EDINA, Minn. – Jan. 4, 2016 – With the holiday tournament season and opening weekend of the second half wrapped up, the first men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Players of the Week for 2016 are: Michigan Tech junior forward Brent Baltus (Offensive Player of the Week), Bemidji State sophomore goaltender Michael Bitzer (Defensive Player of the Week) and Ferris State freshman forward Jacob Hetz (Rookie of the Week). Games available for consideration encompassed the lone pre-break series (Dec. 18-19, 2015) along with all contests during the week of Dec. 28, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016.
Brent Baltus, Jr., F
Michigan Tech (Nanaimo, British Columbia)
Baltus starred on the Great Lakes Invitational stage, earning All-Tournament honors after a two-goal, one-assist performance at the Joe Louis Arena. The junior from Nanaimo, British Columbia scored the overtime game-winner in the semifinals against Michigan State, after helping jump-start the Huskies' comeback from a 2-0, third-period deficit by assisting on Tech's first goal. He then helped Tech to an early lead in the championship game against now-No. 8 Michigan, burying a power-play goal at the 14:21 mark of the first period. This is Baltus' first career WCHA weekly honor.
Also nominated: Kenny Babinski, Sr., F, Ferris State (two-goal effort to lift the Bulldogs to a win in the third-place game of the Mariucci Classic); Gerry Fitzgerald, So., F, Bemidji State (assists on three of the Beavers' seven goals at UAF); Tyler Morley, Sr., F, Alaska (five-point weekend, including two goals and three assists); Ben Murphy, Sr., F, Bowling Green (two goals, one assist in three games); Dominik Shine, Jr., F, Northern Michigan (GLI All-Tournament team performer with goals in both games).
Michael Bitzer, So., G
Bemidji State (Moorhead, Minnesota)
In his lone appearance, Bitzer helped Bemidji State to a 1-1 draw at Alaska on Sunday that gave the Beavers three points on the weekend. The sophomore from Moorhead, Minn. turned aside 26-of-27 Nanooks shots, including two in overtime, while helping BSU's penalty-kill unit finish the evening holding UAF without a goal on four-of-five opportunities. This is Bitzer's second WCHA weekly honor of the 2015-16 season and seventh career accolade (including two Rookie of the Week wins).
Also nominated: Mark Auk, So., D, Michigan Tech (GLI All-Tournament team performer with three assists); Darren Smith, Fr., G, Ferris State (25 saves in his lone game, FSU's win in the third-place game of the Mariucci Classic).
Jacob Hetz, Fr., F
Ferris State (Glenshaw, Pennsylvania)
Hetz scored two goals on the weekend – including the eventual game-winner in the third-place game – as Ferris State earned a split at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis. The freshman from Glenshaw, Pa. scored his first collegiate goal, while finishing with a +1 rating, during Friday's 7-3 setback to now-No. 5/4 Harvard. Saturday, his goal at the 3:42 mark of the second period helped the Bulldogs to a 5-2 victory over Connecticut and a third-place finish at the tournament. He finished the weekend with four shots on goal and a +2 rating. This is Hetz' first career WCHA weekly honor.
Also nominated: Dillon Eichstadt, Fr., D, Bemidji State (Two assists, three blocked shots as BSU earned three points); Nick Kossoff, Fr., G, Lake Superior State (28-save shutout in 3-0 victory over Brown, his only game during the Catamount Cup); Adam Wilcox, Fr., F, Alabama Huntsville (Two goals in four games, including short-handed marker).