- Races Tightening Up: With just four weekends remaining in the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular season, every series is proving crucial in the races for a berth in the 2017 WCHA Playoffs, home-ice advantage for the postseason and the coveted MacNaughton Cup.
- League-leading Bemidji State and second-place Michigan Tech, the only two teams to clinch playoff spots to date, meet this weekend with the Beavers ahead by four points in the chase for the MacNaughton Cup.
- Should Bemidji State capture as many points (or more) against Michigan Tech that Minnesota State does in Alaska Anchorage, then BSU wraps up at least the No. 2 seed for the playoffs (giving the Beavers home ice through the semifinals, should they win their quarterfinal-round series).
- Minnesota State now owns sole possession of third place by one point over Bowling Green, while the Mavericks have two games in hand.
- A mere five points separates the current fifth- through eighth-place teams, while another five points is the difference between Alabama Huntsville in eighth and the two teams tied for ninth (Alaska Anchorage and Northern Michigan). NMU has jumped back into postseason contention by capturing 12 points during its current five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2-1).
- Hot Huskies: Michigan Tech, back in the national rankings at No. 20 in the USCHO.com poll. has the nation's second-longest active unbeaten streak, having gone 3-0-4 in its last seven contests. Beginning with a Dec. 3 home victory over Bemidji State, the Huskies are on a nine-game unbeaten run in WCHA play. Tech is 5-0-4-2 in that span, compiling 21 points to draw within four in the race for the MacNaughton Cup.
- Michigan Tech continues to lead the country with the most wins since Halloween weekend, posting 15 victories since Oct. 28. The Huskies' .729 winning percentage (15-4-5) is the third-best nationally in that span.
- Shine On: Northern Michigan senior forward Dominik Shine has been on a tear, with two hat tricks in his last five games and nine goals in eight contests.
- Shine led all NCAA skaters in January by averaging 1.17 goals-per-game. He is also one of three players with a national-best 11 markers since Dec. 1, matching Northeastern's Zach Aston-Reese and Bentley's Kyle Schmidt. After missing NMU's first six games of the season, Shine has 15 goals in 22 contests to rank eighth nationally with 0.68 goals-per-game.
- Fantastic Freshmen: The WCHA has seen a bevy of excellent performances by first-year skaters this season.
- Offensively, Minnesota State's Marc Michaelis leads all NCAA freshmen with 31 points (11g-20a) and is fifth with an average of 1.11 pointsper- game. Lake Superior State's Max Humitz leads WCHA rookies with 12 goals, matching Boston University's Clayton Keller for third-most nationally. Humitz is sixth in the country with an average of 0.43 goals-per-game.
- Lake Superior State defenseman Collin Saccoman leads all NCAA skaters with 79 blocked shots and is second at 2.82 blocks-per-game.
- Michigan Tech goaltender Angus Redmond continues to lead the country with a 1.61 goals-against average, while he is tied for fifth with 15 wins, ranks seventh with a .729 winning percentage (15-4-5) and is 12th with a .927 save percentage. Ferris State netminder Justin Kapelmaster's .941 save percentage is the NCAA's second-best, while he ranks eighth with a 1.99 goals-against average.
- Tradition Starts Here: Four (4) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams over the past three seasons play in the WCHA - tied with Hockey East for the highest representation among that upper 25% of programs of any D-I conference since realignment (the NCHC has three teams, ECAC Hockey has two and both Atlantic Hockey and the Big Ten has a single program apiece).
- Minnesota State ranks fourth nationally over the last three-and-a-half seasons with 91 wins, Michigan Tech is tied for 10th with 82, Bowling Green ranks 13th with 77 and Ferris State is tied for 14th with 76.
By the Numbers
- 4: WCHA players on the Hobey Baker Award fan ballot (BSU's Michael Bitzer, UAH's Josh Kestner, FSU's Gerald Mayhew and MTU's Angus Redmond).
- 7: Ties for Michigan Tech, matching the school record set by the 2008-09 (6-25-7) and 2013-14 (14-19-7) teams.
- 150: Consecutive games played by Ferris State senior defenseman Ryan Lowney - every contest the Bulldogs have had since he arrived on campus.
- 709: WCHA-leading saves by Lake Superior State goaltender Gordon Defiel. The junior ranks third nationally, two years after leading the NCAA with 1,148 stops as a freshman.
The Week Ahead
- No. 20 Michigan Tech at Bemidji State: A matchup of the WCHA's top two teams, as the league-leading Beavers hold a four-point lead over the Huskies entering this weekend's showdown at the Sanford Center. The teams split a pair of tightly-contested games Dec. 2-3 in Houghton, with BSU taking the opener, 3-1, before Tech answered with a 2-1 win in the series finale - beginning the Huskies' current nine-game WCHA unbeaten streak.
- Northern Michigan at Bowling Green: The WCHA's top goal scorers share the ice in Ohio, with the Falcons' Mitch McLain (16 goals) skating opposite the Wildcats' Dominik Shine (15). Bowling Green scored 10 goals during a Nov. 11-12 road sweep at Marquette.
- Alabama Huntsville at Alaska: The Nanooks' 2-1-1-1 stretch in January has lifted UAF into seventh place above the Chargers, who are 0-5-1-0 this month in WCHA play. Alaska captured five-of-six points in Huntsville back on Nov. 11-12.
- Minnesota State at Alaska Anchorage: The Mavericks, currently in third place by a point and nine points out of second, are looking to maintain their upper-division standing. The Seawolves are five points out of a playoff spot entering the lone meeting of the year with MSU.
The Week in Review
- Michigan Tech jumped back into the national rankings and set the stage for this weekend's showdown at Bemidji State by earning five points at Alabama Huntsville.
- Bowling Green captured a nationally-televised, overtime thriller Friday night, before host Ferris State rebounded to win the finale and salvage a series split.
- Minnesota State earned key WCHA points at home, halting Lake Superior State's four-game unbeaten streak and taking five-of-six points.
- Then-No. 20 Bemidji State played at the final installment of the North Star College Cup, coming up on the short end against St. Cloud State and No. 6 Minnesota.
- Full recaps, box scores and select video highlights are available at wcha.com.
Michigan Tech 5, at Alabama Huntsville 2
Michigan Tech 4 at Alabama Huntsville 4 - OT (MTU wins shootout, 1-0)
(Jan. 27 and 28 at Von Braun Center; Huntsville, Ala.)
Michigan Tech jumped back into the national rankings and set the stage for this weekend's showdown at Bemidji State by earning five points at Alabama Huntsville.
Friday night, the Huskies used a hot start to sink the Chargers early. Mitch Reinke and Thomas Beretta gave the visitors a 2-0, first-period lead, while Reid Sturos and Gavin Gould put Tech on top 4-0. UAH cut the lead in half on goals by Tyler Poulsen and Jordan Larson, but Sturos' second short-handed tally of the night sealed the Huskies' 5-2 triumph.
The Chargers flipped the script the next night, as they were the ones who led 2-0 heading into the first intermission thanks to goals by Hans Gorowsky and Kurt Gosselin. After scoring early in the second to cut the deficit to just a goal, Tech defenseman Matt Roy scored his second of the game for the Huskies early in the third to tie things at 2-2. With a man advantage for the Chargers, Brennan Saulnier gave his team the lead once again midway through the final frame. But less than a minute later Reinke made it 3-3 with a power-play goal of his own. After UAH regained the lead with less than three to play, Jake Lucchini tied the game with just 11 seconds left to send it to overtime. The teams remained tied through both overtime periods and into the ninth round of the shootout, where MTU would take the extra point on a score by freshman Chris Gerrie.
Bowling Green 3, at Ferris State 2
at Ferris State 5, Bowling Green 0
(Jan 27 and 28 at Ewigleben Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.)
Bowling Green captured a nationally-televised, overtime thriller Friday night, before host Ferris State rebounded to win the finale and salvage a series split.
The teams played a very closely-contested game Friday on the American Sports Network (ASN), trading blows throughout. The home team got on the board first 7:02 after the puck drop, as Tyler Andrew scored for Ferris State. After the Falcons tied it up early in the second, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, Gerald Mayhew, pushed his team back ahead with his 14th goal of the season. But, Bowling Green took advantage of its opportunities, as Kevin Dufour put one in the back of the net on the man advantage to send the game to overtime. Just 34 seconds into the extra period, Mark Friedman gave the Falcons a key road victory with his seventh goal of the season.
In the series finale, the Bulldogs used a strong second period to roll to a 5-0 win and earn the weekend split. After the teams remained scoreless through the opening period, Ferris State's offensive pressure paid off in the second stanza. Jason Tackett broke through at the 2:51 mark to give the Bulldogs the lead. Ferris State added three more in the period, as Mitch Maloney, Chad McDonald and Mayhew each tallied a goal. Jared VanWormer notched a third-period goal, while freshman goaltender Justin Kapelmaster finished off a 19-save shutout.
at Minnesota State 4, Lake Superior State 2
at Minnesota State 2, Lake Superior State 2 - OT (MSU scores in 3-on-3 OT)
(Jan. 27 and 28 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.)
Minnesota State earned key WCHA points at home, halting Lake Superior State's four-game unbeaten streak and taking five-of-six points.
Friday, the teams traded punches through two periods, but the final frame was all Mavericks en route to a 4-2 victory. After the Lakers got on the board in the first, Minnesota State's Zach Stepan knotted things up at 1-1 under a minute into the second period. Two minutes later, Sean Flanagan gave the home team their first lead of the evening, but LSSU evened the score once again on a goal by Josh Nenadal. After the teams came out of the dressing room at 2-2, Parker Tuomie and Brad McClure came up with key, third-period goals for Minnesota State, while Cole Huggins notched eight of his 20 saves.
Saturday night, the Lakers got on the board first yet again, as Mitch Hults put LSSU on top 4:27 into the contest. The game would remain 1-0 until the third, when the Lakers looked to be in control as Gage Torrel tallied another for the visitors early in the frame. But the Mavericks responded a minute later off the stick of freshman Ian Scheid to cut the lead in half. Soon after, it would be a fellow underclassman that would bring the teams even, as sophomore Daniel Brickley scored the final goal of regulation. After the teams remained tied through 65 minutes, Tuomie gave Minnesota State the valuable extra point with a goal during 3-on-3 overtime.
St. Cloud State 2, No. 20 Bemidji State 1
No. 6 Minnesota 4, No. 20 Bemidji State 0
(Jan. 27 and 28; North Star College Cup at Xcel Energy Center; St. Paul, Minn.)
Then-No. 20 Bemidji State played at the final installment of the North Star College Cup, coming up on the short end against St. Cloud State and No. 6 Minnesota.
The Beavers opened the tournament by facing St. Cloud State, dropping a hard-fought, one-goal contest. After going down 2-0, freshman Zach Whitecloud cut the lead in half just before the end of the second period, but the Beavers couldn't find the back of the net in the final frame and fell by a 2-1 final.
In Saturday's consolation game, Bemidji State held the offensive pressure early but couldn't convert against No. 6 Minnesota. The Gophers broke through with a second-period goal, added three more in the third and won, 4-0.