2024 Michigan Tech vs Northern Michigan - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Second Half Of Season Kicks Off

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Second Half Of Season Kicks Off

The second half of the college hockey season represents a new beginning for the embattled CCHA clubs. Here, we break down the reasons to watch this weekend.

Jan 5, 2024 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Second Half Of Season Kicks Off

The second half of the collegiate hockey season represents a new beginning for the embattled CCHA clubs. 

This weekend, FloHockey showcases a series between the first- and last-place teams that oddsmakers rate a toss-up, a resumption of the “Battle of Ohio” and an exhibition game in the Upper Peninsula that can stake a claim as “must-watch TV.” 

Now, it’s time to break down all the reasons to watch the CCHA this weekend:

Minnesota State Vs. Augustana

These are the two CCHA teams with the highest Pairwise rankings (noting that Augustana is not eligible to compete for the league title until October 2025). 

The Mavericks of Mankato are the presumptive CCHA co-favorites, based on their talent and experience – notably the 10 players who made it to the 2022 NCAA championship game, six who dressed. 

A goal scorer from that title tilt, Sam Morton, is third in the nation this season with 13 goals.

Another player to watch this weekend is MSU freshman Evan Murr, a defenseman with derring-do, a dangler who loves to dash. Pop your popcorn before his next shift. You don’t want to miss the sizzle.

Prediction: Both Minnesota State goalies – Keenan Rancier and Alex Tracy – will pick up wins for the Mavericks in their second road sweep of the season.

Bowling Green Vs. Ohio State

The biggest reason the CCHA will have no at-large bids in the 2024 NCAA Tournament is its 0-12-1 record against Big 10 teams, ruining their Pairwise rankings. 

This series represents the CCHA’s last best chance to beat a Big 10 team, and in doing so, the Falcons also can win the unofficial crown as hockey kings of Ohio.

Prediction: Split in the Buckeye state, as Bowling Green wins at home Saturday night. Look for BGSU goalie Christian Stoever to finally get back between the pipes for the Falcons.

Bemidji Vs. Ferris State

Bemidji coach Tom Serratore won’t say it, but he can’t wait for the 2024 World Juniors to come to an end. That’s when he’ll get his stalwart defenseman Eric Pohlkamp back to shore up his blue line. 

Pohlkamp will be missing his fifth and sixth straight games for the Beavers this weekend, as Team USA battles in the WJC medal round in Sweden. 

Bemidji may be in first place in the CCHA, but the Beavers took their lumps over the holidays, getting swept by No. 13 St. Cloud. 

Now, Bemidji will take the bus down to Big Rapids to face an angry Ferris State squad, a team that has been skated relentlessly all week by coach Bob Daniels after its disappointing performance (0-2) at the Great Lakes Invitational. 

A couple of silver linings for the Bulldogs was the play of goalie Logan Stein (31 saves against Michigan State) and the fact that senior Stepan Pokorny ended his 10-game goal scoring drought. 

The front-runner for CCHA Player of the Year is BSU defenseman Kyle Looft. 

It’s not just his booming shot and rugged defending – this 6-foot-3 strongman has mitts softer than most forwards. Viewers should watch his passing and playmaking in tight spots; the NHL scouts are doing the same.

Prediction: Ferris ends its six-game slide with a split at home, while Bemidji increases its point lead in the CCHA standings.

Duluth Vs. St. Thomas

A month ago, Rico Blasi’s Tommies were in first place in the CCHA, the toast of college hockey. 

Blasi was the focus of two national stories about transforming St. Thomas into a Division I contender, and UST locker room videos were leaking out featuring impassioned speeches about winning league titles. 

Now in January, visions of grandeur have been replaced by grim reality. 

Getting swept in the Green Mountains of Vermont has left the Tommies below .500 overall, and two CCHA teams now have better league records.

The outlook doesn’t improve, as NCHC power Duluth drops down to St. Paul on Saturday looking to right its own ship. 

The afternoon affair is the first televised game in the national lineup, and it is worth tuning in. 

Can Blasi motivate his troops back into the win column? The Tommies feel-good story doesn’t play with a losing record.

Prediction: Follow the pecking order in the State of Hockey – Duluth wins on the road.

Northern Michigan Vs. Michigan Tech (exhibition)

Ordinarily, an exhibition game wouldn’t merit space in this column, but these are no ordinary times. 

College hockey firebrand Austen Swankler has just resurfaced in Houghton, Michigan, and his ability to gel with the GLI champs has national implications.

Trailing by two goals midway through the GLI semifinals last Thursday, Swankler imposed his will in his first game in nine months: driving wide, crashing into the Alaska goalie, a goal scored and a penalty drawn. 

It resulted in two goals, as he assisted on the subsequent power-play marker, a major turnaround for the Huskies. 

Swankler earned the game puck for his efforts. He hoisted a prestigious trophy the next day.

Expect Swankler to continue centering Husky scoring aces Ryland Mosley (11 goals) and Isaac Gordon (10 goals) on Saturday. 

Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan said he would take a look at every player in his program in Saturday’s exhibition, but all eyes will be on the new kid in town.

Prediction: Swankler shoots and scores.