WCHA Week 3: Two League Series, Brice Alaska Goal Rush And 11 Nonconference Games Ahead
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Northern Michigan hosts Bemidji State for a pair of league games this weekend

Opening Face-Off

- Flipping the Script: While just three league series have been played, the extremely early men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) standings have a different look than prognosticators expected.

  • Bemidji State (picked to finish sixth by the coaches and media) and Alabama Huntsville (picked to finish ninth) are both 2-0-0, having swept Bowling Green (coaches' and media preseason favorite) and Ferris State (slated for fourth), respectively. For their efforts last weekend, the Beavers were named the national Team of the Week by College Hockey News.
  • Two-time defending MacNaughton Cup winner Minnesota State is also 2-0 after sweeping 2015-16 co-champs Michigan Tech.

- Fashionably Late: Lake Superior State will become the 10th and final WCHA team to officially start its season, hosting Michigan State in the regular season opener for both teams. The Lakers are looking to build upon their six-win improvement a year ago.

- Mike Richter Award Watch List: Five WCHA goaltenders are among the 20 named to the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award Watch List, as announced last week by Let's Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation. Bemidji State junior Michael Bitzer, Lake Superior State junior Gordon Defiel, Minnesota State senior Cole Huggins, Bowling Green junior Chris Nell and Northern Michigan sophomore Atte Tolvanen are all under consideration for the award, which annually honors the top netminder in D-I hockey.

- Polling Place: Minnesota State moved up five spots to No. 14 in the USCHO.com poll, while Bowling Green remained in at No. 20. (both are also receiving votes in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings).

- Tradition Starts Here: Four (4) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams over the past three seasons play in the WCHA - the highest representation among that upper 25% of programs of any D-I conference since realignment (Hockey East and the NCHC each have three teams apiece, the Big Ten and ECAC Hockey both have two each and Atlantic Hockey has a single program).

  • Minnesota State is tied for third nationally with 78 wins, Ferris State is 11th with 67, Michigan Tech is tied for 12th with 66 and Bowling Green is 15th with 63.

By the Numbers

- 10: Years had passed since Northern Michigan's last five-point game, before junior forward Robbie Payne tallied two short-handed goals and three assists last Saturday against Wisconsin. Prior to Payne's outburst, the last NMU five-point effort belonged to former NHL-er Mike Santorelli (2g-3a in a 5-2 win at Omaha on Oct. 21, 2006).

- 11a: Career shutouts for Minnesota State senior Cole Huggins, a Minnesota State record and most among active NCAA goaltenders. He reached the mark with a 25-save blanking of Michigan Tech on Saturday night.

- 11b: Game-winning goals in 2015-16 for Lake Superior State's freshmen, tied for most among rookie classes in the NCAA. That group (Matt McArdle, Diego Cuglietta, Jake Hand, C.J. Hayes, Owen Headrick, Mitch Hults, Anthony Nellis, Josh Nenadal and Gage Torrel) begins their sophomore campaigns this weekend.


The Week Ahead

- UP Home Openers: On a weekend in which it will welcome back NHL All-Star Game MVP John Scott and honor last year's Cup co-champs, Michigan Tech hosts Alabama Huntsville. After splitting a series with Wisconsin in Green Bay, Northern Michigan returns to Marquette for its home opener against Bemidji State.

- Top-15 Clash in Mankato: After an impressive sweep last weekend, No. 14 Minnesota State continues its season-opening homestand by welcoming No. 7/5 St. Cloud State of the NCHC to the Verizon Wireless Center.

- Brice Alaska Goal Rush: Alaska hosts the ninth annual Brice Alaska Goal Rush, welcoming Alaska Anchorage, Canisius (Atlantic Hockey) and Omaha (NCHC) to the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

- More Nonconference Action: No. 20 Bowling Green faces NCHC foe Western Michigan in a home-and-home beginning Friday in Ohio, Ferris State welcomes No. 13 Michigan to a sold-out Ewigleben Arena for a single game Saturday, and Lake Superior State hosts Michigan Tech at Taffy Abel Arena in the Great Lake State Weekend.


The Week in Review

- In an early-season matchup of the defending MacNaughton Cup co-champions, No. 19 Minnesota State came away with an impressive home sweep over No. 17 Michigan Tech.

- Behind stellar goaltending and clutch scoring, host Bemidji State partially avenged its 2016 playoff loss by sweeping No. 14/15 Bowling Green in a season-opening series.

- Northern Michigan opened its campaign with an entertaining nonconference set against Wisconsin at the Resch Center in Green Bay, splitting a pair of one-goal contests.

- Alaska earned a season-opening win over Alaska Anchorage, while both the Nanooks and the Seawolves fell to No. 13/11 Minnesota in Anchorage.

- Alabama Huntsville's season-opening, three-weekend road series continued with a trip East, where the Chargers were swept by host Connecticut.

- Ferris State's difficult start continued with a pair of tightly-contested losses to Western Michigan in a home-and-home series between the intra-state rivals.

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


at No. 19 Minnesota State 3, No. 17 Michigan Tech 1
at No. 19 Minnesota State 4, No. 17 Michigan Tech 0
(Oct. 7 and 8 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.)

In an early-season matchup of the defending MacNaughton Cup co-champions, No. 19 Minnesota State came away with an impressive home sweep over No. 17 Michigan Tech.

The Mavericks earned the 21st opening-night win in school history with a 3-1 triumph Friday behind a pair of goals from Zeb Knutson. All four goals came in the first period, as Knutson scored before and after a goal by Michigan Tech's Shane Hanna. Minnesota State's C.J. Franklin scored late in the opening frame, while defenseman Daniel Brickley assisted on all three scores. From there, WCHA Defensive Player of the Week Cole Huggins got his first win of the season, stopping 20 of the Huskies' 21 shots.

Huggins once again was the story in the series finale, making 25 saves and setting the Minnesota State record with his 11th career shutout in the Mavericks' 4-0 win. The senior netminder recorded the 40th win of his career with the help of Knutson's third goal in two games, along with a trio of power-play goals from Brickley, freshman forward Marc Michaelis and C.J. Franklin.


at Bemidji State 2, No. 14/15 Bowling Green 1
at Bemidji State 4, No. 14/15 Bowling Green 1
(Oct 7 and 8 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)

Behind stellar goaltending and clutch scoring, host Bemidji State partially avenged its 2016 playoff loss by sweeping No. 14/15 Bowling Green in a season-opening series.

The Beavers got started early Friday night, tallying two first-period goals courtesy of freshman Zach Whitecloud and Myles Fitzgerald. From there, it was junior goaltender Michael Bitzer who stole the show with by stopping 20-of-21 shots, keeping Bowling Green out of the net until early in the third. Although the Falcons outshot BSU 12-2 in the third, received a goal from Stephen Baylis to make it a 2-1 game and had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 54 seconds, the Beavers held on for the win.

Bemidji State finished the sweep in style Saturday, snapping a 1-1 tie with three third-period goals to win, 4-1. After BSU's Brett Beauvais and BGSU's Mitch McLain traded goals in the first two periods, the Beavers got third-period strikes by Charlie O'Connor, Gerry Fitzgerald and Brendan Harms. Bitzer turned aside 22-of-23 shots.


Northern Michigan 3, Wisconsin 2
Wisconsin 6, Northern Michigan 5
(Oct. 7 and 8 at Resch Center; Green Bay, Wis.)

Northern Michigan opened its campaign with an entertaining nonconference set against Wisconsin at the Resch Center in Green Bay, splitting a pair of one-goal contests.

Gerard Hanson (1g-2a) and Brock Maschmeyer (3a) factored into every goal during a 3-2 win Friday. Hanson scored just 19 seconds into the season to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead. After the Badgers tied the game later in the period on a power-play goal, Robbie Payne got the first of his six points on the weekend with a goal on a 5-on-3 advantage. Troy Loggins extended the lead to 3-1 with a second-period goal, and Atte Tolvanen made 14 of his 27 saves during an action-paced third period as NMU held on. Northern Michigan vs. Wisconsin (Cont.)

Saturday's finale was high-scoring affair, as Wisconsin won, 6-5. WCHA Offensive Player of the Week Robbie Payne had a fantastic night, becoming the first Wildcat in 10 years to have a five-point game as he recorded two short-handed goals and three assists. Tied 4-4 heading into the third, freshman Daniel Craighead scored his second goal of the contest to thrust the Wildcats ahead. But, it was the Badgers who would score the game's final two goals.


No. 13/11 Minnesota 6, at Alaska Anchorage 0
(Oct. 7 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska)

Alaska Anchorage suffered its first season-opening loss since 2000, ending a 15-year unbeaten streak (12-0-3) with a 6-0 defeat to visiting No. 13/11 Minnesota. The Gophers broke the game open with a three-goal third period.


Alaska 4, at Alaska Anchorage 1
(Oct. 8 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska)

In a rare nonconference matchup between WCHA schools, Alaska opened its season with a 4-1 win over rival Alaska Anchorage in front of 3,223 fans at the Sullivan Arena.

The Nanooks got their season off to a fast start, scoring three first-period goals. Justin Woods opened the scoring with a power-play strike, followed by Tayler Munson and Ryker Leer. Chad Staley added a third-period marker, while Jarrett Brown scored late for the Seawolves. UAF senior goaltender Davis Jones made 19 saves for the win.


No. 13/11 Minnesota 6, Alaska 3
(Oct. 9 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska)

Alaska hung tough with No. 13/11 Minnesota, pulling within 4-3 in the third period before the Gophers scored twice late for the 6-4 triumph.

Zach Frye and Austin Vieth both scored for the Nanooks, while the first career goal by freshman Troy Van Tetering at the 13:14 mark of the third period gave UAF hope.


at Connecticut 6, Alabama Huntsville 0
at Connecticut 4, Alabama Huntsville 0
(Oct. 7 and 8 at XL Center; Hartford, Conn.)

Alabama Huntsville's season-opening, three-weekend road series continued with a trip East, where the Chargers were swept by host Connecticut.

UConn scored three goals in the first period Friday en route to the 6-0 win, while scoring twice in the opening stanza Saturday (a 4-0 victory).


Western Michigan 5, at No. 20 Ferris State 3
at Western Michigan 2, at No. 20 Ferris State 1
(Oct. 6 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich. and Oct. 7 at Lawson Arena; Kalamazoo, Mich.)

Ferris State's difficult start continued with a pair of tightly-contested losses to Western Michigan in a home-and-home series between the intra-state rivals.

Redshirt freshman Craig Pefley had a pair of assists, and Mitch Maloney, Jared VanWormer and Ryan Lowney all scored as the Bulldogs entered the third period of Thursday's series opener tied at 3-3. However, Western Michigan snapped the tie at the 11:31 mark of the final stanza and added an insurance goal late for the win.

Despite 39 saves from goaltender Darren Smith, Ferris State fell 2-1 on Friday in Kalamazoo, Mich. Senior forward Chad McDonald had the lone goal for the Bulldogs on the power play, with assists by freshman Taylor Fernandez and Pefley. Western Michigan scored twice in the second period and outshot Ferris State by a 41-18 margin overall.