2024 Ferris State vs Bemidji State - Quarterfinal

2024 CCHA Mason Cup Playoffs: Quarterfinal Preview

2024 CCHA Mason Cup Playoffs: Quarterfinal Preview

It's time for the quarterfinals of the '24 CCHA Mason Cup Playoffs. Here's a look at each matchup, as the eight teams prepare to battle through the weekend.

Mar 7, 2024 by Tim Rappleye

It’s time for some March madness in the CCHA, and prognostication of this league, this year in particular, often is an exercise in futility. 

In an attempt to limit baseless speculation, we’ve broken down each series by hard data from conference play: 

  • Goal Differential (listed after each school in the matchup header)
  • Head-To-Head Results
  • Special Teams Composite (total power-play goals for and against, along with short-handed goals), 
  • Goaltending
  • Even-Strength Impact Players
  • Las Vegas Betting Line From Draft Kings
  • Current Trends

Finally, there is one subjective category – intangibles. 

No. 8 Ferris State (-31) At No. 1 Bemidji State (+18)

Head-To-Head: BSU 3-1, Beavers claimed eight of 12 possible points.

Special Teams Composite: Ferris -16, Bemidji State -2

Goaltending: Bemidji State’s Mattias Sholl has much better numbers in conference than cumulative, a league-leading 2.03 goals-against average and a robust .924 save percentage. He’s also in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak, including a shutout of Minnesota State his last time out. 

Ferris may have the lowest-ranked goalies in the CCHA, but historically, Logan Stein and Noah Giesbrecht both have proven they can steal a game. Edge: Bemidji State

Even-Strength Performers: Ferris State’s Luigi Benincasa and Antonio Venuto lead the Bulldogs in plus-minus at +3, a worthy feat, considering their club has allowed 37 more goals than it has scored. 

All six of Benincasa’s goals have come at even strength, while Venuto has notched seven of his 12 playing five skaters per side.

For the Beavers, Kyle Looft is a whopping +14, and senior Jackson Jutting has scored eight of his 10 goals at even strength. 

BSU’s fourth line of Donte Lawson, Rhys Chiddenton and Jake McLean has been a major factor in BSU’s sprint to the MacNaughton Cup. Edge: Bemidji State

Vegas: Bemidji State is a 1.5-goal favorite Friday night, but the money line is more indicative. It will cost gamblers $330 to win $100 on the champs, while bettors who take Ferris can earn $240 by risking a C-note.

Streaks: Beavers are one of the hottest teams in the nation, picking up points in nine straight games. Ferris is heading south, winless since the start of February. Edge: Bemidji State

Intangibles: Ferris always is a tough out in quarterfinal play, and one of the team’s goalies could extend a game to overtime. 

MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State prides itself on “Beaver Hockey,” which translates to selfless ambition: blocking shots, playing in pain, taking hits to make plays. They have also been steeled by a much more difficult nonconference schedule.

Prediction: The Beavers flex their four-line depth, ending the Bulldogs season Saturday. 

No. 7 Lake Superior State (+6) At No. 2 St. Thomas (+6) 

Head-To-Head: 1-1, one regulation win apiece.

Special Teams Composite: Tommies +8, Lake State +7

Goaltending: Lake State relies primarily on Ethan Langenegger: 2.96/.904, while St. Thomas employs both Jake Siebell: 2.04/.932 and Aaron Trotter: 2.89/.908. 

Siebell, the CCHA’s only Richter semifinalist, has been outplayed of late by Trotter. Langenegger has the most experience of the three and makes a habit of elevating his play in big games. Edge: Push (no edge)

Even-Strength Performers: UST captain Lucas Wahlin (+4) has nine even-strength goals. Defenseman Chase Cheslock barely has a statistical line, but the recently arrived NHL Draft pick (NJD fifth round) has been playing up to his pedigree for the depleted Tommies.

Lake State’s Connor Milburn is a whopping +13 with 11 even-strength goals, and CCHA scoring champ Jared Westcott (+5) has knocked in 14 of his 17 goals playing 6-on-6. 

Vegas: No line on St. Thomas games.

Intangibles: Lake State has a menacing front line of Milburn, Westcott and Dawson Tritt, along with 10 speedy freshman who have found their legs.

UST coach Rico Blasi has wrung the sponge dry, getting every drop of blood, sweat and tears from a roster so depleted by injury that it no longer can fully populate a lineup. 

Two of the league’s biggest impact players – Cooper Gay and Mack Byers – will be in the stands this weekend, barring a miraculous return by Byers. 

The Tommies benefit from the ultimate intangible, however – a simple Latin phrase posted high in the Tommies locker room: “Frides in Fratrem.” It translates to “trust in your brothers.” This concept is the cornerstone of the culture Blasi has implemented at St. Thomas. It’s what keeps his squad competitive, despite a Zamboni-load of adversity.

Prediction: Lake State’s dream of getting to the semifinals for the first time in the new CCHA is dashed by the goaltending and grit of St. Thomas.

No. 5 Northern Michigan (-10) at No. 4 Minnesota State (+11)

Head-To-Head: Minnesota State 1-0-1, Mavericks claimed four of six possible points.

Special Teams Composite: Northern Michigan -3; Minnesota State +10.

Goaltending: Northern will go with sophomore Beni Halasz (2.44/.909). 

Minnesota State coach Luke Strand must choose between junior Keenan Rancier (2.54/.907) or sophomore Alex Tracy (2.38/.912). That choice very well could determine this series’ outcome. 

Rancier has been the better of the two lately, but Tracy is Strand’s sentimental favorite because they won a USHL championship together. 

While both MSU goalies suffered losses at Bemidji last weekend, Halasz enjoyed his best weekend in memory, holding Bowling Green to a single goal in two games. Edge: Northern.

Even-Strength Performers: Northern’s Andre Ghantous leads the Wildcats with 0 in the plus-minus; Mikey Colella has scored six of his seven goals at even strength. 

For the defending champion Mavericks, Sam Morton (+7), Lucas Sowder (10 even-strength goals) and Kaden Bohlsen (+5) all can inflict damage playing six aside. 

Vegas: Minnesota State is a 1.5 goal favorite at home on Friday; bettors can double their money taking Northern with no spread. 

Streaks: These are two teams heading in opposite directions. 

In the midst of what appeared to be another title run entering February, Minnesota State blew a tire, losing four of its last six games. 

Sam Morton, the league’s top goal scorer and the offensive engine of the Mavericks, has been shut out in four of his own last six appearances. 

Northern, on the other hand, has a five-game unbeaten streak. 

NMU’s supreme playmaker Ghantous has dished out seven assists in his last seven games. 

Coach Grant Potulny has the Cats playing their best hockey in March once again.

Intangibles: Northern spent the entire offseason fuming over their devastating championship-game collapse to Minnesota State. The bitter taste remains fresh in the mouths of every veteran Wildcat. They have returned to the scene of the crime and can’t wait for the big payback. 

Minnesota State is vulnerable, free falling since last Friday’s disastrous second period. 

Prediction: For those who like to bet long shots, Northern is a fun play. The Wildcats in three.

No. 6 Bowling Green (-9) vs No. 3 Michigan Tech (+9)

Head-To-Head: Michigan Tech 3-1, Huskies claimed 10 out of 12 possible points.

Special Teams Composite: Bowling Green: EVEN; Michigan Tech: +1

Goaltending: BGSU coach Ty Eigner has been taking turns playing the hot hand between rookie Cole Moore (2.41/.928) and junior Christian Stoever (3.47/.872). Neither has been a winning option of late. 

Tech counters with its fifth-year ace, Blake Pietila, whose stats (2.05/.925) are weighted down by fits of mediocrity in the first half. Entering the playoffs, he is the best goalie in the CCHA, again. 

Despite Moore having a shade better save percentage than Pietila (.003), Edge to the Huskies in this category.

Even-Strength Performers: The Falcons old reliables are just that at even strength. Senior Seth Fyten leads the squad with his +4 rating, and only one of Ethan Scardina’s five goals have come on a power play.

For Michigan Tech, freshman Isaac Gordon tied Sam Morton for the CCHA lead with 13 even-strength goals, and rookie defenseman Nick Williams has a sterling +7 ranking in emergency duty after the injury to Jack Campbell.

Vegas: Tech is a 1.5 goal favorite in Friday’s opener, and for those eager to cash in, it will cost $280 to win $100. Falcon fans can collect a handsome reward of $210 for their $100 wager.

Streaks: Bowling Green is desperate for goals, having scored only a pair in its last four games. 

Tech has pounded in 16 goals in the past two weekends, and that includes being shut out last Friday. 

The Huskies ruined BGSU’s recent celebratory weekend with a statement sweep that got them back into the hunt for home ice. 

Intangibles: The cupboard is bare when it comes to BG’s offense – no active Falcon has reached the 10-goal mark. 

Tech has been getting goals by committee, including contributions from a variety of plug-and-play replacements.

Prediction: Blake Pietila is the last goalie a team with offensive woes wants to face. Look for Michigan Tech to sweep Bowling Green for the second time in three weeks.

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