WCHA Week 23: 2017 WCHA Playoffs - Semifinal Round
'Battle For The Broadmoor' Moves On To The Best-of-Three Semifinals;
(1) Bemidji State Hosts (4) Bowling Green, And
(2) Michigan Tech Welcomes (3) Minnesota State
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Bemidji State welcomes Bowling Green and Michigan Tech hosts Minnesota State on WCHA semifinal weekend

Opening Face-Off

- "Battle for the Broadmoor" On to the Semifinals: The 2017 men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Playoffs is on to the best-of-three semifinal round, with top-seed Bemidji State hosting fourth-seeded Bowling Green; and, No. 2 seed

- About Bemidji State: The 2016-17 WCHA regular season champion Beavers outlasted eighth-seeded Northern Michigan in three games (winning 3-0 and 3-1, while losing 4-2), advancing to the league semifinals for the first time since 2011.

  • Bemidji State is 13-6-1 at the Sanford Center this season, the program's best home mark since finishing 13-3-1 at The Glas in 1996-97. The Beavers' 20-win season overall is their first since 2009-10 (23-10-4).
  • Junior goaltender Michael Bitzer, a Hobey Baker Award candidate, leads the country with a 1.65 goals-against average, six shutouts (matching his own program single-season record, set last year) and 2219:13 in net. He is also tied for second with 22 wins, while ranking fourth with a .933 save percentage and 13th with 852 saves.
  • The Beavers lead the nation by allowing just 1.89 goals-per-game, while they are second with a WCHA-best 88.5-percent penalty-kill rate (123-for-139). BSU is seventh in the WCHA for scoring offense (2.31 goals-per-game) and second for power-play percentage (18.9, 30-for-159).
  • Since joining the WCHA for the 2010-11 season, Bemidji State has yet to play in a league playoff championship game.

- About Michigan Tech: The Huskies advanced to the WCHA semifinals for the third-straight season after sweeping seventh-seeded Lake Superior State by scores of 6-4 and 8-0.

  • At 20-13-7, Michigan Tech has reached the 20-win plateau for three-straight campaigns, marking the first time the Huskies have achieved that feat since a stretch from the 1980-81 through 1982-83 seasons (including the final two years of John MacInnes' Hall of Fame tenure in Houghton).
  • Tech has won six-straight WCHA postseason games at home, while scoring at least four goals in each of the last four home playoff contests. The Huskies are 9-3-4 this season at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
  • MTU leads the nation in opponent shots on goal, averaging 23.07. The Huskies are second in the WCHA (ninth nationally) by allowing 2.25 goals per contest, while they are third in the league for scoring offense (2.92 goals per game). Tech ranks third in the WCHA on the power play at 18.7 pct. (35-for-187) and second (sixth nationally) for penalty-kill efficiency (86.6 pct., 174-for-201).
  • Michigan Tech has played in four WCHA playoff championship games (1962, 1965, 1996 and 2015), winning twice (1962 and 1965).

- About Minnesota State: The Mavericks are playing in their fourth-straight WCHA semifinal round after sweeping sixth-seeded Alaska, 3-0 and 4-1.

  • At 21-11-4, Minnesota State has recorded five-straight 20-win seasons for just the second time in program history (legendary head coach Don Brose guided a five-year run at the D-II level between 1978-79 and 1982-83).
  • Minnesota State is 12-5-2 in its last 19 games, ranking 14th nationally with a .684 winning percentage since Dec. 10.
  • MSU leads the WCHA in scoring offense (3.22 goals per game; 14th nationally) and power-play efficiency (20.2 pct., 33-for-163). The Mavs are also third in the WCHA (15th NCAA) at 2.39 goals allowed per contest and seventh on the penalty kill (82.9 pct., 131-for-158).
  • Minnesota State, which is 15-4 in the league playoffs under head coach Mike Hastings, has played in the last three WCHA playoff championship games, winning twice (2014 and 2015).

- About Bowling Green: The Falcons are back in the WCHA semifinals for the third-straight year after sweeping fifth-seeded Ferris State (6-1 and 5-3).

  • Bowling Green has won five-straight games, outscoring opponents by a 23-4 margin in the process. The Falcons are a victory away from a third-straight 20-win season, which would be a first for BGSU since a nine-year run under Jerry York between 1981-82 and 1989-90.
  • Junior goaltender Chris Nell, who set a program record with a 220:18 scoreless streak between Feb. 11 and March 3, has a 0.80 goals-against average and .974 save percentage during the Falcons' winning streak.
  • BGSU is second in the WCHA for scoring offense (2.95 goals per game) and fourth for scoring defense (2.50 goals allowed per contest). The Falcons' power play is fourth in the league (16.0 pct., 33-for-206), while their penalty kill is eighth (82.8 pct., 159-for-192).
  • Since joining the league for the 2013-14 season, Bowling Green has yet to play in a WCHA playoff championship game.

- Mitchell, Bindulis Ink NHL Entry-Level Deals: Two WCHA underclassmen have signed entry-level deals with the NHL's Washington Capitals since their college seasons ended. Alaska Anchorage sophomore forward Mason Mitchell agreed to a two-year contract March 2, while Lake Superior State freshman defenseman Kris Bindulis inked a three-year deal March 7. Both contracts begin with the 2017-18 season.

- Tradition Starts Here: Four (4) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams since 2013-14 play in the WCHA - matching Hockey East for the highest representation among that upper 25% of any conference since realignment (the NCHC has three teams, ECAC Hockey has two, and Atlantic Hockey and the Big Ten each have a single program apiece).

  • Minnesota State is tied for third nationally with 97 wins, Michigan Tech is tied for 11th with 86, Bowling Green is 13th with 82 and Ferris State is tied for 14th with 80.

'Battle for the Broadmoor' 2017 WCHA Playoffs (Best-of-Three Semifinals)

- (4) Bowling Green at (1) Bemidji State: The Beavers won three of four regular season games with the Falcons, including a season-opening sweep at the Sanford Center. Bemidji State also won the opener Jan. 5 in Ohio, before Bowling Green bounced back with a victory in the series finale.

- (3) Minnesota State at (2) Michigan Tech: The Mavericks finished 2-1-1 against the Huskies, sweeping an Oct. 7-8 series in Mankato; after a tie Jan. 20 in Houghton, Tech wrapped up the regular season series with a win.


The Week in Review 2017 WCHA Playoffs (Quarterfinals)

- In the lone three-game series of the opening round, MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State outlasted the visiting No. 8 seed, Northern Michigan, in three games to earn a bid to the semifinals.

- Second-seeded Michigan Tech took care of business, comfortably putting away visiting No. 7 seed Lake Superior State to advance to the semifinal round of the 2017 WCHA Playoffs.

- Behind the stellar goaltending of sophomore Jason Pawloski and balanced scoring, third-seeded Minnesota State advanced to the semifinals for the fourth-straight campaign by sweeping Alaska, the No. 6 seed.

- In a matchup of perennial WCHA contenders, No. 4 seed Bowling Green used a strong offensive showing to sweep fifth-seeded Ferris State and return to the league semifinals for the third-straight season.

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


at (1) Bemidji State 3, (8) Northern Michigan 0
(8) Northern Michigan 4, at (1) Bemidji State 2
at (1) Bemidji State 3, (8) Northern Michigan 1
(Mar. 3, 4 and 5 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)

In the lone three-game series of the opening round, MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State outlasted the visiting No. 8 seed, Northern Michigan, in three games to earn a bid to the semifinals.

The Beavers rode a strong performance by goaltender Michael Bitzer to a 3-0, Game 1 victory, as the junior made 30 saves to equal his own program single-season record with his NCAA-best sixth shutout of the campaign. After a scoreless first period, Bemidji State's Leo Fitzgerald broke the tie early in the second, which was followed up by tallies from Zach Whitecloud and Kyle Bauman. The three-goal, second-period outburst was all the host Beavers would need to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

With their season on the line, senior Dominik Shine and sophomore goaltender Atte Tolvanen stepped up for Northern Michigan. Shine (2g-2a) factored in all four goals and Tolvanen made 46 saves as the Wildcats forced Game 3 with a 4-2 victory. Shane Sooth and Gerard Hanson gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead early in the second. But shortly after Hanson's tally, BSU forward Nate Arentz cut the lead in half with a short-handed goal. From there, Shine's two goals, mixed with 33 stops by Tolvanen over the final two periods, gave the Wildcats the only WCHA quarterfinal-round win by a road team.

In the decisive Game 3, Bemidji State used a strong first period and stout defensive work, backstopped by Bitzer, to earn a hard-fought, 3-1 victory. Myles Fitzgerald and Brendan Harms got the ball rolling, scoring goals just 34 seconds apart to give the Beavers a 2-0 lead six minutes into the contest. NMU scored late in the second period off the stick of Brock Maschmeyer to cut the lead to just a goal. But Bitzer made eight of his 19 saves in the third period, and Phillip Marinaccio added an empty-net goal to stave off NMU and send BSU on to the semifinals.


at (2) Michigan Tech 6, (7) Lake Superior State 4
at (2) Michigan Tech 8, (7) Lake Superior State 0
(Mar. 3 and 4 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.)

Second-seeded Michigan Tech took care of business, comfortably putting away visiting No. 7 seed Lake Superior State to advance to the semifinal round of the 2017 WCHA Playoffs.

Friday night, Tech used a five-goal first period to sink the Lakers early. Alex Smith opened the scoring for the Huskies just three minutes after the puck dropped. With the game at 2-1 in favor of MTU midway through the first, junior Alex Gillies doubled the Huskies' advantage, which was followed shortly with goals from Mitch Reinke and Jake Jackson as Tech took a 5-1 lead after just 12 minutes of play. Luke Morgan, Gage Torrel and Gus Correale all scored as LSSU attempted to rally, but Jackson's second goal of the game helped the host Huskies hold on for the 6-4 victory.

Michigan Tech rolled from start to finish in Game 2, getting goals from seven different players for an 8-0 win and series sweep. After Reid Sturos scored his second goal of the weekend just 3:30 into the game, Joel L'Esperance pushed the lead to a pair before the teams headed to the dressing room. With a 3-0 lead in the third, the Huskies poured it on, notching five goals in the final period -- including the second of the night by L'Esperance -- to punch their ticket to the semifinals for the third-straight season.


at (3) Minnesota State 3, (6) Alaska 0
at (3) Minnesota State 4, (6) Alaska 1
(Mar. 3 and 4 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.)

Behind the stellar goaltending of sophomore Jason Pawloski and balanced scoring, third-seeded Minnesota State advanced to the semifinals for the fourth-straight campaign by sweeping Alaska, the No. 6 seed.

In Game 1, Mavericks' freshman Parker Tuomie led the way with a pair of goals, while senior Sean Flanagan added a goal and two assists as Minnesota State rolled to the 3-0 triumph. The Mavs' two first-period goals was all Pawloski needed, as he made 23 saves for his second career shutout.

The host Mavericks finished off the Nanooks down the stretch in the finale, with Max Coatta scoring twice in the final five minutes to seal the 4-1 win and sweep. Jordan Nelson got Minnesota State on the board first midway through the opening period. After Zeb Knutson extended the Mavericks lead to 2-0, Nanooks' freshman Ross Heidt closed the gap early in the third to keep his team's hopes alive. But Coatta closed it out for Minnesota State, which received another 29 stops by Pawloski, the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. Tuomie added two assists en route to capturing league Rookie of the Week honors.


at (4) Bowling Green 6, (5) Ferris State 1
at (4) Bowling Green 5, (5) Ferris State 3
(Mar. 3 and 4 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio)

In a matchup of perennial WCHA contenders, No. 4 seed Bowling Green used a strong offensive showing to sweep fifth-seeded Ferris State and return to the league semifinals for the third-straight season.

The Falcons got the offense rolling early in Game 1, getting two goals in the first 9:15 courtesy of Matt Pohlkamp and Stephen Baylis. Pohlkamp scored his second of the contest 2:58 into the second period, igniting a four-goal outburst as Bowling Green cruised to the 6-1 win. Sean Walker also scored in the second stanza for the Falcons, while freshmen Alec Rauhauser and Lukas Craggs each tallied their first career postseason goal. Chris Nell saw his school-record scoreless streak end at 220:18 on a first-period Ferris State goal, but rebounded to finish the victory with 27 saves on 28 shots.

The scoring continued the next night, especially in the third period, when both teams kept the lamp lit during a five-goal stanza. However, the last three goals belonged to Bowling Green in a sweep-clinching, 5-3 triumph. The Falcons once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but this time the Bulldogs responded in a big way. Down 2-1 midway through the final period, freshman Jason Tackett tied the game. Just more than a minute later, Trevor Recktenwald gave Ferris State its first lead of the weekend. But, the host Falcons took advantage of two, late-game Ferris State penalties, scoring three power-play goals to erase the deficit and earn the victory. After Kevin Dufour tied the game with 2:48 remaining in regulation, Rauhauser gave BGSU the lead just 36 seconds later with his game-winning strike. Tyler Spezia added an empty net goal to seal the victory.