The Wildcats allowed more than two goals for the first time all season last Saturday.
Three things I think I learned after this weekend’s games.
1. Here come the Huskies
Michigan Tech pulled off an impressive sweep at Ferris State, handing the eighth-ranked Bulldogs their first home losses since Oct. 18, 2013 against St. Lawrence. The last time Ferris State was swept at home was Feb. 18-19, 2011 against Notre Dame. Tech goalie Jamie Phillips out-dueled C.J. Motte, stopping 67 of 68 shots on the weekend. That has to be very encouraging for the Huskies, who lost last season’s No. 1 goalie, Pheonix Copley, to the pros with two years of eligibility remaining. Phillips played in 13 games last year, although he played in all four games against Ferris State, going 1-3. “(Phillips) battled all weekend,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “It’s the hardest I’ve seen him battle, and you can really see how focused he is right now.
2. Beware the Chargers
Alabama Huntsville may be 0-6, but with goalies Carmine Guerriero and Matt Larose, it seems like only a matter of time before they steal some points away from their WCHA foes. On Friday, Guerriero stopped 54 of 57 points in a 3-1 loss at No. 13 Minnesota State and kept the high-octane Mavericks scoreless for more than two periods. The next night Larose had 37 saves in a 4-1 loss in which his team was in a 1-1 tie midway through the second periods. “Our goalies are good,” Chargers coach Mike Corbett told The Free Press of Mankato, Minn., on Friday. “I don’t know what (Larose) is going to do tomorrow night, but he’s good, too. They’re going to give us a chance to win.” Each has played three games, and Guerriero has stopped 127 of 137 (.927) shots and Larose has stopped 122 of 134 (.910).
3. Shall we keep talking about goalies?
Why not. There have been some impressive performances in net so far in this young season, including this past weekend. Alaska Anchorage lost and tied at Maine, but it wasn’t because of goaltending. Freshman Oliver Mantha stopped 46 of 49 shots in Saturday’s 3-3 tie and had 83 saves in the series, which also included a 3-1 loss on Friday. Phillips, Northern Michigan’s Mathias Dahlstrom and Minnesota State’s Stephon Williams each improved to 4-0-0 with their teams’ sweeps. Dahlstrom, who stopped 50 of 52 shots in the Wildcats’ two victories at Lake Superior State, leads the WCHA with a .968 save percentage and a 0.75 goals-against average. He has two shutouts, including a 23-save blanking of the Lakers on Saturday. Williams appears to be back to his good form of two years ago after losing his starting position to eventual league goaltending champion Cole Huggins last season.
We’re into week four of the college hockey season and this is the first weekend that everybody in the WCHA is playing. No byes. Which means that although Shane and I currently have identical 19-11-1 overall records picking games, these ones will decide a lot.
Also, we have three conference series: All four Michigan schools are in action, against one another, as well as Alabama-Huntsville making the trip to Mankato.
The four other schools get tough nonconference tests against teams from four different conferences (Big Ten, Hockey East, ECAC and NCHC).
So it should be an action-packed weekend.
Now, onto the picks!
Alabama Huntsville ( 0-4-0) at No. 13 Minnesota State (2-2-0)
Jack: UAH has looked much better this season — we haven’t seen any double-digit losses this so far — but they’re still struggling. I’m not sure they have enough to beat the Mavericks in Mankato just yet. Mavericks, 5-2, 3-1.
Shane: I, too, believe Huntsville will be better this year, but this is a tough time for the Chargers to go to Mankato. Minnesota State wasn’t too happy with its home-opening performance against Minnesota Duluth last weekend and will look to get its WCHA season started on the right note. Mavericks 5-1, 4-0
Michigan Tech (2-0-0) at No. 8 Ferris State (2-1-0)
Jack: This should be a fun series. Tech has had two weeks off since beating Lake Superior State, and on paper the Huskies look like they’re going to score in bunches this season. Will they be able to find enough to beat CJ Motte and the Bulldogs? I’ll pick a split with Tech getting a Saturday upset. Bulldogs 4-1, Huskies 3-2.
Shane: I’d love to be at this series, easily one of the best early season matchups for the league. A split would be great for Tech (and for the league’s other contenders), but the Bulldogs just don’t seem to lose at home.Bulldogs 3-2, 4-2
Northern Michigan (2-0-0) at Lake Superior State (0-6-0)
Jack: NMU is another team with some optimism. The Wildcats were supposed to be strong defensively but they proved last weekend they could score, too, with six goals in a weekend sweep of Wisconsin. I think NMU will be too much for the Lakers, who have a very real chance of starting 0-8-0 on the season. Wildcats 4-1, 3-2.
Shane: Very impressed with what the Wildcats did last weekend against the Badgers, and like you said, defensively and offensively. What the Lakers and their new coach need right now is a bye week to settle down and see where they’re at. Wildcats 3-0, 5-2
No. 20 Alaska Anchorage (3-0-1) at Maine ( 0-4-0)
Jack: This will be a good litmus test for the Seawolves. On the one hand, they’ve already beaten Maine once, in the Kendall Hockey Classic. On the other hand, they’re facing the same kind of travel issues that Maine did going to Anchorage (Anchorage to Orono has gotta be the second-most-grueling trip in college hockey, second only to Fairbanks to Orono). I think it may be a struggle for UAA Friday night but they rally Saturday. Black Bears 4-1, Seawolves 4-2.
Shane: I like the fact that Anchorage is almost immediately doing Maine a favor by going to Orono shortly after Maine went to Anchorage. Word is the Seawolves left early, so they shouldn’t be jet lagged for this series. Matt Thomas really wants to be better on the road this season. Seawolves 3-2, Black Bears 2-1
No. 16 Alaska (4-0-0) at Western Michigan ( 1-3-0)
Jack: Another challenge for an Alaska team that’s undefeated in its home state. I think the Nanooks are going to Western Michigan then spend the rest of the week in the lower 48 before heading to Bemidji next week. I’m a little higher on the Nanooks than I am on the Seawolves so I’m going to call a sweep despite the travel. Nanooks 4-2, 5-3.
Shane: Another Alaska team going on the road after a good start. The time zone’s the same as the one Anchorage is going to, but not quite as far away. I think the Nanooks are pretty good, but I think they’ll split. Broncos 4-3, Nanooks 3-1
Bemidji State (1-1-0) at No. 1 Minnesota (2-0-0)
Jack: Call me a homer, but I think the Beavers steal one of these. I don’t think they just got lucky against North Dakota, they look like an improved team. That’s not to say it will be easy. I say they beat the Gophers in overtime in the opener before Minnesota rebounds for the big win. Beavers 3-2 (OT), Gophers 5-1
Shane: OK, you’re a homer. … I agree that they didn’t just get lucky against North Dakota, but I think this is going to be an even taller task. Minnesota will sweep. Gophers 3-1, 4-1
Bowling Green (3-1-0) at Clarkson ( 2-2-0)
Jack: I have a tough time calling this one. The Falcons have scored a ton in their first four — 14 goals, to be exact. I don’t know much about the Knights but they’ve beaten Niagara and RIT and were swept by Vermont. I’ll call a split. Knights 4-2, Falcons 5-3.
Shane: I have a suspicion that Bowling Green is a pretty darn good team, and this might be a great chance to improve to 5-1. I’ll say a sweep for the orange and brown. Falcons 3-2, 4-2
Overall: Jack 19-11-1, Shane 19-11-1
An interesting weekend in nonconference play for the WCHA (and a couple conference games, too). Here are three things I think I learned.
1. Alaska state Of mind
Both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage are undefeated following this weekend’s Brice Alaska GOAL Rush. Both teams beat Air Force while Alaska came back to beat Penn State (and win the GOAL Rush title in the process). Both teams also beat Wisconsin a week ago in Anchorage’s Kendall Hockey Classic. The big question for both the Nanooks and the Seawolves is if they can keep their hot streaks going outside of their home state. Both teams have, historically, been much better at home in the Last Frontier than on the road (UAA was 6-11-2 away from Alaska and UAF was 6-6-2). The Seawolves make a more-grueling cross country trip to Orono, Maine, to take a Black Bears team they beat 3-1 two weeks ago in the Kendall Classic. The Nanooks are away from home two straight weekends — first going to Western Michigan this weekend then opening up nonconference play at Bemidji State on Halloween. A decent record on the road is going to be key to how well both these teams fare in the WCHA this year.
2. Bowling Green buzzing
The Falcons swept Alabama-Huntsville in the lone league series played last weekend, and came home from Huntsville happy. Sophomore Kevin Dufour scored three times against the Chargers to bring his season total to six goals in four games — good enough to lead the league in goals and tie for the lead in points (6) with teammate Nolan Valleau (6 points, all assists) and Anchorage’s Chase Van Allen (1 goal, 5 assists). Overall the Falcons have scored 14 times in four games, including seven times on the power play. It’s hard to know just how good the Falcons are an d can be after just four games but early reviews seem to indicate they’re going to be a force in the league this season.
3. Lakers need a break
The rough start to the season got rougher for Lake Superior State this weekend. The Lakers went to South Bend, Ind., and were swept for a third-straight series, this time by Notre Dame, 5-3 and 5-1. That makes the Lakers 0-6-0 after starting the season at the earliest possible time. And from watching the games this weekend — they were on national television on NBC Sports — the Lakers look like they could use a break. They seemed tired and disorganized against a Notre Dame team that was also looking for its first win.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they don’t get a bye week until Christmastime, and the schedule ain’t getting easier: they return to the Sault for a home series against UP rivals Northern Michigan before going to Anchorage followed by a trip to Huntsville the next weekend. Then they’ll host Alaska and Minnesaota State Mankato followed by a trip to North Dakota. All without a break. Yikes.
One bright spot for the Lakers — it seems that new head coach Damon Whitten has settled on a No. 1 starting goalie. Freshman Gordon Diefel has started five of six games for Lake State, which is at least reassuring considering coming into the season the Lakers had four goaltenders on the roster who hadn’t played a minute of college hockey.
It’s the second full week of the season, and Jack and I are wondering how to pick better. Each of us correctly called some splits last week but picked the wrong teams on the wrong nights. Based on the Frederick-Wellens rules of last year, those go down as losses on our records. So it goes. But as a result, we both went 9-5-0. As always, and just like the teams we cover, we’ll try to do better this week. Here goes …
Bowling Green at Alabama Huntsville
Shane: Let’s start with the lone league series. The Falcons are coming off a solid nonconference split against Miami, and the Chargers played two close games at Colorado College last week. One of UAH’s two wins last season came at Bowling Green, and no one in the league wants to leave points on the table against Huntsville. Still, I have a feeling the Chargers are improved and just might steal some from a good Falcons team during their home opener. Chargers 3-1, Falcons 5-1
Jack: I’m really tempted just to go ahead and call this a Chargers sweep. Huntsville’s scorelines from last weekend make me think maybe they’ve turned a corner, but the Chargers are still giving up way too many shots and don’t seem to be generating enough offense to win consistently (yet). I’ll agree with you and say they win their home opener but lost the finale. Chargers 5-3, Falcons 4-0.
Ferris State at St. Lawrence
Shane: The fourth-ranked Bulldogs scheduled smartly. No real chance of a hangover after the Michigan win, as they played an exhibition game last week. Now they go on a road trip to Canton, N.Y., and will face a team that put up 10 goals on 30 shots Saturday at Niagara. No way C.J. Motte lets that happen to his team. Bulldogs 3-2, 4-2
Jack: I still find it strange that St. Lawrence, of all teams, was the only squad to beat Ferris in Big Rapids last season. I have a feeling the Bulldogs will return the favor twice, with ease, this weekend in Canton. Bulldogs 5-2, 6-3
Lake Superior State at Notre Dame
Shane: Remember this time last year when the Lakers were red hot to start the year? Not the case this time around, as first-year coach Damon Whitten’s team is 0-4-0. I’ll bet he’d like a week off to get down to some fundamental work with his team. He’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for that. Meantime, the Lakers go to Notre Dame, which is also looking for its first win. The Irish will get two Irish 4-1, 3-2
Jack: The Lakers are going to be the first WCHA team to play on national television this weekend with their trip to South Bend. I don’t really think that’s significant, but the ND football team is playing Florida State in a huge game on Saturday so it would be just Lake State’s luck that they pull off an upset in the game nobody is going to be watching. Irish 4-1, Lakers 4-3
Northern Michigan vs. Wisconsin (in Green Bay, Wis.)
Shane: The Wildcats finally take the ice, meeting the Badgers halfway between Marquette and Madison. I like this arrangement and hope they can get a good crowd at the Resch Center. It will be interesting to see how the players’ legs are this weekend. NMU hasn’t even played an exhibition, and Wisconsin is coming off a trip to Anchorage. Badgers 3-2, Wildcats 2-1
Jack: I’m picking an NMU sweep here, mostly to make it interesting but also because I think they have a real opportunity to come out and pounce on the Badgers, who are already in sore shape after two losses and an Alaska trip. Wildcats 2-1, 3-2
Minnesota State vs. Minnesota Duluth (home and home)
Shane: The Mavericks and Bulldogs will play Friday in Duluth and Saturday in Mankato. Those towns aren’t exactly close together. Minnesota State, ranked 12th, had its ups and downs in its split at Nebraska Omaha last weekend, but most importantly, it finished strong. MSU will be raising its Broadmoor Trophy championship banner on Saturday, its home-opener, a ceremony that’s never taken place at the Verizon Wireless Center. Mavericks 3-2, 4-2
Jack: A four-hour trip is really stretching the limits of these home-and-homes, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ll go with a Mavericks sweep simply because I’m not convinced the Bulldogs are for real (although enough people were to rank them No. 20 this week despite a loss and a win). Mavericks 4-2, 5-2
Alaska Anchorage vs. Penn State, Air Force (Alaska Goal Rush)
Shane: Getting a little extra practice time for being an Alaska school and getting the first four games in Alaska is a nice advantage for the Seawolves (and the Nanooks, see below) to start the season. They’ll head up to Fairbanks with an air of confidence and expectation after last weekend and last season. There might be a hiccup, but it will still be a good start. Seawolves 5, Nittany Lions 2; Falcons 2, Seawolves 1
Jack: I had the same thoughts as Shane, although I’m going to reverse the order and say Penn State wins Friday. Nittany Lions 4, Seawolves 1; Seawolves 3, Falcons 2
Alaska vs. Air Force, Penn State (Alaska Goal Rush)
Shane: Same thoughts about the start of the season for the Nanooks, who will be at home this weekend following their two wins in Anchorage a week ago. Travel does get tough after this, as both Alaska teams hit the road next week. Alaska has to feel good about its start, especially when it had to see who could step up following some big offseason losses. Nanooks 3, Falcons 1; Nanooks 4, Nittany Lions 1
Jack: Both Alaska schools look like WCHA contenders this season, although I think most would agree that the Nanooks have the deeper team (having Tyler Morley and Colton Paryako ain’t nothin’). I think the Nanooks start out 4-0 in their home state but I’m going to be really interested to see how they do when they leave Alaska the next two weeks. Nanooks 4, Falcons 4; Nanooks 4, Nittany Lions 3
Overall: Shane 11-6-0, Jack 10-7-0
1. Exhibitions mean nothing
Minnesota State played Trinity Western on Sunday night and won 12-1. Nebraska Omaha played Northern Alberta on Monday and lost 4-0. What was learned from those preseason games? When the Mavericks played the Mavericks on Friday night in Omaha, the answer was revealed: Not much. Minnesota State was slow out of the gate and played without poise, while Omaha tic-tac-toed the puck around the rink and scored five times. The next night, Minnesota State turned the tables for the series split. Now we can officially stop talking about preseason exhibition games — until next year.
2. League scores important wins
The most stunning result of the weekend was Bemidji State’s 5-1 road victory over No. 2 North Dakota. It was the Beavers’ first win in Grand Forks since 1970. It was an important victory, to be certain, for Bemidji State, which won just 10 games last season. But it was also big for the WCHA, as its coaches talked about trying to improve its nonconference record. Alaska and Alaska Anchorage each went 2-0 at Anchorage’s Kendall Hockey Classic, beating Maine and Wisconsin, Bowling Green split with Miami and Minnesota State split at Omaha.
3. Freshmen fare well
I was in Omaha this weekend and saw Minnesota State freshman forward Brad McClure scored two goals, including Saturday’s game-winner. A quick glance at the league scoring shows a few other freshies who had solid sotarts to their career. Bowling Green defenseman Nolan Valleau had a four-assist series, and Anchorage forward Tad Kozun finished with two goals and an assist. Then there were the goalies. Bemidji State’s Michael Bitzer stopped 25 of 26 shots to win at North Dakota, and Anchorage’ Olivier Mantha won his first start, making 27 saves in a 4-2 win over Wisconsin.
The first full week of games is finally here! And seeing as how this is my first official blog post on USCHO I’m a bit nervous that Shane is going to humiliate me in this year’s pick ‘em standings.
I’m bad at predicting things, which is why I don’t gamble. Luckily for me, we’re not betting money in these pick ‘ems, just pride.
Seven of the 10 WCHA teams are in action this weekend, and many of them feature teams facing off against their former WCHA or CCHA foes.
Anyway, enough chit-chat. Here are our picks.
Kendall Hockey Classic at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage
No. 10 Wisconsin (0-0-0) vs. Alaska (0-0-0)
Jack: The Badgers are a Big Ten contender this year, while the Nanooks are hoping to build on a promising 2013-14. They have some scorers back, but the Badgers counter with Hobey Baker finalist Joel Rumpel. I’ll take Wisconsin in a close one. Wisconsin 4-3
Shane: Alaska is an interesting team to me. The Nanooks graduated a lot of talent but have a pretty solid roster remaining. This is a tough trip for anyone to start the season, even for what appears to be a good Wisconsin team. I think the extra practice time will favor Alaska, 3-2.
Maine (0-0-0) vs. Alaska-Anchorage (0-0-0)
Jack: The Seawolves are undefeated in their past 13 home openers. That’s hardly a surprise: The Seawolves almost always open at home for the Kendall Classic and it makes sense that their opponents are rusty and playing on travel legs for their season openers. I’ll go with the Seawolves here to keep their streak alive despite Maine’s possible rebound season this year. Alaska-Anchorage 3-1
Shane: A big key to the Seawolves’ turnaround last season was their play at home, and it all started right away with the Kendall. As the home team, they’ll be more comfortable to start off the season, especially against a team flying in from all the way across the continent. Anchorage 4-3
Maine vs. Alaska
Jack: This one seems like a wash, but I’ll take the Nanooks in their home state. Alaska 4-2
Shane: I’m with you on this one Jack. Nanooks win 3-2
No. 10 Wisconsin vs. Alaska-Anchorage
Jack: The former WCHA foes meet again in the final game of the Kendall Classic this weekend. The Seawolves actually stole two points from the Badgers in Madison in January, so they can skate with them. These openers are so unpredictable, but I’ll go with the Badgers this time around. Wisconsin 3-1
Shane: Wisconsin will bounce back from the Alaska loss and win a good game against the Seawolves, who do have things to figure out in goal to start the season. Badgers 5-4.
Bemidji State (0-0-0) vs.No. 2 North Dakota (0-0-0)
Jack: The Beavers travel just down the road to UND Friday to open up Ralph Engelstad before returning to Bemidji to host BSU’s home opener in the Sanford Center. The Beavers don’t historically have much success against UND no matter the venue (UND is 18-1-2 all time in Grand Forks and 8-1-1 all time in Bemidji). However, I think BSU can steal a low-scoring win Saturday night, given it will be their home opener. UND 4-1 Friday, BSU 2-1 Saturday
Shane: I’ll say this about Tom Serratore: He’s not afraid of the tough schedule. North Dakota, Minnesota, then Alaska and Minnesota State to kick off the conference schedule. I appreciate that these teams continue to play each other, but this is a tough task for the Beavers right out of the gate, even if one game is at home. North Dakota sweeps, 4-1, 3-2
Bowling Green (0-0-0) vs. No. 11 Miami (0-0-0)
Jack: Another home and home, this time between two former instate CCHA rivals. People are very high on Miami right now despite the fact that they weren’t able to live up to their lofty expectations a year ago. The Falcons, meanwhile, are something of a sleeper pick in the WCHA. I think BGSU can earn one at home in Bowling Green. It remains to be seen if they can do it in Oxford. I’ll go with the split. BGSU 4-2 Friday, Miami 3-2 Saturday
Shane: I’m with you on this one, Jack. Miami might have a “fool me once …” vibe this season, and I agree on Bowling Green. Not sure if there’s high-end talent there, but the Falcons have depth and experience. I think each team wins at home, too. BGSU 3-1, Miami 4-3
Alabama-Huntsville (0-0-0) at Colorado College (0-0-0)
Jack: Year two of Huntsville’s rebuilding project begins today in Colorado Springs. I don’t think the Chargers will struggle nearly as much as they did last season, but I’m not sure they will be able to beat the Tigers on the road in the season opener. The games won’t be as out of hand for UAH as they were last year but I still see a CC sweep. Tigers 3-1, 2-1
Shane: If the Chargers were at home this weekend, I might be courageous enough to pick a win, but they’re on the road. Coloado College is also in rebuilding mode, hiring a new coach in the offseason, but the cupboard isn’t and shouldn’t be bare in the Springs. It will be close, CC sweeps 3-2, 3-2
Lake Superior State (0-2-0) at Robert Morris (0-0-0)
Jack: The Lakers were swept at home against Upper Peninsula rivals Michigan Tech. It’s unclear if Damon Whitten has decided on a true No. 1 goaltender, but Gordon Defiel started both games for LSSU last weekend and gave up eight goals. I’ll pick the Colonials for the sweep simply due to the unknowns for the Lakers that remain. RMU 5-2, 3-1
Shane: Have you looked at the Lakers’ schedule to start the season? Yikes! Hardly seems fair for a new coach. After this, Whitten’s team goes to Notre Dame, host Northern Michigan, then travels to Anchorage and Huntsville. This might be as good a weekend as any to get an early season win. RMU 4-1, LSSU 4-3
No. 13 Minnesota State (0-0-0) at Omaha (0-0-0)
Jack: Normally I don’t put too much stock into exhibition games, but Omaha lost theirs this weekend against Alberta Institute of Technology and Dean Blais was mad. You can’t take too much from the loss but if the red Mavericks are not 100% against the purple Mavericks, it could get ugly. I’ll pick the purple sweep. MSU 4-1, 2-1
Shane: I agree, Jack, you can’t tell much from those exhibition games, whether a team loses 4-0 or wins 12-1 as Minnesota State did against Trinity Western. Minnesota State is bound and determined not to get off to a poor start as they did last year. After what happened opening weekend in Providence last year, a road split wouldn’t be bad for the purple Mavs. I think that’s what will happen. MSU 4-2, UNO 3-2
Last week: Shane 2-1-0, Jack 1-2-0. Overall: Shane 2-1-0, Jack 1-2-0
First things first: Welcome aboard Bemidji’s Jack Hittinger to our WCHA coverage this year, and we bid adieu to Matt Wellens, who did a great job last year and will be missed. I cannot confirm that Matt got out because he lost to me in the picks. We’ll see if Jack can overtake me.
But enough jibber-jabber … there’s hockey this weekend!
The season officially gets underway Saturday, and three league teams already are in action, playing games that count! It’s not necessarily ideal, especially for Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State, who are playing for conference points. How important are the points? At the end of last season, Tech missed home ice by a single point and got bounced out in the first round. Lake Superior lost the tiebreaker for the league’s final playoff spot, and its coach got fired.
On to the picks:
Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State
Shane: Given the situation, coach Mel Pearson’s veteran, experienced Huskies have the edge against the Lakers and new coach Damon Whitten, who is still just getting to know his team. In fact, he probably knows more about Tech, with whom he was an assistant coach the last four years. Lake Superior did get off to a hot start a year ago, and they split four games with the Huskies, so I’ll call a split. Michigan Tech 4-1, Lake Superior State 4-2
Jack: Just about the only known with Lake Superior State is they have a new coach and return Alex Globke. Everything else is a crapshoot, including their goaltending situation. None of the four goalies listed on Lake State’s roster have any collegiate playing time. That could spell trouble for the Lakers. I’d call it a sweep, but maybe the Lakers can steal a high-scoring tie at home. Michigan Tech 5-2, 4-4 tie
Michigan at Ferris State
Shane: These teams are ranked eighth and ninth in the nation, respectively, and, a year ago tied in Ann Arbor (with the Wolverines winning in a shootout). The rink should be rocking in Big Rapids Saturday night. The Bulldogs were 16-1-1 at home last season, and, with C.J. Motte back between the pipes, I like their chances to win a close, low-scoring game. Bulldogs 2, Wolverines 1
Jack: You basically said everything I was going to say about this game. Ferris is tough to beat at home and I think I read somewhere that the game sold out 10 days ago. Still, I’ll zag and call Michigan the winner just to make it fun — with CJ’s brother Tyler Motte scoring the game-winner in overtime for the team in blue. Michigan 2, Ferris State 1
Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College and Johnny McInnis.
Who will have the biggest fan base at the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.?
McInnis, Minnesota State’s captain and the only Boston-born player for the Mavericks, hopes his friends and family members are there cheering on his team from nearly 1,400 miles away.
“We’re going to make it a home game as much we can,” McInnis said.
Minnesota State will play Lowell in the first round of the national tournament next Saturday.
Lowell and BC are the local teams, each located an hour or so from Worcester’s DCU Center. But the McInnis faithful lives nearby, too.
“My phone’s been blowing up,” he said during a Selection Show viewing party at a downtown Mankato, Minn., Buffalo Wild Wings.
The viewing party took place only a few hours after the team returned from an overnight bus trip from Grand Rapids, Mich., where they won their first WCHA playoff championship on Saturday night.
They defeated Ferris State, which will be the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, 4-1 for the Broadmoor Trophy. Now they are seeded third and face the No. 2-seeded River Hawks.
“This time of year, it doesn’t matter who you get slotted up against,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”
The Mavericks are in the tournament for the second year in a row and the third time in their Division I history.
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Ferris State and Colgate began their 2013-14 seasons against each other back on the first Saturday in October. Now on the final Friday of March, one of them will close its season against the other.
The Bulldogs are back in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years and for the third time in school history as a No. 5 overall seed facing No. 12 Colgate in a 4:30 p.m. Midwest Regional semifinal game on Friday at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati on ESPN3.com.
The Raiders and Bulldogs split a series at Colgate on the opening weekend of the season with FSU winning 7-4 on Oct. 5 and losing 1-0 on Oct. 6.
Colgate also beat Ferris on Jan. 4 in the Mariucci Classic Championship in Minneapolis, 3-0.
“We’re familiar with them and obviously they are very familiar with us,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “What’s interesting, we were talking about it, after that (NCAA) game, we’ll have played them more times than Minnesota State this year. We’ve got a healthy dose of respect for them.
“It didn’t come as any surprise to us they made the tournament. I thought they were one of the best teams we faced during the course of the year. Both them and Minnesota State and then Alaska-Fairbanks were in my opinion were three of the best teams we saw.”
Both teams earned at-large bids to the tourney after losing in their respective conference championship game on Saturday.
Colgate, which finished second during the regular season in the ECAC, fell to Union in the ECAC final.
Ferris won the WCHA regular season title by a point over Minnesota State, but fell to the Mavericks in the Final Five championship on Saturday in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“We came up short tonight,” Daniels said following the 4-1 loss Saturday to MSU. “The good news is that we’ll have an opportunity to move forward and kind of erase this one from our memory bank.”
The last time Ferris State was in the NCAA tournament in 2012 as the CCHA regular season champ, it won the Midwest Regional championship before falling to Boston College in the national championship game.
The Bulldogs first made the NCAA tournament after winning the CCHA regular season title in 2003. They fell in the regional final.
On the other half of the Midwest bracket, No. 4 Wisconsin plays No. 14 North Dakota.
North Dakota, which finished third at the first NCHC tournament, snuck into the tournament as the final at-large team while Wisconsin won the inaugural Big Ten tournament championship. During the regular season, North Dakota finished second in the NCHC and the Badgers took second in the Big Ten.
The WCHA Final Five is upon us with an entirely different look compared to year’s past. In essence, it’s become almost a cross between the CCHA’s old Super 6/championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and the Final Five we all came to love and cherish at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
This year’s Final Five is being played at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. — home of the Detroit Red Wing’s AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.
The teams: two from the old CCHA in Bowling Green and Ferris State and two holdovers from the old WCHA in Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota State.
Who is going to come out on top? Here are our picks.
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota State
2 p.m. EDT Friday
Based on the comments of Falcons’ head coach Chris Bergeron on Tuesday, it appears the Falcons enter the Final Five with a huge chip on their shoulder after getting snubbed by the rest of the league at the end of the regular season. Despite finishing fourth, BGSU landed no one on the All-WCHA first, second, third or rookie teams. Not a single Falcon landed an award outside of all-academic team honors. In Bergeron’s own words: “We’re not trying to embrace the underdog role or under appreciated role, that’s just the one we’ve been painted with.” Falcons 4-3
Shane: Bergeron definitely talked the talk when it comes to the all-league snubs, but there’s no doubt the Falcons have some bulletin-board material. The Mavericks, meanwhile, had more all-league picks than anyone else in the conference. Is that why Minnesota State will win? I won’t say that, but I like that MSU has shown some resiliency over the course of their 11-game unbeaten streak. The Mavs were down four times last Saturday against Northern Michigan and came back to win in overtime. And they’ve trailed in four other games over the streak. Mavericks 4-3
Alaska-Anchorage vs. Ferris State
7 p.m. EDT Friday
Matt: Grand Rapids is just 60 miles south of the Bulldogs home in Big Rapids, and since Ferris finished off a double overtime win over Bemidji State late Saturday night, the university has been on a mission to get as many Bulldogs fans to Van Andel Arena as possible. Both @FerrisHockey and @ferrisathletics have taken over my timeline on Twitter with deals and packages even I felt may be too good to pass up. Those fans could prove to be the difference for a team that has been unbeatable at home in conference play this year. Bulldogs 3-1
Shane: The Seawolves are a great story, going from four wins a year ago to winning 18 and making the Final Five this year. They’re starting to play better away from Anchorage, too, which could be scary for the Bulldogs. They’re not to be taken lightly. Ferris State’s season won’t end with a loss, but I think the team will be motivated by being the de facto home team this weekend. Just how many fans will they put in the Van Andel? Enough to make the tournament look respectable on TV? Bulldogs 3-2
Broadmoor Trophy Championship
7 p.m. EDT Saturday
Matt (Bowling Green vs. Ferris State): No team this season has been more focused than Ferris State. The Bulldogs have their eye on the ultimate prize it seems: a national championship. It’s a lofty goal, but one the program believes it can shoot for after falling short in the NCAA title game two years ago. I don’t think it will matter who Ferris State plays in the WCHA title game, whether its Minnesota State or Bowling Green, I like the Bulldogs to win the Broadmoor Trophy this weekend. It’s not the program’s ultimate prize, but it is a key piece to their national championship puzzle. Bulldogs 3-2
Shane (Minnesota State vs. Ferris State): This will be the rematch everybody’s been waiting for since mid-January when the Mavericks swept the Bulldogs in Mankato and brewed up some bad blood as the weekend went on. It’s also the rivalry the WCHA needs as it tries to rebuild its brand. This could be a game MSU needs to get a berth into the NCAA tournament. Ferris State will have some revenge on its mind. Minnesota State, meanwhile, fell on point short of catching the Bulldogs for a share of the MacNaughton Cup but could have a chance to take the Broadmoor. Mavericks 3-2