1. At the 11th hour
Minnesota State, at long last, won the MacNaughton Cup. But in true WCHA fashion, it took a win on the final day of the regular season to wrest the trophy away from Michigan Tech. The Huskies entered the weekend three points behind the Mavericks in the standings. Tech did its part, sweeping a home and home with rival Northern Michigan. The Mavs, though, lost Friday night in Bemidji and cut their lead in the standings to just one point. It also meant they needed a win over the Beavers on Saturday. Friday’s result — a 5-2 Beavers win that didn’t seem that close — made a Saturday win seem like less than a given. But MSU proved why they’re one of the top teams and beat the Beavers 3-0, with Stephon Williams earning the shutout just a night after he gave up three goals in the first period and was pulled in favor of Cole Huggins. MSU is going to make the NCAA tournament no matter what and would have had home ice regardless, but winning the MacNaughton Cup for the first time in school history makes this season even sweeter.
2. Beavers dam good at home
Pardon the pun in that subhead, but despite losing their regular season finale on Saturday, Bemidji State got to celebrate a day earlier. The Beavers clinched home ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs for the first time in school history with that emphatic 5-2 win over MSU on Friday. It’s quite the accomplishment for BSU, who had lost seven straight games in the month of December and looked questionable for a playoff berth at that time, much less a home playoff series. But BSU played well down the stretch in the month of January and February and rallied to pass Northern Michigan and Ferris State. (They didn’t quite pass Alaska but the Nanooks are ineligible for the playoffs.) BSU is 10-5-2 in the Sanford Center this season, and 9-3-2 at home in league play. Their only two losses in Bemidji were against Minnesota State and Michigan Tech. The Beavers host fifth-seeded Ferris State in this week’s playoffs.
3. Some playoff redemption for Huntsville, Lake State
Last season both Alabama Huntsville and Lake Superior State missed the playoffs — UAH by a lot and LSSU on a tiebreaker. Not this year. Sure, both the Chargers and the Lakers benefited from Alaska’s playoff ineligibility (and Anchorage’s poor play down the stretch — UAA lose 11 of its last 12). And both also backed into the playoffs — they were swept on the last weekend by Bowling Green and Ferris State, respectively. But just making the playoffs could be a big step toward rebuilding for each team. As the eighth seed, the Lakers head to Mankato this weekend while the Chargers, the seventh seed, head to Houghton.