Another regular season in the WCHA meant another season where things were decided on the last weekend of the season!
Here’s a quick look at the playoff pairings before I get to my three thoughts:
No. 8 Alaska at No. 1 Minnesota State
No. 7 Alabama Huntsville at No. 2 Northern Michigan
No. 6 Ferris State at No. 3 Bowling Green
No. 5 Michigan Tech at No. 4 Bemidji State
Some decent matchups there (although the juicer ones will probably be happening in the semifinal round).
Here’s three things about the final weekend:
1. Mavericks win another title
Minnesota State needed just one point on the weekend to lock up the No. 1 seed and two points to take the title outright. They did more than that — getting a win and a tie against Bemidji State at home to lock up the title. As befits a Maverick/Beaver hockey series, both games were low-scoring and close. The Mavs won 2-1 on Friday with goals from Marc Michaelis and Dallas Gerads. On Saturday they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the Beavers 2-2. CJ Suess knotted a goal and an assist to reach 40 points on the season. Also of note: Saturday’s game was MSU’s only tie of the season. They finished the regular season with a 26-7-1 record and 12-game unbeaten streak.
2. Chargers return to the playoffs
After missing out on the playoffs for the past two seasons, Alabama Huntsville is back. Thanks to a solid split against Bowling Green at home, the Chargers clinched a playoff spot. UAH had to rally from being down 2-1 going into the third period in Friday’s game to ultimately win 3-2. Josh Kestner — who is tied with Suess for the league lead with 21 goals scored — notched the game-tying goal while Austin Beaulieu scored the game-winner with less than two minutes to go. The Chargers will go into the playoffs with a fairly favorable matchup — they split with Northern Michigan in both of their series this season.
3. Bulldogs knock Lakers out of playoffs
Although Lake Superior State had played their way back into playoff contention with a four-game win streak — and Ferris State had been struggling in the second half of the season — it turns out the Bulldogs used home-ice to their advantage in the final weekend of the season. Ferris swept away Lake Superior State 4-1 and 4-2 with Cale Norris scoring three goals and Corey Mackin and Mitch Maloney bagging two goals apiece. The sweep means that the Bulldogs will make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season while the Lakers are missing out for the first time since 2014.
4. Bonus — Seawolves sweep Nanooks
A quick fourth thing here. We haven’t talked much about Alaska Anchorage this season — mostly because coming into the last weekend they’d only won two games. They had virtually nothing to play for this weekend — other than pride against their instate rivals. It turns out that was plenty to motivate the Seawolves. They doubles their win total with a sweep of the Nanooks on the last week of the season. Olivier Mantha closed out his collegiate career with 76 saves and two victories on the weekend for UAA.