WCHA Week 12: Light Weekend Precedes Holiday Break
No. 15 Bemidji State Faces No. 1 UMD In Marquee Nonconference Series; No. 19 Minnesota State Travels To Princeton and Alaska Hosts Bowling Green
photo
Regional rivals face off in a home-and-home meeting of league leaders when No. 15 Bemidji State and No. 1 Minnesota Duluth face-off in a home-and-home series.

Opening Face-Off

- At the Polls: League-leading Bemidji State and two-time defending MacNaughton Cup champion Minnesota State continue to carry the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) banner in the national opinion polls.

  • The Beavers are No. 15 in both the USCHO.com and the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine polls, while the Mavericks are No. 19 in the former and are receiving votes in the latter. Michigan Tech is receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll.

- Hot Huskies: An 0-4-0 start a distant memory, Michigan Tech is 12-3-3 in its last 18 contests. The Huskies' .750 winning percentage since Oct. 14 is tied for fifth nationally, while no NCAA team has won more games over the last two months.

  • Behind NCAA goals-against average leader Angus Redmond (the freshman goaltender sports a 1.40 mark), Tech now boasts the NCAA's sixth-ranked scoring defense at 2.14 goals allowed per game (tied for second at 1.67 since Oct. 14). Redmond also ranks fourth nationally with a .937 save percentage and sixth with an .821 winning percentage (11-2-1).
  • Seven Huskies have reached double-digits in scoring, while three of the team's top-six scorers are defensemen. Tech's blue-liners, in fact, are tied for the NCAA lead with 16 goals and 61 points.
  • Michigan Tech leads the country in games played (22) and road contests (15). The Huskies' next four games are all away from Houghton, as Tech plays at the 52nd annual Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29 and 30, and then at Notre Dame on Jan. 6 and 7.

- Clutch Lucchini: Sophomore forward Jake Lucchini has played a big role in Michigan Tech's surge, as he now leads the NCAA with five game-winning goals. One of the three Huskies with a team-high 12 points overall (7g-5a), Lucchini is the reigning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after twice snapping third-period ties with game-winning strikes this past weekend at Bowling Green.

- Charging Ahead: Alabama Huntsville will open the second half of league play Jan. 6 either tied for third or fourth place in the WCHA standings. Through 16 games, the Chargers have already won their most WCHA games ever at 7-7-2-0.

  • UAH has posted three road sweeps (at FSU, at UAA and at NMU) and has a four-game road winning streak - both firsts for the program since the 2004-05 campaign. The Chargers are 6-1-1-0 on the road in WCHA play.
  • UAH defensemen have scored 16 goals this season - tied with Michigan Tech for most in the country. The Chargers have been even more potent from the blue line since Nov. 1, tallying an NCAA-best 1.40 goals-per-game since then (14 goals in 10 games).

- Bemidji State Keeps Rolling: No. 15 Bemidji State wrapped up its December league slate with five points last weekend, and will enter 2017 in first place with 43 points (13-1-2-2). The Beavers' 13 overall wins are tied with Boston College and Penn State for the most nationally, while BSU is seventh with a .700 winning percentage (13-5-2).

  • The Beavers lead the nation by allowing just 1.60 goals per game. Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer ranks among the top-10 nationally for: wins (13), games (1st - 19), starts (1st - 19), minutes (1st - 1146:37), goals-against average (2nd - 1.47), shutouts (t2nd - 3), save percentage (3rd - .938), saves (9th - 423) and winning percentage (10th - .737, 13-4-2).

- 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 ranks fourth nationally over the last three-and-a-half seasons with 86 wins, Michigan Tech is 10th with 78, Ferris State is 13th with 74 and Bowling Green is 15th with 71.

By the Numbers

- 2: Teams (Alaska and Bemidji State) that have won a WCHA league game in 5-on-5 overtime, and earned the extra league point in both a 3-on-3 overtime and via the shootout.

- 5.28: Combined goals-per-game in WCHA play (380 in 72 contests), up 6.0 percent from the final 2015-16 tally of 4.98 (697 goals in 140 games).

- 101: Career points for Ferris State junior Gerald Mayhew, who became the first Bulldog in a decade to reach the 100-point mark with his second-period goal in a 3-0 win over Minnesota State last Friday night.


The Week Ahead

- No. 15 Bemidji State at/vs. No. 1 Minnesota Duluth: Regional rivals face off in a home-and-home meeting of league leaders. The top-ranked Bulldogs, who lead the NCHC, host on Friday night at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, while the No. 15 and WCHA-leading Beavers return the favor Saturday night at Bemidji's Sanford Center. Bemidji State is 5-0-1 against UMD in their last six meetings.

- No. 19 Minnesota State at Princeton: The No. 19 Mavericks conclude their 2016 calendar year with a nonconference set at Princeton, which sits in seventh place in the ECAC. Minnesota State is 2-2-0 all-time against the Tigers.

- Bowling Green at Alaska: The lone WCHA series of the weekend takes place in Fairbanks, as the Nanooks host the Falcons. Bowling Green is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings, while holding a slight 27-26-8 all-time edge.


The Week in Review

- Thanks to a stout defensive effort, solid special teams play and a pair of clutch, third-period goals by Jake Lucchini, Michigan Tech earned a key WCHA road sweep at Bowling Green.

- Ferris State rode a Darren Smith shutout to a victory in the series opener and had a 2-0 lead in game two, but No. 16 Minnesota State rallied late to salvage a road split.

- Alabama Huntsville climbed into a third-place tie in the WCHA standings following a road sweep at Northern Michigan - the Chargers' third road brooming of the season (their most since the 2004-05 campaign).

- League-leading Bemidji State wrapped up an impressive first half of WCHA play, as the No. 13/15 Beavers closed their 2016 league schedule with a five-point weekend against visiting Lake Superior State.

- The Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup got off to an exciting start this past weekend in Fairbanks, with the visiting Seawolves earning a one-goal victory in the opener before the Nanooks bounced back in the finale.

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


Michigan Tech 3, at Bowling Green 1
Michigan Tech 2, at Bowling Green 1
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio)

Thanks to a stout defensive effort, solid special teams play and a pair of clutch, third-period goals by Jake Lucchini, Michigan Tech earned a key WCHA road sweep at Bowling Green.

Friday evening, the teams remained scoreless until the 6:50 mark of the second period, when Falcons' forward Stephen Baylis put his team on top, 1-0. However, the visiting Huskies scored the game's final three goals - all on special teams - for the 3-1 triumph. Matt Roy tied the game less than three minutes before the second intermission, Lucchini snapped the tie with a short-handed marker at the 14:56 mark of the third period and Alex Gillies iced the contest with a power-play goal at 18:42. Freshman goaltender Angus Redmond made 25 saves for Michigan Tech, while Bowling Green's Chris Nell turned aside 33 shots.

Just as the night before, the teams remained scoreless until the second period in Saturday's series finale; again, it would be the Falcons to strike first. Less than five minutes after Matt Meier gave the home team the lead, Huskies' forward Jake Jackson tied things up with his fourth goal of the year. The game remained tied at 1-1 until Lucchini came in with his second straight game-winner 8:31 into the third period to give the Huskies a 2-1 win and sweep. In a duel of freshman goaltenders, Redmond made 22 saves for Tech and Ryan Bednard had 29 stops for the Falcons.


at Ferris State 3, No. 16 Minnesota State 0
No. 16 Minnesota State 3, at Ferris State 2
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.)

Ferris State rode a Darren Smith shutout to a victory in the series opener and had a 2-0 lead in game two, but No. 16 Minnesota State rallied late to salvage a road split.

Smith was the story Friday, stopping all 36 Minnesota State shots in a performance reminiscent of his 2016 Final Five MVP efforts. The teams remained scoreless through the first period, but 34 seconds into the middle frame Bulldogs' forward Corey Mackin buried his sixth goal of the season to break the tie. From there Smith and two power-play goals (by Chad McDonald and Gerald Mayhew) proved to be the difference as Ferris State earned the 3-0 victory.

It was another busy night in net for Smith on Saturday, but the Mavericks' offense came to life late to earn the series split. After Ferris State went up 2-0 in the first period off goals by Jared VanWormer and Joe Rutkowski, Minnesota State began to rally late in the second period on a Max Coatta strike. Zeb Knutson tied things up 3:57 into the final frame, before C.J. Franklin scored on the power-play at 13:02 to give the Mavericks a key 3-2 road win. Smith finished with 35 saves for the Bulldogs, while Minnesota State's Cole Huggins made 17 stops.


Alabama Huntsville 4, at Northern Michigan 1
Alabama Huntsville 3, at Northern Michigan 1
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)

Alabama Huntsville climbed into a third-place tie in the WCHA standings following a road sweep at Northern Michigan - the Chargers' third road brooming of the season (their most since the 2004-05 campaign).

The home team got on the board first Friday evening as Dominik Shine netted his sixth of the season to put the Wildcats up 1-0 midway through the first period. But from there it was all Chargers, as Cody Marooney tied things up five minutes later, while Brandon Parker scored what would be the game-winner with just seven seconds remaining in the opening frame. UAH added a pair of goals in the second period (by Max McHugh and Josh Kestner), Jordan Uhleski made 29 saves and the Chargers cruised to the 4-1 victory.

It took a little longer for the scoring to begin Saturday, but the result was still the same as UAH earned the sweep with a 3-1 win. The Chargers scored two goals early in the second period, with Regan Soquila and Josh Kestner each finding the back of the net. NMU's Troy Loggins cut the lead in half heading into the third period, but Parker's second goal of the weekend (a power-play marker at 15:53 of the third) sealed the Chargers' fourth-straight road win. Uhleski turned in a 23-save effort for UAH.


at No. 13/15 Bemidji State 1, Lake Superior State 1 - OT (BSU wins shootout, 1-0)
at No. 13/15 Bemidji State 3, Lake Superior State 2
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)

League-leading Bemidji State wrapped up an impressive first half of WCHA play, as the No. 13/15 Beavers closed their 2016 league schedule with a five-point weekend against visiting Lake Superior State.

Friday night proved to be a goaltending duel between the Lakers' Gordon Defiel (33 saves) and the Beavers' Michael Bitzer (17 stops), with the two juniors going toe-to-toe through 65 minutes of a 1-1 tie. BSU's Kyle Bauman scored the game's first goal 2:53 into the second period, but the lead was short-lived as LSSU's J.T. Henke tied things up six minutes later. The teams remained deadlocked through the 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 overtime periods. With an extra league point on the line, Bitzer made a round two shootout save and Myles Fitzgerald scored to give the Beavers the additional boost in the standings.

The Lakers got out to a hot start Saturday, as sophomore Gage Torrel scored just 23 seconds after the puck dropped to give his team the early lead. But, at the midway point of the opening frame, BSU seniors Brendan Harms and Nate Arentz scored within 40 seconds of each other to give the home team a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish. Jay Dickman added some insurance midway through the second. Mitch Hults brought LSSU back within one heading to the third period, but Bitzer and the Beavers' defense stood tall to close out the 3-2 win.


Alaska Anchorage 3, at Alaska 2
at Alaska 3, Alaska Anchorage 1
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska)

The Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup got off to an exciting start this past weekend in Fairbanks, with the visiting Seawolves earning a one-goal victory in the opener before the Nanooks bounced back in the finale.

UAA jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 22:40 of play Friday, getting goals from Eric Roberts and Brad Duwe. After the Nanooks' Nikolas Koberstein brought the home team back within one, Chase Van Allen pushed the lead back to two early in the third. Troy Van Tetering scored late for UAF, but behind 30 saves from Olivier Mantha, the Seawolves held on for the 3-2 victory.

The host Nanooks came roaring back Saturday, scoring the game's first three goals en route to a 3-1 triumph. UAF used two second-period goals off the sticks of Colton Leiter and Ryker Leer to get them going, while Van Tetering added a third-period, power-play marker. Tanner Johnson scored late for the Seawolves, but it was not enough. UAF goaltender Jesse Jenks turned in a 26-save effort in the win.