2024 Minnesota State vs Michigan Tech - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Trophy Season Arrives This Weekend

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Trophy Season Arrives This Weekend

Trophy season in the CCHA is here, and the MacInnes Cup will be awarded in Houghton, Michigan, to the winner of the Michigan Tech-Minnesota State series.

Feb 8, 2024 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Trophy Season Arrives This Weekend

Trophy season in the CCHA arrives this weekend, and the MacInnes Cup will be awarded in Houghton, Michigan, to the winner of the Michigan Tech-Minnesota State series. 

Down the road in Marquette, Michigan, two legitimate contenders will clash, while Cinderella team Lake State travels south, hoping to collect points before its wagon turns into a pumpkin. 

Minnesota State Vs. Michigan Tech

Minnesota State is Michigan Tech’s designated opponent for its 2024 Winter Carnival. It’s the first time since 2019 the Mavericks have served the role.

Minnesota State is hopping mad after dropping out of first place Saturday night, and the Mavericks arrive eager to reclaim the top spot this weekend, since St. Thomas will be seeing nonconference action against Augustana. 

In terms of the big picture, Mankato hockey nation hopes this weekend is the first stop on a trophy trolley to close out the winter season: MacInnes, MacNaughton and Mason, one hoist every three weeks. 

The last squad to ride that three-stop trolley was the 2019 Minnesota State juggernaut coached by Mike Hastings.

For a second-place team, the 2024 Mavericks are a CCHA powerhouse in their own right. They lead the circuit in goals (88), scoring differential (+18) and save percentage (.910). 

Opponents have focused all their attention on veteran marksmen Sam Morton and Lucas Sowder, but have suffered at the hot hands of Brian Carrabes (points in seven of his last eight games) and Josh Groll (four-game scoring streak). 

Carrabes and star goalie Alex Tracy both played junior hockey for current Mavs coach Luke Strand, and their devotion to him permeates across the entire locker room. 

Minnesota State couldn’t have picked a better time to take on Michigan Tech, a club banged up physically and mentally. 

Two forwards from last year’s All-CCHA team – Austen Swankler and Kyle Kukkonen – both scratched from the Husky roster, and head coach Joe Shawhan spends his media time describing the team’s shortcomings in great detail. 

After winning the Great Lakes Invitational in December – largely on the shoulders of goalie Blake Pietila – this has become a season of woe for the Huskies. Nevertheless, scorers Ryland Mosley (13 goals) and Isaac Gordon (14 goals) bear watching.

Prediction: The Minnesota State Mavericks come to Houghton like pirates, invading MacInnes Arena and sailing away with the MacInnes Cup. 

Bemidji State Vs. Northern Michigan

This outcome of this series will depend on which Bemidji team shows up: the one that put on a defensive clinic while shutting out Augustana last Friday, or the one that took the foot off the gas the next night. On Saturday, Bemidji reverted back to a disturbing trend of conceding the first three goals in a 5-2 loss.

Saturday aside, Tom Serratore’s Beavers are a team with all indicators pointing up: the roster finally is getting healthy, the lineup is packed with warriors eager to sacrifice and thanks to the return of center Troy Jutting, scoring star Lleyton Roed is back in his favored position at wing. 

There also is talk that the league’s best defenseman, Kyle Looft, might return from injury this weekend. In Serratore’s mid-week presser, he bore the smile of a poker player sitting on pocket kings.

He will be reckoning with Grant Potulny’s Wildcats, who once again are playing their best hockey in February. 

The Wildcats have reduced their gratuitous penalties, cleaned up the penalty kill and their offense is in high gear. 

All of this is bad news to the rest of the league, which has seen Northern Michigan run deep into the CCHA playoffs in each of the past three seasons. 

Wildcat Artem Shlaine is a pure goal scorer whose No. 8 will be etched all over Serratore’s whiteboard at the Berry Center.

Fans can expect the nation’s leading scorer, Andre Ghantous, to reach major milestones of 150 career points and 100 assists for the green and gold this weekend.

Prediction: Bemidji is the CCHA’s stalking horse, a team that resembles a legit NCAA Tournament thoroughbred, but asking the Beavers to shut down Northern twice in Marquette is a tall order, especially when the Cats are in their annual late-season sprint. 

Look for the Cats offense to fill the net Saturday and salvage a split.

Lake Superior State Vs. Bowling Green

At some point this season, college hockey pundits will acknowledge the job the Lake State coaching staff has done this year. They lead the league in the most coachable categories: penalty kill (87.8%) and power play (23.2%). 

The team that was picked to finish last in the CCHA is in a home-ice position in the standings, one that is tenuous, however, because LSSU has played the most games in the league. 

Hence, if the Lakers are going to leave a positive mark on this season, they have to bus down to rival Bowling Green and win. And they are poised to do exactly that.

They’ll face a Bowling Green team that climbed back into home-ice contention with a six-point road sweep last weekend, a unicorn of an event in the CCHA. 

Two Falcon goalies collected wins – veteran Christian Stoever and rookie Cole Moore. 

BGSU also has several impressive skaters up front: speedy Quinn Emerson has become a dangerous foe, Ryan O’Hara is a reliable scorer and Ethan Scardina provides grit.

The Madhouse on Mercer has had a terrific run of loud and creative packed houses, making BG home games a spectacle this season.

Prediction: A split, and one that carries a negative consequence for Lake State. 

Anything other than a road sweep means the Lakers must account for those missing points against Minnesota State later in the month. Otherwise, the dream of home ice melts away. 

Crunch time has arrived for Damon Whitten’s new-look Lakers.