WCHA Week 13: Welcome Back! Season's Second Half Commences With 12 Games
Next six days features a single nonconference game (No. 11 WMU at BGSU), two WCHA league sets (UAH at BSU and NMU at No. 7 MSU), two tournaments (LSSU at the Three Rivers Classic, while BGSU joins host MTU at the Great Lakes Invitational), and an exhibition contest (FSU at U.S. U-18 Team)
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Minnesota State enters the season's second half atop the WCHA standings.

Opening Face-Off

- Happy New Year: The Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) closes out the 2017 calendar year with seven games through Dec. 30, then rings in 2018 with a pair of schools competing at the 53rd annual Great Lakes Invitational.

- Mavericks Leading at the Break: With eight of the WCHA's 10 teams having played at least half of their 28-game league schedule, Minnesota State enters the season's second half atop the standings. The Mavericks hold a five-point lead over a trio of second-place teams in Bowling Green, Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech (against which MSU has four games in hand).

  • The four front-runners have opened some distance in home ice race, with BGSU, NMU and MTU leading fifth-place Ferris State by nine points (MSU is 14 points ahead). Twenty-one (21) points separate the first-place Mavericks from ninth place.
  • The current ninth-place team, Lake Superior State, is only five points out of a playoff spot, and just six back of sixth place.

- A Look at the Polls: Minnesota State, which is third nationally with 13 wins (second-most through 18 games in the Mike Hastings era), is ranked seventh in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

  • The Mavericks are sixth in the PairWise Rankings entering the second half, while Bowling Green is 18th.

- Good Luck, Grant!: First-year Northern Michigan head coach Grant Potulny will miss the Wildcats' next four games, while serving as an Assistant Coach for Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. This is Potulny's third tour as an assistant with the U.S. National Junior Team, after helping the Americans win gold at the 2013 and 2017 World Juniors.

- First-Half Notables: A look at some of the top WCHA trends from the first half of the 2017-18 season:

  • Under Potulny, Northern Michigan (10-8-2 overall) reached 10 wins before Jan. 1 for the first time since 2005-06 (10-9-1) and double-digit victories before Christmas for the first time since 1999-2000 (13-4-1).
  • Three seniors are among the NCAA's top-10 goal-scorers, while already setting career highs: NMU's Robbie Payne is second nationally with 15 lamp-lighters, while UAH's Josh Kestner and FSU's Mitch Maloney are tied for seventh with 12 apiece. A fourth skater, UAF redshirt-senior Justin Woods, is tied for tops among NCAA blue-liners with a career-best eight goals.
  • MSU's Jake Jaremko is tied for second among NCAA rookies with 19 points (4g-15a), BGSU's Cameron Wright is tied for sixth with 15 (5g-10a) and UAF's Steven Jandric is tied for 14th with 14 (2g-12a).
  • Scoring in WCHA league games increased by 4.7 percent in the first half, as compared to the pre-holiday break portion of the 2016-17 campaign, to an average of 5.57 goals per game (390 total in 70 games).
  • Minnesota State is one of four teams to rank in the top-10 nationally for both scoring offense (third at 3.78 goals per game) and scoring defense (sixth at 2.17 goals allowed per contest), joining St. Cloud State, Cornell and Northeastern.

The Week Ahead

- Nonconference Test: Bowling Green hosts No. 12 Western Michigan on Thursday night (Dec. 28), the first of potentially seven games against nonconference opponents for WCHA teams between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2.

- Two WCHA Series: Bemidji State hosts Alabama Huntsville, as the Beavers and Chargers -- currently tied for sixth place -- renew a long-standing rivalry. Nationally-ranked Minnesota State welcomes Northern Michigan, in a rematch of a series split Nov. 3-4 in Marquette.

- Three Rivers Classic: Lake Superior State represents the WCHA at the Three Rivers Classic at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Lakers face Robert Morris on Friday (Dec. 29), then play either Arizona State or No. 11 Providence on Saturday (Dec. 30).

- Great Lakes Invitational: The storied GLI moves to the brand-new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Michigan Tech, the GLI host school, plays Michigan State on Monday (Jan. 1), followed by Bowling Green vs. Michigan. For the first-time ever, the two Jan. 1 semifinal games (at 2:30 and 6:00 p.m. ET) will both be carried live on WCHA.tv. The third-place and championship games, set for the same times on Tuesday, Jan. 2, will be televised live on FOX Sports Detroit (Dan Dickerson, Darren Eliot and Trevor Thompson are behind the mic).

- Exhibition: Ferris State travels to Plymouth, Mich. to face the U.S. Under-18 Team and head coach Seth Appert, a former Bulldogs goaltender. The teams will skate next Tuesday (Jan. 2) at the USA Hockey Arena.