2016-17 WCHA Season In Review
A Recap Of The Top Stories, Moments And Figures From The League's 65th Season Of Competition
Michigan Tech won the Broadmoor Trophy in an epic WCHA Championship, defeating Bowling Green, 3-2 in double overtime in front of a capacity crowd at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

Opening Face-Off

- No. 65 In the Books: The Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) proudly completed its 65th year of competition in 2016-17, another terrific season of on- and off-ice accomplishments by its student-athletes, coaches and programs.

  • The WCHA enjoyed the rousing first-year success of its three-week, on-campus "Battle for the Broadmoor" postseason tournament; implemented fan-favorites in the new 3-on-3 overtime and shootout; had a quartet of programs reach the 20-win plateau; celebrated a first-time MacNaughton Cup champion; watched in awe as Northern Michigan goaltender Atte Tolvanen shattered league record books and made a run at NCAA history; featured a Hobey Baker Memorial Award top-10 finalist and a pair of All-Americans; applauded Senior CLASS Award® winner Brendan Harms of Bemidji State, along with an NCAA-high three student-athletes among the finalists; saluted Minnesota State defenseman Daniel Brickley for representing the U.S. at the 2017 IIHF World Championships; and, cheered on the 31 players -- from all 10 member institutions -- who signed professional contracts (including seven who inked NHL deals).

- There's No Place Like Home: The 2017 WCHA postseason tournament, which featured a return to campus sites and the league's first home-ice title game since 1965, was a true success. The three-week, eight-team "Battle for the Broadmoor" concluded with an epic Championship in front of a standing-room only crowd at Michigan Tech's MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

  • Michigan Tech won the WCHA Championship, defeating Bowling Green, 3-2 in double overtime after the visiting Falcons erased a 2-0, third-period deficit. A capacity crowd of 4,466 saw Tech hoist the Broadmoor Trophy, then descend to the ice to celebrate with the hometown Huskies -- a moment that captured the pure joy of college sports.

- Everybody Loves a Winner: Ensuring that each contest had a "winner" in the league standings, every WCHA regular season game in 2016-17 that remained tied after regulation and the NCAA-mandated, five-minute 5-on-5 overtime advanced to a 3-on-3 overtime and, if necessary, a sudden-death shootout.

  • All 10 WCHA venues hosted at least one game that went to 3-on-3 overtime, while seven rinks hosted a shootout.
  • Nine (9) teams earned an extra WCHA point via either a 3-on-3 or shootout win, while six enjoyed at least one win in both formats.

- 4x20: For the second consecutive season, the WCHA produced four, 20-win teams: Michigan Tech (23-15-7), Bemidji State (22-16-3), Minnesota State (22-13-4) and Bowling Green (21-18-2).

  • The WCHA joined the Big Ten, the ECAC and the 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.

- Bemidji State Hoists the Cup: With a stellar, nearly wire-to-wire effort, Bemidji State won the 2016-17 WCHA regular season championship with a 20-win, 64-point campaign. The Beavers won their first MacNaughton Cup since joining the league for the 2010-11 season (and 22nd regular season conference crown in program history).

  • Bemidji State swept its opening weekend of WCHA play (Oct. 7-8), won its first eight league games and was undefeated in its first 13 contests (12-0-1; meaning that, aside from a bye week on the opening weekend of league play (Oct. 1-2), BSU held at least a share of first place after every WCHA weekend in which it competed.

- Tolvanen's Historic Streak: Northern Michigan sophomore goaltender Atte Tolvanen backstopped the Wildcats from the WCHA cellar into the league playoffs with a record-setting second half.

  • Tolvanen established the WCHA Men's League record, and matched the all-time NCAA Division I men's mark, with five-straight shutouts between Jan. 21 and Feb. 11; he also set a league standard with a 339:05 scoreless streak (the second-longest in NCAA men's history).

- National Accolades: WCHA Player of the Year Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State's junior goaltender, was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, a top-five finalist for the Mike Richter Award and a first-team AHCA/CCM Hockey All-American.

  • Minnesota State sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley earned second-team All-America honors, while he skated for Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championships.
  • Ferris State produced its second-consecutive College Hockey News national freshman Goaltender of the Year, as Justin Kapelmaster earned a spot on the website's All-Rookie Team.
  • Bemidji State forward Brendan Harms was lauded as the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I men's hockey, winning the Senior CLASS Award® in a nationwide vote of D-I men's coaches, national hockey media and fans.

- The Next Level: Since the 2016-17 college season ended, 31 players – representing all 10 WCHA programs – have signed professional contracts (as of July 17).

  • Seven (7) players have signed National Hockey League (NHL) entry-level contracts: UAA's Mason Mitchell (Washington); BGSU's Mark Friedman (Philadelphia) and Chris Nell (New York Rangers); LSSU's Kris Bindulis (Washington) and Mitch Hults (Anaheim); and, MTU's Angus Redmond (Anaheim) and Matt Roy (Los Angeles Kings).

'Battle for the Broadmoor'

- Bringing Playoff Hockey Home: "Hockey is the best sport there is, playoff hockey is the best of the best, and winning a championship in your home arena – or coming together as a team to win on the road – is one of the greatest feelings a player or coach can have." Those words, spoken by esteemed Ferris State Head Coach Bob Daniels, proved incredibly true in 2017, as the WCHA brought the singular intensity and passion of playoff college hockey directly to its member institution fans with the on-campus "Battle for the Broadmoor."

- 2017 WCHA Playoffs -- Quarterfinals: The best-of-three quarterfinals saw top-seeded Bemidji State outlast No. 8 Northern Michigan in three games, along with a trio of sweeps (No. 2 Michigan Tech over No. 7 Lake Superior State, No. 3 Minnesota State vs. No. 6 Alaska and No. 4 Bowling Green over No. 5 Ferris State).

  • Memorable moments included the goaltending duel between BSU's Michael Bitzer and NMU's Atte Tolvanen; Tech's offensive onslaught; the second career shutout for MSU's Jason Pawloski; and, BGSU's three goals in the final 2:48 of regulation to rally for a series-clinching win.

- 2017 WCHA Playoffs -- Semifinals: The best-of-three semifinals featured the lone road team series victory, as Bowling Green upset Bemidji State; and, a three-game showdown won by Michigan Tech against Minnesota State.

  • Among the highlights were Kevin Dufour's hat trick heroics, including the overtime game-winner, for BGSU in Game One at Bemidji; Pawloski's season-saving, 1-0 shutout in Game Two at Houghton; and, a hat trick by freshman Gavin Gould in MTU's series-clinching, Game Three victory.

- 2017 WCHA Championship: The WCHA's first one-game, on-campus playoff championship since 1965 proved to be an epic showdown between two of the league's top teams, with tournament No. 2 seed Michigan Tech outlasting fourth-seeded Bowling Green, 3-2 in double-overtime in front of a sold-out, standing room-only crowd of 4,466 at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.

  • The capacity crowd, which included students who had camped out overnight, saw the host Huskies jump out to a 2-0, second-period lead. With their season on the line, the Falcons scored twice in the third period to force a scintillating overtime session that featured spectacular goaltender saves and both teams draw iron on potential game-winners
  • Capping a night that will be forever remembered in Huskies' and WCHA lore, Michigan Tech senior defenseman Shane Hanna scored at the 6:35 mark of double overtime, a goal that gave MTU the Broadmoor Trophy and sent the Houghton community into euphoric frenzy.

Five Hours, 39 Minutes and Five Seconds

Between allowing mid-game goals to Alaska Anchorage (Jan. 20) and Minnesota State (Feb. 17), Northern Michigan's Atte Tolvanen put together a WCHA Men's League-record scoreless streak of 339:05 (second-longest in NCAA Division I men's history).

- A Looong Time: Over the course of five hours, 39 minutes and five seconds, you could binge watch the entire Mighty Ducks trilogy. You could come close to driving across Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Or you could fly from Los Angeles to New York. As for Atte Tolvanen, that was how long he went without allowing a goal. From January 20 to February 17 of this year, Northern Michigan's sophomore goaltender rewrote first his school's, then the WCHA's and, finally, the NCAA's record books.

  • Between allowing mid-game goals to Alaska Anchorage (Jan. 20) and Minnesota State (Feb. 17), Tolvanen put together a WCHA Men's League-record scoreless streak of 339:05. The shutout is the second-longest in NCAA Division I men's history, trailing only the 375:01 posted by Lake Superior State's Blaine Lacher in 1994.
  • On Feb. 11, Tolvanen broke the 63-year-old WCHA Men's League record and tied the NCAA D-I men's standard with his fifth-straight shutout (North Dakota's Gerald "Spike" Schultz owned the previous WCHA mark with four-straight in Jan. 1954). Over the record-setting stretch, Tolvanen blanked Alaska Anchorage on Jan. 21 (4-0), Bowling Green on Feb. 3 (3-0) and Feb. 4 (2-0), and Alaska on Feb. 10 (3-0) and Feb. 11 (2-0). In each of those games, he made at least 30 saves, topping out at a career-best 48 against the Nanooks in Feb. 11's record-tying game.
  • During his remarkable run, Tolvanen made 220 saves in a row.

- A Season Saved: Tolvanen's record-setting run was part of a two-month stretch of goaltending excellence, one that turned the Wildcats' 2016-17 campaign around and propelled NMU into the WCHA Playoffs. After stumbling to a 4-16-2 mark and occupying the WCHA cellar during the season's first half, NMU went 8-4-2 between Jan. 1 and the league's final regular season weekend, a .643 winning percentage that matched Minnesota State for tops in the WCHA and was tied for 15th-best nationally (through Feb. 26).

  • During that stretch, Tolvanen ranked second in the NCAA with a .941 save percentage (447-for-475).
  • By season's end, he finished third in the country in saves (1,048) and shots faced (1,141); he was one of only five netminders to stop 1,000 shots. He now ranks fifth in NMU history in single-season saves and tied for third in single-season games.

Bitzer's Sensational Season

Bemidji State's Michael Bitzer was named a first-team AHCA/CCM Hockey All-American, a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and a top-five finalist for the Mike Richter Award (honoring the nation's top goaltender).

- The Puck Stops Here: Bemidji State's Michael Bitzer solidified his place as one of the nation's top goaltenders with an exceptional junior campaign – one of the best-ever by a league netminder. He led the NCAA with a 1.71 goals-against average and tied for tops with six shutouts, emerging as a first-team AHCA/CCM Hockey All-American, a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and a top-five finalist for the Mike Richter Award (honoring the nation's top goaltender).

  • Bitzer finished second nationally with 2355:22 minutes in net, third with a .932 save percentage, tied for ninth with 22 wins and 14th with 912 saves.
  • His victory total was the most by a Bemidji State netminder since Steve O'Shea (22-12-1) in 1986-87.

- Record-Setting WCHA Numbers: Bitzer's league season was nothing short of historic, as he set the all-time WCHA record with a sparkling 1.40 goals-against average in his 27 league games.

  • The WCHA Player of the Year and first-team All-WCHA goaltender also paced the circuit with a .940 save percentage (second in league history), 20 wins (tied for seventh), a .778 winning percentage, five shutouts (tied for third) and 1625:40 in net.
  • Bitzer became the first goaltender to be named WCHA Player of the Year under the league's current configuration, while his honor marks the 10th time in league history a netminder has earned the award.

- A Champion off the Ice: Bitzer, who carries a 3.81 grade-point average as an exercise science major, garnered second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors for his combined performances athletically and in the classroom.

  • Bitzer also earned his second WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award and was named to his second WCHA All-Academic Team.

New Rules Quickly Become Fan Favorites

- No More Ties: For the first time in league history, WCHA league regular season games used, if necessary, a second overtime (five minutes of three-on-three hockey) and (again, if necessary), a sudden-death shootout to determine the recipient of extra league points, if the contest was tied after 65 minutes.

  • Twenty-nine (29) WCHA games were tied after regulation. Of those:
    • Nine (9) games were won in the NCAA-mandated, 5-on-5 overtime;
    • Ten (10) games featured a winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime;
    • Ten (10) advanced all the way to a shootout.
  • All 10 WCHA venues hosted at least one game that went to 3-on-3 overtime, while seven rinks hosted a shootout.
  • Nine (9) teams earned an extra WCHA point via either a 3-on-3 or shootout win, while six enjoyed at least one win in both formats.
  • Lake Superior State played the most in the new formats, with seven games extending beyond the 5-on-5 OT. The Lakers earned the extra point a WCHA-best four times, scoring three times in 3-on-3 play and winning once in a shootout.
  • Bemidji State (four games) and Bowling Green (three) were both undefeated in contests that extended beyond regulation. The Beavers won outright in 5-on-5 OT twice, scored once in 3-on-3 OT and won their lone shootout. The Falcons won all three games decided in 5-on-5 OT and, in their only game beyond 65 minutes, scored in 3-on-3 play for the extra WCHA point.

- Impact on the Standings: The new overtime format brought with it a change to the standings, as each WCHA regular season league game is now worth three points. A team that wins in regulation or 5-on-5 overtime receives the full three; both teams receive one point for a game tied after 65 minutes, with the team that scores in 3-on-3 OT or wins in a shootout earning the additional point.

  • Bemidji State's 12-0-1-1 start gave the Beavers all the cushion needed to clinch the MacNaughton Cup with three games to spare.
  • Befitting the highly-competitive nature that is a WCHA hallmark, the league entered the final weekend of the 2016-17 regular season with five teams alive for three spots in the WCHA Tournament (and the Nos. 2-8 seeds undetermined).

- NHL Nets: WCHA skaters received four additional inches to work with behind the net in each league rink in 2016-17, as all 10 member institutions installed the 40-inch goal frame that is standard across the NHL.

- League Scoring Ticks Up: With more points on the line for winning in 65 minutes, along with the NHL nets (and other factors), per game goal-scoring in WCHA regular season league games increased by 5.2 percent in 2016-17.

  • An average of 5.22 goals were scored per WCHA regular season league game in 2016-17 (731 total), up 5.2 percent from the 4.98 scored in 2015-16 (697 total).

The Next Level

Since the 2016-17 college season ended, 31 players – representing all 10 WCHA programs – have signed professional contracts. Seven (7) of those players have signed National Hockey League (NHL) entry-level contracts, including BGSU's Mark Friedman (pictured).

- NHL Impact: Led by a pair of recent college contemporaries, 2014 and 2015 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Colton Parayko (Alaska / St. Louis Blues) and 2015 Player of the Year Tanner Kero (Michigan Tech / Chicago Blackhawks), WCHA alumni continue to make an impact at the sport's highest levels.

  • Parayko, who starred for the Nanooks during UAF's first two WCHA seasons, followed up an All-Rookie caliber NHL campaign with a standout sophomore season. He played in all 92 regular season and playoff games for the Blues, tallying 35 points (4g-31a) and a plus-7 rating in the regular season, before adding five points (2g-3a) and a plus-6 postseason rating for the Western Conference semifinalists.
  • Kero, who played a key role in returning the Copper Country to national prominence, ranked fourth on the team with a plus-15 rating in 47 games for the Central Division-champion Blackhawks. The second-year center collected 16 points on six goals and 10 assists.

- Member-Institution Alumni in the NHL: Twenty-one (21) alumni, representing all 10 current WCHA member institutions, played in the NHL in 2016-17.

  • Ferris State legend Chris Kunitz became the only active NHL player to win a fourth Stanley Cup, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins to their second-consecutive title.
  • Former Alabama Huntsville goaltender Cam Talbot set the Edmonton Oilers single-season record with 42 regular season wins (and added seven more in the playoffs).
  • Veteran NHL forward David Backes (Minnesota State) enjoyed a successful first season with the Boston Bruins, tallying 38 points (17g-21a) in 74 regular season games.
  • Alaska Anchorage alumnus Jay Beagle tallied 30 points (13g-17a) and a plus-20 rating in 81 regular season games, helping the Washington Capitals to the Presidents' Trophy.
  • Matt Read (Bemidji State) produced 10 goals and 19 points in his sixth NHL season, playing in 63 contests for the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • Bowling Green's Kevin Bieksa played in 81 regular season games with Anaheim, then had a plus-5 postseason rating as the Ducks advanced to the Western Conference finals.
  • Steve Oleksy (Lake Superior State) skated in 11 regular season contests for the Stanley Cup-champion Penguins, while former Northern Michigan goaltender Jared Coreau compiled two shutouts for the Detroit Red Wings over his first 14 career NHL games.

- Pro Signings: Since the 2016-17 college season ended, 31 players – representing all 10 WCHA programs – have signed professional contracts (as of July 17).

  • Seven (7) players have signed National Hockey League (NHL) entry-level contracts: UAA's Mason Mitchell (Washington); BGSU's Mark Friedman (Philadelphia) and Chris Nell (New York Rangers); LSSU's Kris Bindulis (Washington) and Mitch Hults (Anaheim); and, MTU's Angus Redmond (Anaheim) and Matt Roy (Los Angeles Kings).
  • Of those seven players, five (Mitchell, Nell, Bindulis, Hults and Redmond) were undrafted prior to signing; Friedman and Roy were both drafted following at least one season in the WCHA.
After signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the club, UAA's Mason Mitchell attended the Washington Capitals development camp.

- NHL Development Camps: Thirty-five (35) players with ties to WCHA programs – including 25 slated to skate in the league this upcoming season – were invited to participate in 2017 NHL Development Camps.

  • The 25 players expected to be on 2017-18 WCHA rosters feature 14 underclassmen (seven incoming freshmen and seven sophomores), along with six juniors and five seniors.
  • Defending Broadmoor Trophy champion Michigan Tech (eight players) and its WCHA title game opponent, Bowling Green (seven) led the league, followed by Minnesota State with five and Lake Superior State with four. MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State had three players in camps, all of whom are expected to wear a Beavers sweater in 2017-18.

- International Competition: Parayko competed in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey for Team North America prior to the NHL season. When the Blues' playoff run was complete, he donned a Canada sweater for the 2017 IIHF World Championships, collecting seven points (3g-4a) in six games to help his native country advance to the gold medal game.

  • Backes (Team USA) also skated in the World Cup of Hockey, while another Minnesota State product, rising junior defenseman Daniel Brickley, represented the United States at the 2017 Worlds.
  • Former Alaska goaltender Chad Johnson won all three of his starts for Canada at the 2017 Worlds.
  • Minnesota State sophomore-to-be Nick Rivera won silver with Team USA at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel.

In the Classroom and In the Community

Bemidji State forward Brendan Harms was lauded as the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I men's hockey, winning the Senior CLASS Award® in a nationwide vote of D-I men's coaches, national hockey media and fans.

- Senior CLASS Award®: Bemidji State forward Brendan Harms was lauded as the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I men's hockey, winning the Senior CLASS Award® in a nationwide vote of D-I men's coaches, national hockey media and fans.

  • An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their athletic platforms to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. To be eligible for the award, student-athletes must be classified as NCAA Division I seniors and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
  • Selected as an alternate captain for the MacNaughton Cup champion Beavers, Harms finished his BSU career with a 21-point season (8g-13a) in 2016-17, which included six power-play goals and two game-winners.
  • An All-WCHA Third Team selection (2014-15) and a three-time recipient of the WCHA's Scholar-Athlete Award, as well as a three-time member of the league's all-academic team, Harms ranks among the top 12 on BSU's Division I-era scoring list with 88 points (33g-55a) in 141 games.
  • Harms graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average as a business administration major with a minor in human performance.
  • Harms emerged from a group of top-10 finalists that included three from the WCHA – more than any other Division I conference. Northern Michigan defenseman Brock Maschmeyer and Ferris State forward Chad McDonald were also among the finalists, who were chosen by national media from an initial list of 15 candidates announced in January.

- CoSIDA Academic All-Americans: Two Bemidji State teammates – Harms and junior goaltender Michael Bitzer – were two of the six D-1 men's college hockey players to be named second-team Academic All-Americans by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

- Scholar-Athletes: A league-record 84 student-athletes, representing all 10 member institutions, earned WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award status for maintaining a GPA of 3.50 or above.

  • This number represented a 16.6-percent increase, from 72 in 2015-16.

- All-Academic Team: One hundred and forty-three (143) student-athletes, representing all 10 member institutions, earned a spot on the WCHA All-Academic Team for maintaining a GPA of 3.00 or above.

  • This number represented a 2.1-percent increase, from 140 in 2015-16.

More from the 2016-17 Season

Sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley, the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, fell just short of becoming only the third blue-liner in the league's 65-year history to earn the title of WCHA Scoring Champion.

- 20-win Plateau: Less than half (25) of the country's 60 Division I men's hockey programs reached the 20-win mark in 2016-17, with four coming from the WCHA.

  • Michigan Tech tied for ninth nationally with 23 wins -- even more impressive considering the Huskies started 1-5-2 in their first seven contests. Beginning with an Oct. 28-29 sweep of UP rival Northern Michigan, Tech went 22-10-5 (.662) over its last 37 games.
  • Bemidji State and Minnesota State tied for 13th in the NCAA with 22 wins apiece, while Bowling Green's 21 victories tied for 18th.

- Strong on the Back End: Bemidji State's nearly wire-to-wire run to the MacNaughton Cup, along with Michigan Tech's Broadmoor Trophy-winning campaign, were both sparked by exceptional efforts on defense and special teams.

  • Led by junior Michael Bitzer's NCAA-best 1.71 goals-against average and .932 save percentage (third nationally), the Beavers ranked second in the country by allowing just 1.93 goals per contest. BSU also had the NCAA's second-best penalty-kill unit at 88 percent (139-for-158).
  • The Huskies ranked seventh nationally for scoring defense (2.22 goals allowed per game) and penalty-kill efficiency (86.1 percent), while Tech's 186 penalty kills led the NCAA. MTU's Angus Redmond finished fourth nationally with a 1.85 GAA as a freshman.

- Hats Off: Not since Colorado College's Rylan Schwartz in 2011-12 had a WCHA player recorded multiple hat tricks in the same season (Schwartz had three that campaign). But, a trio of skaters each recorded a pair of three-goal efforts in 2016-17: Bowling Green's Kevin Dufour (Feb. 24 vs. Alabama Huntsville and March 10 at Bemidji State) and Mitch McLain (Nov. 19 at Alabama Huntsville and Dec. 3 at Lake Superior State, and Northern Michigan's Dominik Shine (Jan. 7 at Lake Superior State and Jan. 20 vs. Alaska Anchorage).

  • Dufour's March 10 effort came during Game 1 of the WCHA Semifinals and included the overtime game-winner.

- Shine On: Northern Michigan senior forward Dominik Shine missed the first six games of the season, but still became the Wildcats' first 20-goal scorer since the 2007-08 campaign.

  • The WCHA's lone 20-goal performer, Shine finished 12th in the NCAA with 0.61 goals per game (20 in 33 contests).

- Brickley, Michaelis Nearly Make History: A pair of talented Minnesota State underclassmen -- sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley and freshman forward Marc Michaelis -- nearly made WCHA scoring history during their award-winning seasons.

  • Brickley, the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, fell just short of becoming only the third blue-liner in the league's 65-year history to earn the title of WCHA Scoring Champion. Despite missing six league games with injury, he amassed 26 points (7g-19a) in 22 WCHA contests, four short of eventual champion Gerald Mayhew of Ferris State (30 points). Overall, Brickley ranked second among NCAA defenseman by averaging 1.00 points per game (8g-23a=31pts in 31 games).
  • Michaelis, the WCHA Rookie of the Year, has 28 points (13g-15a) in his 28 league games, narrowly missing becoming the first freshman to lead the conference in scoring since 1970-71 (and just the third overall). His team-leading 36 points overall were the second-most by a Mavericks freshman in the program's Division I era, while his 0.92 points per game ranked 12th among NCAA rookies.
Alaska helped cement the No. 6 seed in the 2017 WCHA Playoffs by winning the in-season Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup.

- Thrilling Playoff Chase: Befitting the highly-competitive nature that has long been a WCHA hallmark, the league entered the final weekend of the 2016-17 regular season with five teams alive for three spots in the WCHA Tournament -- and seven of eight seeding positions undetermined.

  • Michigan Tech and Minnesota State came down to the final Friday night to determine the tournament's No. 2 seed (which, as it turned out, gave home-ice to the Huskies when Tech faced the Mavericks in the semifinal round of the WCHA Playoffs).
  • Bowling Green won its regular season finale to secure the No. 4 seed and ensure it would be the Falcons hosting No. 5 seed Ferris State in the quarterfinals, not the other way around.
  • With two games left, a mere four points separated Alaska, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan and Alabama Huntsville for the final three spots. The Wildcats secured the eighth and final playoff seed with a last-day road win, while 10th-place Alaska Anchorage remained alive until Friday night.
  • For the first time in the four seasons since realignment, the race for the MacNaughton Cup did not come down to the last night, as Bemidji State clinched Feb. 10.

- Changing of the Guard: The WCHA will feature three new head coaches in 2017-18, as the 2016-17 campaign marked the final one in the league for Alaska's Dallas Ferguson, Michigan Tech's Mel Pearson and Northern Michigan's Walt Kyle.

  • Ferguson resigned July 11 for the same role with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL). On April 24, Pearson announced his return to Michigan as the Wolverines next head coach. NMU parted ways with Kyle on March 10.
  • The WCHA is excited to welcome veteran league assistant coaches Lance West and Joe Shawhan into the head coaching ranks at Alaska and Michigan Tech, respectively. The league is also thrilled for the return of Grant Potulny, a two-time NCAA and WCHA tournament champion during his playing days at Minnesota, who will make his head coaching debut at Northern Michigan.

- Breitenbach Award: Honoring two individuals for their exceptional efforts on behalf of the WCHA, the Association bestowed the Otto Breitenbach WCHA Distinguished Service Award to longtime Conference office employee Carol LaBelle-Ehrhardt and the late Oliver "Butch" Mousseau, a beloved Men's League official.

  • Renamed the Otto Breitenbach WCHA Distinguished Service Award in conjunction with the 50th anniversary season of 2001-02, the honor is presented to individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to the Association. Award recipients, who are nominated and voted upon by WCHA member institutions, have included coaches, administrators, officials and members of the media. LaBelle-Ehrhardt and Mousseau become the 40th and 41st honorees, respectively.
  • LaBelle-Ehrhardt enjoyed a 17-year tenure as WCHA Associate Commissioner of Operations (1997-2014), helping shepherd the league first through an unprecedented period of growth, and then transition.
  • Mousseau, who tragically passed away March 25, 2016 stemming from critical head injuries suffered during a fall to the ice during warmups March 18, was a highly-respected official in the WCHA for 13 seasons. More importantly, he was – and is – a beloved person and figure in the sport of hockey.

- Mousseau's Number Retired: In memoriam of the late Oliver "Butch" Mousseau, the WCHA retired his officials' jersey number 12, while on-ice officials wore a specially-designed "12" sticker on their helmets throughout the 2016-17 season.

  • While not mandatory, many WCHA teams memorialized Mousseau by placing the number 12 in the referees' circle on their home ice.

Once Around the Rink

Led by All-WCHA defenseman Kurt Gosselin, UAH posted three road sweeps in a season for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.

- UAH: The Chargers have improved their winning percentage in each of their three seasons under head coach Mike Corbett, while their 9-22-3 mark in 2009-10 marked the program's most wins since 2009-10. UAH also posted three road sweeps for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.

- UAA: The Seawolves set a program record with nine WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award recipients, including two-time winner Olivier Mantha, who also ranks in the top-3 in school history for save percentage (1st - .910), saves (2nd - 2,503), games (2nd - 91) and goals-against average (3rd - 2.87).

- UAF: The Nanooks won their eighth-straight Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup, winning three-of-four WCHA games with in-state rival Alaska Anchorage.

- BSU: The Beavers' MacNaughton Cup-winning campaign included a 22-16-3 overall record, the program's most wins since 2009-10; BSU also set a Sanford Center victory standard by posting a 13-8-1 ledger at home.

- BGSU: After advancing to the 2017 WCHA Championship, the Falcons have won a playoff series in each of the last seven seasons -- the longest streak in the country (all under head coach Chris Bergeron). BGSU's goaltender the last three years, Chris Nell, set program records for career shutouts (11), save percentage (.922), goals-against average (2.07) and consecutive shutout minutes (207:31).

- FSU: The Bulldogs' 3-0 win over Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 18 was the 700th in program history -- 430 of which have come during the 25-year tenure of head coach Bob Daniels.

Led by All-WCHA selection Mitch Hults, LSSU's sophomores ranked eighth nationally in scoring among their peers. Hults later signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks.

- LSSU: The Lakers made their third-consecutive trip to the WCHA Playoffs behind a talented group of underclassmen, including a sophomore class that ranked eighth nationally among their second-year peers with 135 total points (52g-83a).

- MTU: The Huskies' eight-member senior class won 89 games—the most since the 1984 senior class. This year's seniors (forwards Brent Baltus, Tyler Heinonen, Chris Leibinger, Michael Neville, Reid Sturos, defensemen Hanna and Cliff Watson, and goaltender Matt Wintjes) took Tech to the NCAA Tournament twice (2015 and 2017), won the MacNaughton Cup (2015-16), won the Broadmoor Trophy (2016-17) and were ranked the No. 1 team in the nation in 2014-15 after a program-best 10-0 start.

- MSU: Led by WCHA Rookie of the Year and team scoring leader Marc Michaelis (14g-22a=36pts), Mavericks freshmen racked up 101 points (39g-62a), tied for fourth nationally among rookie groups.

- NMU: Five Wildcats reached the 20-point plateau in 2016-17, NMU's most since the 2011-12 team had seven. Dominik Shine led the way with 30 points (20g-10a), followed by Robbie Payne (13g-16a=29pts), Gerard Hanson (7-19--26), Darien Craighead (7-18--25) and Brock Maschmeyer (5-16--21).

From the League Office

The frenzied crowd at Ferris State's Ewigleben Arena, which has made Big Rapids, Mich. one of WalletHub's "Best Cities for Hockey Fans," was showcased to a national television audience Jan. 27.

- Live on ASN: Increasing exposure for the league and the sport, the WCHA enjoyed a continued 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: Bemidji State at Bowling Green (Jan. 6) and Bowling Green at Ferris State (Jan. 27).

  • The two WCHA games in 2016-17 were broadcast on 96 ASN affiliates nationwide, spanning 38 states, while both contests were streamed in Canada via TSN GO.

- Debut of "Inside the WCHA": Fans took a deeper dive into the WCHA this season with the debut of "Inside the WCHA," a bi-weekly web series featuring news, highlights, analysis, coach and player interviews, and more from around the 10-team league. The show was created and produced by the WCHA in partnership with BLC Studios, a division of Bethany Lutheran College.

  • Thirteen (13) webisodes were produced, beginning with a Sept. 29 season preview show, running bi-weekly throughout the year (except for the December holiday break) and concluding with weekly shows during the 2017 WCHA postseason.

- Digital Exposure Up 7.3 Percent: During the 2016-17 season, the WCHA Men's League-specific social media handles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, along with WCHA.tv, generated a 7-3-percent increase in organic impressions (year-to-year, from the 2015-16 campaign).

  • Between Sept. 1 and April 15, the league's aggregate social media followers grew by 14.7 percent.
  • WCHA.tv saw a 15.3-percent increase in overall viewership, resulting in a 5.8-percent bump in net profit for the league.

- #WeAreWCHA: Along with growth in impressions, engagement with the hashtag #WeAreWCHA increased throughout the season.

  • The tagline aims to engage everyone who is part of the WCHA Men's League community – from alumni and current players to future student-athletes; from administrators to coaches; and, most importantly, the league's fans. We are all the WCHA.

Tradition Starts Here

- Among the Best: Three (3) of the nation's top-15 winningest teams since 2013-14 play in the WCHA -- matching Hockey East for the second-highest representation among that upper 25% of any conference since realignment (the NCHC has four teams, Atlantic Hockey and ECAC Hockey have two apiece, and the Big Ten has a single program).

  • Minnesota State is tied for fifth nationally during that four-year span with 98 wins, Michigan Tech is tied for ninth with 89 and Bowling Green is tied for 13th with 84.
  • The WCHA also has four teams in the top-20 since realignment, matching the NCHC for the second-most among the upper-third (Hockey East leads the way with five). Ferris State ranks 18th with 80 victories since 2013-14.

- Standard for Success: Minnesota State has reached unprecedented heights during the five-year tenure of head coach Mike Hastings. The program has gone 122-62-18 (.649) during that span, matching Denver for the fourth-most wins in the country (behind only Quinnipiac's 132, North Dakota's 131 and Massachusetts Lowell's 127).

  • The Mavericks have recorded five-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 also had a five-year run between 1978-79 and 1982-83 at the D-II level).

- 20-20-20: Bowling Green (21-18-2) and Michigan Tech (23-15-7) both reached the 20-win plateau for the third-consecutive season in 2016-17. The Falcons last achieved that feat during a nine-year stretch under legendary head coach Jerry York between 1981-82 and 1989-90; 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 75 wins over the last three seasons (75-34-14, .667), while Bowling Green is tied for 14th at 66-43-13 (.594).
  • Minnesota State is eighth over that same span with 72 wins (72-34-14 (.658).

- Best Cities for Hockey Fans: In the 2017 edition of WalletHub's "Best Cities for Hockey Fans," Houghton, Mich. (home of Michigan Tech) was the highest-rated "non-NHL" locale.

  • Houghton was No. 23 overall and No. 2 in "NCAA Rank" (behind Boston, Mass.).
  • Other WCHA cities in the top-25 for "NCAA rank" were Big Rapids, Mich. (Ferris State), Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. (Lake Superior State) and Bowling Green, Ohio (Bowling Green).