BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Oct. 30, 2017 – Sterling efforts from a trio of seniors, along with a stout performance from a freshman goaltender, highlight the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Players of the Week for games of Oct. 27-28, 2017. The honorees are: Minnesota State senior Zeb Knutson (Offensive), Minnesota State senior Clint Lewis (Defensive), Bemidji State senior Michael Bitzer (Goaltender) and Bowling Green freshman goaltender Eric Dop (Rookie).
Zeb Knutson, Sr., F
Minnesota State (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Knutson racked up a WCHA-high five points (tied for third nationally) on two goals and three assists, while tying for the league-lead with a plus-3 rating, in helping now-No. 9 Minnesota State to a sweep of then-No. 16 Michigan Tech. The senior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota ran his goal-scoring streak to four games and his points streak to six contests with a pair of multi-point efforts, while factoring in the game-winning goals both nights. He snapped a 1-1, third-period tie, while also adding an assist on the Mavericks' first goal of the game, in a 3-1 triumph Friday night. Knutson then added a goal and two assists in Saturday's 5-3, sweep-clinching victory – including helpers on Daniel Brickley's tie-breaking, game-winner in the third period and C.J. Suess' strike less than a minute later. After being held off the scoresheet in the Mavericks' season opener, Knutson is now tied for fifth nationally with 11 points (5g-6a). This is Knutson's first career WCHA weekly award.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Bauman, Sr., F, Bemidji State (had a hand in three of the Beavers' six goals during a five-point weekend against Ferris State, scoring twice and handing out an assist); Brayden Gelsinger, So., F, Lake Superior State (led the Lakers with three points on a goal and two assists in the Lakers' series at Michigan Tech); Jake Jackson, Jr., F, Michigan Tech (led the Huskies with three points, scoring twice and adding an assist at then-No. 12 Minnesota State); Corey Mackin, Jr., F, Ferris State (had a goal and assist Friday as the Bulldogs battled to a 2-2 tie at Bemidji State); Mitch McLain, Sr., F, Bowling Green (scored the tying goal Friday in a 2-1 Falcons win, then picked up an assist Saturday in a 2-2 tie with visiting Alaska).
Clint Lewis, Sr., D
Minnesota State (Burnsville, Minn.)
Lewis was a factor in both ends of the ice, helping Minnesota State jump to a No. 9 national ranking following a sweep of then-No. 16 Michigan Tech. The senior from Burnsville, Minn. recorded an assist both nights, a pair of blocked shots and tied for the WCHA with a plus-3 rating (tops among league defensemen). In Friday's series opener, he fed Zeb Knutson for the tie-breaking, game-winning goal with 5:12 remaining in regulation. Saturday, Lewis set up Reggie Lutz' first-period goal that knotted the game 1-1; the Mavericks would go to win, 5-3. Defensively, Minnesota State held the Huskies to 37 shots on goal in the two games. This is Lewis' first career WCHA weekly award.
Honorable Mention: Dillon Eichstadt, Jr., D, Bemidji State (led a Beavers' defense that allowed just two goals in 125 minutes against Ferris State, tying for third in the WCHA with a team-best five blocked shots and posting a plus-2 rating); Ryker Killins, Jr., D, Ferris State (picked up an assist in the Bulldogs' 2-2 tie at Bemidji State on Friday, while finishing the weekend with an even rating).
Michael Bitzer, Sr., G
Bemidji State (Moorhead, Minn.)
Bemidji State opened defense of its MacNaughton Cup title with a five-point weekend against Ferris State, thanks in large part to Bitzer's work in net. The senior from Moorhead, Minn. went 1-0-1, posted 34 saves, a 0.96 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage, while also helping the Beavers to a shootout victory. He made 15 stops through 65 minutes of an official 2-2 tie Friday, but then added five stops in the 3-on-3 overtime period to get BSU to the shootout – where he stopped the lone Ferris State attempt to give the Beavers the extra league point. Bitzer turned aside all 19 shots he faced Saturday in a 3-0 victory, extending his own WCHA record with his 18th career shutout. He also backstopped a penalty-kill unit that held the Bulldogs to one goal in eight power-play opportunities. This is Bitzer's second WCHA weekly award of the 2017-18 season and his 13th career honor, including a pair of Rookie accolades and nine Defensive awards.
Honorable Mention: Darren Smith, Jr., G, Ferris State (earned a tie Friday night as the Bulldogs skated to a 2-2 tie at Bemidji State, making 38 saves in 64:52 between the pipes).
Eric Dop, Fr., G
Bowling Green (Lewis Center, Ohio)
Dop helped Bowling Green to a four-point weekend against Alaska, backstopping the Falcons to a 2-1 victory Friday night. In his lone action of the weekend, the rookie netminder made 25 saves, including 14 in the third period as BGSU held on for a one-goal triumph. In fact, the Lewis Center, Ohio native stood firm after the Nanooks' first-period goal, recording 22 saves in the final 40 minutes as the Falcons scored once in the second stanza and once more in the third for the comeback win. This is the first WCHA weekly award of Dop's freshman campaign.
Honorable Mention: Charlie Combs, Fr., F, Bemidji State (collected his first collegiate point with an assist in the Beavers' 3-0 win Saturday, while leading all WCHA rookies last week with 10 shots on goal); Reggie Lutz, Fr., F, Minnesota State (tied for the WCHA rookie scoring lead with two points, with a goal and assist Saturday in the Mavericks' 5-3 win over No. 16 Michigan Tech); Justin Misiak, Fr., F, Michigan Tech (tallied a goal and assist in the Huskies' series at then-No. 12 Minnesota State).