BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Oct. 9, 2017 – The nation's top goal-scorer last weekend, a starring pair for the Ice Breaker Tournament champions and a goaltender who stood on his head highlight the first men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Players of the Week for the 2017-18 season. The honorees for games of Oct. 6-7, 2017 are: Northern Michigan senior Robbie Payne (Offensive), Michigan Tech senior Mark Auk (Defensive), Alaska Anchorage senior Olivier Mantha (Goaltender) and Michigan Tech freshman forward Justin Misiak (Rookie).
Robbie Payne, Sr., F
Northern Michigan (Gaylord, Mich.)
Payne had an impressive performance over the season's opening weekend, collecting back-to-back, two-goal games to emerge tied for the NCAA with four overall. The senior from Gaylord, Mich. also tied for the WCHA lead in points and rating (+3), helping Northern Michigan to a split in the home-and-home series with Cappo Cup rival Lake Superior State. Payne's first goal Saturday gave NMU its first lead of the young season at 1-0 just 4:11 into the contest, while his empty-netter sealed a 4-1 win – the first as a collegiate head coach for Wildcats bench boss Grant Potulny. He also scored a pair of power-play markers in Friday's contest, a 5-3 setback. This is Payne's second career WCHA weekly award.
Honorable Mention: Diego Cuglietta, Jr., F, Lake Superior State (scored twice on Friday, including the game-winner in a 5-3 Lakers' win vs. Northern Michigan, before adding an assist Saturday at NMU); Andrew Dorantes, Sr., F, Ferris State (posted a goal and assist Saturday, helping the Bulldogs to a 3-2 win and series split with No. 20 Western Michigan); Joel L'Esperance, Sr., F, Michigan Tech (was named to the Ice Breaker All-Tournament Team after scoring a pair of goals in the Huskies' 6-3, semifinal win over No. 16 Union).
Mark Auk, Sr., D
Michigan Tech (St. Clair Shores, Mich.)
Auk was named Most Valuable Player of the 2017 Ice Breaker Tournament, leading Michigan Tech to the title with four points on two goals and two assists. The senior from St. Clair Shores, Mich. added five shots on goal, four blocked shots and a plus-3 rating as the Huskies knocked off No. 16 Union and No. 6 Minnesota Duluth. Auk scored in the first period of Friday's 6-3 victory over the Dutchmen, while assisting on Dane Birks' first-period tally and Jake Jackson's game-sealing, empty-net goal. He then scored on the power play for Tech's first goal in Saturday's championship game, igniting a rally from an early 2-0 deficit en route to a 4-3, title-clinching win over the host Bulldogs. This is Auk's first career WCHA weekly award.
Honorable Mention: Philip Beaulieu, So., D, Northern Michigan (scored the eventual game-winner in the Wildcats' 4-1 win over visiting Lake Superior State on Saturday, while finishing the weekend with five shots on goal, four blocks and a +3 rating); Tyler Dorantes, Sr., D, Ferris State (tallied two points on a goal and assist, while adding four blocks and a team-best +3 rating as the Bulldogs split a home-and-home set with No. 20 Western Michigan).
Olivier Mantha, Sr., G
Alaska Anchorage (La Tuque, Québec)
Mantha turned in a virtuoso performance in the Alaska Anchorage net, helping the Seawolves to a tie and overtime loss against No. 7 North Dakota. The senior from La Tuque, Québec led the NCAA with 74 saves – many of the sensational, highlight-reel variety – while posting a .948 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against average in 126:21 of action. Of the four goals he allowed, one was on the power play and one came with an extra attacker. Mantha turned away 32 shots in Friday's 1-1 tie, including 10 in the third period – allowing the Seawolves to tie the game with 1:15 remaining – and another two in overtime. He was arguably even better Saturday night, stopping 42-of-45 shots in a 3-2, OT loss; he made 16 saves in the first period, 11 in the second, 14 in the third and one more in OT. For the weekend, UAA was out-shot, 78-32. This is Mantha's fourth career WCHA weekly award, including one Rookie of the Week accolade.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Munson, Jr., G, Michigan Tech (made 68 saves in leading the Huskies to the Ice Breaker Tournament title, posting wins over No. 16 Union with 35 stops and No. 6 Minnesota Duluth with 33 stops); Darren Smith, Jr., G, Ferris State (in his only game of the weekend, made 37 saves – including several critical ones down the stretch – to lift the Bulldogs to a 3-2 win over No. 20 Western Michigan).
Justin Misiak, Fr., F
Michigan Tech (St. Clair Shores, Mich.)
Misiak's first collegiate goal was certainly memorable, as the freshman snapped a 3-3 tie midway through the second period and gave Michigan Tech the Ice Breaker Tournament championship with a 4-3 victory over No. 6 Minnesota Duluth. The rookie from St. Clair Shores, Mich. saw his first action in the tournament, finishing with four shots on goal and an even rating. However, it was his clutch, even-strength goal, coming less than two minutes after the host Bulldogs had tied the game, that will go down in Huskies lore.
Honorable Mention: Lukas Kaelble, Fr., D, Lake Superior State (was a special-teams force, tying for the lead among NCAA blue-liners with three assists, all on the power-play and all in the Lakers' 5-3 victory Friday over Northern Michigan); Coale Norris, Fr., F, Ferris State (his first collegiate goal was the game-winner for the Bulldogs in Saturday's 3-2 triumph over No. 20 Western Michigan, while he finished among the team leaders with a +2 weekend rating); Caleb Schroer, Fr., F, Northern Michigan (scored his first collegiate career Friday in a 5-3 loss, earning the start Saturday in the Wildcats' 4-1 victory over Lake Superior State); Jordan Xavier, Fr., F, Alaska Anchorage (in his collegiate debut, scored the game-tying goal with just 1:15 remaining in regulation Friday, lifting the Seawolves to a 1-1 draw with No. 7 North Dakota).