WCHA Week 1: Let's Drop The Puck On 2017-18!
Michigan Tech officially opens WCHA's 66th Season Sunday at Wisconsin

Opening Face-Off

- Tradition Starts Here: The Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), among the most historic conferences in college athletics, proudly drops the puck on its 66th season this weekend. Five member schools will host exhibition contests, while Michigan Tech travels to Wisconsin for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game on Oct. 1 - the first regular season game of the 2017-18 NCAA Division I campaign.

- 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 percent 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 over the last four seasons 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 of the country's 60 programs (Hockey East, counting Notre Dame, leads the way with five). Ferris State ranks 18th with 80 victories since 2013-14.

- Mavericks Open as Favorites: Minnesota State -- which is also tied for fourth nationally with 122 victories over the past five seasons -- is the heavy preseason league favorite in 2017-18, grabbing all nine possible first-place votes in the Mankato Free Press WCHA Coaches' poll and 12 of 14 in the UAHHockey.com WCHA Media poll (full results are available on Page 2).

  • The Mavericks are also 18th in the USCHO.com preseason poll and 15th in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine preseason rankings. Michigan Tech is receiving votes in both polls, while Bemidji state, Bowling Green and Ferris State all collected votes in the USCHO.com ledger.

- Taking the Reins in Fairbanks, Houghton and Marquette: After the same 10 head coaches guided their programs over the last four seasons, three programs enter 2017-18 with a new bench boss: Alaska (Lance West), Michigan Tech (Joe Shawhan) and Northern Michigan (Grant Potulny).

  • West, who previously served as assistant coach at his alma mater, Alabama Huntsville, takes over a program for the first time after spending the past nine seasons on the Nanooks' bench as an assistant to Dallas Ferguson.
  • A 20-year coaching veteran, including the past three as an assistant to Mel Pearson with the Huskies, Shawhan's first head job comes with the program he has helped steer to 75 wins and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
  • Potulny, a two-time NCAA and WCHA tournament champion during his playing days at Minnesota, makes his head coaching debut following an eight-year apprenticeship at his alma mater.

By the Numbers

- 74: WCHA student-athletes who were recognized in the inaugural American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-American Scholar program, presented by Krampade. The program recognizes players who averaged a 3.6 GPA and participated in 40 percent of their school's games during the 2016-17 season.

The Week Ahead

- Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: Michigan Tech, the final WCHA team playing in 2016-17, has the honor of officially opening the 2017-18 regular season with a Sunday afternoon, Oct. 1 tilt at Wisconsin. The Huskies and Badgers will meet in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game, held at the Kohl Center in Madison.

- Exhibitions: Five WCHA teams take the ice for exhibition games against Canadian schools. Alaska (Friday, Sept. 29) and Alaska Anchorage (Saturday, Sept. 30) will both host Simon Fraser, with the Seawolves playing in Eagle River. On Sunday, Oct. 1, Bowling Green welcomes Wilfred Laurier, Lake Superior State hosts Laurentian and Minnesota State skates at home Regina.