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CCHA title, home ice come down to final game as Mavericks, Wildcats prevail

Northern Michigan and Bemidji State both win but the Wildcats have the tie-breaker for fourth place.

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Bowling Green senior forward Nathan Burke (10) and Northern Michigan junior defenseman Aiden Gallacher (10) follow the action in a game Friday, Feb. 24, 2023 in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Contributed / Bowling Green Athletics

The MacNaughton Cup stays in Mankato for the sixth consecutive season after Minnesota State handled Michigan Tech with a conference-clinching 3-2 win on Saturday night. In the battle for fourth place and home ice, Northern Michigan edged out Bemidji State, which both won on Saturday.

How the CCHA was won

Michigan Tech scored two rare goals in the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Tristian Ashbrook scored on a penalty shot early in the third period to cut the Maverick's lead to 2-1. A game-tying goal was wiped off. Then with the Huskies shorthanded as Ryland Mosley sat in the box for hooking at 18:42, head coach Joe Shawhan pulled goaltender Blake Pietila in favor of the extra attacker. It worked.

Tech's Kyle Kukkonen scored his 16th of the season with 1:05 left on the clock but 20 seconds later, Minnesota State's Cade Borchart netted the game-winner.

Pietila finished with 33 saves and Keenan Rancier stopped 23 for the Mavericks.

Full game story on The Rink Live

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Northern Michigan captures home ice

Senior David Keefer hasn’t scored two goals in a game since a 4-1 win at Colgate on Oct. 8. He picked a good time to do it again.

The Northern Michigan forward scored two third-period goals as his team took down Bowling Green 3-2 on Saturday, giving the Wildcats a coveted home-ice playoff advantage via a tiebreaker as Bemidji State beat St. Thomas . Both teams finished with 39 points. The teams tied head-to-head this season so the second tie-breaker, wins in regulation/OT, gave a 10-8 edge to the Wildcats.

The Wildcats finished 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Beavers went 4-6, including picking up a two-point overtime win during that span.

Playoff pairings

The Mavericks open the quarterfinals with Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech will host St. Thomas, Bowling Green will face Ferris State and Northern Michigan will host Bemidji State. Michigan Tech at No. 11 in the PairWise while Minnesota State is 15th.

The playoffs open March 3 in a 2-out-of-3 format at the home of the higher seed. The second round is March 11 and third round March 18, both single elimination.

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Lakers on a roll

Lake Superior State (0-23-2, 8-17-1) swept Ferris State (12-18-4, 9-14-3), winning 4-2 on Saturday night, and finished the regular season with a 5-2 mark.

Two third period goals, one by Harrison Roy, his 12th of the season, and Jared Westcott scored his second goal of the game into an empty net to finish off any chances the early game out east would affect a potential home-ice playoff advantage for the Bulldogs.

Ferris State finished sixth in the conference and needed a win and both Northern Michigan and Bemidji State to lose to move up into fourth place.

Lakers senior goaltender Seth Eisele (2-8-0) got the win, stopping 20 shots.

So, about that poll

For what its worth, the CCHA preseason coaches’ poll, in order, went Minnesota State (1), Northern Michigan (t4), Bowling Green (3), Bemidji State (t4), Michigan Tech (2), Lake Superior State (8), Ferris State (6) and St. Thomas (7). The number in parenthesis is the actual order of finish. Michigan Tech made the largest move.

Rob Beer is the digital content manager for Forum Communications. A journalist with Forum Communications since 1991, he is the editor of The Rink Live and helps cover the CCHA. He also assists with other content produced by Forum Communications.
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