2023 Lake Superior State vs Northern Michigan - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: They're Coming Down The Stretch As Postseason Nears

CCHA Reasons To Watch: They're Coming Down The Stretch As Postseason Nears

This weekend, all CCHA teams will gallop around the track. Three are chasing the silver chalice, and seven are jockeying for postseason positions.

Feb 2, 2023 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: They're Coming Down The Stretch As Postseason Nears

In the words of iconic thoroughbred track announcer Dave Johnson, "Down the stretch they Come!" 

Four points separate the top 3 in the sprint to the MacNaughton Cup, with Minnesota State a length ahead of Michigan Tech, which is a nose ahead of Bowling Green. 

There are no more games in hand to cloud the issue. It's a level track, with the Huskies and Falcons trying to chase down the galloping Mavericks. 

That's the backdrop for the first weekend of February, as all CCHA teams gallop around the track. Three are chasing the silver chalice, and seven are jockeying for postseason positions. 

Series 1: "Under The Big Lights" - No. 11 Michigan Tech Vs. No. 28 Bemidji State

Forget the computer rankings and the Draft Kings betting line, this is a pick 'em series. 

Veteran coaches Tom Serratore and Joe Shawhan will be looking in the mirror at the opposition - squads that battle for every foot of ice, desperate to reach center ice in order to dump pucks deep to release packs of puck-hunting hounds. 

Inside Baseball: Contrary to a decade of data, Bemidji State has relinquished the title of the league's best penalty kill to Shawhan's Huskies. 

Tech stifles power plays at 88.6%, nearly nine points better than the Serratore's Beavers. 

In addition, Tech leads the circuit with five short-handed goals, making this the most important special team of the weekend.

The Blue Paint: This series features a showdown between the league's two best goalies - Tech's Blake Pietila and BSU's Mattias Sholl. 

Look for Pietila to secure his position as the front-runner for the Richter Award as the country's best goalie.

Prediction: Tech, which is considered a road favorite by the national bookmakers, lives up to the hype and grinds out four or five points on the shores of frigid Lake Bemidji.

Series 2: "The Stumbling Block" - Minnesota State Vs. St. Thomas

This home-and-home duel is a classic crossroad clash between a current national power and future one. 

Minnesota State is on a payback tour, vacuuming up league points after an embarrassing first half. 

Fans might presume the Mavericks will thunder past seventh-place St. Thomas this weekend. They would be wrong.

The Tommies have proven to be a painful thorn in the side of every CCHA opponent they have faced this season. They gave Michigan Tech fits in January and will do the same against MSU, probably chipping points off the Mavericks Saturday night in St. Paul. 

Rico Blasi has his club playing pugnacious playoff-style hockey, and they have learned how to close out games. 

Why NHL Scouts Will Attend: There will be guys in dark jackets in the far reaches of both venues this weekend in Minnesota, scribbling notes after every stoppage in play. These are NHL bird dogs, eager to sign potential free agents. 

They will be in Minnesota for a late-season look at three Mavericks, in particular: sniper David Silye and defensemen Akito Hirose and Jake Livingstone. If they're good enough to attract NHL staffers, fans of FloHockey should tune in as well.

Prediction: Minnesota State will get punched in the nose this weekend, dropping points to the Tommies, tightening up the standings in the sprint for MacNaughton's mug.

Series 3: "The South Will Rise" - Ferris State Vs. Bowling Green

In the southernmost venue of the CCHA, the league's highest-scoring team (BGSU) will try and solve the two-headed goaltending monster of Ferris State. Nearly every weekend, either Logan Stein or Noah Giesbrecht throws a gem, keeping the Bulldogs at, or near, the .500 mark.

National Reason to Watch: Falcon sophomore Austen Swankler has a chance to extend his scoring streak to 20 games Saturday night, which will force scribes, SID's and historians to wrack their brains for his place in history. 

Not coincidentally, scouts will be abundant at the Madhouse on Mercer this weekend.

Prediction: One of the Ferris goalies will steal points from BGSU, but the Falcons will tread water in the standings, four points behind Minnesota State. 

Series 4: "The Cappo Cup" - Lake Superior Vs. Northern Michigan

Both squads are relegated to visitor status in the forthcoming Mason Cup playoffs because of their places in the CCHA standings, but there is another trophy to play for this weekend, the provincial Cappo Cup. 

Lake State is a compelling story in its quest to prune bad apples from its tree, a season-long search for lost potential. 

Through extensive trial and error, Damon Whitten and his staff have a deadly 1-2 punch on the power play: Louis Boudon feeding the cannon of Harry Roy. 

Channel surfers should pause every time LSSU is on the power play and watch for the Roy one-timer.

Prediction: An intense split, with no shortage of bad blood. Northern holds onto the Cappo Cup due to its wins in the Soo earlier this year.