Ferris State Claims WCHA Regular-Season Title
CHN Staff Report
Ferris State won the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA champs in its first year in the league.
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It came down to the wire, but after Minnesota State was unable to get the winning goal against Michigan Tech, Ferris State claimed the WCHA regular-season title outright in its first season in the conference.
The teams were tied entering the final day, and the Bulldogs held off Lake Superior State, 2-1, finishing a regular season in which they did not lose a home game.
Meanwhile, Tech extended Minnesota State to overtime, and the game ended in the tie, giving Ferris State its first MacNaughton Cup.
In Mankato, down 1-0 entering the third period, Minnesota State got the tying goal when sophomore Bryce Gervais one-timed a pass from freshman defenseman Sean Flanagan. The goal was Gervais' 12th of the season and the 20th of his career.
In overtime, there was the possibility of an extremely rare situation where both teams would pull the goalie. They certainly each had reason to. Minnesota State needed a win for a share of the MacNaughton Cup, while a Tech win would've given it home ice in the WCHA playoffs.
Ultimately, the Mavericks decided not to so as not to jeopardize its NCAA chances; MSU is currently 17th in the Pairwise, just on the outside edge of the bubble. Tech decided not to because a loss would've meant a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, for its playoff series.
Instead, Michigan Tech finished fifth and will travel to Bowling Green next weekend.
Lake Superior State's loss left it in a tie for eighth place with Bemidji State, but the Beavers won the tiebreaker, meaning the Lakers' season is over. BSU will travel to Ferris State.
Finally, in Fairbanks, Rob Gunderson made 30 saves as Alaska-Anchorage defeated the rival Nanooks, 3-1. Alaska was already locked into the third seed, but the win jumped Anchorage up to sixth — meaning the two teams will play again next week in a best-of-3 quarterfinal series.
That works out serendipitously for the WCHA. The original league plan, when the league was re-constructed this year with both Alaska teams, was to have Anchorage and Fairbanks automatically face each other in the first round each year, in order to spare another team from additional travel expenses. That plan was ultimately scrapped, but the two teams wound up pairing off anyway.
Northern Michigan, which got a hat trick from Darren Nowick in a 5-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville, wound up seventh.
In the Big Ten
Minnesota let a chance to clinch the first Big Ten regular-season title slip away, allowing a late goal to Ohio State and losing in the shootout Saturday in Columbus.
In a game that saw momentum swing back and forth throughout the night, Adam Wilcox proved to be Minnesota’s one constant. Wilcox set a new career high with 41 saves including a sprawling breakaway save in overtime on OSU's Ryan Dzingel, who had tied the game.
Wilcox moved to 22-4-6 on the season while Christian Frey made 30 saves to move to 6-2-3 this year for Ohio State.
Minnesota controlled the first period, but Ohio State hung in after the Gophers had a goal wiped out following a video review. That kept it 1-0, and OSU twice came back to tie, and then had numerous good chances late and in OT.
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Wisconsin remained alive for the regular-season championship by completing a weekend sweep of Penn State. Wisconsin is five points back with two games left (the Big Ten awards three points for a win). Wisconsin wraps up the regular season against Michigan State, while first-place Minnesota has a pair of games at Michigan.
Penn State nearly pulled off another upset of the Badgers. Kenny Brooks scored with 2:44 left in the third period to force overtime.
But with just 21 seconds left, Joe Faust's stretch pass sent the Badgers down the ice on an odd-man rush, where Nic Kerdiles found Mark Zengerle for the winning score.
It was the third-straight road win for the Badgers and their fifth win in a row overall.
Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel improved to 18-4-1, making 41 saves on 43 shots.
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Mackenzie MacEachern capped a three-goal Michigan State rally, as the Spartans stunned Michigan, 4-3.
MacEachern's goal came 1:13 after Michael Ferrantino had tied the game.
Phil Di Giuseppe, Luke Moffat and Boo Nieves scored in the first period for Michigan, which routed the Spartans a night before. With that, MSU pulled goalie Jake Hildebrand and looked for a spark in Will Yanakeff, who provided just that with 24 saves an no goals allowed the rest of the way.
The win moved Michigan State within one point of Ohio State for fourth place. Either way, however, those two teams will play each other in the first round of the Big Ten playoffs on March 20.