College Hockey Series of the Week: Minnesota State vs. Bemidji State

Story posted November 22, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Christopher Hess

With the WCHA dissipating at the conclusion of this season and becoming the CCHA for the 2021-2022 season, two of the WCHA’s shining stars in No. 5 Minnesota State and No. 16 Bemidji State will square off Nov. 22 and Nov. 23 in a non-conference series.

Yes, two conference foes are playing as non-conference opponents given the nature of the present times and will just count towards each team’s overall record.

The WCHA folding means that all existing members of the conference minus Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks and Alabama Huntsville will play in the CCHA. Those three will be without a conference.

Anchorage opted out of this season and eventually folded the program, and St. Thomas in Minnesota accepted an invitation to the CCHA, so Fairbanks and Huntsville will likely be independents once the season ends.

The Mavericks from Minnesota State lost a number of players from last year’s team, such as top-notch forwards Marc Michaelis, Parker Tuomie and Charlie Gerard. The trio combined for 111 points, and Michaelis was in the Hobey Baker Award conversation.

Despite the loss of the trio, the Mavs still have players such as Lucas Sowder, Connor Mackey, Nathan Smith and Reggie Lutz. The entire roster as a whole has a number of playmakers that can play both ways and have the ability to break out at any time.

Between the pipes is perhaps one of the best netminders in the nation in Dryden McKay.

McKay was in the Richter Award conversation last season with an impressive 30-4-2 record, a goals-against average of 1.31, a save percentage of .942 and an astounding 10 shutouts.

The Mavericks are loaded and are projected to be the final champion of the WCHA as selected by the media and the coaches.

Then when looking at the Beavers from Bemidji State, they also return a number of key players from last year’s team that finished 22-10-5 and were likely a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the loss of leading scorer Adam Brady, who had 34 points, the Beavers will bring back another 34-point scorer in Owen Sillinger.

In addition to Sillinger, Aaron Miller, Elias Rosén, Ethan Somoza and Alex Ieurullo will spearhead an attack and back end that will give Minnesota State a run for its money and give other teams in the league headaches.

Like the Mavericks, Bemidji also has a stellar goalie in Zach Driscoll.

Driscoll made massive strides from his sophomore and junior campaigns, as he posted a 21-8-4 record with a .937 save percentage, four shutouts and a 1.63 goals-against average.

The Beavers were picked to finish second in the standings behind the Mavericks by the media and players and rightfully so. This team was poised to turn heads in the NCAA tournament and had the ability to potentially unseat the Mavericks in the WCHA tournament.

The final season of WCHA hockey is sure to be one that will be remembered for a number of reasons. A once legendary conference that boasted some of college hockey’s giants at one point will now just be a memory, and the traditions of the past will virtually be no more.

Regardless, two of the top teams from the “State of Hockey” will give it their all.

Expect both teams to come out of the gate extremely fired up just to be back on the ice, even though the play will be relatively sloppy at times.

The Mavericks return a lot of star power that matches up well with Bemidji’s talented players, so a split seems likely here.

Prediction: 1-1 split

Game 1: Minnesota State 3, Bemidji State 1

Game 2: Bemidji State 3, Minnesota State 2

 

Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.