- Two in the Top-10: The men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) enters the second half of the 2018-19 season with two teams in the top-10 of the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll: No. 8 Minnesota State and No. 9 Bowling Green.
- The Mavericks (eighth) and Falcons (10th) are also in the top-10 of the PairWise Rankings, while Lake Superior State (19th) and Michigan Tech (23rd) are within striking distance of the top-16.
- Minnesota State is 7-3 against opponents ranked at game time (2-0 vs. No. 8 Boston University, 1-1 vs. No. 16 North Dakota, 2-0 vs. No. 10 Minnesota, 2-0 vs. No. 20 Lake Superior State and 0-2 vs. No. 12 Bowling Green).
- Bowling Green is undefeated in such contests, going 5-0-1 (2-0-0 vs. No. 18/19 Western Michigan, 1-0-1 vs. No. 4 Ohio State and 2-0-0 vs. No. 3 Minnesota State).
- Winning Hockey: Minnesota State is one of four teams with an NCAA-best 14 wins, while Bowling Green is next with 13 victories, Michigan Tech (10) is tied for ninth, while Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan are tied for 12th with nine.
- The WCHA has five teams at .500 or better, matching Hockey East for the second-most among NCAA conferences. The Mavericks (.778, 14-4-0) and Falcons (.763, 13-3-0) rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in the country for winning percentage. The Lakers (.594, 9-6-1) are tied for 17th and the Huskies (.583, 10-7-1) are tied for 19th.
- Good Luck, Mike!: The WCHA sends its best wishes to Minnesota State bench boss and two-time WCHA Coach of the Year Mike Hastings, who is serving as head coach for the U.S. National Team competing at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
- 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 141-62-16 (.680) to lead all NCAA Division I men's hockey programs in victories in that span, while Michigan Tech (121-77-27, .598) is 10th and Bowling Green (120-73-28, .606) is 11th.
By the Numbers
- 5: Points separating the top four teams in the WCHA standings. Just two points stand between league-leading Michigan Tech (29), second-place Bowling Green (28) and third-place Minnesota State (27), while Northern Michigan has 24.
- 14: Maximum number of nonconference games WCHA teams can play this week, depending on the semifinal results at the Great Lakes Invitational. The WCHA will play at least 12 out-of-conference contests, with three standard series and four teams competing in holiday tournaments.
- 26: Years had passed since Bowling Green swept a top-three opponent, before its two wins last weekend vs. then-No. 3 Minnesota State. The previous such effort by the Falcons was a home-and-home sweep of Michigan on Feb. 7-8, 1992.
The Week Ahead
- Desert Hockey Classic: Minnesota State will skate at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. The Mavericks face No. 3 Minnesota Duluth on Friday, then either No. 13 Arizona State or No. 19 Clarkson (per USCHO.com) on Saturday.
- Catamount Cup: Alabama Huntsville opens the Delta Hotel Burlington / TD Bank Catamount Cup against host Vermont on Friday, then faces off with Northeastern on Saturday.
- Great Lakes Invitational: Michigan Tech hosts the 54th annual GLI at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The Huskies face Michigan in one Sunday semifinal, while Lake Superior State meets Michigan State. All four games are streamed live on FloHockey.tv, while Monday's contests are also televised on FOX Sports Detroit.
- Nonconference Series: Ferris State is at Minnesota (Fri-Sat), Alaska Anchorage visits Omaha (Sat. and Mon.), while Bemidji State visits Air Force for a Saturday-Sunday clash of the Serratore brothers.
- Exhibition Game: Ninth-ranked Bowling Green will get set for the season's second half with a Dec. 30 exhibition contest against Windsor. Puck drop is set for noon ET on FloHockey.tv.
The Week in Review
There was significant movement in the WCHA standings prior to the holiday break, as No. 12 Bowling Green's sweep of No. 3 Minnesota State put the Falcons into second place, past the Mavericks, and paved the way for Michigan Tech to return to first place following a split with Alabama Huntsville. Northern Michigan jumped into fourth place following a sweep of Ferris State, while Alaska Anchorage earned its first WCHA win of the season with an OT triumph at Bemidji State.
at Bemidji State 5, Alaska Anchorage 1
Alaska Anchorage 2, at Bemidji State 1 - OT
(Dec. 14 and 15 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
- The host Beavers earned a series-opening win Friday, but the Seawolves scored in OT Saturday for their first league victory of the season.
- Bemidji State trailed 1-0 after just 2:36 of play Friday, but scored the game's final five goals to win, 5-1. Adam Brady tied the contest with a first-period power-play goal, before senior defenseman Dillon Eichstadt put the Beavers on top to stay in the second period with his first collegiate game-winning goal. Aaron Miller scored twice in the third period (and added an assist for a three-point night), while freshman forward Ross Armour had a career-high three assists.
- Close many times prior, Alaska Anchorage broke through with their first WCHA win of the season Saturday, as senior forward Jeremiah Luedtke scored on a breakaway 3:21 into overtime to send the Seawolves into the holiday break with a 2-1 victory. Charlie Combs continued his tear for Bemidji State, scoring his seventh goal in six games to give the Beavers a 1-0 lead late in the first period. David Trinkberger tied the score in the second, while goaltender Brody Claeys got UAA to overtime and into the win column with 21 of his game-high 28 saves after the opening stanza.
at No. 12 Bowling Green 4, No. 3 Minnesota State 1
at No. 12 Bowling Green 4, No. 3 Minnesota State 1
(Dec. 14 and 15 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio)
- The 12th-ranked Falcons made a huge statement to close out the first half, posting back-to-back 4-1 wins to sweep the #3 Mavericks at the "Madhouse on Mercer" -- believed to be BGSU's first brooming of a top-three opponent since a home-and-home sweep of No. 1 Michigan on Feb. 7-8, 1992.
- Bowling Green scored three times in the third period Friday, snapping a 1-1 tie and delivering a 4-1 win for the home fans. Minnesota State grabbed its only lead of the weekend with a goal at 11:17 of the first period (by Josh French) and held the 1-0 lead until midway through the second, when BGSU's Connor Ford scored the first of his two power-play goals. Brandon Kruse broke the 1-1 tie with the game-winner 4:27 into the final stanza (also on the power play), before Ford struck again on the man advantage. Stephen Baylis added an empty-net goal, while Ryan Bednard made 26 saves for the Falcons.
- The Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the end of 20 minutes Saturday and never looked back, completing a second-straight 4-1 win and the sweep. Freshman defenseman Tim Theocharidis opened the scoring at 16:27 of the first period, before Lukas Craggs gave Bowling Green a 3-0 lead with back-to-back goals at 17:57 of the opening stanza and 3:36 of the second. After Connor Mackey netted a power-play strike to bring the Mavericks within 3-1 late in the second period, BGSU freshman Taylor Schneider lit the lamp just 43 seconds later for the final 4-1 tally. Bednard was again solid in the Falcons net, turning aside 22-of-23 shots.
Alabama Huntsville 1, at Michigan Tech 0
at Michigan Tech 2, Alabama Huntsville 1 - OT
(Dec. 14 and 15 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.)
- With Bowling Green's sweep of Minnesota State, the Huskies could move back into first place in the WCHA standings with a win against the Chargers, which they got in Saturday's series finale.
- UAH sophomore goaltender Mark Sinclair was simply sensational Friday night, turning aside 39 shots in a 1-0, road shutout victory. Sinclair's 39-save effort marked the most by a Charger in a shutout since Scott Monroe also had 39 against Robert Morris on Feb. 26, 2005; it was also just the second UAH shutout this decade (the other coming Oct. 31, 2015). UAH freshman blueliner Bailey Newton recorded his first collegiate point, scoring the game's lone goal at 10:30 of the first period.
- Sinclair was again fantastic for UAH on Saturday with 35 saves, but Greyson Reitmeier scored 1:11 into OT to lift the host Huskies to a 2-1 win and into first place in the WCHA heading into the holiday break. Freshman Jack Jeffers scored in the first period to give the Chargers a 1-0 lead that they held until the third, but Tech rookie Tommy Parrottino tied the score with a power-play goal 3:15 into the final stanza. Robbie Beydoun made 12 of his 14 saves over the final two periods to earn the win for Michigan Tech.
at Northern Michigan 4, Ferris State 1
at Northern Michigan 4, Ferris State 2
(Dec. 14 and 15 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)
- The Wildcats swept the Bulldogs and enter the holiday break in fourth place after winning three of their last four, four of six and six of nine.
- Ferris State scored first Friday, with Dominic Lutz lighting the lamp just 2:22 into the game, but host Northern Michigan scored the game's final four goals to win, 4-1. Troy Loggins drew the Wildcats even at 8:06 of the first period, freshman Grant Loven snapped the tie with his first collegiate game-winner at 6:48 of the second, while Denver Pierce and Luke Voltin both scored in the third stanza. A week after scoring a goal, NMU netminder Atte Tolvanen assisted on Pierce's power-play tally, while making 18 saves for the win.
- The Wildcats led 3-0 after the first 20 minutes Saturday, withstood a Ferris State rally in the second period and held on for the 4-2 win and sweep. NMU freshman Griffin Loughran had a career-best 3-point night, scoring the game's first goal and assisting on two others. Tony Bretzman and Adam Rockwood also lit the lamp in the first period, while Joseph Nardi's second-period power-tally restored the Wildcats' multi-goal lead. Corey Mackin scored his fifth goal in the last seven games for the Bulldogs, while Jason Tackett followed to bring Ferris State within 3-2 early in the second period.
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.