WCHA Week 22: 2016 WCHA Playoffs Get Underway With Quarterfinal Round
(1) MICHIGAN TECH HOSTS (8) ALASKA, (2) MINNESOTA STATE WELCOMES (7) LAKE SUPERIOR STATE,
(3) BOWLING GREEN HOSTS (6) BEMIDJI STATE AND (4) FERRIS STATE PLAYS (5) NORTHERN MICHIGAN
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Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Ferris State will host WCHA quarterfinal series

Opening Face-Off

- Polling Place: The MacNaughton Cup co-champions represent the WCHA in this week's opinion polls, with No. 13 Michigan Tech and No. 16 Minnesota State holding the same spot in both the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings.

- Winning Hockey: The WCHA finished the regular season with 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 eight of 12 teams at-or-above .500, for 66.7 percent, while five-of-eight NCHC teams - or 62.5 percent - are at least break-even).

- The Cup Goes Home, and Stays Put: For the seventh time in league history (also 1952-53, 1957-58, 1962-63, 1996-97, 2004-05 and 2012-13), the WCHA has co-champions, with Michigan Tech and Minnesota State ending the year with 39 points apiece. Originally crafted in Calumet, Mich., the fabled MacNaughton Cup is returning to its ancestral home in Copper County for the first time since 1976, with the Huskies earning a share of their seventh WCHA title. The Mavericks have won their second consecutive (and overall) league crown. The two schools will each get the Cup for a six-month period over the next year.

- Playoff Hockey: The quest for the Broadmoor Trophy begins this weekend with four quarterfinal round series in the 2016 WCHA Playoffs. Top-seed Michigan Tech (who earned that honor by virtue of more league wins) hosts eight-seed Alaska, (2) Minnesota State welcomes (7) Lake Superior State, (3) Bowling Green entertains (6) Bemidji State and (4) Ferris State plays at home against (5) Northern Michigan. The four winning teams, re-seeded if necessary by regular season finish, will meet in the 2016 WCHA Final Five on March 18-19 at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.

- 20-20: Bowling Green (20-12-6) and Michigan Tech (21-8-5) have both reached the 20-win plateau for the second consecutive season. The Falcons last achieved that feat between 1994-95 and 1995-96; the Huskies, not since a three-campaign run between 1980-81 and 1982-83 (including the final two years of John MacInnes' legendary tenure in Houghton).

- Don't Leave Your Seats: Seventy-one (71) of the 140 WCHA regular season games in 2015-16 were either ties (23) or one-goal decisions (48), with 35 overtime contests. Thirty-three (33) league games featured a tie-breaking, third-period game-winning goal (including 15 in the last five minutes of regulation), with an additional 12 victories coming in overtime.

- Quickly Around the WCHA Playoff Teams: UAF senior F Tyler Morley returned from a six-game absence due to injury to post a four-point weekend (2g-2a) against UAA, leading the Nanooks to a playoff berth ... BSU sophomore G Michael Bitzer enters the playoffs with a WCHA-best .933 save percentage, 10 wins and four shutouts in 2016, along with a 1.75 GAA in 18 starts ... BGSU has scored five-or-more goals in three-consecutive games, its longest streak since October 1999; and, four-or-more in five-straight contests, its longest run since Oct. 1996 ... FSU ranks ninth nationally by putting 33.60 shots on goal per game ... LSSU rookies rank ninth in combined scoring among all NCAA freshman classes with 101 points (42g-59a), third with 43 power-play points (11g-32a) and first in game-winning goals (11) ... MTU is 10-1-3 since Jan. 1 (including 6-0-1 at home), outscoring opponents 51-25 and scoring at least three goals in 11 contests ... MSU leads the nation in fewest shots on goal allowed per game (20.92) and shots on goal margin (+13.00) ... NMU's 12-11-5 league record and fifth place finish was its best conference showing since 2009-10, when the Wildcats went 13-9-6 en route to a fourth-place finish in the CCHA.


By the Numbers

- 1: For the second-straight year, the league scoring champion had a multi-point effort on the final night to earn the title by a single point. MTU senior F Alex Petan tallied a pair of assists Saturday to finish with 29 points (16-13a), one ahead of MSU's Teddy Blueger (7g-21a).

- 4: Consecutive years that the WCHA goaltending champion has come from Minnesota State. Junior Cole Huggins earned the title this year with a 1.46 goals-against average, after also winning in 2013-14 (1.73). Former Maverick Stephon Williams was tops as a freshman in 2012-13 (1.93) and as a junior in 2014-15 (1.55).

- 100: Bowling Green's 5-0 victory Saturday was the 100th career win for head coach Chris Bergeron, becoming just the fourth Falcons' bench boss to reach the milestone.


2016 WCHA Playoffs Quarterfinal Round

(8) Alaska at (1) Michigan Tech (MTU won season series, 4-0; Huskies won 4-1 and 3-1 on Nov. 27-28 in Fairbanks; and, 6-5 and 3-2 in OT on Feb. 26-27 in Houghton)

- WCHA regular season co-champion Michigan Tech earned the league's top seed for the 2016 playoffs by virtue of winning more conference games (18) than Minnesota State (16), the second league tie-breaker (the teams did not play four games against each other for the league's first tie-breaker, head-to-head matchups, to take effect).

- The Huskies will host a WCHA Quarterfinal round series for the second-straight year, after sweeping Alabama Huntsville during the 2015 playoffs. Michigan Tech has advanced to the Final Five on six previous occasions (1993, 1994, 1996, 2007, 2012 and 2015), including twice in the Mel Pearson era.

- Alaska returns to the WCHA playoffs for the second time, after falling to Alaska Anchorage two-games-to-one in the 2014 quarterfinals. The Nanooks finished fourth in the league last year, but were unable to participate in the league playoffs due to an NCAA postseason ban. UAF swept rival Alaska Anchorage on the regular season's final weekend to leapfrog the Seawolves and capture the eighth and final playoff spot.


(7) Lake Superior State at (2) Minnesota State (MSU won season series; 2-0; Mavericks won 8-0 and 5-1 on Jan. 22-23 in Mankato)

- The Mavericks and Lakers will meet in the WCHA Quarterfinals for the second-straight season, following a Minnesota State sweep in 2015. The Mavericks finished as WCHA co-champions to finish with at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup for the second-consecutive year. Lake Superior State finished 4-3-1 over its last four WCHA series.

- Minnesota State has made three-straight Final Five appearances (2013-15) and five overall (2000 and 2003). The Mavericks are 11-3 when hosting a first-round playoff series.

- Including this year's sweep, MSSU is 10-0-0 all-time against LSSU.


(6) Bemidji State at (3) Bowling Green (BGSU won season series, 2-0; Falcons won 4-1 and 2-0 on Dec. 11-12 in Bemidji)

- Bowling Green has won a playoff series in each of Head Coach Chris Bergeron's first four years at the helm, including consecutive WCHA Quarterfinal round sweeps at home (2014 as the four-seed over Michigan Tech and 2015 as the three-seed over Northern Michigan).

- The Falcons are 6-1-1 against Bemidji State since joining the WCHA, including a road sweep this year that featured 13 different BGSU point-scorers and one of sophomore goaltender Chris Nell's school record-tying seven career shutouts.

- Bemidji State has gone 11-5-3 (.658) since Jan. 1, the second-best winning percentage in the WCHA and 16th nationally. The Beavers are 2-8 in WCHA first round/quarterfinal games, advancing to the 2011 Final Five.

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(5) Northern Michigan at (4) Ferris State

- The four-five matchup in the 2016 WCHA Quarterfinal Round is an all-Michigan affair between Ferris State and Northern Michigan. This will be the teams' first meeting in the WCHA playoffs after facing off four times in the CCHA postseason.

- NMU owns a 3-1 advantage in the teams' playoff history, including a 5-4, OT thriller in 2010 that sent the Wildcats into the CCHA finals. In that game, Greger Hanson, the older brother of current NMU junior Gerard Hanson, scored the OT winner.

- Northern Michigan advanced to six-straight Final Fives from 1989-1994, winning WCHA playoff championships in 1989, 1991 and 1992. The Wildcats have made the playoffs the last two years since returning to the WCHA, but have yet to return to the Final Five.

- Ferris State has made two-consecutive trips to the Final Five, twice sweeping Bemidji State in the process (at home as the top seed in 2014 and on the road as the five-seed last year).


The Week in Review

- No. 13 Michigan Tech clinched a share of its first WCHA regular season title in 40 years and earned the top seed in the 2016 league playoffs with a home-and-home sweep of Northern Michigan.

- A Friday night victory gave No. 16 Minnesota State a share of its second-straight WCHA championship, while visiting Bemidji State scored the game's only goal Saturday to earn a split.

- Alaska captured its fourth straight official Governor's Cup title and, more importantly, earned the eighth and final WCHA playoff spot with a sweep of visiting Alaska Anchorage.

- Alabama Huntsville used its highest-scoring game in eight years to win the opener, before Bowling Green enjoyed several milestones during a Saturday night triumph to split the series.

- Ferris State earned home ice for the playoffs with a two-point series, while Lake Superior State won in Big Rapids for the first time in nearly eight years Saturday night.

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


at No. 13 Michigan Tech 4, Northern Michigan 0
No. 13 Michigan Tech 5, Northern Michigan 1
March 4 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.
March 5 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.

No. 13 Michigan Tech clinched a share of its first WCHA regular season title in 40 years and earned the top seed in the 2016 league playoffs with a home-and-home sweep of Northern Michigan.

Four different players scored and Jamie Phillips turned in a 21-save effort as Tech won the opener, 4-0. Alex Petan scored the game-winner in the first period, Brent Baltus and Matt Roy lit the lamp in the second period and Jake Lucchini finished the scoring in the final stanza.

Five players scored Saturday night (Tyler Heinonen, Lucchini, Max Vallis, Reid Sturos and Shane Hanna), and Phillips made 27 stops in a 5-1 victory Saturday that clinched a share of the WCHA regular season championship for the Huskies.


at No. 16 Minnesota State 6, Bemidji State 1
Bemidji State 1, at No. 16 Minnesota State 0
March 4 and 5 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.

A Friday night victory gave No. 16 Minnesota State a share of its second-straight WCHA championship, while visiting Bemidji State scored the game's only goal Saturday to earn a split.

Zeb Knutson, Teddy Blueger (game-winner), Dylan Margonari, Carter Foguth, Jimmy Mullin and Jordan Nelson all scored for the Mavericks, who netted three in the first period, one in the second and two more in the third stanza.

Michael Bitzer turned aside all 38 shots he faced Saturday to lead Bemidji State to the 1-0 victory, as the sophomore established a new program record with his sixth shutout of the season. Brendan Harms scored the game's only goal, lighting the lamp at the 9:18 mark of the first period.


at Alaska 3, Alaska Anchorage 2
at Alaska 3, Alaska Anchorage 2
March 4 and 5 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska

Alaska captured its fourth straight official Governor's Cup title and, more importantly, earned the eighth and final WCHA playoff spot with a sweep of visiting Alaska Anchorage.

The Nanooks built a 2-0 lead Friday on second-period goals by Justin Woods and Colton Sparrow, stretched to 3-1 on a third-period strike from Peter Krieger and held on behind 28 saves from Davis Jones.

Alaska senior captain Tyler Morley scored twice on Saturday, while Woods sent the Nanooks into the postseason with a tie-breaking, game-winning goal at the 5:58 mark of the third period. Jones added 19 saves in the win.


at Alabama Huntsville 7, Bowling Green 5
Bowling Green 5, at Alabama Huntsville 0
March 4 and 5 at Von Braun Center; Huntsville, Ala.

Alabama Huntsville used its highest-scoring game in eight years to win the opener, before Bowling Green enjoyed several milestones during a Saturday night triumph to split the series.

In its highest scoring output since 2008, UAH outlasted Bowling Green, 7-5, on Friday night. The Chargers scored three in the first off the sticks of Brent Fletcher, Regan Soquila and Hans Gorowsky. After BGSU took a 4-3 lead into the second intermission, Matt Salhany, Josh Kestner, Max McHugh (game-winner) and Kestner again all scored during a four-goal, third-period outburst.

Thanks to a 5-0 victory Saturday night, Bowling Green Head Coach Chris Bergeron recorded his 100th career victory, sophomore goaltender Chris Nell matched the program record with his seventh career shutout and the Falcons reached the 20-win plateau for the second-consecutive season (a feat not accomplished since the mid-1990s).


at Ferris State 3, Lake Superior State 1
Lake Superior State 3, at Ferris State 2
March 4 and 5 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.

Ferris State earned home ice for the playoffs with a two-point series, while Lake Superior State won in Big Rapids for the first time in nearly eight years Saturday night.

Ferris State moved into home ice position with a 3-1 win Friday night. Matt Robertson gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead early in the second period, Andrew Dorantes snapped a 1-1 tie with the game-winner and Gerald Mayhew added an empty-net strike. LSSU sophomore Gordon Defiel set a career-high with 49 saves in the loss.

Three goals in the second period Saturday helped lift Lake Superior State over Ferris State at Ewigleben Ice Arena for the first time since Oct. 31, 2008. After FSU took a 1-0 lead, goals by Mitch Hults, Jake Hand and Diego Cuglietta (short-handed) propelled the Lakers to a 3-2 win. Defiel capped a WCHA-high 83 save weekend with 34 stops.