- Races Tightening Up: With just five weekends remaining in the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular season, every series is proving crucial in the races for a berth in the 2017 WCHA Playoffs, home-ice advantage for the postseason and the coveted MacNaughton Cup.
- League-leading Bemidji State and second-place Michigan Tech are the two teams to clinch playoff spots to date. The Huskies are trailing by nine points, but have two games in hand on the idle Beavers. Tech plays this weekend at Alabama Huntsville, before traveling to Bemidji the weekend of Feb. 3-4. While off, BSU can clinch home ice if either Ferris State or Minnesota State gain at least one point this weekend.
- Nine points separate the current third- through seventh-place teams, the last four of which all have two games in hand on third-place Bowling Green. Lake Superior State jumped from eighth place to fifth place by sweeping UAH last weekend and, in the space of two games, has gone from being only three points ahead in the race for the final playoff spot to just six out of the final home-ice slot.
- Alabama Huntsville remains in the eighth and final playoff spot, but now has just a four-point edge over Alaska Anchorage and Northern Michigan. NMU has jumped back into postseason contention by capturing 12 points during its current five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2-1).
- UP Making Its Move: The three WCHA teams based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are on a bit of a roll. Northern Michigan (3-0-2) and Michigan Tech (2-0-3) are tied for the second-longest active winning streaks in the country, while Lake Superior State (2-0-2) is unbeaten in its last four contests (including a pair of ties against NMU).
- Michigan Tech continues to lead the country with the most wins since Halloween weekend, matching Vermont with 14 victories since Oct. 28. The Huskies' .727 winning percentage (14-4-4) is the fourth-best nationally in that span.
- Shine On: Northern Michigan senior forward and reigning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week Dominik Shine has been on a tear, with two hat tricks in his last five games and nine goals in his previous eight contests.
- Shine is in a four-way tie for the NCAA lead with seven goals in January and is one of two players with a national-best 11 markers since Dec. 1. After missing NMU's first six games of the season, Shine has 15 goals in 22 contests to tie for eighth nationally with 0.68 goals-per-game.
- Live on ASN: Friday night marks the return of the WCHA to the American Sports Network (ASN) nationally-televised college hockey doubleheader, as Ferris State hosts Bowling Green at the Ewigleben Ice Arena.
- The game, which begins at 8:37 p.m. ET, will be broadcast live on 95 ASN affiliates spanning 38 states nationwide; and, streamed in Canada via TSN GO. Longtime broadcaster and former Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) commissioner Fred Pletsch will be in the broadcast booth, alongside former University of Minnesota All-American and two-time All-WCHA performer Pat Micheletti.
- Tradition Starts Here: Four (4) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams over the past three seasons play in the WCHA - tied with Hockey East for the highest representation among that upper 25% of programs of any D-I conference since realignment (the NCHC has three teams, ECAC Hockey has two and both Atlantic Hockey and the Big Ten has a single program apiece).
- Minnesota State ranks fourth nationally over the last three-and-a-half seasons with 90 wins, Michigan Tech is tied for 10th with 81, Bowling Green ranks 13th with 76 and Ferris State is tied for 14th with 74.
By the Numbers
- 1: The WCHA is the only D-1 conference to have more than one skater with multiple hat tricks this season, as Bowling Green's Mitch McLain and Northern Michigan's Dominik Shine each have a pair.
- 1-2: National rank in goals-against average for Michigan Tech freshman Angus Redmond (1.50) and Bemidji State junior Michael Bitzer (1.59). Bitzer is seventh in the country with a .935 save percentage, while Redmond is eighth at .933. The Beavers (1.79 gapg) and Huskies (2.03) rank first and fifth, respectively, in the NCAA for scoring defense.
- 1.15: Points-per-game for Minnesota State forward Marc Michaelis, fourth-best among all NCAA rookies.
- 105: Total points by Lake Superior State's nine-skater sophomore class (38g-67a), tied for the second-highest among any D-1 single class (matching American International's freshmen and behind only North Dakota's sophomores, who have 107).
The Week Ahead
- Lake Superior State at Minnesota State: The WCHA's two highest-scoring teams meet in Mankato, as Minnesota State (3.08 gpg) hosts Lake Superior State (3.04 gpg). The fourth-place Mavericks, currently sitting in home-ice position for the WCHA Playoffs, hold a six-point edge on the fifth-place Lakers.
- Bowling Green at Ferris State: Two teams who appeared in each of the last three WCHA Final Fives meet for a nationally-televised clash Friday in Big Rapids. Bowling Green, which has split its last four WCHA series, remains in third place. Seventh-place Ferris State trails the Falcons by nine points.
- Michigan Tech at Alabama Huntsville: Second-place Michigan Tech can draw within three points of idle Bemidji State with a sweep, while eighth-place Alabama Huntsville can lengthen its lead over ninth-place Alaska Anchorage and Northern Michigan, both of which are off this weekend.
- 2017 North Star College Cup: No. 20 Bemidji State returns to the North Star College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center. The Beavers, who won the tournament in 2015 and played in the 2016 championship game, face-off against St. Cloud State in Friday's opener. Depending upon outcomes, BSU will play either No. 2/1 Minnesota Duluth or tournament host and sixth-ranked Minnesota on Saturday.
The Week in Review
- Coming off a bye weekend, league-leading and 18th-ranked Bemidji State skated to a split with visiting Ferris State.
- Bowling Green and visiting Alaska played a pair of hard fought nail-bitters over the weekend, with each team winning a one-goal decision.
- Lake Superior State jumped from eighth place in the WCHA standings all the way to fifth following a sweep of visiting Alabama Huntsville.
- Defending MacNaughton Cup co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State met for the second time this season, with the host Huskies earning four key league points.
- Northern Michigan broke out offensively against visiting Alaska Anchorage, scoring 10 goals en route to its first sweep of the season.
- Full recaps, box scores and select video highlights are available at wcha.com.
Ferris State 5, at No. 18 Bemidji State 2
at No. 18 Bemidji State 5, Ferris State 1
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
Coming off a bye weekend, league-leading and 18th-ranked Bemidji State skated to a split with visiting Ferris State.
The Bulldogs scored the first two goals of the game Friday night and freshman goaltender Justin Kapelmaster made 34 saves in the 5-1 victory. Gerald Mayhew and Jason Tackett gave FSU the 2-0 lead and, after Bemidji State's Gerry Fitzgerald brought the Beavers within 3-2 late in the second period, the Bulldogs scored twice in the third to seal the victory. Ferris State's Corey Mackin extended the lead to 4-2 at the 16:46 mark of the final stanza, and Nate Kellen added an empty-net strike for the final margin.
Bemidji State snapped a 1-1 tie with a three-goal, second-period outburst Saturday and cruised to a 5-1 victory. Kyle Bauman put BSU on top 1:30 into the middle frame, Phillip Marinaccio followed less than two minutes later and G. Fitzgerald capped the stanza with a goal at the 13:23 mark. Justin Baudry added a goal 44 seconds into the third period, while Michael Bitzer turned in a 32-save effort in the Bemidji State net.
Alaska 3, at Bowling Green 2
at Bowling Green 2, Alaska 1 - OT
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio)
Bowling Green and visiting Alaska played a pair of hard fought nail-bitters over the weekend, with each team winning a one-goal decision.
Friday night, the Nanooks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, including the first career goal by freshman Tyler Cline with just one second remaining in the stanza. Mitch McLain cut the lead in half with his WCHA-leading 16th goal of the season in the second period, but UAF's Marcus Basara restored the two-goal lead before intermission. John Schilling again brought the Falcons within one at the 16:15 mark of the third period, but UAF goaltender Davis Jones wrapped up a 28-save performance en route to the 3-2 victory.
Saturday's series finale was tied 1-1 deep into overtime, until Bowling Green's Brett D'Andrea scored a breakaway goal with just 1:03 remaining to give the Falcons a 2-1 win and split. UAF's Josh Erickson scored the game's first goal midway through the second period, while the Falcons' Kevin Dufour forced overtime with a goal 5:46 into the third period. Bowling Green's Chris Nell made 19 saves, while Jones turned aside 29 shots.
at Lake Superior State 5, Alabama Huntsville 4
at Lake Superior State 4, Alabama Huntsville 1
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
Lake Superior State jumped from eighth place in the WCHA standings all the way to fifth following a sweep of visiting Alabama Huntsville.
Friday's series opener saw LSSU jump out to a 3-0 lead, UAH rally to tie the contest at 4-4, only to have the host Lakers score the third-period winner for a 5-4 victory. Gus Correale, Mitch Hults and J.T. Henke all scored in the first 28:59 to give LSSU the big early cushion. Josh Kestner and Kurt Gosselin started the Chargers' rally with second-period goals, but Henke's strike just before intermission put LSSU back in front, 4-2. Brent Fletcher ignited another UAH comeback 1:06 into the third period, while Kestner's second goal of the game evened things up at the 7:54 mark. But, at the end, it was Hults' second of the contest - at 13:10 - that made the difference in a Laker win.
The Lakers looked to carry the momentum over into Saturday's series finale, as Collin Saccoman got them on the board first at the 12:31 mark. But, just as they did on Friday, the Chargers came back with a goal of their own from Brandon Salerno early in the second. This time, however, LSSU re-took the lead and ran with it, with Gage Torrel, James Roll and Max Humitz scoring three unanswered goals for a 4-1 triumph. Gordon Defiel was excellent for the Lakers, stopping 34-of-35 shots.
Minnesota State 4, at Michigan Tech 4 - OT (MSU wins shootout, 1-0)
at Michigan Tech 4, Minnesota State 0
(Jan. 20 and 21 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena; Houghton, Mich.)
Defending MacNaughton Cup co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State met for the second time this season, with the host Huskies earning four key league points.
Friday night was a game of rallies, with both teams erasing two-goal deficits in an eventual 4-4 tie. Michigan Tech got off to a hot start, as Tyler Heinonen and Chris Gerrie both scored to give the home team a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Minnesota State, however, scored the game's next four goals to take a 4-2, third period lead. C.J. Franklin knotted the contest 2-2, then Zeb Knutson scored twice less than two minutes apart to put the Mavericks on top with 12:43 remaining. It was then the Huskies' turn to fight back, as Jake Lucchini scored at the 9:16 mark and Heinonen's second of the game - at 10:33 - forced overtime. The teams were scoreless through both overtime periods, with Minnesota State earning the extra league point in a three-round shootout.
Alex Gillies scored twice for Michigan Tech in Saturday's series finale, while freshman Angus Redmond posted a 22-save shutout in a 4-0 victory. Gillies snapped a scoreless tie with the game's first goal 6:11 into the second period and added a third-period tally, while Mitch Reinke and Gerrie also scored.
at Northern Michigan 6, Alaska Anchorage 1
at Northern Michigan 4, Alaska Anchorage 0
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)
Northern Michigan broke out offensively against visiting Alaska Anchorage, scoring 10 goals en route to its first sweep of the season.
The Wildcats used a trio of first-period goals to propel a 6-1 victory in Friday's series opener. Robbie Payne and Phillip Beaulieu scored within the first eight minutes, before Dominik Shine put NMU in the driver's seat at the 16:25 mark. Shine was just getting started, scoring in the second and third period as well for his second hat trick in his last four games. Connor Frantti also scored, while goaltender Atte Tolvanen made 25 saves.
It was the same story the next night, Northern Michigan led nearly tape-to-tape. Gerald Hanson and Shane Sooth both scored first-period goals, Robbie Payne registered his second of the weekend in the middle stanza and Troy Loggins capped the scoring with a third-period marker. Tolvanen was exceptional, stopping all 34 shots he faced for his second career shutout.