- At the Polls: League-leading Bemidji State, two-time defending MacNaughton Cup champion Minnesota State and 2016 Cup co-champion Michigan Tech carry the WCHA banner in the national opinion polls.
- The Beavers are No. 17 in the USCHO.com poll, the Mavericks are up to No. 18 and the Huskies are back in the rankings at No. 20. Bemidji State and Minnesota State are also receiving votes in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll.
- Winning Hockey: The three WCHA teams in the USCHO.com poll are also among the top-10 winningest teams this season in college hockey.
- Bemidji State leads the nation with 15 victories, Michigan Tech is tied for second with 14 and Minnesota State is tied for ninth with 13.
- Hot Huskies: Michigan Tech has returned to the USCHO.com poll for the first time since its preseason No. 17 ranking, on the strength of a 13-4-1 run over its last 18 contests. After a 1-5-2 start, the Huskies' .750 winning percentage since Oct. 28 is tied for third nationally, while no NCAA Division 1 team has won more games since that date.
- Tech's hot stretch coincides with the first collegiate start by freshman Angus Redmond, who leads the country with a 1.41 goals-against average. The rookie is tied for second nationally for wins, ranks fifth with a .937 save percentage and is tied for sixth with a .750 winning mark.
- Anchorage Turnaround: After going 1-11-2 (0-6-2-1 WCHA) through November, Alaska Anchorage is now just three points out of a WCHA playoff spot. The Seawolves have gone 4-3-1 since Dec. 1, a .562 winning percentage that places them among the top-25 nationally over that span.
- Going back further, UAA has notched points in seven of its last 11 WCHA games (16 total), posting a 4-4-3-1 league mark beginning Nov. 19.
- The Seawolves have won four-straight WCHA series openers.
- Playoffs?!?: While it may seem early to be talking about the postseason, Bemidji State became the first team to clinch a spot in the 2017 WCHA Playoffs with a win on New Year's Eve. With 49 points through their 20 league games, the Beavers can finish no lower than eighth place in the WCHA standings.
- Bemidji State has won 15 WCHA games this year, their most wins in conference play since finishing the 2004-05 College Hockey America campaign at 16-4-0. The program's previous WCHA best was 12 victories in 2014-15 (12-11-5).
- BSU continues to boast the nation's stingiest defense by allowing just 1.69 goals per game. Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer, the country's active shutout leader with a program-record 14 in his career, ranks among the top-15 nationally this season for: wins (1st - 15), games (1st - 25), starts (1st - 25), minutes (1st - 1508:26), shutouts (t1st - 4), goals-against average (2nd - 1.51), saves (3rd - 564), save percentage (6th - .937) and winning percentage (15th - .660, 15-7-3).
- An Impressive Class: With a combined 35 goals and 62 assists for 97 total points, Lake Superior State's sophomore class leads the nation for most combined points by a single class (North Dakota's sophomores are second at 96 points, while Notre Dame's juniors are third with 93).
- All nine of the Lakers' sophomore skaters have scored, with five in double-figures: forwards Mitch Hults (6g-16a--22pts), Diego Cuglietta (10g-7a--17pts), Anthony Nellis (6g-9a--15pts) and Gage Torrel (8g-7a--15pts), along with defenseman Owen Headrick (2g-13a--15pts).
- 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 89 wins, Michigan Tech is tied for 10th with 80, while Bowling Green and Ferris State are tied for 13th with 74 apiece.
By the Numbers
- 2: WCHA skaters - of the five in all of NCAA Division 1 hockey - to have recorded a hat trick this season with an even-strength goal, a power-play strike and a short-handed marker. Bowling Green's Mitch McLain (Dec. 3 at Lake Superior State) and Northern Michigan's Dominik Shine (Jan. 7 vs. Lake Superior State) have each turned the trick, joining Zach Aston-Reese (Northeastern), Mike Marnell (St. Lawrence) and Austin Cangelosi (Boston College).
- 3: WCHA shootout shots - and goals - by Ferris State, which has emerged victories via shootout following each of its two WCHA ties. Freshmen Corey Mackin and Jason Tackett, along with senior Gerald Mayhew, have all scored via shootout for the Bulldogs.
- 4: Consecutive games with a goal by Bowling Green junior Mitch McLain, who now leads the WCHA and is tied for sixth nationally with a career-best 14 lamp-lighters this season.
- 26: Wins for Bemidji State between Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2016, matching Denver for most in the country during the last calendar year.
- 35: Years that had passed between Michigan Tech victories at Notre Dame, as the Huskies' 4-2 triumph over the No. 12 Fighting Irish last Saturday was the program's first in South Bend, Ind. since 1982.
The Week Ahead
- Four WCHA Series on Tap: A quartet of intriguing WCHA series await: No. 18 Minnesota State, tied for third in the league standings with Bowling Green, hosts the Falcons in a rematch of a 2016 WCHA Final Five semifinal; the Cappo Cup series will be decided as UP rivals Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan face-off in a home-and-home for the second straight weekend (the teams each won on home ice last weekend, while NMU holds the tiebreaker with an 8-7 edge in goals scored); Alaska Anchorage looks to continue its surge at No. 20 Michigan Tech; and, Ferris State hosts Alaska with just a three-point cushion on the Nanooks for sixth place.
The Week in Review
- League-leading and 17th-ranked Bemidji State was put to the test this weekend in a conference split with host Bowling Green in Ohio.
- Behind a stellar collegiate debut by junior goaltender Aaron Nelson, visiting Minnesota State moved into a third-place tie in the WCHA standings following a road sweep at Alabama Huntsville.
- The 2017 Cappo Cup series got underway, with Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan each winning on its home ice in the first of two-straight home-and-home weekends between the Upper Peninsula rivals.
- Alaska Anchorage picked up a season-high four WCHA points, earning a win and tie against visiting Ferris State, who rallied for the shootout win in Saturday's series finale.
- Michigan Tech traveled to Notre Dame and, following a Saturday win over the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish and a weekend split, the Huskies vaulted back into the top-20 of the USCHO.com poll.
- Full recaps, box scores and select video highlights are available at wcha.com.
No. 17 Bemidji State 2, at Bowling Green 1
at Bowling Green 4, No. 17 Bemidji State 2
(Jan. 5 and 6 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio.)
League-leading and 17th-ranked Bemidji State was put to the test this weekend in a conference split with host Bowling Green in Ohio.
On Thursday, the visiting Beavers got on the board first, as freshman Dylan McCrory got his second goal of the season in the closing minutes of the opening frame. After already tallying an assist on the first period marker, Jay Dickman added a goal to his total eight minutes into the second to give BSU a 2-0 lead that stood up behind another outstanding effort in net by Michael Bitzer. The Beavers' netminder stopped 27-of-28 shots, as WCHA December Player of the Month Mitch McLain scored the Falcons' only goal of the night in a 2-1 BSU victory.
It looked like the same script early on Friday night, as the Beavers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period off the sticks of Kyle Bauman and T. J. Roo. But before the teams headed to the dressing room, Falcons' rookie forward Lukas Craggs scored with 21 seconds remaining to cut the lead in half. Brett D'Andrea knotted things up with his sixth goal of the season early in the second period, and then set up Mark Friedman for the game-winning goal. McLain tallied an empty-netter to give Bowling Green four unanswered goals and a 4-2 victory in front of a national television audience on the American Sports Network (ASN). Freshman goaltender Ryan Bednard made 17 stops for the host Falcons.
No. 18 Minnesota State 3, at Alabama Huntsville 0
No. 18 Minnesota State 3, at Alabama Huntsville 2
(Jan 6 and 7 at Von Braun Center; Huntsville, Ala.)
Behind a stellar collegiate debut by junior goaltender Aaron Nelson, visiting Minnesota State moved into a third-place tie in the WCHA standings following a road sweep at Alabama Huntsville.
On Friday, the Mavericks got a goal early from junior Brad McClure and that would prove to be all they needed. Nelson made his first collegiate appearance for and came away with an 18-save shutout as Minnesota State rolled to a 3-0 win. McClure added another goal, while freshman Parker Tuomie also scored.
Minnesota State took advantage of special teams on Saturday night, taking a 3-0 lead on three power-play goals en route to a 3-2 victory. Freshman Ian Scheid lit the lamp first with a man-up goal midway through the opening frame to give the Mavericks a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, Zach Stepan doubled the lead with his first goal of the season, which he followed up with another power-play strike in the closing minutes of the middle period. After coming out for the third down 3-0, the Chargers put up a fight as Max McHugh and Hans Gorowsky scored back-to-back goals to cut the lead to just one, but Nelson shut the door to preserve the sweep with a 3-2 victory.
at Lake Superior State 3, Northern Michigan 2
at Northern Michigan 6, Lake Superior State 4
(Jan. 6 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. and Jan. 7 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)
The 2017 Cappo Cup series got underway, with Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan each winning on its home ice in the first of two-straight home-and-home weekends between the Upper Peninsula rivals.
Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie, Lakers' sophomore Anthony Nellis led the charge for the home team, scoring a pair of goals early to give his team a 2-0 lead six minutes into the second period. Fellow sophomore Diego Cuglietta added some insurance later in the second to give LSSU a 3-0 lead. But the Wildcats wouldn't go quietly, as Brock Maschmeyer got them on the board with four seconds to play in the frame. Dominik Shine cut the lead to just a goal with less than seven to play in regulation, but it wouldn't be enough as the Lakers held on to take the opening game 3-2 behind 23 saves from goaltender Gordon Defiel.
The next night the teams traveled to Marquette, where Shine got the home crowd involved early, opening the scoring with two-straight goals. After the Wildcats took a 2-0 lead midway through the second, the Lakers responded as J.T. Henke and Max Humitz netted a goal apiece to tie things up with five to play in the period. Troy Loggins squeaked one in just as the stanza was concluding to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead heading into the break. From there, Zach Diamantoni added a pair early in the final frame to push the lead to 5-2, before Shine would get his second career hat-trick as the Wildcats went on to win 6-4.
at Alaska Anchorage 4, Ferris State 1
Ferris State 2, at Alaska Anchorage 2 - OT (FSU wins shootout, 2-1 in 3 rounds)
(Jan. 6 and 7 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska)
Alaska Anchorage picked up a season-high four WCHA points, earning a win and tie against visiting Ferris State, who rallied for the shootout win in Saturday's series finale.
Friday night, Alex Jackstadt and Olivier Mantha led the charge for the home team. After the teams traded goals, Jackstadt gave the Seawolves a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Just 29 seconds later, he would add another to push the lead to 3-1. Mantha shut the door on the Bulldogs from there, finishing with 26 saves as UAA won 4-1 for their fourth-straight victory on a Friday.
The Seawolves looked to extend their winning streak the next night, as they got on the board first off the stick of Mason Mitchell for his second goal of the weekend. But Ferris State would add a pair of goals in the second frame thanks to Cameron Clarke and Corey Mackin, taking a 2-1 lead heading into the third. The home team salvaged a point from the contest, as Jeremiah Luedtke tied things up with just over five minutes to play in regulation. The teams remained scoreless all the way through the first overtime period to end in an official 2-2 tie. Following a scoreless second overtime period, Ferris State scored on both of its shootout attempts, including the sudden-death winner by freshman Jason Tackett, to earn the extra WCHA point.
at No. 13 Notre Dame 3, No. 20 Michigan Tech 1
No. 20 Michigan Tech 4, at No. 13 Notre Dame 2
(Jan 6 and 7 at Compton Family Ice Center; Notre Dame, Ind.)
Michigan Tech traveled to Notre Dame and, following a Saturday win over the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish and a weekend split, the Huskies vaulted back into the top-20 of the USCHO.com poll.
Goals were hard to come by in Friday's series opener, as Angus Redmond had a 23-save performance for Tech. But after Joel L'Esperance tied things at 1-1 early in the third, Notre Dame scored twice late for a 3-1 victory. The Huskies outshot the Irish 28-26.
After Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission Saturday night, the offense started to click for the Huskies, as Jake Jackson tied things up and Gavin Gould gave the visiting squad a 2-1 lead seven minutes into the second period. After the Irish tied things up heading into the final frame, Mike Neville gave the Huskies the lead for good, freshman Alex Smith capped a two-point night with a goal and Tech held on for the 4-2 win. Redmond finished with a second-consecutive 23-save effort.