2022 North Dakota vs Bemidji State - Men's

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Festive Competition

CCHA Reasons To Watch: Festive Competition

CCHA Games this week include a nightmarish dream-sequence in St. Paul, CCHA titans clashing on the UP, and an inter-conference border war on Lake Bemidji.

Nov 23, 2022 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA Reasons To Watch: Festive Competition

Thanksgiving, a weekend where true hockey fans shrug at the flying pigskins and hunker down to watch the college season sprint through the first turn. 

FloHockey boasts over a dozen hours of CCHA game-action, covering a wide gamut of competition: a nightmarish dream-sequence plays out in St. Paul, CCHA titans clash on the Upper Peninsula, and an inter-conference border war will be staged on Lake Bemidji, as a super-power gets tested by some eager Beavers. 

North Dakota Vs. Bemidji 

Let’s call this game the “Gobbler,” the post Thanksgiving sandwich that’s better than the meal itself. Friday night FloHockey presents a tasty treat that might be the holiday showstopper: Bemidji hosting North Dakota, the hockey royals from across the tundra. Like a gobbler, this game has layers of quality to enjoy. 

First off is the legacy of the opponent: eight national championships, the biggest name in the sport’s premier conference, a team whose five-letter brand “NoDak” conjures up sold-out NCAA regionals and future NHL stars.

A text to college hockey’s foremost analyst Dave Starman resulted in an instant analysis of the Fighting Hawks: “Riese Gaber—electric, deceptive, quick; Jackson Blake—hard nose, hard skill, great hands; Tyler Kleven—mean, skilled, smart." The Show has arrived to FloHockey. 

Here’s the good news for CCHA fans, Bemidji always plays their neighbors tough, and this season they appear to be the better team. Beavers boss Tom Serratore played the transfer portal like a champ this off-season by landing super-senior Mitchell Martan (10 pts/10 GP). He also recruited blue-chip freshman Leyton Roed (team-leading 33 SOG) out of Minneapolis, directly under the noses of NoDak scouts, convincing the northbound Roed to veer east—not west—to the shores of Lake Bemidji. 

More importantly, Bemidji has significantly better goaltending than the Fighting Hawks, 50 points higher in terms of save percentage.

The cranberry sauce of this Friday gobbler is the fact that fans can play along via DraftKings. The Vegas line has relegated Bemidji to underdog status despite being home on Friday. So if you choose to wager on the Beavers, you start the game with a 1.5 goal lead, hard to hate. On this weekend of indulgence, enjoy the extended Thanksgiving.

Prediction: CCHA’s Bemidji knocks off the most recognizable brand in college hockey, and smart money laughs all the way to the bank.

No. 10 Minnesota State Vs. Michigan Tech 

For those who prefer the chase for the MacNaughton Cup, this is a series to savor up in Michigan’s copper country, the birthplace of the coveted silver chalice. The dynastic Minnesota State Mavericks have shown signs of vulnerability in the early going this season, dropping points in the standings—at home—to both Bowling Green and Northern Michigan, a fact not lost on Tech coach Joe Shawhan.

“They haven’t dominated teams like they have in the past,” said Shawhan in anticipation of this weekend’s clash, “they have to work to get their wins.”

As Minnesota State's former assistant coach Darren Blue points out, the CCHA standings are not the best barometer for the race for MacNaughton, at least in the early going. According to Blue, it’s about the “points dropped, not the points gained.” His logic is sound. Currently, Minnesota State leads Tech by a single point for second place in the CCHA standings, and trails first-place Bowling Green by two. But if you track league points conceded instead, the Mavericks have dropped just three league points, while Tech has had 10 lopped off. Therefore, a six-point sweep by Tech, however unlikely, would still leave the Huskies trailing the Mavericks after calculating their games in hand. 

Once the puck is dropped, you will see two clubs that mirror each other in both intensity and tactics: clans desperate to possess the puck in the enemy zone. If you like ruthless battles in tight spaces, click your Roku device to play Battle Royale in Houghton. There’s not a lot to choose from on the ice, including between the pipes.

Despite the deserved accolades of Tech senior Blake Pietila, Mavericks sophomore goalie Keenan Rancier is coming off the best weekend of his NCAA career, and he should cancel out any predicted edge from the league’s shutout king.

But there is one statistic that indicates undeniable separation between the two clubs—the faceoff dot. Minnesota State leads the nation by winning nearly 60 percent of its draws, while Tech is in the CCHA cellar at 44 percent. Sixteen percent more possessions after each puck drop is a game-changer for two clubs so evenly matched.

Prediction: Despite skating in hostile territory, Minnesota State fights off yet another challenger to their throne, regaining the top spot in the CCHA standings.

Lake Superior Vs. St. Thomas 

Rico Blasi and the Tommies will finally escape their Kafka-esque nightmare, and beat a CCHA team other than Ferris State. It is worth tuning in to the Twin Cities at the buzzer for the delirious purple rain.

Prediction: A split that feels like a sweep for the home team.