duluth for the first time since Oct. 2010, and both teams picked up a nonconference win to split the series.

In Friday's series opener, the Wildcats fought to erase two deficits throughout the game and picked up a 4-3 win over their visitors from the NCHC. Sophomore Robbie Payne led the Wildcats with two goals, including the game-winner on the power play with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. Duluth outshot the Wildcats 39-28, but Northern Michigan was able to pull off the comeback thanks to a 36-save performance from goaltender Atte Tolvanen.

A three-goal first period was all the Bulldogs needed to secure the win and series split with Northern Michigan in Saturday's rematch. A late second-period goal by Darren Nowick got NMU back to within striking distance, but the Wildcats were unable to score the rest of the way.


at Wisconsin 4, Alaska 3
at Wisconsin 5, Alaska 2
Jan. 29 and 30 at Kohl Center; Madison, Wis.

Alaska played its first nonconference games since October, but departed Wisconsin with nothing to show for its two games with the Badgers.

Despite a two-goal effort, including one short-handed, from senior Tyler Morley, the Nanooks fell 4-3 in Friday night's series opener. After a tight first period with Wisconsin netting the frame's only goal, scoring erupted in the second and saw five of the game's seven markers being scored (including Morley's short-handed goal and a Nolan Huysmans strike). Alaska had a chance to tie the game up during the last two minutes of the third period with a five-minute power play, but the Badgers were able to hold on for the win.

Alaska was bit by special teams in Saturday's series finale, going 0-for-3 on the power play while Wisconsin converted on two of its three chances. Tied 1-1 heading into the third period, the host Badgers scored four times for the 5-2 win. UAF received goals from Austin Vieth and freshman John Mullally.


Bemidji State 4, vs. No. 20 Minnesota 2 (Semifinals)
No. 3 St. Cloud State 5, vs. Bemidji State 2 (Championship Game)
North Star College Cup
Jan. 29 and 30 at Xcel Energy Center; St. Paul, Minn.

Bemidji State made an impressive run toward defending its North Star College Cup title, but came up short in the championship game against No. 3 St. Cloud State.

The Beavers earned a berth in the title game with a come-from-behind, 4-2 win over No. 20 in the semifinals. Trailing 2-1 with under ten minutes remaining in the third period, Cory Ward drew BSU even before a pair of Markus Gerbrandt goals - including the power-play game-winner at the 16:06 mark - gave the Beavers just their second win ever against the Gophers (and first since the 2009-10 season). Michael Bitzer made 30 saves for BSU, including 15 in the decisive third period.

Bemidji State fell behind 4-0 in the championship game and, despite a spirited third-period rally that featured 15 shots and a pair of goals, dropped a 5-2 decision to St. Cloud State.


No. 3 St. Cloud State 5, No. 19 Minnesota State 4 (Semifinals)
No. 19 Minnesota State 3, No. 20 Minnesota 2 (Third-place Game)
North Star College Cup
Jan. 29 and 30 at Xcel Energy Center; St. Paul, Minn.

No. 19 Minnesota State played a pair of exciting, one-goal games at the North Star College Cup, losing the first before defeating No. 20 Minnesota in the third-place game.

The Mavericks outshot St. Cloud State 33-22, but it was the special teams that made the greatest impact in a 5-4 Huskies' win. SCSU went 3-for-4 on the power play and scored the game winner up a man late in the third period to break the 4-4 tie. Minnesota State received ulti-point efforts from Brad McClure (1g-2a), Zach Stepan (1g-1a) and C.J. Franklin (1g-1a).

Including the game-winner, Minnesota State got a pair of goals and an assist from Teddy Blueger en route to a 3-2 victory over Minnesota in Sunday's consolation game. C.J. Franklin also continued his torrid stretch with a goal and an assist, while Cole Huggins made 21 saves for the Mavericks.