Winner earns Jeff Sauer WCHA Championship Trophy and automatic bid to NCAA Tournament
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – March 11, 2018 – After both won in overtime in Game Three of their semifinal-round playoff series, nationally 19th ranked Northern Michigan will host Michigan Tech in the men's 2018 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Championship. The single-game, all-Upper Peninsula WCHA championship is set for 7:07 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 17 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich. The winner of will earn the inaugural Jeff Sauer WCHA Championship Trophy, Presented by Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup, along with the league's automatic bid to the 2018 Division I Men's Hockey Championship.
The game will also pit a pair of first-year head coaches, as Northern Michigan's Grant Potulny will square off with Michigan Tech's Joe Shawhan.
Northern Michigan, the No. 2 seed in the WCHA Postseason Tournament, survived a pair of three-game WCHA Playoff tests in advancing to the championship game. The Wildcats outlasted seventh-seeded Alabama Huntsville in the quarterfinals, then received a Troy Loggins goal at 15:53 of overtime in the decisive Game Three to knock off No. 3 seed and nationally 17th-ranked Bowling Green in the semifinals. NMU, already enjoying its first 20-win season since 2009-10 (its last NCAA tournament season), has won 25 games for the first time since going 26-12-2 in 2001-02.
Michigan Tech, the defending WCHA playoff champion, entered the 2018 tournament as the fifth seed, but upset No. 4 seed Bemidji State in the quarterfinals and shocked Minnesota State, the top-seeded MacNaughton Cup champions, in the semifinals. The Huskies scored 10 goals in two games to sweep the Beavers, then won the last two games in Mankato – including the decisive Game Three on Jake Jackson's goal 15:07 into overtime.
Northern Michigan, which now plays on the Rick Comley Rink at the Berry Events Center, won its three all-time WCHA playoff championships under Comley (in 1989, 1991 and 1992). The Wildcats are appearing in their first conference title game since the 2010 CCHA championship contest. Michigan Tech has won three WCHA playoff crowns (1962, 1965 and 2017), while also earning WCHA co-playoff championships in 1960, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1981.
The longtime rivals split their 2017-18 regular season series, with Northern Michigan winning both games in Marquette (4-0 on Nov. 11 and 2-1 on Feb. 23) and Michigan Tech taking both contests in Houghton (4-1 on Nov. 10 and 3-2 on Feb. 24).