Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Men's League season. Up next on our countdown is…
Moment #9: 20 x 4
As has been custom over the last four seasons, the top of the 2016-17 WCHA standings featured a group of talented teams with impressive victory totals. In fact, for the second-consecutive campaign, the WCHA produced four, 20-win teams: league playoff champion Michigan Tech (23 wins), MacNaughton Cup winner Bemidji State (22), Minnesota State (22) and Bowling Green (21).
With that quartet, the WCHA joined the Big Ten, ECAC and NCHC for the second-most 20-win teams in the country. Hockey East led the way with six such teams, while Atlantic Hockey had three.
Michigan Tech concluded its Broadmoor Trophy-winning campaign at 23-15-7, a far cry from the Huskies' early-season outlook. Tech opened the year 3-6-2 through its first 11 games, before going on a nearly four-month tear: Beginning Nov. 5, MTU finished the season 20-9-5 over its final 34 contests – a .662 winning percentage that ranked 10th nationally over that stretch. And, after a 29-10-2 season in 2014-15 and a 23-9-5 effort in 2015-16, the Huskies have reached the 20-win plateau for three-straight campaigns – marking the first time Tech has done so since a stretch from the 1980-81 through 1982-83 seasons (including the final two years of John MacInnes' Hall of Fame tenure in Houghton). All told, Michigan Tech is tied for fourth nationally with 75 wins since opening night of the 2014-15 season, trailing only North Dakota (84), Denver (82) and Quinnipiac (78).
Bemidji State's red-hot start, which produced a 12-0-1 mark in its first 13 league games, helped the Beavers to their first 20-win season (22-16-3) since a 23-10-4 campaign in 2009-10. BSU posted its most WCHA victories since joining the league for the 2010-11 season, while the Beavers led the circuit wire-to-wire en route to hoisting their first MacNaughton Cup as regular season champions.
Minnesota State's five seasons under head coach Mike Hastings read as follows: 24-14-3 in 2012-13, 26-14-1 in 2013-14, 29-8-3 in 2014-15, 21-13-7 in 2015-16 and 22-13-4 in 2016-17. In summary, the Mavericks have recorded five-straight, 20-win seasons for the first time in the D-I era and for just the second time in program history (legendary head coach Don Brose guided a five-year run at the D-II level between 1978-79 and 1982-83). Only three teams in the country have won more games than Minnesota State's 122 victories during that stretch: Quinnipiac (132), North Dakota (131) and UMass Lowell (127), while Denver has also won 122 contests.
One of college hockey's best stories in recent years is Bowling Green's return to prominence under head coach Chris Bergeron, after the program was in jeopardy as recently as 2009. From those dire straits, the Falcons have now won at least 20 games for three-straight seasons, a first for the BGSU program since a nine-year stretch under the legendary Jerry York between 1981-82 and 1989-90. The Falcons went on an inspiring late-season tear in 2016-17, winning their final three regular season contests before sweeping the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the WCHA Playoffs. While Bowling Green's campaign ended in the WCHA Championship game, the Falcons continued to build on a three-year trend that has seen them post the 14th-most wins in the country (66-43-13).
"Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Season