WCHA Week 6: All 10 Teams Back On The Ice To Open November
No. 20 Michigan Tech hosts Bowling Green in rematch of 2017 WCHA Championship; Three other league sets and pair of intriguing nonconference match-ups round out weekend.
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No. 20 Michigan Tech hosts Bowling Green in rematch of 2017 WCHA Championship

Opening Face-Off

- Mavericks into the Top-10: Minnesota State, the preseason coaches' and media pick to win the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), has jumped to No. 9 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls on the strength of a 5-2-0 start.

  • The Mavericks played the nation's fourth-toughest schedule in the season's opening month, and responded with sweeps at then-No. 2 Boston University (Oct. 13-14) and vs. then-No. 16 Michigan Tech (Oct. 27-28). Minnesota State also earned a difficult road split at always-tough Bowling Green, ending October with wins in five of its final six games.

- More from October: With the first full month of the 2017-18 season in the books, some items of note from around the WCHA:

  • Michigan Tech, which began the season unranked, reached as high as No. 13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings and currently sits at No. 20 in the USCHO.com poll.
  • Defending MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State is receiving votes in the USCHO.com poll after a 3-1-2 start, as is Northern Michigan after opening with a strong 4-2-0 showing.
  • While far too early to put much stock in the PairWise Rankings, some impressive early-season efforts have Minnesota State (fourth in the PWR), Northern Michigan (tied for 10th) and Bemidji State (14th) in the top-16, while Bowling Green is just outside at 19th.
  • The WCHA still sits below .500 in nonconference play, but has earned eight wins and four ties in 24 games against reams ranked opponents (as of game time).

By the Numbers

- 9: Power-play goals this season for Lake Superior State, or half of the Lakers' scoring thus far. LSSU leads the WCHA and ranks fifth nationally at 32.1 percent (9-for-28).

- 11: Points (5g-6a) during a current six-game point streak for Minnesota State senior forward Zeb Knutson, the WCHA Offensive Player of the Month for October. He also enters November with a goal in four-straight contests.

- 18: Career shutouts, an ongoing WCHA record, for Bemidji State senior netminder Michael Bitzer. The WCHA Goaltender of the Month for October added another clean sheet last Saturday vs. Ferris State, pulling within one of third place in NCAA Division I men's history (19, by Quinnipiac's Michael Garteig from 2013-16 and Cornell's David McKee between 2004-06).


The Week Ahead

- Back in Houghton: Nearly eight months ago, on March 18, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green met at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in an epic 2017 WCHA Championship, won by the Huskies, 3-2 in double-overtime. Now, the Falcons are back in Houghton for a two-game series with No. 20 MTU.

- Elsewhere in the WCHA: Upstart Northern Michigan looks to continue its impressive start when it hosts No. 9 Minnesota State. Alaska Anchorage, the final team to begin WCHA play, opens its league schedule at Lake Superior State. Bemidji State makes its lone trip of the season to the state of Alaska, facing off with the Nanooks in Fairbanks.

- Intriguing Nonconference Sets: Ferris State travels to Ann Arbor for a Thursday-Friday series against in-state rival Michigan, marking the first contests for a league team against Wolverines' bench boss Mel Pearson, a two-time WCHA Coach of the Year at Michigan Tech (Thursday's game will be televised on the Big Ten Network). Also, college hockey's southernmost teams meet in Tempe as Alabama Huntsville visits Arizona State.


The Week in Review

- Minnesota State made an early statement in the WCHA race, as the No. 12 Mavericks swept No. 16 Michigan Tech in a pair of entertaining contests.

- Bemidji State officially opened defense of its MacNaughton Cup championship with a five-point WCHA weekend against visiting Ferris State.

- A pair of tightly-contested games saw Bowling Green emerge with four points against visiting Alaska.

- Alabama Huntsville had a tough nonconference road weekend, dropping a pair at Cornell.

- Despite a furious third-period rally Friday, Lake Superior State was swept in a nonconference road series at Michigan State.

- Full recaps, box scores and select video highlights are available at wcha.com.


at No. 12 Minnesota State 3, No. 16 Michigan Tech 1
at No. 12 Minnesota State 5, No. 16 Michigan Tech 3
(Oct. 27 and 28 at Verizon Center; Mankato, Minn.)

Minnesota State made an early statement in the WCHA race, as the No. 12 Mavericks swept No. 16 Michigan Tech in a pair of entertaining contests.

The host Mavericks got a tie-breaking, game-winning goal and assist from Zeb Knutson, along with 17 saves from Connor LaCouvee, to win Friday's opener, 3-1. Tied 1-1 with 5:12 remaining in regulation, Knutson tallied his ninth career game-winner. Brad McClure added an insurance marker just over two minutes later.

The third period was again the difference Saturday, as Minnesota State scored three times to rally from a 3-2 deficit and win by a 5-3 final. After Connor Mackey tied the game 4:16 into the final stanza, Daniel Brickley (at 16:07) and C.J. Suess (at 17:04) scored power-play goals as the Mavericks pulled out a victory. Jake Jackson scored twice for the Huskies.


at Bemidji State 2, Ferris State 2 - OT (BSU wins shootout, 1-0)
at Bemidji State 3, Ferris State 0
(Oct. 27 and 28 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)

Bemidji State officially opened defense of its MacNaughton Cup championship with a five-point WCHA weekend against visiting Ferris State.

Kyle Bauman had two goals and Jay Dickman sent Beavers fans home happy with the shootout winner following a 2-2 tie in Friday's series opener. Bauman's first- and second-period markers had BSU leading, 2-1, but the Bulldogs' Nate Kallen tied the score with 7:34 remaining in regulation. Following scoreless 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 overtime periods, BSU's Michael Bitzer stopped a Ferris State shootout attempt and Dickman scored the winner for an extra point in the league standings.

Bitzer stopped all 19 shots he faced Saturday, while Myles Fitzgerald scored twice in the third period for a 3-0 Beaver victory. Dan Billet's second-period goal was all the offense Bitzer would need, as he posted his 18th career shutout - an ongoing BSU and WCHA record.


at Bowling Green 2, Alaska 1
Alaska 2, at Bowling Green 2 - OT (UAF wins shootout, 1-0)
(Oct. 27 and 28 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio)

A pair of tightly-contested games saw Bowling Green emerge with four points against visiting Alaska.

Mitch McLain and Alec Rauhauser scored their first goals of the season to lift the Falcons to a 2-1, comeback victory Friday. McLain's goal midway through the second period tied the game, while Rauhauser lit the lamp just 55 seconds into the final stanza for the game-winner. Freshman goaltender Eric Dop made 25 saves in a winning effort for BGSU, allowing only Troy Van Tetering's first-period goal.

Senior captain Justin Woods forced overtime with the tying goal 8:54 into the third period Saturday for UAF, while Chad Staley scored in the shootout to give the Nanooks an extra league point following a 2-2 draw. After Staley's clutch effort, UAF goaltender Anton Martinsson turned away BGSU's attempt. The game marked the Falcons' first foray 3-on-3 overtime and a shootout since the WCHA introduced its new procedure last season.


at Cornell 5, Alabama Huntsville 1
at Cornell 3, Alabama Huntsville 0
(Oct. 27 and 28 at Lynah Rink; Ithaca, N.Y.)

Alabama Huntsville had a tough nonconference road weekend, dropping a pair at Cornell.

The Big Red opened its season with a 5-1 victory Friday, before scoring once in each period for a 3-0 triumph Saturday. Brennan Saulnier scored the lone UAH goal.


at Michigan State 4, Lake Superior State 3
at Michigan State 6, Lake Superior State 0
(Oct. 27 and 28 at Munn Ice Arena; East Lansing, Mich.)

Despite a furious third-period rally Friday, Lake Superior State was swept in a nonconference road series at Michigan State.

Trailing 4-0 after a Michigan State goal 1:19 into the final stanza Friday, the visiting Lakers scored three in a row to draw within one with 6:36 left in regulation. However, LSSU could not find the equalizer in a 4-3 setback. Brayden Gelsinger scored the first Lakers goal, then assisted on power-play strikes by Bryan Basilico and Max Humitz.

The Spartans scored four goals in the second period Saturday, en route to a 6-0 victory that handed LSSU its first sweep of the season.