2024 Ferris State vs Lake Superior State - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Action And Excitement Heating Up Across The League

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Action And Excitement Heating Up Across The League

The most intriguing team lately is the hard-charging Lake Superior State Lakers from Sault Ste. Marie. It seems as if a new star is born nightly in the Soo.

Jan 18, 2024 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Action And Excitement Heating Up Across The League

There will be a blizzard of CCHA games throughout the Great Lakes this weekend, including red-hot St. Thomas up in Northern Michigan and Minnesota State down in Ohio.

However, the most intriguing team of late is the hard-charging Lakers from Sault Ste. Marie. It seems as if a new star is born nightly in the Soo, as the Lake State newcomers are shifting the balance of power back north.

Lake State Vs. Ferris State

There are two hard-and-fast facts of life in the CCHA: it’s tough to win and hard to score, but a dozen recruits fresh from junior hockey are changing that mindset in snowbound Sault Ste. Marie. 

The Lakers have scored 21 goals in their last four league games, all lopsided wins, and rookies accounted for 19 combined points in the onslaught. 

Damon Whitten’s Lakers will face stubborn Ferris State in a Mitten State home-and-home series, one that bears watching for fans who like offense. 

Brandon Piku scored enormous goals on consecutive nights last weekend, and defenseman Evan Bushy won league honors. Both LSSU freshmen are players to watch.

On Friday, expect Ferris State coach Bob Daniels to have senior Logan Stein in net. He’s one of the CCHA’s top goalies. How Stein stands up against the unstoppable force of Laker freshmen makes for vital viewing.

Prediction: The Lake State boy band keeps rolling in another sweep for the blue and gold.

St. Thomas Vs. Northern Michigan

Rico Blasi’s Tommies leapfrogged into first place after their historic sweep of Michigan Tech last weekend, and they clearly are hungry for more. 

Blasi has his roster full of Minnesota high school stars playing 200-foot hockey, grinding through all four corners in pursuit of pucks and scoring chances. 

Luke Manning (Stillwater HS), Lucas Wahlin (Hill-Murray HS) and Mack Byers (Long Lake, HS) all are players to watch.  

Northern Michigan is struggling, as a team picked for home ice in the CCHA is careening toward a ditch. 

Coach Grant Potulny has a week to shake off their Cappo Cup hangover and defend home ice in Marquette. 

This might be the weekend that fifth-year centerman Andre Ghantous breaks the century mark in assists, and look for sophomore defenseman Josh Zinger to run the Wildcats power play like he owns it. A unique talent, Zinger bears watching whenever he is on the ice.

Prediction: This is the time of year when Potulny’s Cats find their way, and he clearly had his team’s attention this week. Expect a split at a very loud Berry Center. 

Minnesota State Vs. Bowling Green

Luke Strand has Minnesota State playing its best hockey right now.

The Mavericks lead the CCHA in goal differential (+13) and save percentage (.912), and they are getting the secondary scoring they so desperately needed earlier in the season. Some more bad news for Bowling Green – MSU is a better on the road than at home. 

Purple players to watch are numerous, but keep an eye on junior Josh Groll (CCHA Forward of the Week) and their supreme rookie defenseman Evan Murr

“All our offense goes through his stick,” Strand said. 

And when Bowling Green goes on the power play, the Falcons will be focusing on Lucas Sowder. His last two goals have come while short-handed. Sowder’s best pal, Sam Morton, leads the CCHA with 16 goals (fourth in the nation).

Looking to shake its four-game losing skid, Bowling Green will have the advantage of playing in the Madhouse, where the Falcons have claimed four of their seven wins this season. 

They will benefit from the return of goalie Christian Stoever, who should split this series with Cole Moore (.916 save pct), the reigning CCHA Rookie of the Month. 

Viewers should enjoy the lengthy puck-rushes of defenseman Ben Wozny and the tenacity of wingman Ryan O’Hara, who leads the Falcons with 17 points. 

If Eigner’s icers are going to reclaim their season, it must start this weekend at home.

Prediction: The Mavericks climb into the national picture with a road sweep in Ohio.

Bemidji Vs. Michigan Tech

Mid-January is a bit early to declare games to be “must-win” contests, but this showdown in Copper Country has all the markings. 

Both Bemidji and Michigan Tech are desperate for a win, with the Beavers having lost three of their last four, and Tech still reeling from being swept in St. Thomas. 

The bright news for Bemidji coach Tom Serratore is the return of his World Junior Champion defenseman Eric Pohlkamp. He should help mask the absence of captain Kyle Looft on the blue line. 

The injury bug has been unkind to Bemidji, and the Beavers are desperate for the return of clutch scorer Jackson Jutting

Good news for the Bemidji faithful is that Serratore has had two weeks to prepare for this series since losing to Ferris.

Joe Shawhan’s Huskies are an enigma: a team with loaded with recognizable talent that is below .500. 

He preaches self-sacrifice to secure long stretches of puck possession, but the buy-in has been spotty. 

Fans should always focus on Husky wingers Ryland Mosley and Isaac Gordon, who both have sniped 11 goals. 

Oh, and their center is bad-boy transfer Austen Swankler, who is overdue to break out. 

Sophomore Kyle Kukkonen finally put an end to his season-long scoring drought last Saturday. He continues to generate offense and is looking to make up for lost time. 

And one last viewing tip for CCHA fans: there are four standout players named Pietila for Michigan Tech. The one with the greatest pro potential is freshman Chase Pietila. The 6-foot-3 defenseman is drawing NHL scouts into the frosty MacInnes Center on a regular basis. 

Prediction: The two teams tread water with a split.