2015-16 WCHA Men's League Season in Review
The Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) proudly completed its 64th year of competition in 2015-16.

Opening Face-Off

- No. 64 In the Books: The Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) proudly completed its 64th year of competition in 2015-16, another terrific season of on- and off-ice accomplishments by its student-athletes, coaches and programs.

  • The WCHA was represented in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, placed three teams in the final USCHO.com top-20 poll, had a quartet of programs reach the 20-win plateau, celebrated MacNaughton Cup co-champions for the seventh time in league history, hosted its last Final Five tournament, featured a Hobey Baker Memorial Award top-10 finalist, saw two student-athletes earn candidacy for the Senior CLASS Award and applauded 33 players who signed professional contracts.

- Polling Place: WCHA Final Five champion and NCAA Tournament Elite Eight participant Ferris State (No. 15), along with MacNaughton Cup co-champions Michigan Tech (No. 16) and Minnesota State (No. 17) gave the WCHA three ranked teams in the final USCHO.com top-20 poll for the second year in a row.

  • The Bulldogs were also ranked 15th in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll, while the Huskies - who finished 16th in the final pre-NCAA Tournament PairWise rankings - received votes.
  • Bowling Green, which spent 17 weeks of the season ranked in the top 20, received votes in the final USCHO.com poll.

- Elite Eight for Ferris State: Under the guidance of head coach Bob Daniels, Ferris State became the second WCHA team since realignment to reach the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, matching its own 2014 accomplishment. The recipient of the WCHA's automatic bid and the league's lone representative, the West Regional fourth-seed Bulldogs posted a thrilling, 5-4 overtime victory over St. Cloud State in the regional semifinal - knocking off the West's top seed and the nation's overall second-ranked team in the process.

- 4x20: With four separate 20-win teams for the first time since realignment, the WCHA was one of just two Division I conferences to have at least that many. Hockey East led the country with five, 20-win teams, both the Big Ten and NCHC had three each, and ECAC Hockey and Atlantic Hockey each had two apiece.

  • Michigan Tech (23-9-5), Bowling Green (22-14-6), Minnesota State (21-13-7) and Ferris State (20-15-6) formed the WCHA's 20-win quartet.
  • The Huskies and Falcons ranked 10th and 11th respectively, in the country for wins, while the Mavericks were tied for 13th and the Bulldogs were tied for 16th.

- Winning Hockey: Half of the WCHA's 10 teams (five) finished above .500, matching Hockey East (6-of-12) and the Big Ten (3-of-6) for the third-highest mark, by percentage, among Division I conferences. ECAC Hockey led the way with 66.7 percent of its membership at-or-above .500 (8-of-12), followed by the NCHC at 62.5 percent (5-of-8).

  • Michigan Tech's .689 winning percentage ranked seventh nationally, while Minnesota State (t-17th at .598), Bowling Green (t-19th at .595) and Ferris State (24th at .561) were also in the top 25.

- The Cup Goes Home and Stays Put: For the seventh time in league history (also 1952-53, 1957-58, 1962-63, 1996-97, 2004-05 and 2012-13), the WCHA had regular season-co champions, as Michigan Tech and Minnesota State both ended the campaign with 39 points.

  • Crafted in Calumet, Mich. and originally purchased back in 1913, the fabled MacNaughton Cup returned to its ancestral home in Copper Country for the first time since 1976, with the Huskies earning a share of their seventh WCHA title.
  • The Mavericks won their second consecutive (and overall) league regular season crown.

- "Underdawgs" Hoist Broadmoor Trophy: Ferris State went from the fourth seed in the WCHA playoffs to winning its first-ever conference tournament championship (CCHA or WCHA), going 4-0 and knocking off both MacNaughton Cup co-champions en route to capturing what would become the league's last Final Five crown.

  • The Bulldogs swept visiting Northern Michigan in the best-of-three WCHA Quarterfinal Round series. FSU then defeated Michigan Tech, 1-0, in the Final Five semifinals and used a Gerald Mayhew penalty shot goal to outlast Minnesota State, 2-1, in the Broadmoor Trophy Championship Game at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Freshman goaltender Darren Smith, named the Final Five Most Valuable Player, played every minute in the Ferris State net and shone in the playoff spotlight. The rookie allowed just five goals during the WCHA postseason, finishing with a perfect 4-0 record, a 1.25 goals-against average, one shutout, 91 saves and a .948 save percentage.

- National Accolades: WCHA Player of the Year and Michigan Tech co-captain Alex Petan was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, while also earning Second Team CCM All-America honors.

  • Ferris State's Darren Smith was named the national freshman Goaltender of the Year by College Hockey News, earning a spot on the website's All-Rookie Team.

2016 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Casey Nelson went from the Final Five championship game with Minnesota State one Saturday to his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres the next weekend.

The Next Level

- NHL Impact: Led by two-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and NHL rookie sensation Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues, WCHA alumni continue to make an impact at the sport's highest levels. 2016 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Casey Nelson went from the Final Five championship game with Minnesota State one Saturday to his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres the next weekend, while 33 players who played in the league last season have signed professional contracts.

  • Parayko, who earned league Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2014 and 2015, led all rookie skaters with a +28 rating and ranked second among first-year blue-liners with 33 points (9g-24a). He teamed with fellow WCHA alumnus David Backes (Minnesota State) in leading the Blues to their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2001.
  • Nelson, who went from undrafted free agent to NHL ice, finished with four assists, five shots on goal and a +1 rating in seven contests overall after debuting March 26.

- Member-Institution Alumni in the NHL: Twenty-four (24) alumni, representing all 10 current WCHA member institutions, played in the NHL in 2015-16.

  • The 2014-15 WCHA Player and Defensive Player of the Year, Tanner Kero (Michigan Tech / Chicago Blackhawks) and Parayko, respectively, both played in the NHL this past season. They were joined by Nelson, the 2015-16 Defensive Player of the Year.
  • In one of the top feel-good stories of the 2015-16 season, Michigan Tech alumnus John Scott was voted by fans into the NHL All-Star Game, where he scored twice and earned All-Star Game MVP honors.

- NHL Draft: Twelve (12) NHL draft picks were on WCHA rosters in 2015-16, including 2015 Los Angeles Kings selection Matt Roy of Michigan Tech (fellow 2015 draftee Ryan Bednard, a goaltender chosen by the Florida Panthers, is slated to join Bowling Green this fall).

  • The 2016 NHL Draft saw incoming Ferris State commit Cameron Clarke go to the Boston Bruins (fifth round), while Bowling Green sophomore-to-be Adam Smith was tabbed by the Nashville Predators (seventh round).

- NHL Development Camps: Forty-six (46) players with ties to WCHA programs – including 32 slated to skate in the league this upcoming season – were invited to participate in 2016 NHL Development Camps.

  • Of the 32 players currently on active WCHA rosters, the breakdown is: freshmen (eight), sophomores (10), juniors (10) and seniors (four).
  • Michigan Tech rising junior defenseman Mark Auk was one of just 11 NCAA players to attend two camps (Chicago and Edmonton).

- International Competition: Former Alabama Huntsville goaltender and current Edmonton Oilers backstop Cam Talbot helped Canada earn gold at the 2016 IIHF World Championships, posting a .940 save percentage, 1.25 goals-against average and four shutouts in eight games.

  • Backes (Team USA) and Parayko (Team North America) will compete in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, to be held Sept. 17-Oct. 1 in Toronto.

Alaska Anchorage senior defenseman Austin Sevalrud was awarded the 2016 WCHA Postgraduate Scholarship.

In the Classroom and In the Community

- CoSIDA Academic All-District: Alabama Huntsville senior Chad Brears, Ferris State junior Chad McDonald, and Bemidji State juniors Brendan Harms and Reid Mimmack all earned CoSIDA Academic All-District accolades for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom.

- Scholar-Athletes: Seventy-two (72) student-athletes, representing all 10 WCHA Men's League member institutions, earned WCHA Scholar-Athlete Awards for maintaining a GPA of 3.50 or above.

  • This number represented an 80-percent increase, from 40 in 2014-15.

- All-Academic Team: One hundred and forty (140) student-athletes, representing all 10 WCHA Men's League member institutions, earned a spot on the WCHA All-Academic Team for maintaining a GPA of 3.00 or above.

  • This number represented a 6.1-percent increase, from 132 in 2014-15.

- Senior CLASS Award: Ferris State defenseman Simon Denis and Michigan Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips were two of the initial 20 candidates for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.

- Hockey Humanitarian Award: Michigan Tech junior forward Tyler Heinonen and Alaska Anchorage senior defenseman Austin Sevalrud were two of 18 nominees for the 2016 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented annually to college hockey's finest citizen – a student-athlete who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team but also to the community-at-large through leadership in volunteerism.

- Postgraduate Scholarship: Alaska Anchorage senior defenseman Austin Sevalrud was awarded the 2016 WCHA Postgraduate Scholarship.

  • Sevalrud was a four-year regular on the Alaska Anchorage blue line, playing in 129 career games. An exemplary leader in all areas, from the classroom to the locker room, he wore the captain's "C" during his senior year. Academically, Sevalrud was a three-time recipient of the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award and a three-time WCHA All-Academic Team member, while he maintained a cumulative 3.75 grade-point average and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance. He has future plans to enroll in a combined JD/MBA program.

Michigan Tech senior forward Alex Petan tallied a pair of assists in the final game of the regular season to clinch the WCHA scoring title.

More from the 2015-16 Season

- Huskies in Elite Company: Michigan Tech was one of only four teams to rank in the top-10 nationally for both scoring offense and defense in 2015-16, joining Frozen Four participants Boston College, North Dakota and Quinnipiac.

  • MTU ranked 10th with an average of 3.32 goals per game (123 in 37 games) and ninth by allowing just 2.08 goals per contest (37).
  • UND, the 2016 National Champion, was seventh (3.64) and second (1.86); fellow finalist Quinnipiac was fourth (3.88) and fifth (1.90); and, Boston College was fifth (3.85) and seventh (1.98).

- Century Club: Four WCHA players reached the career 100-point milestone during the 2015-16 season – Alaska's Tyler Morley, Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger and Bryce Gervais, and Alaska Anchorage's Blake Tatchell. That quartet joined incumbent Alex Petan (Michigan Tech) – the WCHA's Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top-10 Finalist – to give the league five active Century Club members by season's end.

  • Additionally, sixth-year Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron became just the fourth BGSU bench boss to win 100 games when the Falcons posted a 5-0 win at Alabama Huntsville on March 5.
  • Minnesota State's Mike Hastings, in his fourth season in Mankato, recorded his 100th career victory in the Mavericks' Final Five semifinal victory over BGSU.

- Milestone for Daniels: Ferris State's Bob Daniels - the winningest coach in school history - was credited with his 400th career victory in the Bulldogs' 3-2 victory at Michigan Tech on Oct. 31.

  • Daniels, who concluded his 24th season at the helm, ranks 36th all-time among men's college hockey coaches (all divisions) with 417 career victories (17th among active bench bosses at the end of the 2015-16 campaign).
  • Among coaches with at least 10 years at the NCAA Division I level (and including all wins at a four-year institution), Daniels is 23rd for wins (ninth among active head coaches).

- Another Fantastic Finish: For the third time in three seasons since realignment, the MacNaughton Cup race came down to the final night of the regular season. After Ferris State (2014) and Minnesota State (2015) used last-game victories to earn the title, Michigan Tech's win at Northern Michigan this season allowed the Huskies to claim a share of the championship (after the Mavericks had clinched a share on the season's penultimate night).

  • Also determined on the season's last night: The fourth and final home ice slot (Ferris State), the eighth and final playoff position (Alaska Anchorage) and seven of the eight playoff seeds.
  • Michigan Tech earned the top seed for the WCHA Playoffs by virtue of its 18 league wins (two more than Minnesota State).

- Petan Captures Scoring Title: For the second-straight season, the league scoring champion had a multi-point effort on the final night to earn the title by a single point. Michigan Tech senior forward Alex Petan tallied a pair of assists in Tech's cup-clinching win at Northern Michigan to finish with 29 points in WCHA games (16-13a), one ahead of Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger (7g-21a).

- Goaltender U: For the fourth-consecutive season, the WCHA goaltending champion manned the Minnesota State crease. Junior Cole Huggins earned the title this year with a 1.46 goals-against average in league play, after also winning in 2013-14 (1.73). Former Maverick Stephon Williams was tops as a freshman in 2012-13 (1.93) and as a junior in 2014-15 (1.55).

- Don't Leave Your Seats: Seventy-one (71) of the 140 WCHA regular season games in 2015-16 were either ties (23) or one-goal decisions (48), with 35 overtime contests. Thirty-three (33) league games featured a tie-breaking, third-period game-winning goal (including 15 in the last five minutes of regulation), with an additional 12 victories coming in overtime.

- In-Season Tournament Champions: Alaska (Brice Alaska Goal Rush) and Michigan Tech (inaugural Desert Hockey Classic in Glendale, Ariz.) each captured in-season tournament titles.

  • The host Nanooks defeated American International and Rensselaer, and used a +7 goal differential over UAA, to win their fourth-straight BAGR.
  • The Huskies, playing at the home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes (Gila River Arena) in a tournament hosted by Division I newcomer Arizona State, defeated Connecticut in the semifinal and used a shootout victory over eventual NCAA Tournament participant Yale to earn the title.

Once Around the Rink

- UAH: The Chargers have improved their winning percentage in each of their three seasons under Head Coach Mike Corbett.

- UAA: Sophomore G Olivier Mantha posted a .903 save percentage in 2015-16, the eighth-best single-season mark in program history.

- UAF: The Nanooks went 3-0-1 against in-state rival Alaska Anchorage to claim the Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup title for the fourth straight season.

- BSU: With a 17-16-6 record in 2015-16, the Beavers posted their largest win total since going 17-18-3 in 2011-12.

- BGSU: Sophomore G Chris Nell broke Bowling Green's single-season records for goals-against average (1.91) and save percentage (.930), helping the Falcons win a best-of-three league playoff series for the sixth-straight year under Head Coach Chris Bergeron.

- FSU: The Bulldogs closed the 2015-16 campaign by making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, including the third in the past five years.

- LSSU: The Lakers' rookies finished 10th nationally in combined scoring among freshman classes (41g-61a=105pts) and tied for the most game-winning goals (11), helping LSSU to a six-win improvement over 2014-15.

- MTU: The Huskies led the WCHA in scoring (3.32 goals/game), power-play efficiency (21.1 percent) and goals against (77) during their championship-winning campaign.

- MSU: The Mavericks finished the 2015-16 season leading the country in power play attempts (198), lowest shots on goal allowed per game (20.95), shots on goal margin ( 529) and shots on goal margin per game ( 12.90).

- NMU: The Wildcats' WCHA record (12-11-5) and finish (fifth) were their best since the 2009-10 season (13-9-6 and fourth in the CCHA).

Tradition Starts Here

- Among the Best: Four (4) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams over the past three seasons play in the WCHA - the highest representation among that upper 25% of programs of any D-I conference since realignment (Hockey East and the NCHC each have three teams apiece, the Big Ten and ECAC Hockey both have two each and Atlantic Hockey has a single program).

  • Minnesota State is fourth nationally with 76 wins, Ferris State is tied for 10th with 67, Michigan Tech is 12th with 66 and Bowling Green is 15th with 63.

- Standard for Success: Minnesota State has reached unprecedented heights during the four-year tenure of head coach Mike Hastings. The program has gone 100-49-14 (.656) during that span, matching Massachusetts Lowell for the third-most wins in the country (behind only North Dakota's 110 and Quinnipiac's 109).

  • The Mavericks have recorded four-consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in the school's D-I history and just the second-time ever (legendary bench boss Don Brose had a five-year run between 1978-79 and 1982-83).

- 20-20: Bowling Green (22-14-6) and Michigan Tech (23-9-5) both reached the 20-win plateau for the second consecutive season in 2015-16. The Falcons last achieved that feat between 1994-95 and 1995-96; the Huskies, not since a three-campaign run between 1980-81 and 1982-83 (including the final two years of John MacInnes' Hall-of-Fame tenure in Houghton).

  • Michigan Tech is fourth nationally with 52 wins over the last two seasons, while its .712 winning percentage (52-19-7) is third.
  • Minnesota State is sixth over that same span with 50 wins.
  • Bowling Green is 13th among NCAA D-I programs with 45 victories.

From the League Office

- WCHA.com Gets New Look: Marking an exciting new digital era, the WCHA launched an updated version of its official website, wcha.com, on Sept. 15. The redesign, produced in collaboration between the league office and website provider 867 Studios, encompasses both the Men's and Women's league pages.

  • The new wcha.com is responsively designed, allowing for scalability across devices. The site's statistical platform is integrated with collegehockeystats.net and contains some of the most expansive analysis available.

- WCHA, Stretch Internet Partner for New WCHA.tv: WCHA fans were treated to an enhanced, user-friendly and interactive online viewing experience in 2015-16, thanks to the conference's partnership with industry leader Stretch Internet as the official online streaming provider for WCHA.tv.

- Live on ASN: Increasing exposure for the league and the sport, the WCHA entered into a partnership with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.-owned American Sports Network (ASN) to broadcast two Men's League games as part of ASN's nationally-syndicated, Friday night college hockey package: Alaska at Alabama Huntsville (Jan. 8) and Lake Superior State at Michigan Tech (Feb. 5).

  • The two WCHA games in 2015-16 were broadcast on 107 ASN affiliates nationwide, spanning 39 states, while the second game – the Lakers-Huskies tilt as part of Winter Carnival in Houghton, Mich. – was also shown throughout Canada on TSN5.