Three thoughts, March 1

1. Cup cometh later?

Minnesota State went into the weekend with hopes of clinching the MacNaughton Cup for the first time. That didn’t happen, thanks to Michigan Tech goalie Jamie Phillips’ 43-save performance in a 1-1 tie on Friday. But the Mavericks sure looked the inevitable league champion, winning 4-2 on Saturday to take a three-point lead into the final weekend. They need to gain just one point next weekend to earn at least a share of the title. The most impressive thing about the weekend, though, were the crowds. A team record 5,446 were on hand Saturday, and the two-game total of 10,618 was also an MSU record. “I can’t say enough about the support from the students and the community for the crowds we’ve had this year,” coach Mike Hastings told The Free Press of Mankato. “You hope that you can entertain people that come into your building.”

2. Stinging split

Bowling Green’s 4-3 win over Alaska Anchorage on Friday secured third place in the league, so the Falcons will be home for the playoffs in two weeks. While the next night’s 6-1 loss to the Seawolves didn’t affect Bowling Green’s spot in the conference standings, it did prove quite costly when it comes to its shot at the national tournament. The Falcons fell from No. 11 to No. 14 in the Pairwise Rankings. That’s bubble territory, folks. If the WCHA is to get three teams in the national tournament, as it hopes, the Falcons need to find a way to move up. Meanwhile, Anchorage snapped a nine-game losing streak to keep its slim playoff hopes alive for another week. “As bad as this may sound, we finally drew the line in the sand: It stops here.” Seawovles freshman Austin Azurdia said to the Alaska Distpatch News.

3. Eager Beavers

I put Bemidji State on my top 20 ballot this week because it’s simply one of the hottest teams in the country. Starting with their North Star College Cup wins Jan. 23-24 in St. Paul, the Beavers are 8-2-2 in their last 12 games, including a 2-1 win and a 1-1 tie at Ferris State over the weekend to get a one-point edge for the final home-ice spot. A huge reason for their success is the play of fantastic freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer. Over that stretch he has a .955 save percentage and a 1.24 goals-against average. Against the Bulldogs, he stopped 76 of 78 shots to get his team three points. In their last six games, the Beavers have allowed just six goals. Besides Ferris State, Bemidji State is being chased by Northern Michigan, which had a three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday at Lake Superior State.