WCHA Week 20: Tolvanen Chases History, While Everyone Chases Postseason Seeds
NMU Goaltender Eyes NCAA Men's Scoreless Streak And Shutout Marks, While All Three Series Have Postseason Implications
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Northern Michigan sophomore Atte Tolvanen is in the midst of an historic run of goaltending excellence, having set the WCHA record and equaling the all-time NCAA Division I men's mark with five-straight shutouts.

Opening Face-Off

- Tolvanen's Historic Streak: Northern Michigan sophomore Atte Tolvanen is in the midst of an historic run of goaltending excellence, having set the WCHA record and equaling the all-time NCAA Division I men's mark with five-straight shutouts. In the process, the native of Vihti, Finland has also established a WCHA record for consecutive scoreless minutes at 335:39 and counting, a streak that is second in NCAA Division I men's annals.

  • Tolvanen matched the 63-year-old WCHA record, originally set by North Dakota's Gerald "Spike" Shultz in 1954, with his fourth-straight shutout last Friday vs. UAF; then, the Finn equaled the Division I men's standard of five-consecutive, established by Lake Superior State's Blaine Lacher in 1994.
  • The sophomore has collected at least 34 saves in all five shutouts, amassing 196 total against Alaska Anchorage (34), at Bowling Green (35 and 40) and vs. Alaska (39 and a career-high 48).
  • The last goal Tolvanen allowed was by UAA's Jeremiah Luedtke, at the 4:11 mark of the second period Jan. 20. Since then, NMU's netminder has made 215-straight saves, in the process surpassing the 269:51 scoreless streak of Wisconsin's Brian Elliott in 2006. Only Lacher, who was not scored upon for 375:01 in 1994, has had a longer run in NCAA Division I men's history.

- Bemidji State Raises the Cup: Bemidji State has clinched the 2016-17 WCHA regular season championship, earning the Beavers' first MacNaughton Cup since they joined the league for the 2010-11 season.

  • The championship is the Beavers' 22nd regular season conference crown in the program's 60-year history.
  • Bemidji State swept its opening weekend of WCHA play (Oct. 7-8), won its first eight league games and was undefeated in its first 13 contests (12-0-1). The Beavers' Oct. 8 win over Bowling Green gave them six points and a first-place tie with Alabama Huntsville (also 2-0-0); meaning that, aside from a bye week on the opening weekend of league play (Oct. 1-2), BSU held at least a share of first place at the conclusion of every WCHA weekend in which it competed.
  • The Beavers clinched on the third-to-last weekend of the regular season (Feb. 10), marking the first time in the four seasons since realignment that the race for the MacNaughton Cup did not come down to the season's final weekend.
  • Four teams have now won at least a share of the WCHA regular season championship since realignment: Ferris State (2013-14), Minnesota State (2014-15 and co-champs in 2015-16), Michigan Tech (co-champs in 2015-16) and Bemidji State (2016-17).

- More Tolvanen and Northern Michigan: Since Jan. 1, Tolvanen leads all NCAA goaltenders with a .969 save percentage, 0.99 goals-against average and his five shutouts, while he is tied for fourth with an .800 winning percentage (7-1-2).

  • Tolvanen's sustained excellence, which has resulted in three WCHA weekly awards in the last month, has coincided with a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) that has vaulted Northern Michigan from 10th place in the WCHA standings all the way up into a tie for sixth. The Wildcats have earned 24 points during the run, which is tied for the second-longest active unbeaten streak in the country.
  • NMU last strung together a six-game winning streak from Feb. 17 to March 11, 2006. The Wildcats last went unbeaten in nine games from Dec. 27, 1998 to Jan. 30, 1999, going 6-0-3. They last had an unbeaten streak reach the double digits from Dec. 28, 1990 to Oct. 25, 1991 (a 26-0-3 run t that included a victory in the 1991 NCAA National Championship game).

- Playoff Chase Continues: Half of the eight-team field for the 2017 WCHA Tournament is determined, with Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Bowling Green all clinching spots. As regular season champions, the Beavers will have home ice for as far as they advance in the postseason.

  • Michigan Tech has also locked up home ice for the quarterfinal round of the WCHA Playoffs. With a nine-point lead on third-place Minnesota State, any combination of four Michigan Tech points won or Mavericks points lost secures the second seed for the Huskies.
  • Minnesota State and Bowling Green also control their own fates in regards to home ice for the quarterfinals. A three-point win Friday will lock it up for the Mavericks; or, depending on results for Ferris State or Lake Superior State, a tie or two-point win could be enough. The Falcons, idle this weekend, would earn home ice with a sweep of Alabama Huntsville on Feb. 24-25, regardless of other results.
  • Just six points separate fifth-place Ferris State (32 points) and 10th-place Alaska Anchorage (26), with merely two points standing between the Bulldogs, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan (tied for sixth with 31), and Alaska and Alabama Huntsville (tied for eighth with 30).

By the Numbers

- 7: Categories in which Hobey Baker Award candidate, Michael Bitzer of Bemidji State ranks among the top-10 nationally: goals-against avg. (first at 1.70), wins (1st with 19), starts (first with 33), minutes (first with 1981:04), shutouts (tied for first with five), saves (tied for sixth with 760) and save pct. (ninth at .931).


The Week Ahead

- Northern Michigan at Minnesota State: Atte Tolvanen will attempt to make history, while the Wildcats will look to stay red hot when they visit the Mavericks. If Tolvanen can keep Minnesota State from scoring for the first 39:23 of the game, he will set a record for longest scoreless streak in NCAA men's history; a shutout would give him a new standard of six-straight. On the flip side, a Mavericks win in regulation or 5-on-5 overtime clinches home ice in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 WCHA Playoffs. This is the only regular season meeting of the season between the teams.

- Alaska Anchorage at Ferris State: The 10th-place Seawolves (now 6-6-4 in their last 16 games after a 1-11-2 start) kept their postseason hopes alive with a four-point weekend at Lake Superior State last weekend, but are still on the outside looking in heading to Big Rapids. The Bulldogs can finish anywhere from third to the cellar in the jumbled WCHA Tournament picture. UAA captured four points at home Jan. 6-7, with FSU winning a shootout.

- Lake Superior State at Alaska: The tied-for-sixth Lakers hold a one-point lead on the tied-for-eighth Nanooks. The teams played a pair of one-goal contests Oct. 28-29 in the Soo, with UAF earning a split thanks to an overtime win in the series finale. LSSU can still mathematically finish as high as third.


The Week in Review

- Bemidji State traveled south to Huntsville looking to clinch the WCHA regular season championship, and brought the MacNaughton Cup home with them.

- Northern Michigan goaltender Atte Tolvanen made history this past weekend, recording his fourth- and fifth-straight shutouts to set the WCHA record and tie all-time NCAA Division I men's record.

- It was Winter Carnival weekend in Houghton once again, and Michigan Tech used a late-game surge Saturday to earn a split in the standings and keep the MacInnes Cup for the fifth-straight year.

- Alaska Anchorage kept its playoff hopes alive in Sault Ste. Marie, winning on Friday and rallying late in Saturday's contest to tie and earn a four-point weekend at Lake Superior State.

- Bowling Green celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Slater Family Ice Arena in style, riding Chris Nell's school-record ninth career shutout to a 3-0 nonconference win over visiting Mercyhurst.

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


Bemidji State 3, at Alabama Huntsville 2
at Alabama Huntsville 5, Bemidji State 2
(Feb. 10 and 11 at Von Braun Center; Huntsville, Ala.)

Bemidji State traveled south to Huntsville looking to clinch the WCHA regular season championship, and brought the MacNaughton Cup home with them.

Although the Beavers technically clinched the regular season title during their game, thanks to Michigan Tech's loss to Ferris State, BSU celebrated in style with a 3-2 road win. The teams were scoreless until just past the halfway point, when Bemidji State senior and assistant captain Nate Arentz gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead with his fifth goal of the season. Gerry Fitzgerald and Jay Dickman extended the lead to 3-0 with goals within the first six minutes of the third period, while the Beavers withstood a late UAH rally to finish the victory. Following the game, Bemidji State was presented with the MacNaughton Cup for the first time since joining the WCHA for the 2010-11 season.

Saturday night, the Beavers looked to ride the wave of momentum form the night before, as they jumped out to a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. But the Chargers, aiming to stay in position for a WCHA Tournament berth, came out strong in the second, as sophomore Tyler Poulsen scored back-to-back goals to give his team the 3-2 lead at the midway point. The teams traded chances at each end, but it would be the Chargers' Matt Salhany and Nate Gorowsky who clinched the series split as Alabama Huntsville took the finale 5-2. UAH goaltender Carmine Guerriero, who entered in relief to start the second period, turned aside all 23 shots he faced over the final 40 minutes to earn the win.


at Northern Michigan 3, Alaska 0
at Northern Michigan 2, Alaska 0
(Feb. 10 and 11 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)

Northern Michigan goaltender Atte Tolvanen made history this past weekend, recording his fourth- and fifth-straight shutouts to set the WCHA record and tie all-time NCAA Division I men's record.

Tolvanen (NCAA-high 87 saves) and forward Robbie Payne (who tied for the NCAA lead with four goals) led the way as the Wildcats swept visiting Alaska and moved into a tie for sixth place in the WCHA standings. In Friday night's series opener, Demico Hannoun found the back of the net for his first career goal to put NMU up 1-0 midway through the first period of play. Payne notched a pair of goals to add insurance for the Wildcats, but the Nanooks couldn't crack Tolvanen, as the sophomore stopped all 39 shots thrown his way to take the 3-0 victory.

Tolvanen was stellar again in the finale, but it was a hard earned, record-tying performance. Facing 48 shots, the netminder stopped every single one to set a career high for saves in the 2-0 shutout. Payne scored twice in a span of 3:06 in the second period, lifting the Wildcats to their sixth-straight victory and ninth-straight unbeaten contest (7-0-2).


Ferris State 3, at Michigan Tech 2
at Michigan Tech 5, Ferris State 2
(Feb. 10 and 11 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.)

It was Winter Carnival weekend in Houghton once again, and Michigan Tech used a late-game surge Saturday to earn a split in the standings and keep the MacInnes Cup for the fifth-straight year.

In the opening game of the series, the Bulldogs used a stellar 39-save performance from freshman goaltender Justin Kapelmaster to steal a 3-2 road win. Forwards Corey Mackin and Jared VanWormer gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. The Huskies came out strong in the second, with Alex Smith netting his sixth goal of the season to cut the FSU lead to a goal. Later in the period, the Bulldogs would lift their lead back to two as junior forward Tyler Andrew put back a rebound for his third goal of the year. Although the home team would get back within a goal, the Bulldogs prevailed 3-2 as Kapelmaster held off the Huskies.

The Huskies were able to solve Kapelmaster in the finale, as a pair of early goals helped them keep a distance on the Bulldogs all night. After Thomas Beretta and Reid Sturos gave them the 2-0 lead, FSU forward Mitch Maloney got his team on the board with a power-play goal early in the second. Before the horn went off, MTU senior Tyler Heinonen pushed the lead back to two with a power-play goal of his own. After the Bulldogs cut the lead in half early in the final frame, Chris Leibinger and Sturos put the contest out of reach late to keep the MacInnes Cup in Houghton with a 5-2 victory.


Alaska Anchorage 3, at Lake Superior State 2
at Lake Superior State 4, Alaska Anchorage 4 OT (LSSU scores in 3-on-3 OT)
(Feb. 10 and 11 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)

Alaska Anchorage kept its playoff hopes alive in Sault Ste. Marie, winning on Friday and rallying late in Saturday's contest to tie and earn a four-point weekend at Lake Superior State.

The Seawolves jumped out to an early lead Friday, then rallied late for a series-opening, 3-2 win. Mason Mitchell scored his first of three goals on the weekend less than five minutes into the game to put UAA on top, 1-0. Lakers' forward Anthony Nellis responded with back-to-back goals in the second period to give LSSU a 2-1 lead. Before the horn sounded for the intermission, Tanner Johnson found the back of the net on the power play to tie the game at 2-2. Mitchell would be the hero for the Seawolves, notching his second goal of the evening 4:27 into the third period to snap the tie. UAA goaltender Olivier Mantha made 10 of his 27 saves in the final stanza to secure the one-goal victory.

The Saturday night finale was another tightly-contested affair, as the teams traded scores throughout the night. It was all Lakers in the opening frame, with Gage Torrel and Diego Cuglietta each scoring their 11th goals of the season to put LSSU ahead 2-0 heading into intermission. The Seawolves came out of the break firing, as Nils Rygaard and Chase Van Allen both scored to tie the game at 2-2 midway through the contest. After the teams traded goals once again, Aiden Wright put the Lakers ahead with just over 10 minutes to go. But the Seawolves fought back once more, as Nicolas Erb-Ekholm tied the game in the closing minutes. The teams finished regulation and the first, 5-on-5 overtime tied at 4-4. Kyle Chatham sent the home fans home happy and gave the Lakers the extra point with a goal in the 3-on-3 overtime session.


at Bowling Green 3, Mercyhurst 0
(Feb. 11 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Mich.)

Bowling Green celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Slater Family Ice Arena in style, riding Chris Nell's school-record ninth career shutout to a 3-0 nonconference win over visiting Mercyhurst.

Nell stood tall in net all night long, recording 22 saves to extend his own BGSU record for career shutouts. He was helped by a pair of second-period goals, as Pierre Luc-Mercier and Philadelphia Flyers' prospect Mark Friedman both found the back of the net. Tyler Spezia added the final tally halfway through the third period, providing a fitting cap to a special night in Bowling Green.

As a bonus to Falcons fans watching and listening everywhere, BGSU grad and hockey broadcasting legend Michael "Doc" Emrick returned to his alma mater and joined "Voice of the Falcons" Evan Pivnick on the call.