2022 Ferris State vs Minnesota State - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Battle For The Upper Peninsula

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Battle For The Upper Peninsula

Behold, the greatness of UP hockey. One of the great college hockey rivalries takes center stage this week as Michigan Tech takes on Northern Michigan.

Dec 1, 2022 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Battle For The Upper Peninsula

One of the great college hockey rivalries takes center stage this week as Michigan Tech takes on Northern Michigan. Elsehwere, the Tommies continue to ascend, these days frightening opponents on a weekly basis, and Bowling Green clashes with Lake Superior State. 

No. 19 Michigan Tech Vs. Northern Michigan 

When Michigan Tech plays Northern Michigan, the holidays take a back seat in the Upper Peninsula. Just ask Wildcats coach Grant Potulny. 

"I probably went out twice, to Super 1 and Walmart, and there was eight people that said, 'C'mon Coach, we got to beat Tech, it's Tech week.' It's real, it's a top-five rivalry in college hockey."

Potulny's counterpart at Michigan Tech doesn't want the magnitude of this series to become a distraction.

"We're not trying to storm the beaches of Normandy," Joe Shawhan said, "We're trying to be smart about this." 

This matchup begs the question: is it a rivalry when one team utterly dominates another? 

Michigan Tech has won 14 of the last 16 contests between the two. Potulny compares it to Ohio State—Michigan football, where prior to 2021, Ohio State owned Michigan. 

"Ohio State dominated them because it was more important to them," Potulny said. 

"This game's got to be just as important to us." 

To careful observers of the CCHA this season, this series is a toss-up. The closer you look, the more difficult the choice: both teams have five CCHA victories, both have nine wins overall. 

Northern leads the CCHA with 3.13 goals per game, Tech is second, averaging an even three. The Wildcats have the league's best power play (26.5 percent), the Huskies have the best penalty kill (86.9 percent) and save percentage (.930). It is yin versus yang, irresistible force versus immovable object, Olympic-size ice versus a standard sheet. 

Potulny tries to distinguish signal from noise via the ultimate hockey metric: mano a mano.

"Sometimes hockey is a sport that you line up here, and he lines up there, and I'm going to kick your butt, and that's it," said Potulny. 

"That's what these games are going to be. We've got to gut it out, whatever it takes. It's going to be electric."

Tech fans are supremely mobile, and the 90 miles between Houghton and Marquette is no obstacle to the fans in black and gold. Whoever scores Friday night will appear to be the home team at the sold-out Berry Events Center due to intense cheering on both sides.

Prediction: Just like the football Wolverines, Northern Michigan will claw their way back into this rivalry. It is the only CCHA game on the DraftKings wager board Friday night, and the hometown Wildcats are underdogs. Giving the league's most prolific offense an extra goal-and-a-half to start a home game is foolhardy, especially when the health of Michigan Tech's top defensemen is so sketchy. In a game between Cats and Dogs, load up on the Wildcats this Friday.

Bowling Green Vs. Lake Superior 

After each of the losses to St. Thomas last weekend, the leaders of Lake State kept a referee on the ice to voice their displeasure: Captain Louis Boudon cleared the air Friday and Coach Whitten spewed on Saturday. 

Despite being relegated to the CCHA basement, there is a pulse in the Soo. The Lakers are by far the biggest team in the CCHA, but it would be unwise to call them sleeping giants. Lake State faced even more adversity last year, but regrouped and fought their way to a home playoff spot. 

Bowling Green, fresh off a bye, is bolstered by the superb goaltending of Christian Stoever (CCHA's November goalie of the month) and four clutch shooters: Austen Swankler, Ethan Scardina, Nathan Burke and Ryan O'Hara.

Prediction: Habits are hard to break in sports. Bowling Green climbs towards first place while the Lakers continue to languish. 

St. Thomas Vs. Bemidji State 

At first glance, traditional CCHA power Bemidji State would be a clear favorite over fledgling St. Thomas. Beavers coach Tom Serratore won't be fooled. 

"They swept Lake Superior State, they're 32 percent on the power play the last four games, they're flying high," Serratore said of the dangerous Tommies. 

"It's going to be a battle this weekend."

Prediction: St. Thomas' team speed will help the Tommies split with Bemidji, a not-so-shocking result in this league of parity.

Ferris State Vs. No. 11 Minnesota State 

Having failed to win a game in regulation last weekend for the first time since 2018, the Mavericks will be breathing fire back in Mankato. 

Look for the Mavericks to roll over a pesky, but outgunned, Ferris State squad. Sophomore goalie Keenan Rancier is becoming a story for Minnesota State, and should be the catalyst for their climb back up the national rankings.

Prediction: A sweep for the Mavericks, who thrive on home cooking.