WCHA Week 12: Holiday Tournaments And Nonconference Tests Await; Alaska Hosts Bemidji State In Lone WCHA Series
Northern Michigan will play in the GLI for the first time since 1998

Opening Face-Off

- Falcons and Mavericks in Top 20: The WCHA's two hottest teams, Bowling Green and Minnesota State, are the league's representatives in the national polls entering the second half of the 2015-16 campaign. The Falcons are No. 12 and the Mavericks are No. 18 in the USCHO.com rankings, while BGSU is No. 13 in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine ledger. A third WCHA team, Michigan Tech, is receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll.

- Competitive Balance: At the exact halfway point of the league schedule, with 70 of 140 conference games having been played, seven teams are .500 or better in WCHA play. While the WCHA has 70 percent of its membership at or above the .500 mark in league play, no other conference has more than 54.5 percent of its teams playing at least break-even hockey in conference games.

- Exciting Second Half Ahead: This league-wide competitive balance, in which any team can win on a given night, sets up what should be an intriguing second half in the WCHA. Only three points separate the top three teams in the standings, there is a four-point gap between fourth and sixth place, and only six points mean the difference between fourth place (and home ice for the WCHA playoffs) and eighth. Finally, only four points separate the current bottom three teams, with only one of those qualifying for the postseason.

- Color Change: The WCHA is instituting a new uniform policy for all conference games during the second half of the 2015-16 season, one which mirrors the common practice of the National Hockey League. Beginning this weekend when Alaska hosts Bemidji State, the home team will wear dark sweaters and the visiting team will wear light-colored uniforms for all WCHA contests. A WCHA institution can wear either dark or light uniforms when hosting nonconference games.

The Week Ahead

- Holiday Tournaments and Nonconference Tests: In what is shaping up to be a significant week, WCHA teams will play either 11 or 13 nonconference games (depending on semifinal results of the Great Lakes Invitational). The slate includes four scheduled contests against ranked opponents, along with games against the Big Ten (minimum of two, maximum of five), ECAC Hockey (four), Hockey East (minimum of one, maximum of two) and NCHC (three).

- Great Lakes Invitational (Dec. 29-30): The 51st annual Great Lakes Invitational will take place Tuesday and Wednesday at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich. Host Michigan Tech skates against Michigan State in one semifinal, while Northern Michigan - back in the GLI for the first time since 1998 - faces defending champion and nationally 10th-ranked Michigan in the other Tuesday contest.

- Catamount Cup (Dec. 29-30): Lake Superior State will travel to Burlington, Vt. to participate for the third time in the Catamount Cup (the Lakers won the title in 2001 and finished second in 2011). LSSU faces-off against host Vermont on Tuesday before playing Brown on Wednesday. Last season, the Lakers defeated Notre Dame in the championship game of the Florida College Hockey Classic.

- Mariucci Classic (Jan. 1-2): Ferris State draws No. 7 Harvard on Friday in the opening round of the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis. The Bulldogs will then face either Connecticut or host Minnesota on Saturday night.

- Three for Bowling Green: Tied for the second-longest active unbeaten streak in the country at nine games (7-0-2), Bowling Green plays Western Michigan on Wednesday at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio as part of the Toledo Walleye's Winterfest. The Falcons then welcome Clarkson to the BGSU Ice Arena on Saturday and Sunday. BGSU is 9-0-4 in its last 13 home games.

- Alabama Huntsville at North Dakota: UAH travels to Grand Forks, N.D. for a two-game series with the No. 2/3 Fighting Hawks.

- WCHA - Bemidji State at Alaska: The lone WCHA series of the week pits two teams looking to jump-start their second halves. Eighth-place Bemidji State carries a one-point lead over ninth-place Alaska into the two-game set in Fairbanks.