- Fantastic Final Four: A combined 92 victories (including three 20-win teams and four of the nation's top-13 winningest teams), along with the 2017-18 MacNaughton Cup champions and the 2017 WCHA playoff champions, will be on the ice this weekend when the Men's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) holds the best-of-three semifinal round of the 2018 WCHA Playoffs.
- Nationally third-ranked and tournament No. 1 seed Minnesota State, which leads the country with 28 wins and is on a NCAA-best 13-game unbeaten streak, hosts No. 5 seed and 2017 playoff champ Michigan Tech (tied for 13th nationally with 19 wins).
- Tournament No. 2 seed and 19th-ranked Northern Michigan, tied for second in the country with 23 wins, hosts No. 3 seed and 17th-ranked Bowling Green, which is tied for sixth with 22 victories.
- Hot When It Counts: The top-three seeds in the 2018 WCHA Playoffs are continuing impressive, three-month tears.
- Minnesota State has played the best hockey in the country since Dec. 1, going 19-2-1 (.886). Bowling Green is fourth in that span at .739 (16-5-2), while Northern Michigan is sixth at .700 (16-6-3).
- MSU is also tops since Jan. 1 at .906 (14-1-1), while BGSU is fourth (.778, 14-4-0) and NMU is sixth (.735, 12-4-1).
- Michigan Tech, meanwhile, has won three-straight games and four of its last five contests.
- Horns Up: Minnesota State leads the country in nine categories: wins (28), goals (146), goals per game (4.06), goal margin (+72), goal margin per game (+2.00), power-play goals (46), fewest shots on goal allowed per game (21.94), shots on goal margin (+475) and shots on goal margin per game (+13.19).
- Pass the Puck: Northern Michigan's Adam Rockwood leads the NCAA with 37 assists, most by a WCHA skater since St. Cloud State's Drew LeBlanc also had 37 helpers in his 2012-13 Hobey Baker Award-winning season. The last time a WCHA player had more was in the 2011-12 campaign, when Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Connolly of Minnesota Duluth had 40 and Minnesota's Nate Schmidt had 38.
- Lighting the Lamp: WCHA forwards own five of the nation's top-20 goals-per-game averages. UAH's Josh Kestner, who tied the Chargers' D-1 single-season record with 24 goals, is fifth at 0.65 per game. Minnesota State's C.J. Suess is 10th (0.61, 22g), Northern Michigan's Robbie Payne is 13th (0.56, 22), MSU's Marc Michaelis is 14th (0.56, 18) and NMU's Troy Loggins is 19th (0.54, 21).
- The WCHA has four 20-goal scorers for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
- Offensive Defensemen: Four of the NCAA's top-six scoring blueliners (and six of the top-20, by points-per-game) play in the WCHA: Northern Michigan's Philip Beaulieu is third at 1.00 points-per-game (10g-29a--39pts), Bowling Green's Alec Rauhauser is fourth at 0.97 (9-28--37), Alaska's Zach Frye is fifth at 0.97 (11-23--34), Minnesota State's Daniel Brickley is sixth at 0.92 (10-23--33), Michigan Tech's Mitch Reinke is tied for 17th at 0.80 (3-21--24) and MTU's Mark Auk is 20th at 0.77 (8-22--30).
- Youth is Served: Two of the country's top-four scoring freshman classes (by points-per-game) skate at Minnesota State (37g-84a--121pts, 3.36 points-per-game) and Bowling Green (39-80--119, 3.13).
- MSU's Jake Jaremko is second nationally with 1.00 points-per-game (13-23--36), while his teammate Reggie Lutz is 10th at 0.84 (7-19--26). BGSU's Brandon Kruse is seventh at 0.87 (8-25--33), Max Johnson is 19th (11-17--28, 0.74) and Cameron Wright is 20th (9-15--24, 0.73).
WCHA Postseason Tournament Primer
- Back on Campus: Once again bringing the singular intensity of playoff hockey directly to its member institution fans, the three-week, eight-team 2018 WCHA Postseason Tournament will be held at home sites of the highest-ranked seeds.
- WCHA Playoffs: The WCHA Playoffs consist of this weekend's best-of-three quarterfinal-round series hosted by the top four seeds, followed by the best-of-three semifinals the weekend of March 9-11 (hosted by the top remaining seeds).
- WCHA Championship: The two semifinal series winners will meet Saturday, March 17 in the one-game 2018 WCHA Championship, hosted by the top remaining seed.
- Remembering the Dean: The WCHA honored to introduce the Jeff Sauer WCHA Championship Trophy, Presented by Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup, to be awarded each season to the WCHA Postseason Tournament Champion, beginning with the upcoming 2018 League playoffs and championship. For more information on Coach Sauer's enduring legacy and his namesake trophy, please visit here.
2018 WCHA Playoffs (Semifinals)
- No. 5 seed Michigan Tech at No. 1 seed Minnesota State: A rematch of the 2017 WCHA semifinals, won in three games by host Michigan Tech en route to the Huskies' WCHA playoff championship title. The Huskies advanced after sweeping Bemidji State for their first postseason road series win since 2012. The nationally third-ranked Mavericks are 9-0-1 in their last 10 home games and 14-3-1 at Verizon Center overall -- including a sweep of MTU in the teams' lone meetings this season (3-1 and 5-3 on Oct. 27-28).
- No 3 seed Bowling Green at No. 2 seed Northern Michigan: A semifinal-round matchup of top-20 teams, as the No. 17 Falcons (16th in the PairWise Rankings) visit the No. 19 Wildcats (18th PWR). BGSU is in a familiar spot, having also won a road semifinal-round series in 2017 (at Bemidji State), while NMU, enjoying its best season in a decade, is here after defeating UAH for its first postseason series win since 2010. This will be the fourth time under Chris Bergeron that the Falcons face the Wildcats in a postseason series, winning three-game CCHA road sets in 2011 and 2012, before sweeping a WCHA home series in 2015. NMU, however, won both regular season games this season, 5-2 and 3-2 (OT) on Jan. 12-13 in Marquette (and won the last two meetings of 2016-17, Feb. 3-4 at BGSU).
2018 WCHA Playoffs (Quarterfinals)
- Nationally third-ranked and tournament top seed Minnesota State continued its dominant run, scoring 14 goals in a sweep of No. 8 seed Alaska.
- The lone quarterfinal-round series to go three games saw No. 7 seed Alabama Huntsville earn its first-ever WCHA playoff win, but No. 2 seed and nationally 19th-ranked Northern Michigan held off the Chargers to advance.
- Nationally 17th-ranked Bowling Green, the tournament's No. 3 seed, won a postseason series for a NCAA-best eighth-straight season with a sweep of No. 6 seed Ferris State.
- Michigan Tech pulled off the quarterfinals' only upset, as the defending WCHA Playoff Champions traveled to Bemidji State and advanced to the semifinals with two-straight victories.
- Full recaps and box scores, along with the "Inside the WCHA" highlights show, are available at wcha.com.
at No. 1 seed Minnesota State 8, No. 8 seed Alaska 2
at No. 1 Minnesota State 6, No. 8 Alaska 2
(March 2 and 3 at Verizon Center; Mankato, Minn.)
Nationally third-ranked and tournament top seed Minnesota State continued its dominant run, scoring 14 goals in a sweep of No. 8 seed Alaska.
Friday's Game 1 was close early, with the host Mavericks holding a 3-2 lead 25 minutes into the contest, before exploding for four, second-period goals to run away with an 8-2 victory. Freshman Jared Spooner had three assists, senior Brad McClure scored two goals, Marc Michaelis was credited with the game-winner and Connor LaCouvee made 19 saves for Minnesota State. Ross Heidt and Tristan Thompson scored for the Nanooks.
Minnesota State scored four goals in a span of 4:55 of the third period in Saturday's Game 2, turning a tight, 2-1 lead into a 6-1 bulge and a 6-2, series-clinching win. UAF scored 51 seconds into the game (Tayler Munson), but six different Mavericks scored before the Nanooks again lit the lamp. Edwin Hookenson and Dallas Gerads scored in the first period, Nicholas Rivera's shorthanded tally at 5:43 opened the third period floodgates, while Connor Mackey (6:08), Daniel Brickley (7:36) and Michaelis (10:38) all followed with goals. LaCouvee made 13 of his 22 stops in the final 20 minutes.
at No. 2 seed Northern Michigan 7, No. 7 seed Alabama Huntsville 1
No. 7 Alabama Huntsville 3, at No. 2 Northern Michigan 2
at No. 2 Northern Michigan 5, No. 7 Alabama Huntsville 2
(March 2, 3 and 4 at Berry Events Center; Marquette, Mich.)
The lone quarterfinal-round series to go three games saw No. 7 seed Alabama Huntsville earn its first-ever WCHA playoff win, but No. 2 seed and nationally 19th-ranked Northern Michigan held off the Chargers to advance.
The series looked like a potential mismatch in Friday's Game 1, with NMU scoring four first-period goals en route to a 7-0 lead and 7-1 victory. Playing their first home playoff game since 2012, the Wildcats got goals from Troy Loggins (shorthanded), Demico Hannoun, Robbie Payne and Denver Pierce in the first 20 minutes. Pierce and Payne each scored again, while Adam Rockwood became the first NMU skater with four assists in a game since Feb. 25, 2012. Brandon Parker scored the Chargers' lone goal.
Saturday's Game 2 was historic for the visiting Chargers, as Josh Kestner's tie-breaking, game-winning goal with 29 seconds remaining gave UAH a 3-2 win -- the program's first-ever WCHA playoff victory. The game was different from the onset with a scoreless first period, before the teams traded four, second-period goals. Loggins and freshman Mitchell Slattery scored for the Wildcats, while Kestner (his first of the night) and Adam Wilcox lit the lamp for UAH. Jordan Uhleski made 22 saves, including stopping all nine shots he faced in the third period, to earn the win.
NMU continued its fantastic season and punched its ticket to the semifinals with a 5-2 victory in Sunday's winner-take-all Game 3, rallying behind Loggins after trailing by a goal in the second period. Loggins' career-best four-point night (2g-2a) included the tie-breaking, game-winning power-play goal at 13:11 of the second period, the primary assist on Pierce's power-play goal 1:47 later and an empty-net strike to seal the outcome. Kestner's 24th goal of the season tied the game 1-1 in the first period and tied UAH's D-I era single-season record. Pierce scored twice for the Wildcats, while Slattery tied the game 2-2.
at No. 3 seed Bowling Green 2, No. 6 seed Ferris State 1 (OT)
at No. 3 Bowling Green 5, No. 6 Ferris State 2
(March 2 and 3 at Slater Family Ice Arena; Bowling Green, Ohio)
Nationally 17th-ranked Bowling Green, the tournament's No. 3 seed, won a postseason series for a NCAA-best eighth-straight season with a sweep of No. 6 seed Ferris State.
Bulldogs' junior goaltender Darren Smith set a Ferris State single-game record with 62 saves Friday night, but Bowling Green freshman Brandon Kruse solved him twice, including the game-winner 12:05 into overtime, in a 2-1 Falcons' victory to open the series. Smith's heroics tied for the 11th-best performance in WCHA history, but was not enough. Kruse's first goal came at 15:38 of the first period, but Jason Tackett's second-period, power-play goal tied the contest. Kruse put home a rebound off a Mitch McLain shot on the breakaway in OT, making a winner of BGSU and netminder Ryan Bednard (34 saves, including seven in OT).
Extra time was not needed in Saturday's Game 2 as Bowling Green jumped out to a 3-0 lead, withstood a two-goal Ferris State rally, and pulled away late for a 5-2 win. Five different Falcons scored, with Sam Craggs, Max Johnson (power-play), Alec Rauhauser (game-winner), Brett D'Andrea and McLain (power-play) all lighting the lamp. Bednard made 33 stops in the series-clinching victory.
No. 5 seed Michigan Tech 5, at No. 4 seed Bemidji State 3
No. 5 Michigan Tech 5, at No. 4 Bemidji State 4
(March 2 and 3 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
Michigan Tech pulled off the quarterfinals' only upset, as the defending WCHA Playoff Champions traveled to Bemidji State and advanced to the semifinals with two-straight victories.
A strong offensive effort when it mattered most was the difference in Friday's Game 1, as the Huskies rallied from down 3-1 for the 5-3 victory. Jake Lucchini led the way for Tech with two goals and an assist, netting power-play markers at 16:43 of the second and 13:19 of the third to tie the game 3-3, then setting up Jake Jackson's empty-netter to seal the outcome. Freshman defenseman Seamus Donohue snapped the 3-3 tie with just 1:30 remaining in regulation. Hampus Sjödahl, Justin Baudry (power-play) and Brendan Harris (power-play) all scored for the Beavers.
Michigan Tech scored twice in the first period, three times in the third and withstood a three-goal Bemidji State rally in the final 2:12 of regulation to advance with a thrilling, 5-4 win. Trailing 4-1 and playing for their postseason lives, the Beavers scored three, extra-attacker goals at 17:48 (Jay Dickman), 18:47 (Baudry) and 19:04 (Charlie Combs), but Mark Auk's empty-netter at 18:32 gave the Huskies the cushion they needed. Lucchini had another three-point effort with a shorthanded goal and two assists, Joel L'Esperance matched that one-goal, two-assist line, while senior goaltender Devin Kero made 33 saves for Tech.