What I think I learned this weekend in the WCHA about early must-win games

With all but Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan involved in WCHA play this weekend, here are the three things I think I learned from around the league.

Saturday was a must win for Minnesota State, no matter what the Mavericks say

No goal this season may have been more important for the Mavericks up until this point than the one scored by senior captain Johnny McInnis in overtime on Saturday to give the Mavs a 1-0 overtime victory over Bowling Green in Mankato.

MSU currently sits two points back of second-place BGSU and four points back of first-place Ferris State with the Bulldogs hosting the Falcons this weekend in Big Rapids, Mich.

“I can’t say it was a must win at this time of the year,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said to Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press after Saturday’s OT win, “but it was an incredibly important win.”

Even a tie for the Mavericks with BGSU on Saturday would have left the WCHA’s preseason favorites in a giant hole — anywhere from seven to nine points back of first place — once they return to league play Nov. 22-23 at Bowling Green.

If anything, Saturday’s win was a huge moral boost for MSU, which would have had just one win in four home games to start league play if not for McInnis’ goal.

“We needed something to go right for us,” McInnis said to Free Press. “We needed to get some of our swagger back, maybe.”

The Mavs are at the University of Minnesota this weekend.

To beat Ferris State or Bemidji State, you’ll have to light the lamp … a lot

The only offense that has been hotter than Bemidji State up to this point in WCHA play has been Ferris State and the Bulldogs unloaded on the Beavers this weekend, scoring 10 goals to take over first place in the league with a sweep.

Bemidji was held to just a modest seven.

The Bulldogs are averaging 3.89 goals per game this season and 4.50 goals per league game. The Beavers average 2.90 goals per game overall, but have scored an average of 3.50 in their six WCHA contests.

Both teams meet potent offenses again this weekend with Ferris hosting BGSU (third in the league, averaging 3.10 goals per game overall) and Bemidji hosting Alaska-Anchorage (sixth in the league, averaging 2.75 goals per game overall).

Northern Michigan has its go-to goal scorer

Northern Michigan University lacked a go-to goal scorer last season and there was a big question mark whether or not the Wildcats had one on the roster this season.

That question mark has been erased by senior forward Stephan Vigier in the first 10 games, who now leads the WCHA in not just goals, but points with 10 goals and two assists.

Vigier scored twice on Saturday in NMU’s come-from-behind win at Western Michigan and he notched the game-tying goal with 2:47 to play at WMU on Sunday.

He’s scored goals in nine of the Wildcats’ 10 games thus far, including the last eight in a row.