Every weekday from May 23-June 3, we will be looking back at the top-10 moments from the 2015-16 WCHA season. Up next on our countdown is…
Moment #4: MacNaughton Cup Comes Home, and Stays Put
Winning the WCHA men's regular season championship, as has proven time and time again over the past 64 seasons, has traditionally been one of the toughest titles to win in collegiate sports. In all but seven of those seasons, the winner has received the fabled MacNaughton Cup – college hockey's most iconic treasure.
Dating back 102 years to its original purchase in 1913, handcrafted of pure silver, standing three-feet high, and weighing more than 40 pounds, the MacNaughton Cup is the shining symbol of the WCHA and its distinguished tradition as a premier collegiate hockey conference since the league's founding in 1951.
The Cup quest was once again a dramatic journey in 2015-16, one that resulted in an historic finish for two programs. Originally crafted in Calumet, Mich., the MacNaughton Cup returned to its ancestral home in Copper Country for the first time since 1976, with Michigan Tech ending a 40-year title drought by earning a share of its seventh WCHA regular season title. A year after winning its first-ever league crown, Minnesota State repeated as co-champions, becoming the first back-to-back WCHA winners since realignment.
Michigan Tech surged to the title over the second half of its league schedule, going 10-1-3 over its final 14 WCHA games after Dec.11. After their lone loss in that stretch, a Feb. 19 setback at Bemidji State, the Huskies won their final five regular season games – including a home-and-home sweep over rival Northern Michigan on the final weekend. Tech's 5-1 victory at Marquette on the season's final night gave the Huskies an 18-7-3 league record, 39 points and, coupled with Bemidji State's win that night at Minnesota State, a share of the WCHA regular season championship. In a poignant moment following Michigan Tech's WCHA quarterfinal round series win the following week, the MacNaughton Cup was brought out and – at the urging of head coach Mel Pearson – the Houghton fans stormed the ice for a moment with the trophy.
Minnesota State opened defense of its league title with a bang, sweeping its first two WCHA series and going 9-1-4 over its first 14 games. Beginning Jan. 22, the Mavericks then posted a 7-2-2 mark over an 11-game league stretch. The impressive run concluded with a 6-1 win over Bemidji State on the season's penultimate night – a victory that allowed Minnesota State and head coach Mike Hastings to clinch a share of the title with 39 points, and hoist the MacNaughton Cup in front of its home fans at the Verizon Wireless Center.
This season's tie atop the standings marked the seventh time in league history that the WCHA has co-champions (also following the 1952-53, 1957-58, 1962-63, 1996-97, 2004-05 and 2012-13 seasons).
Top-10 Moments from the 2015-16 WCHA Season