2024 Minnesota State vs Bemidji State - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: MacNaughton Crapshoot Comes Down To Final Rolls

CCHA Reasons To Watch: MacNaughton Crapshoot Comes Down To Final Rolls

This historic MacNaughton Cup Marathon of 2024 boils down to one series – or possibly – a single game. All eyes will be on Bemidji-Minnesota State.

Feb 29, 2024 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: MacNaughton Crapshoot Comes Down To Final Rolls

This historic MacNaughton Cup Marathon of 2024 boils down to one series – or possibly – a single game. 

All eyes will be on Bemidji to see if the Beavers can tear down Minnesota State’s dynasty of regular-season titles.

All the other CCHA games are for playoff positioning, including a compelling three-team battle for the final two home-ice berths.

The games in Houghton (St. Thomas-Michigan Tech) and Marquette (Bowling Green-Northern Michigan) represent appetizers for the Eastern time zone, all leading into the primetime main course in Bemidji. 

The marquee event – Minnesota State-Bemidji – demands a probability breakdown.

Statistically, there are two essential numbers: 

  • 1) Bemidji leads MSU by four points in the standings.
  • 2) There are seven possible outcomes of this weekend’s showdown series.

Only one of those outcomes – a six-point sweep by the Mavericks – allows Minnesota State to win outright. That’s a probability of 14.2%, one that does not take into account Bemidji’s home-ice advantage. That number is significantly less than say, a craps player coming out rolling a 7 or 11 (22.2%).

From the Bemidji perspective, five of the seven weekend outcomes – collecting anywhere from two to six points in the standings – gives them the MacNaughton Cup outright. That’s a very healthy 71.4 %. 

There is one possibility that would result in the two schools sharing the 40-pound chalice: if Minnesota State collects five points over the weekend with an overtime victory. 

Should this 7-1 longshot transpire, commissioner Don Lucia would take turns handing the MacNaughton Cup to both teams. Under that scenario, Bemidji likely would be frowning in the photo-op. 

Not only would they have forfeited five of the six points – at home – it also would mean the Beavers squandered top playoff seeding, because Minnesota State would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

So, things are not quite so bleak for Minnesota State. 

There now are two outcomes out of seven (28.6%) in which the Mavericks celebrate with the coveted trophy. That’s several percentage points better than the craps shooter referred to earlier. 

Las Vegas makes things even more interesting. For some reason, the oddsmakers like the visitors. 

Minnesota State has been installed as a 1.5-goal favorite Friday night. Should Vegas prove prescient, Saturday’s game comes down to four potential outcomes, two of which give Minnesota State the top-seed and home ice throughout. That’s a 50% shot, better than any bet in Las Vegas.

“Our guys have an underdog mentality,” Minnesota State head coach Luke Strand said. “If we can get the right guys on the ice this weekend, our confidence just keeps going up.”

Bottom line: If Minnesota State wins Friday night, this sprint for the MacNaughton Cup essentially becomes a 50-50 bet, top-seeding determined by the winner, whether in regulation or overtime.

Players To Watch

Minnesota State

The uniform numbers of Sam Morton (6) and Lucas Sowder (21) are circled in permanent ink on the Bemidji coaches’ white boards, so secondary scoring is critical for Minnesota State. Fans should stay alert for every shift from Josh Groll (12) and Brian Carrabes (28). 


Senior forward Jackson Jutting has proven to be (alternate) Captain Clutch for the Beavers this year. He has scored season-altering goals against both Minnesota State and St. Thomas. 

Freshman star Eric Pohlkamp, a glaring omission from the national rookie-of-the-year race, has tallied points in seven of his last nine games (3-5-8). It would surprise no one if his lethal shot left an indelible mark in this series. 

And for those who love poetic justice, Mankato-born Kyle Looft has made a habit of burning his hometown Mavericks. Headline writers should prepare for a Looft victory lap.

Michigan Tech

College hockey purists should focus on undersized (a generously listed 5-foot-10) freshman defenseman Nick Williams

Clean zone exits have characterized Tech’s late push for home ice, and according to coach Joe Shawhan, no Husky defenseman moves the puck better than Williams. Yet the player known affectionately as “Willie,” spent much of the season as a healthy scratch – until injuries cleared his path into Tech’s lineup.

“In his mind, he’s probably thinking, ‘I’m glad you finally noticed I’m here,’” Shawhan said.

Up front, look for linemates Ryland Mosley (14 goals) and Isaac Gordon (15 goals) to add to their impressive totals. 

St. Thomas

Injuries have forced the Tommies’ roster past the breaking point, as coach Rico Blasi was unable to ice a full team last week. 

It has put quite a strain on the survivors, but expect sophomore captain Lucas Wahlin to hitch up his big-boy pants once again.

Bowling Green

Rugged winger Seth Fyten started the season under a cloud of suspicion, suspended under bogus claims. Now, he is a driving force in the Falcons battle for home ice. 

He has scored big goals in each of the last three series and should be a factor up at Northern Michigan. 

Freshman goaltender Cole Moore has been handed the keys to the Falcon crease by coach Ty Eigner. It remains to be seen if the 6-foot-5 ’keeper can shoulder the load.

Viewing Strategy

Start the evening with St. Thomas and Michigan Tech on your primary device and Bowling Green-Northern on the second screen. 

Once the puck drops in Bemidji, tune immediately to Minnesota State-Bemidji, full audio. 

Track the other games, but only during stoppages at Bemidji. Nothing should interfere with fans witnessing the final roll of the dice for MacNaughton ’24.