By Robert Desimone
Minnesota State and Ferris State will face off Saturday, 6:07 p.m. ET at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. to battle for the Broadmoor Trophy, along with the WCHA's automatic berth into the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Saturday will mark the 32nd time the Broadmoor Trophy will be handed out to the winner of the WCHA Tournament Championship.
Saturday Kids Clinic
Championship festivities begin on Saturday with the free WCHA Youth Clinic, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods, at Van Andel Arena from 1:00 to 2:50 p.m.
Championship Game - 6:07 PM (Gates open at 4:00 PM)
For tickets, click here or visit the Van Andel Arena Box Office.
130 West Fulton
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
2016 Honorary Fifth Team – Grand Rapids Sled Wings
The name "Final Five" is synonymous with the WCHA and its treasured playoff championship. Originally dubbed the WCHA Final Five when the league's five first-round playoff winners met at the St. Paul Civic Center at the end of the 1992-93 season, and continuing in 2011 when the field expanded to six teams in a five-game format, the moniker has stuck through different formats and venues.
Minnesota State and Ferris State faced off twice previously this season, with the teams splitting games on November 6 and 7 in Big Rapids, Mich. The Bulldogs opened the series with a 7-4 victory, despite being outshot 38-27 on the night. The teams combined for 14 power-play opportunities, with both teams scoring two power-play goals. Minnesota State bounced back on November 7 with a 3-2 victory, out-shooting Ferris State 33-31.
Minnesota State Storylines
Minnesota State enters Saturday's matchup seeking its third-consecutive Broadmoor Trophy. The Mavericks defeated Ferris State 4-1 in the championship game of the 2014 WCHA Final Five, also played at Van Andel Arena. Last year, they defeated Michigan Tech 5-2 in the title game played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Minnesota State is coming off a 2-1 victory over Bowling Green on Friday to advance to the 2016 WCHA Final Five Championship Game.
"I'd like to make sure I recognize Bowling Green and the battle that took place," said Minnesota State Head Coach Mike Hastings after the game Friday. "I've got a lot of respect for Coach Bergeron, staff and Bowling Green. Ever since we've gotten into the league together, it doesn't matter if it's at our place, at their place, it always is a battle and it always seems like a one-goal game."
The Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game off goals from Brad McClure and Casey Nelson. Cole Huggins made 23 saves on the night for Minnesota State but had his shutout bid thwarted in the final five minutes off a goal from Bowling Green's Mitch McLain.
"We're fortunate to be back here [in the Championship Game]," Hastings added. "I thought they made a push, which we knew Bowling Green would. I think we got off to a good start and just found a way and at this time I think that's what you have to do. We're blessed to be moving on and we appreciate the opportunity."
Brad McClure – McClure's goal gives him three goals and two assists in four playoff games this year. He has 41 points (20-21=41) in 79 career games, and 13 points (9-4=13) in eight WCHA playoff games. The sophomore was named MVP of the 2015 Final Five after a five-goal, one-assist performance, including two scores against Ferris State in the semifinal and a natural hat trick against Michigan Tech in the championship game.
"His expectation for himself is going to be greater than anything I put on him or anything else," Hastings said of McClure.
Cole Huggins – Huggins improved to 13-10-2 this year and is now 38-20-3 in his career. The junior goaltender ranks sixth all-time in career wins for the Mavericks, and tied for first with 10 collegiate shutouts.
"Cole has fun playing the game, he has fun going to school at Minnesota State and he enjoys life," Hastings said of his goaltender.
"It just seems that the higher the bar the more calm he is," added McClure.
Season Series – WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Casey Nelson led Minnesota State with two goals and two assists in the weekend series at Ferris State back in November. Zeb Knutson had a goal and an assist, and nine other players recorded a point. Huggins finished the weekend 1-1 with a 3.65 goals-against average and an .885 save percentage, stopping 46-of-52 shots faced.
NCAA Tournament - Minnesota State is tied for 21st in the NCAA Pairwise Rankings and is seeking the WCHA's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, which would be the fourth-straight for the Mavericks. "Our perspective on it has been if we can find a way to bond together for a day to live another one we'll take that," Hastings said.
Ferris State Storylines
Ferris State enters Saturday's Championship game seeking its first WCHA Playoff Championship after a 1-0 semifinal victory over Michigan Tech. Senior forward Kenny Babinski finally broke through for the Bulldogs in a scoreless game at 11:15 of the 3rd period and freshman Darren Smith made 30 saves in the shutout victory.
"That was a championship environment," said Ferris State Head Coach Bob Daniels. "Obviously a very close game and feel fortunate to move forward. If you look back there were a lot of different chances, a lot of hold your breath moments. Obviously Tech is a great opponent and we feel fortunate to move forward and I'm proud of that and proud of our players."
Darren Smith – Smith recorded his third shutout of the season Friday, tied for third in the WCHA (and tied for second among all NCAA rookie netminders), and improved to 15-9-5 on the year.
"There's a lot of similarities as I look at him to CJ Motte in terms of personalities," Daniels said of Smith. He's very calm, cool, collected."
The freshman goaltender replaced the graduated Motte this season. Motte led the Bulldogs to the 2014 NCAA Championship game and finished in the top 10 in voting for the Hobey Baker Award in 2013-14.
Kenny Babinski – A week after Ferris State's junior class erupted for 14 points in the weekend sweep over Northern Michigan, it was the senior Babinski scoring the only goal in the victory vs. Michigan Tech. Babinski now has 13 points (9g-4a) on the season.
Gerald Mayhew – Mayhew leads Ferris State with 13 goals, 22 assists and 35 points (matching Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger for most in the WCHA). The Bulldogs are 7-2-1 this season when the junior scores a goal, and 14-5-4 when he records a point heading into the Championship Game. Mayhew scored three points in the Bulldogs' 7-4 victory vs. Minnesota State on Nov. 6 (1g-2a), but was held scoreless the following night in a 3-2 loss to the Mavericks.
Season Series – Mayhew, Andrew Dorantes, Corey Mackin and Jared VanWormer all recorded three points in the series against Minnesota State on November 6-7. Smith was 1-1 on the weekend, with a 3.55 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, stopping 64-of-71 shots faced.
NCAA Tournament – The Bulldogs are seeking their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and the WCHA's automatic berth that comes with the Broadmoor Trophy.
"It just creates two championships to win, Saturday and the NCAA tournament," said Kenny Babinski. "You win and you get in."
In 2011-12, Ferris State advanced to the National Championship game before falling 4-1 to Boston College. The Bulldogs lost 2-1 to North Dakota in the 2013-14 Midwest Regional Final.