2022 Alaska Anchorage vs Northern Michigan - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Renewed Rivalry Among Storylines This Week

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Renewed Rivalry Among Storylines This Week

This weekend, there's a series with championship flashbacks, the ultimate high-latitude showdown and milestones will be under the microscope in Marquette.

Oct 20, 2022 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Renewed Rivalry Among Storylines This Week

This weekend on FloHockey, a CCHA series with championship flashbacks, the ultimate high-latitude showdown, and magic milestones will be under the microscope in Marquette.

That 90s Show

Back in the 1990s, the CCHA simply wasn't big enough to contain Lake Superior State and Michigan. The two squads divided up four national titles between them in the decade, and both clubs threatened to win a third championship that decade: 1993 (LSSU) and 1997 (Michigan). 

This weekend, they return to the site of some of their historic battles, Taffy Abel Arena, but under much different circumstances. 

No. 5 Michigan is a national power out of the Big 10 Conference, while Lake State has garnered nary a vote in this week's polls, and now is representing the new CCHA. 

Michigan nearly overwhelmed No. 9 Boston University last weekend, while Lake State underwhelmed unranked Omaha. 

In addition to the 30-year-old Jeff Jackson nostalgia buzz, this weekend up in the Soo represents a massive opportunity, and a massive challenge, for the Lakers.

Lakers coach Damon Whitten clearly will have his skaters' attention this week, based on all the breakdowns that led to so many scoring chances and odd-man rushes (including a half-dozen breakaways) against Omaha. 

LSSU will need to seal up its porous team defense, if it intends to compete against the stacked Maize and Blue lineup this weekend. 

For subscribers to FloHockey, this will be a great chance to see the traveling circus of America's best young players from Ann Arbor. It remains to be seen if the hometown Lakers still can compete with their former national rivals.

The 47 Club

Despite this being the weekend before Halloween, winter has arrived in Houghton, Michigan, and Bemidji, Minnesota, which are home to the two northernmost schools in the CCHA. 

Michigan Tech and Bemidji State are the only two north of 47 degrees latitude. 

They may not be each other's top rivals - Tech's is Northern Michigan, and Bemidji lives to beat Minnesota State - but these two schools are connected by latitude, playing style and a bit of Karma. 

The Huskies had Bemidji's number last season, winning three of their four meetings, but the Beavers snuffed out the Huskies in Houghton in the CCHA semifinals. 

In fact, Bemidji has won three consecutive league playoff games against Tech, sweeping their rivals in the 2021 quarterfinals. 

Despite coming off two wins in Fairbanks last week, Tech coach Joe Shawhan is worried about what he has learned about Bemidji.

"I figured they'd be a pretty good team, I didn't know they'd be as good as they are," said Shawhan on his Monday radio show. "They've been in the weight room, hard on pucks, taking away time and space. They're a fun team to watch, not a fun team to play against."

Tom Serratore's Beavers are coming off a bye week, so they will be brimming with strength and energy when things get underway Friday at 7 p.m. 

Shawhan fears his team's recent success is due mostly to his supreme goaltender Blake Pietila. 

Though both schools were picked to finish out of a home-ice berth in the CCHA playoffs, those votes were based on roster losses, not the eye test. The winner of this weekend's series will have a leg up on the rest of the league for home ice. 

Draft Kings Sportsbook is giving the visiting Beavers a goal and a half Friday night. That is the night's best bet.

Milestone March

For the last three seasons, Northern Michigan senior Andre Ghantous has been averaging exactly one point per game. 

His methodical scoring has helped him climb to 93 career points, closing in on the impressive century mark. If he gets hot this weekend against Alaska Anchorage, he could reach that milestone in front of the Wildcat faithful.

In terms of NCAA career goal-scoring, the CCHA king is AJ Vanderbeck with 44, which places him fifth nationally. He would need a couple of hat tricks to reach the illustrious 50 mark this weekend versus Anchorage, which seems unlikely, despite his knack for lighting the lamp. 

He has found the back of the net four times in six games this season. 

"I'm a shooter, I like shooting the puck," said Vanderbeck, who then channeled his inner Wayne Gretzky. "You can't score if you don't shoot." 

For college hockey numerologists, sharpen your pencils for FloHockey this weekend, as Ghantous and Vanderbeck are expected to ink up the scoresheets in Marquette.