WCHA Week 4: All 10 League Teams Hit The Ice For The First Time In 2017-18
NO. 14/12 MINNESOTA STATE VISITS BOWLING GREEN AND NO. 15 MICHIGAN TECH HOSTS ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE IN WCHA PLAY; NONCONFERENCE SLATE INCLUDES THE 'SERRATORE SERIES' AND ALASKA AIRLINES GOVERNOR'S CUP
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Bemidji State goaltender Michael Bitzer, who has already compiled an impressive career, has another accolade to his name -- that of all-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Men's League shutout leader. The Moorhead, Minn. native set the league record with his 17th career shutout.

Opening Face-Off

- Bitzer Sets WCHA Shutout Mark: Bemidji State goaltender Michael Bitzer, who has already compiled an impressive career, has another accolade to his name -- that of all-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Men's League shutout leader. The Moorhead, Minn. native set the league record with his 17th career shutout, a career-best 45-save effort over 65 minutes last Saturday night at Minnesota Duluth.

  • Bitzer surpasses the 16 clean sheets accumulated by Colorado College's Jeff Sanger between 1998-2002 and Wisconsin's Brian Elliott from 2003-07.
  • He ranks sixth in NCAA Division I men's history, one shy of Cornell's David McKee (2004-06) for fifth and two back of a tie for third (19, by Quinnipiac's Michael Garteig between 2013-16 and Cornell's Ben Scrivens from 2007-10). Michigan State's Ryan Miller set the record with 26 from 1999-2002, while Vermont's Joe Fallon had 20 between 2005-08.

- Presence in the Polls: Thanks to some impressive early-season performances (see below), the WCHA now has a pair of teams ranked in the national polls, with two more receiving votes.

  • Minnesota State (No. 14) and Michigan Tech (No. 15) are in the USCHO poll, while the Mavericks are 12th in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15. Bemidji State received votes in the former, Northern Michigan in the latter.

- Early Statements: Eighteen (18) of the WCHA's first 23 nonconference games have come against ranked teams (as of puck drop). WCHA teams have responded with important efforts, compiling six wins and three ties in those contests.

  • Michigan Tech won the 2017 Ice Breaker Tournament after defeating then-No. 16 Union (6-3) on Oct. 6, followed by host and then-No. 6/12 Minnesota Duluth (4-3) on Oct. 7.
  • Minnesota State, the preseason coaches' and media favorite to win the WCHA, went on the road last weekend and -- behind the efforts of NCAA No. 1 Star of the Week Daniel Brickley -- swept then-No. 2 Boston University (6-3 and 2-0).
  • Reigning MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State opened its season last Friday with a 5-2 home victory over then-No. 5/9 Minnesota Duluth, followed by a scoreless tie Saturday night on the Bulldogs' home ice.
  • Ferris State posted a win against then-No. 20 Western Michigan (Oct. 7), while Alaska Anchorage earned a tie against then-No. 7 North Dakota (Oct. 6) and Alaska skated to a draw with then-No. 17 Air Force (Oct. 7).

By the Numbers

- 0.5: Seconds remaining in regulation last Saturday night in Big Rapids, Mich., before Northern Michigan's Darien Craighead scored to give the Wildcats an improbable 1-0 win and sweep at Ferris State.

- 56: Years of head coaching experience will be behind the benches when Ferris State visits Mercyhurst. Bulldogs' head coach Bob Daniels is in his 26th season, while Lakers' bench boss Rick Gotkin is in his 30th campaign.

- 2,645: Career saves for senior Olivier Mantha, the Alaska Anchorage program record. A four-year starter for the Seawolves, Mantha became UAA's all-time leader last weekend, eclipsing the 2,637 amassed by Paul Krake (1989-92).


The Week Ahead

- WCHA Matchups: Perennial WCHA contenders meet in the league openers for No. 14/12 Minnesota State and host Bowling Green. Elsewhere, after a 3-1-1 start on the road, No. 15 Michigan Tech hosts its home opener against Alabama Huntsville.

- Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup: The annual Frontier State rivalry series gets underway with a nonconference, home-and-home set between the Nanooks and Seawolves. Friday's contest is in Anchorage, while Saturday's is in Fairbanks.

- Intriguing Nonconference Weekend: The Serratore brothers square off in Bemidji, as Tom's Bemidji State Beavers host Frank's 20th-ranked Air Force Falcons. For the second straight season, Northern Michigan hosts No. 6/5 Wisconsin at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., while Lake Superior State visits top-ranked Denver and Ferris State travels to Mercyhurst.


The Week in Review

- Northern Michigan opened WCHA play in impressive fashion, sweeping host Ferris State behind clutch, late-game goals from Troy Loggins (Friday) and Darien Craighead (Saturday), along with fantastic goaltending by Atte Tolvanen (WCHA-best 75 saves).

- The annual Great Lake State Weekend featured entertaining WCHA hockey, as No. 15/13 Michigan Tech outlasted host Lake Superior State for five points.

- Minnesota State showed off its preseason promise in an impressive road sweep at No. 2 Boston University, posting 6-3 and 3-0 victories over the Terriers.

- Bemidji State opened its season with a statement, scoring four in the third period for a 5-2 victory over No. 5/9 Minnesota Duluth on Friday night, before skating to a scoreless tie with the Bulldogs on Saturday.

- Bowling Green opened its season with three nonconference games, earning a home win over Michigan State in-between road losses at Western Michigan and to the Spartans in East Lansing.

- Alaska gave one of the nation's top teams all it could handle, twice taking leads into the third period, but eventually both games at No. 6/4 St. Cloud State.

- Alaska Anchorage dropped a pair of games at Colorado College; however, senior goaltender Olivier Mantha set the school record for career saves.

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


Northern Michigan 3, at Ferris State 2
Northern Michigan 2, at Ferris State 1
(Oct. 13 and 14 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.)

Northern Michigan opened WCHA play in impressive fashion, sweeping host Ferris State behind clutch, late-game goals from Troy Loggins (Friday) and Darien Craighead (Saturday), along with fantastic goaltending by Atte Tolvanen (WCHA-best 75 saves).

Loggins' goal at the 7:18 mark of the third period Friday snapped a 2-2 tie and gave the Wildcats a 3-2 victory. Freshman blue-liner Adam Roeder scored his first collegiate goal to give NMU a 1-0 lead in the first period, while Robbie Payne continued his red-hot start with his fifth goal of the season in the second stanza. Tolvanen made 40 saves, including 14 in the decisive third period, helping NMU win despite being outshot for the game, 42-20.

Craighead scored the game's only goal Saturday, and he did so with less than a half-second remaining in regulation. Tolvanen turned aside all 35 shots he faced for the shutout, which resulted in a 1-0 victory thanks to Craighead's last-second heroics.


No. 15/13 Michigan Tech 4, at Lake Superior State 3
No. 15/13 Michigan Tech 2, at Lake Superior State 2 - OT (MTU wins shootout, 1-0)
(Oct. 13 and 14 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)

The annual Great Lake State Weekend featured entertaining WCHA hockey, as No. 15/13 Michigan Tech outlasted host Lake Superior State for five points.

Gavin Gould scored twice in Friday's series opener, including a tie-breaking goal midway through the third period, as the Huskies held on for a 4-3 victory. Tech jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, but goals by Max Humitz (16:25 mark of the second) and Anthony Nellis (4:51 of the third) drew the Lakers even. Freshman Greyson Reitmeier's third-period goal -- the first of his career -- stood as the game-winner for Tech.

Saturday's series finale was the first WCHA league game of the season to extend beyond 65 minutes, with Michigan Tech earning the extra point with a shootout victory following an official 2-2 tie. Nellis scored 8:44 into the third period to tie the game for the Lakers, and goaltenders Patrick Munson of Michigan Tech (23 saves) and freshman Mareks Mitens of Lake Superior State (40 saves in his collegiate debut) made the score stand. The sudden-death shootout lasted four rounds, before MTU's Jake Lucchini solved Mitens and Humitz came up empty for LSSU.


Minnesota State 6, at No. 2 Boston University 3
Minnesota State 3, at No. 2 Boston University 0
(Oct. 13 and 14 at Agganis Arena; Boston, Mass.)

Minnesota State showed off its preseason promise in an impressive road sweep at No. 2 Boston University, posting 6-3 and 3-0 victories over the Terriers.

The Mavericks got a goal and three assists from reigning WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Brickley in Friday's contest, with the goal tying the game 2-2 at the 16:38 mark of the first period. From there, Minnesota State scored four of the game's final five goals for a 6-3 triumph. Charlie Gerard, Ian Scheid (power-play game-winner) and Riese Zmolek (first career goal) scored in the second period, while Jared Spooner added his first collegiate goal in the final stanza. Senior Connor LaCouvee, a transfer to the Mavericks' program, made his first appearance in the Minnesota State net and made 32 saves in the win.

Junior netminder Jason Pawloski was perfect for Minnesota State on Saturday night, stopping all 26 shots in leading the Mavericks to a 3-0 win. Nick Rivera's second-period goal stood as the game-winner, while C.J. Suess and Marc Michaelis each chipped in a goal and an assist apiece. Pawloski made 12 saves in the first period, four in the second and 10 in the third for his fourth career shutout.


at Bemidji State 5, No. 5/9 Minnesota Duluth 2
Bemidji State 0, at No. 5/9 Minnesota Duluth 0 - OT
(Oct. 13 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.; Oct. 14 at AMSOIL Arena; Duluth, Minn.)

Bemidji State opened its season with a statement, scoring four in the third period for a 5-2 victory over No. 5/9 Minnesota Duluth on Friday night, before skating to a scoreless tie with the Bulldogs on Saturday.

The host Beavers trailed 1-0 at the end of the first period Friday, but rallied for the tying goal in the second and four more in the third for a 5-2 victory. Gerry Fitzgerald tied the game in the middle stanza, before Adam Brady (power-play goal), Justin Baudry (game-winner), freshman Brendan Harris (first career goal) and Leo Fitzgerald (empty-netter) all scored in the third period. Michael Bitzer, the 2016-17 WCHA Player of the Year, made 27 saves for BSU.

Bitzer stole the show Saturday night as the home-and-home series moved to Duluth, making a career-high 45 saves in the scoreless tie. His 17th career shutout -- the most in WCHA history and most by an active NCAA goaltender -- featured 11 saves in the first period, 16 in the second, 13 in the third and four in the first overtime. BSU was outshot through 65 minutes, 45-27, but survived thanks to their goaltender's heroics. The teams skated through a scoreless second OT, before Jay Dickman scored in a shootout for the Beavers.


at Western Michigan 3, Bowling Green 1
(Oct. 10 at Lawson Arena; Kalamazoo, Mich.)
at Bowling Green 4, Michigan State 1
at Michigan State 3, Bowling Green 2
(Oct. 13 at BGSU Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio and Oct. 14 at Munn Ice Arena; East Lansing, Mich.)

Bowling Green opened its season with three nonconference games, earning a home win over Michigan State in-between road losses at Western Michigan and to the Spartans in East Lansing.

Freshman Cameron Wright's first collegiate goal was the lone score for the Falcons in a 3-1 loss Tuesday at Western Michigan.

Friday's home opener was much better for Bowling Green, which scored three goals in a 1:41 stretch of the first period en route to a 4-1 triumph over Michigan State. Stephen Baylis, Frederic Letourneau and Wright all lit the lamp between the 8:14 and 9:55 mark, while freshman Connor Ford capped the scoring with his first career goal in the third period. Fellow rookie Eric Dop made 27 saves for the win in his collegiate debut.

BGSU held a 2-1 lead in the second period Saturday in East Lansing behind goals by freshman Brandon Kluse (first career) and junior Shane Bednard, but the host Spartans scored the game's final two goals -- including the winner with 40 seconds to play. Ryan Bednard made 32 saves for the Falcons, who were outshot by a 35-24 margin (including 16-5 in the third period).


at No. 6/4 St. Cloud State 6, Alaska 3
at No. 6/4 St. Cloud State 5, Alaska 4 - OT
(Oct. 13 and 14 at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center; St. Cloud, Minn.)

Alaska gave one of the nation's top teams all it could handle, twice taking leads into the third period, but eventually dropping both games at No. 6/4 St. Cloud State.

The visiting Nanooks jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first 8:29 of action in Friday's series opener behind goals by Kylar Hope, Ryker Leer and Troy Van Tetering. However, St. Cloud State scored once in the first period, once in the second and four times in the third for the 6-3 victory. Alaska goaltender Anton Martinsson made double-digit saves in each period, finishing with 36 as the Nanooks were outshot by a 42-25 margin.

Alaska dropped a heartbreaking, 5-4 decision Saturday, yielding the tying goal with 1:49 remaining in regulation and the winner 2:06 into overtime. Ross Heidt scored twice for the Nanooks, including a goal at the 16:56 mark of the third period that up UAF up, 4-3. Fellow sophomores Kylar Hope and Tristan Thompson also lit the lamp for Alaska.


at Colorado College 6, Alaska Anchorage 1
at Colorado College 3, Alaska Anchorage 2
(Oct. 13 and 14 at Broadmoor World Arena; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Alaska Anchorage dropped a pair of games at Colorado College; however, senior goaltender Olivier Mantha set the school record for career saves.

Six different Colorado College skaters scored Friday night as the home team rolled to a 6-1 victory. Freshman Trey deGraaf scored his first career goal for the Seawolves.

Tad Kozun and freshman Cameron Trott (first career goal) each scored Saturday night, but it was not enough to overcome Mason Bergh's hat trick in a 3-2 CC victory.

Mantha made 30 saves Friday and 38 Saturday, giving him 2,645 stops in his UAA career. He passed Paul Krake (1989-92), who finished his career with 2,637 saves.