1. Bemidji State is really for real. Really!
The doubters must keep dwindling week after week. After all, with more than a third of the season in the books, Bemidji State’s start is hard to ignore: The Beavers are the team to beat in the WCHA. They’ve played 12 league games and are 11-0-1. The only “blemish” to that perfect record is a 1-1 tie with Minnesota State — one in which the Beavers got the extra point with a win in 3-on-3 overtime. And after a pair of wins this weekend against Northern Michigan — BSU grinded out a 2-1 win on Friday before bludgeoning NMU with a 5-2 win Saturday — the Beavers are a ridiculous 14 points ahead of their nearest competition in the league — Michigan Tech is in second. I think we can firmly say that the Beavers, who were picked to finish sixth in the preseason, are the odds-on favorite at the moment.
2. A new challenger emerges!
Not so fast, though: Tech, after struggling early, has come on strong. They haven’t lost a conference game since being swept by Minnesota State the second week in October (although they did manage only one point against Alaska Anchorage on Saturday after tying then losing the shootout). What’s more, the Huskies currently have two games in hand on the Beavers, who step out of the conference next weekend to play Princeton. They’ll catch up with BSU, games-wise, when they finish out their two-week Alaska road trip in Fairbanks. To add to the intrigue: The Beavers head to Houghton in two weeks. If Tech can make some hay against the Nanooks and take four or more points from the Beavers to start off December, they’ll spice up the race for the MacNaughton Cup for sure.
3. Seawolves end drought
For all the talk about what’s been happening at the top of the league, there was at least some good news at the bottom — Alaska Anchorage finally snapped its seven-game losing streak on Saturday, tying Michigan Tech 1-1 before winning the shootout. Although UAA is still having issues scoring, Jonah Renouf ’s third-period power play goal helped the Seawolves get off the schnied and avoid the ignominy of being pointless in the conference. Olivier Mantha made 34 saves and got one in the shootout — after Aleksi Ainali scored — to give UAA two points. The Seawolves route doesn’t get any easier — a trip to Bowling Green looms — but maybe this can give them some much-needed confidence to stay competitive.