As is so often the case during winter’s short-sun Holidays, the IIHF’s World Junior Championship has sucked most of the oxygen from traditional college hockey venues. But rather than watch morning hockey in Eastern Europe, FloHockey has a logical alternative for college hockey’s passionate fan base.
Going head-to-head with the World Junior round-robin games, the WCHA has three tiers of drama, 100 players deep, to keep hockey fans riveted to their armchairs from now til New Year’s Eve. First up is the Mariucci Classic from Minneapolis, then the Great Lakes Invitational from Detroit, and a bonus installment of the highly anticipated “Bergeron Bowl II.” Let’s break it down.
The Mariucci Classic
Four of Minnesota’s five Division I hockey powers collide for bragging rights in the State of Hockey. The WCHA’s first and second place teams, Minnesota State (#2 nationally) and Bemidji State open play in separate semifinal brackets Saturday, with a legit chance to meet in Sunday’s title game. The top-seeded Mavericks collide with St. Cloud in the opener, while dark horse Bemidji State takes on the host Golden Gophers in the nightcap.
Despite Minnesota having the home-ice advantage, many insiders are bullish on Bemidji in this tilt. Tom Seratore’s stingy Beavers have allowed only three power-play goals all year, and have a white-hot sniper Aaron Miller (5-5-10 last five games). Bemidji scores nearly a full goal per game more than the Gophers (3.38 to 2.44), making the scenario of an All-WCHA championship Sunday more than feasible.
The Great Lakes Invitational
Monday is a three-headed monster for WCHA fans, starting at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit and the 55th annual Great Lakes Invitational tournament. A WCHA team looks for a GLI three-peat this year, as Michigan Tech and Ferris State both hope to hoist the same trophy that Bowling Green and Lake Superior did the past two years.
Monday’s tourney opener at should be appointment viewing for college hockey fans, as Michigan Tech (Pairwise #18) takes on Michigan State (Pairwise #17) in what matches the top-ranked teams of the tournament. In the late afternoon tilt, Ferris State (6-9-2) takes on Michigan (6-10-2). The Wolverines have lost top skaters John Beecher and Cam York to Team USA at the World Juniors, making them vulnerable to a major upset. Probability suggests that at least one WCHA squad will have a shot at the historic three-peat late Tuesday afternoon.
Bergeron Bowl II
The sequel may prove to be more dramatic that the original. While Ferris faces off against Michigan in Detroit, one hour south in Bowling Green, Ohio, former Falcons coach Chris Bergeron will learn first-hand the old adage: “You can’t go home again.”
While his Miami Redhawks are flailing through a 4-10-3 season, his protégé Ty Eigenr has guided Bowling Green to the #11 national ranking. The Falcons have already schooled Bergeron’s Redhawks 7-4 in Miami in the season-opener for both squads. On Monday, Bergeron should expect nothing more than polite applause from the raucous throngs at Slater Arena in prime time.
Bergeron Bowl II on Monday, as former @BGFalconHockey coach Chris Bergeron tangles with Ty Eigner at Slater. Counting on @rvallonBG to script the dramatic sceneset for #FloHockey pic.twitter.com/yfvMyTHTVp— Tim Rappleye (@teeraps) December 27, 2019
FloHockey provides a home-spun alternative to European hockey from six time zones away: prestigious championships from classic venues, bragging rights to the Big M’s—Minnesota and Michigan, and the unscripted human drama of Chris Bergeron’s return to the program he resurrected from the ashes. Catch it all on FloHockey.tv: four exquisite days of pure college hockey, from Saturday afternoon right up to New Year’s Eve.
Tim Rappleye is the author of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of '78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice. He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.