WCHA Week 15: Four League Series And A Nonconference Series Await
No. 8/6 Minnesota State (at Alaska) and Alabama Huntsville (at Alaska Anchorage) wrap up their stay in the Last Frontier, Northern Michigan hosts No. 14 Bowling Green with second place at stake, Lake Superior State and Ferris State meet in the Soo, and Bemidji State faces No. 7/8 North Dakota in a nonconference clash
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Second place is on the line when Northern Michigan hosts No. 14 Bowling Green this weekend

Opening Face-Off

- Mavericks, Falcons into Top-15: A pair of teams from the Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) are in the top-15 of this week's opinion polls, with league-leading Minnesota State at No. 8/6 and Bowling Green at No. 14 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings, respectively.

  • The Mavericks are seventh in the PairWise Rankings entering the weekend, while the Falcons are 17th.
  • Minnesota State has won seven of its last eight games, while Bowling Green is 6-1-3 in its last 10 contests, as the teams rank 1-2 nationally for wins since Dec. 1.

- Winning Hockey: Of the 20 NCAA teams that have won at least 11 games, five come from the WCHA -- the most of any league.

  • Minnesota State (16-6-2) is tied for second in the country for wins and Bowling Green (12-6-6) is tied for ninth, while Bemidji State (11-6-5), Michigan Tech (11-9-5) and Northern Michigan (11-10-3) are all tied for 14th.

- Beavers on a Roll: Reigning MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State has won six-straight games for the first time since a six-game run during its 2008-09 Frozen Four season (Nov. 22-Dec. 28). The Beavers also are on a nine-game unbeaten streak (6-0-3), its longest since a 10-game binge Nov. 11-Dec. 29, 2006 (8-0-2).

  • BSU have given up a paltry 1.56 goals per game during the stretch, second-best in the WCHA and sixth-best nationally since Dec. 2. The Beavers have scored 3.67 goals per contest in that same period (third WCHA / 10th NCAA).
  • Senior goaltender Michael Bitzer, the 2016-17 WCHA Player of the Year, has been in net for all seven games, posting a WCHA-best .930 save percentage during the span. He also has a 1.51 goals-against average and two shutouts.

- Suess' Scoring Spree: Minnesota State co-captain C.J. Suess leads the WCHA with 29 points -- one behind NCAA co-leaders Adam Gaudette (Northeastern) and Henrik Borgström (Denver). The senior has 13 goals and 16 assists in 22 games.

  • Suess has been on fire since the calendar turned to December, with 13 points (9g-4a) during a current eight-game scoring streak. The Winnipeg Jets' prospect has scored nine goals in his last six contests, lighting the lamp in all but one game (including four multi-goal efforts).

- Congrats, Mat!: Former Alaska Anchorage defenseman Mat Robinson, who skated in the WCHA between 2006-09, was named to Canada's Men's Olympic Team for the 2018 Winter Olympics.


By the Numbers

- 2: Shorthanded goals scored by Bemidji State senior Kyle Bauman in the second period of the Beavers' 6-3 win at Lake Superior State last Saturday, tying the all-time WCHA record (14th time, last: Derek Stepan on March 7, 2009).

- 3.91: Goals scored per game by Minnesota State, second-best nationally. The Mavericks also rank in the NCAA top-10 for: scoring defense (seventh at 2.23 gapg), power-play success (second at 28.7 pct.) and penalty-kill rate (eighth at 86.6 pct.).

- 20: Career shutouts for Bemidji State senior goaltender Michael Bitzer, tied with Vermont's Joe Fallon (2005-08) for second-most in NCAA men's hockey history. Michigan State legend, NHL All-Star and 2010 U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller holds the record with 26 between 1999-2002.


The Week Ahead

- Four WCHA Series: First-place and No. 8/6 Minnesota State wraps up its two-week stay in the Last Frontier with a series in Fairbanks against the Nanooks, while Alabama Huntsville concludes its trip (and a longer, 12-game road swing) in Anchorage against the Seawolves. Lake Superior State looks to gain ground in the playoff chase when it hosts eighth-place Ferris State in the Soo, while second place is on the line when No. 14 Bowling Green travels to Northern Michigan.

- Bemidji State-North Dakota Play Home-and-Home: The Beavers put their six-game winning streak and 10-game unbeaten run on the line when they face No. 7/8 North Dakota in a nonconference clash. The teams meet Friday night in Bemidji, before the series moves to Grand Forks on Saturday.


The Week in Review

- WCHA-leader and No. 7 Minnesota State continued to roll this weekend, opening their two-week Alaska stay with a sweep of the Seawolves in Anchorage.

- The Alaska Nanooks hosted Alabama Huntsville in a pair of closely-contested games, as each team earned a victory.

- Red-hot and No. 19 Bowling Green rolled into Big Rapids and, days after winning the GLI, returned to conference play with its first league sweep of the season.

- Bemidji State ran its winning streak to six games (the Beavers' longest since 2008) and its unbeaten run to 10-straight games (BSU's best since 2006) with a sweep at Lake Superior State.

- Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan represented the WCHA in the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational, with the Huskies advancing to the championship game and the Wildcats finishing third.

- Full recaps and box scores, along with the "Inside the WCHA" highlights show, are available at wcha.com.


No. 7 Minnesota State 5, at Alaska Anchorage 2
No. 7 Minnesota State 4, at Alaska Anchorage 1
(Jan. 5 and 6 at Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska)

WCHA-leader and No. 7 Minnesota State continued to roll this weekend, opening their two-week Alaska stay with a sweep of the Seawolves in Anchorage.

With the teams tied 1-1 heading into the final period of play Friday, the Mavericks exploded for a four-goal period to end the game with a 5-2 victory. C.J. Suess led Minnesota State with two goals, including the game-winner.

The MSU offense continued to put the heat on in the finale, registering 46 shots on net and using three power-play goals (by Jake Jaremko, Daniel Brickley and Marc Michaelis) to finish off the sweep with a 4-1 victory. Suess added a shorthanded marker.


at Alaska 3, Alabama Huntsville 2
Alabama Huntsville 3, at Alaska 1
(Jan. 5 and 6 at Carlson Center; Fairbanks, Alaska)

The Alaska Nanooks hosted Alabama Huntsville in a pair of closely-contested games, as each team earned a victory.

The teams traded goals throughout the night on Friday, but it would be the home team who came out on top as senior Zach Frye scored the game-winner for the Nanooks with just under a minute to play. Frye's goal snapped a 2-2 tie and lifted UAF to the 3-2 victory.

UAH goaltender Jordan Uhelski stole the show in the finale, finishing with 35 saves on 36 shots as the Chargers split the weekend with a 3-1 victory. Josh Kestner scored his 15th goal of the season for UAH.


No. 19 Bowling Green 6, at Ferris State 3
No. 19 Bowling Green 3, at Ferris State 0
(Jan. 6 and 7 at Ewigleben Ice Arena; Big Rapids, Mich.)

Red-hot and No. 19 Bowling Green rolled into Big Rapids and, days after winning the GLI, returned to conference play with its first league sweep of the season.

Led by freshman Cameron Wright, the Falcons erased a one-goal, third-period deficit with four tallies in the final frame to beat the Bulldogs, 6-3, in Friday's opener. Wright scored twice on the power play, including the game-winner, while both Craggs brothers (Sam and Lukas) lit the lamp in the final frame.

BGSU goaltender Ryan Bednard sent the Falcons home with a sweep, registering a 27-save shutout as his team earned a 3-0 victory Sunday. Mitch McLain scored twice for Bowling Green, his ninth and 10th goals of the season.


Bemidji State 3, at Lake Superior State 0
Bemidji State 6, at Lake Superior State 3
(Jan. 5 and 6 at Taffy Abel Arena; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)

Bemidji State ran its winning streak to six games (the Beavers' longest since 2008) and its unbeaten run to 10-straight games (BSU's best since 2006) with a sweep at Lake Superior State.

BSU goaltender Michael Bitzer slammed the door shut on the Lakers in the opener, finishing with a 21-save shutout in a 3-0 victory. The clean sheet was the 20th of Bitzer's career, drawing him even with Vermont's Joe Fallon (2005-08) for second in NCAA men's hockey history.

After LSSU forward Jake Hand knocked in a pair of first-period goals to give the Lakers a quick 2-0 lead, BSU's offense scored six of the game's next seven goals for a 6-3 win. The Beavers' five-goal second period was led by Kyle Bauman, who tied the all-time WCHA record with two short-handed goals in a single frame (14th time, and the first since Derek Stepan on March 7, 2009).


Ice Vegas Invitational (Jan. 5 and 6 at T-Mobile Arena; Las Vegas, Nev.)
Semifinal: Michigan State 4, No. 13/14 Boston College 3
Semifinal: Arizona State 7, Northern Michigan 2
3rd-Place: Northern Michigan 3, No. 13/14 Boston College 3 - OT (NMU wins shootout, 2-0)
Championship: Arizona State 3, Michigan Tech 2

Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan represented the WCHA in the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational, with the Huskies advancing to the championship game and the Wildcats finishing third.

MTU faced off against No. 13/14 Boston College in the first game of the weekend. The Huskies scored three goals in the opening period (by Dylan Steman, Brent Baltus and Alex Smith), and netminder Devin Kero held off the Eagles from there to preserve a 4-3 victory.

NMU had less luck in their semifinal contest, as Arizona State registered seven goals to send the Wildcats to the third-place game.

In a thriller, the Wildcats rallied to earn a 3-3 tie against Boston College. Philip Beaulieu assisted on all three NMU goals, including the tying strike by Denver Pierce at the 12:07 mark of the third period. Shootout goals from Robbie Payne and Darien Craighead, and a pair of stops by goaltender Atte Tolvanen, gave the Wildcats a third-place finish.

The Huskies' third-period rally fell short in the championship game, as Tech dropped a 3-2 decision to Arizona State. MTU registered 38 shots on goal, and senior Steman added a goal and an assist.