- Polling Place: Entering their showdown series, No. 3 Minnesota State and No. 12 Bowling Green are carrying the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) banner in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
- Additionally, Michigan Tech is receiving votes in both polls (21st and 19th, respectively), while Lake Superior State is 23rd by votes in the USCHO.com rankings.
- #HornsUp and #AyZiggy: This weekend's clash of WCHA titans features two of the nation's best teams, as Bowling Green hosts Minnesota State at the Slater Family Ice Arena, live on FloHockey.tv (7:37 p.m. ET Friday and 7:07 p.m. ET Saturday).
- The Mavericks are tied for the NCAA lead with 14 wins and an .875 winning percentage (14-2-0), while the Falcons are sixth in both at 11-3-3 (.735).
- Minnesota State and Bowling Green are two of six programs to rank in the NCAA's top-10 for both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Mavericks are second in both categories, scoring at a 4.19 per-game clip and yielding just 1.81 scores per contest, while the Falcons are seventh (3.65) and fourth (1.82), respectively.
- MSU is also one of four teams to rank in the top-10 in team offense, defense, power-play percentage (seventh at 25.9 percent) and penalty-kill percentage (seventh at 87.3), while BGSU is 10th in penalty-kill rate (86.5).
- Winning Hockey: The Mavericks and Falcons are joined by Lake Superior State and Michigan Tech (both 9-6-1, .594) in the NCAA's upper echelon for wins. The Lakers and Huskies are tied for 11th in wins and 17th in winning percentage.
- About that Goalie Goal: With Northern Michigan leading, 4-2, last Friday night and visiting Michigan Tech having pulled its goalie with 1:07 remaining, Wildcats senior goaltender Atte Tolvanen corralled a loose puck and sent it the length of the ice and into the empty net – becoming just the fourth NCAA Division I men's netminder (of the 11 credited with a goal) to shoot and score himself.
- Tolvanen is only the second WCHA goalie ever credited with a goal (Michigan Tech's Damian Rhodes in 1989).
- Bulldog Blue Line: One of the national first-half storylines in 2018-19 has been the scoring prowess of defensemen. This trend has held true at Ferris State, where the Bulldogs' top pairing of junior Nate Kallen (2g-12a--14pts) and freshman Cooper Zech (3-11--14) lead the WCHA and are tied for 20th nationally among blueliners with 0.88 points-per-game.
- Zech has seven points (2g-5a) during a current four-game point streak and 10 (2-8) in his last seven contests.
- Among the Best: Three (3) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams since 2013-14 realignment play in the WCHA.
- Minnesota State has gone 141-60-16 (.687) to lead all NCAA Division I men's hockey programs in victories in that span, while Michigan Tech (120-76-27, .599) is 10th and Bowling Green (118-73-28, .603) is tied for 12th.
By the Numbers
- 4: WCHA teams playing in tournaments from Dec. 28-31. Host Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State are participating in the 54th annual Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit. Minnesota State is in Glendale, Ariz. for the Desert Hockey Classic, while Alabama Huntsville travels to Burlington, Vt. for the Catamount Cup.
- 8,726: Combined attendance that saw UP rivals Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan clash last weekend. Sellout crowds greeted the Huskies and Wildcats on Friday in Marquette (4,260) and Saturday in Houghton (4,466).
The Week Ahead
- Last Weekend Before the Break: Eight (8) of the 13 NCAA Division I men's regular season games this weekend occur in the WCHA, as the league has four series before the 2018 holiday break (all eight games on FloHockey.tv).
- Along with the Minnesota State-Bowling Green heavyweight bout, Bemidji State hosts Alaska Anchorage (BSU is 9-1-2 at home vs. UAA), Michigan Tech welcomes Alabama Huntsville (the Huskies can enter the break anywhere from first to third place) and Northern Michigan entertains Ferris State (NMU last lost at home to FSU in 2015).
- Also, Lake Superior State skates against the U.S. Under-18 Team in a Sunday afternoon exhibition in Plymouth, Mich.
The Week in Review
The first weekend of the season that featured a full slate of five WCHA league series was highly entertaining, featuring two hat tricks, a shootout and another OT contest, and the ever-rare goalie goal.
Lake Superior State 4, at Alaska 1
Lake Superior State 5, at Alaska 2
(Dec. 7 and 8 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska)
- The visiting Lakers bounced back from a tough weekend prior with a sweep in Fairbanks, using special-teams prowess to vault themselves up to fourth place in the WCHA standings.
- The host Nanooks struck first 4:52 into Friday's series opener (goal by Kyle Marino), but Lake Superior State scored the game's final four goals in a 4-1 triumph. Diego Cuglietta single-handedly rallied LSSU in the first period, netting a power-play goal at 9:40 and then scoring shorthanded just 2:42 later to give the Lakers a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. Collin Saccoman added an insurance goal midway through the third period, while Anthony Nellis netted a shorthanded, empty-net strike to seal the outcome. Nick Kossoff stopped 22-of-23 shots for LSSU.
- Saturday's game was tied 2-2 after a wild first period, before LSSU's Brayden Gelsinger took over with a natural hat trick – the first three-goal effort of his career – to lift the Lakers to a 5-2 victory. The junior scored a pair of power-play goals just 1:38 apart in the second period, then sealed the hat trick with an empty-netter in the third (he also had a first-period assist for a four-point night). Nellis and Max Humitz scored to give LSSU an early 2-0 lead, but UAF tied the contest before intermission thanks to goals by Max Newton and Chris Jandric. Kossoff made 20 of his 28 saves over the final 40 minutes for the win.
at Bemidji State 4, Alabama Huntsville 0
Alabama Huntsville 4, at Bemidji State 2
(Dec. 7 and 8 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
- The series between old-time rivals left nothing resolved, as the host Beavers won Friday before the Chargers bounced back Saturday to earn the split.
- Charlie Combs netted his first career hat trick and Henry Johnson posted a 15-save shutout, leading the Beavers to a 4-0 win in Friday's series opener. Freshman Alex Ierullo opened the scoring for BSU at the 7:09 mark of the first period, before Combs lit the lamp three times for a natural hat trick. The sophomore scored a power-play goal at 15:29 of the second period, an even-strength marker 59 seconds into the third and another power-play goal 4:58 after that.
- BSU carried a 2-1 lead into the third period Saturday, but the visiting Chargers rallied for three goals to stun the Beavers, 4-2, and earn their second win of the year. Freshman Bauer Neudecker brought UAH even with a goal 3:56 into the final period, Cam Knight potted the power-play game-winner just 38 seconds later and Connor Merkley added an insurance goal at 13:43. UAH goaltender Jake Theut, a transfer from Northeastern, made 10 of his 21 saves over the final 20 minutes to earn his first collegiate victory.
No. 12/13 Bowling Green 3, at Ferris State 3 - OT (BGSU wins shootout, 1-0)
No. 12/13 Bowling Green 4, at Ferris State 3 - OT
(Dec. 7 and 8 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.)
- A lot of extra hockey in Big Rapids, as the 12th-ranked Falcons won the shootout following a Friday tie, then scored 25 seconds into OT to win Saturday.
- Friday's series opener was filled with late drama, as the third period featured two ties and a lead change, before the game went all the way to a shootout. Trailing 2-1 entering the final stanza, the host Bulldogs got goals by Oskar Andren and freshman Justin Michaelian (first of his career) to surge ahead, 3-2. That lead held under three minutes remaining, when Cameron Wright scored for the Falcons to the game at the 17:19 mark. The sudden-death shootout went two rounds, with Bowling Green freshman Taylor Schneider scoring and Ryan Bednard making both saves to the give the Falcons an extra league point.
- Bowling Green freshman Alex Barber scored his second career goal – and first game-winner – 25 seconds into overtime, lifting the Falcons to a 4-3 win and five-point weekend. Both teams again rallied in regulation, with goals by Ferris State's Corey Mackin in the second period and Lucas Finner 1:09 into the third turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. But, again, the Falcons answered, as Brandon Kruse knotted the score at 3-3 with a goal at 2:39 of the final period.
at No. 3/4 Minnesota State 4, Alaska Anchorage 1
at No. 3/4 Minnesota State 6, Alaska Anchorage 0
(Dec. 7 and 8 at Verizon Center; Mankato, Minn.)
- Playing their first home games since mid-November, the host Mavericks moved into first place in the WCHA by sweeping the Seawolves.
- The third-ranked Mavericks got goals from four different players to win Friday's series opener, 4-1. Jared Spooner and Alec Vanko gave Minnesota State a 2-1 lead heading to the third period, with Vanko's goal – the first for the senior since Oct. 29, 2016 – standing as the game-winner. Josh French (empty-netter) and Walker Duehr scored in the final two minutes for the Mavericks, while Nils Rygaard had the lone Seawolves tally.
- The Mavericks took 58 shots on goal – their most since 2015 – and converted six times, while Dryden McKay made 12 saves in a 6-0 victory Saturday. Marc Michaelis led the way with a three-point night that featured an assist and a pair of second-period goals, freshman Shane McMahan netted his first career goal, while Parker Tuomie got the scoring started just 5:21 into the contest. All told, Minnesota State scored three times in both the first and second periods.
at Northern Michigan 5, No. 20 Michigan Tech 3
(Dec. 7 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)
at No. 20 Michigan Tech 3, Northern Michigan 1 (Dec. 8 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.)
- The fierce UP rivals, meeting for the first time since the 2018 WCHA Championship, split a home-and-home series in which each team defended home ice in front of a sellout crowd.
- A packed house of 4,260 at the Berry Events Center on Friday night saw history, as Atte Tolvanen became the first goaltender in Northern Michigan history to score a goal. Tolvanen corralled a loose puck with 1:07 remaining and sent it the length of the ice into the empty Tech net, becoming the 11th goalie in NCAA Division I men's history (2nd in the WCHA) to score – and just the fourth to shoot the puck himself. The reigning WCHA Goaltender of the Month also made 23 saves in the 5-3 win, while Darien Craighead and Troy Loggins also scored in the third period as the host Wildcats snapped a 2-2 tie.
- Michigan Tech bounced back from their first league loss of the season in a big way Saturday, delighting a sellout crowd of 4,466 with a 3-1 win at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Seamus Donohue scored on a first-period power-play for his first goal of the season, Justin Misiak also scored in the frame and Trenton Bliss complemented a first-period assist with a second-period power-play goal for the Huskies. While he didn't score himself, Tech sophomore goaltender Robbie Beydoun stopped 28-of-29 shots in his first start of the season to outduel Tolvanen (36 saves) and earn the win.
2019 WCHA Postseason Tournament
Once again in 2019, the WCHA will bring the singular intensity and passion of playoff college hockey directly to its member institution fans with an eight-team, three-round tournament hosted on-campus by the highest remaining seeds. The winner will receive an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship and the Jeff Sauer WCHA Championship Trophy, presented by Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup.