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CCHA Reasons to Watch: Festive Competition

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

FloHockey features over a dozen hours of CCHA game action, covering a wide range of competitions: a nightmarish dream sequence unfolds in St. Paul, CCHA titans clash in the Upper Peninsula, and an inter-conference border war is staged at Lake Bemidji is being tested as a superpower by some eager beavers.

North Dakota vs Bemidji

2022 North Dakota vs. Bemidji State – Men’s

Let’s call this game Gobbler, the post-Thanksgiving sandwich that’s better than the food itself. Friday night, FloHockey presents a treat that could be the holiday showstopper: Bemidji hosts North Dakota, the hockey kings from across the tundra. Like a glutton, this game has layers of quality to enjoy.

First, the opponent’s legacy: eight national championships, the biggest name in the sport’s Premier Conference, a team whose five-letter brand “NoDak” evokes sold-out NCAA regionals and future NHL stars.

A text to leading college hockey analyst Dave Starman prompted an immediate analysis of the Fighting Hawks: “Giant Gaber – electric, deceptive, fast; Jackson Blake – hard nose, hard skill, great hands; Tyler Kleven – mean, skillful, smart.” The show has arrived on FloHockey.

Here’s the good news for CCHA fans: Bemidji always plays tough against their neighbors and they seem to be the better team this season. Beavers boss Tom Serratore played the transfer portal like a champ this offseason by landing super senior Mitchell Martan (10 points/10 GP). He also recruited blue-chip rookie Leyton Roed (team leader 33 SOG) from Minneapolis, right under the noses of the NoDak scouts, and convinced north-going Roed to turn east — not west — to the shore of Lake Bemidji .

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

The cranberry sauce of this Friday muncher 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 when you bet on the Beavers, you start the game with a 1.5 goal lead, which is hard to hate. Enjoy the extended Thanksgiving on this gourmet weekend.

Prediction: CCHA’s Bemidji beats the most recognizable brand in college hockey, and smart money laughs to the bank

No. 10 State of Minnesota Vs. Michigan Tech

2022 Minnesota State vs. Michigan Tech – Men

For those who prefer chasing the MacNaughton Cup, this is a series to be enjoyed in Michigan’s copper country, the birthplace of the coveted silver cup. The dynastic Minnesota State Mavericks have shown signs of vulnerability earlier this season, dropping points overall — at home — to both Bowling Green and Northern Michigan, a fact that hasn’t escaped tech coach Joe Shawhan.

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

As pointed out by former Minnesota State assistant coach Darren Blue, the CCHA rankings aren’t the best barometer of the race for MacNaughton, at least in the early stages. According to Blue, it’s about “points lost, not points gained”. Its logic is solid. Currently, the state of Minnesota leads Tech by one point over second place in the CCHA score and is two points behind Bowling Green in first place. But if you track league points conceded instead, the Mavericks lost just three league points while Tech lost 10. Therefore, a six-point sweep by Tech, however unlikely, would still leave the Huskies behind the Mavericks after they’ve figured out their games.

Once the puck is dropped, you’ll see two clubs mirror each other in intensity and tactics: clans desperate to own the puck in the opponent’s zone. If you like ruthless close quarters combat, click on your Roku device to play Battle Royale in Houghton. There isn’t much choice on the ice, even between the tubes.

Despite well-deserved accolades from tech senior Blake Pietila, Mavericks goaltender Keenan Rancier is having the best weekend of his NCAA career and should undo any predicted advantage of the league’s shutout king.

But there’s one stat that points to an undeniable split between the two clubs – the face-off. The state of Minnesota leads the nation by winning nearly 60 percent of its draws, while Tech is in the CCHA bottom at 44 percent. Sixteen percent more possession after every puck drop is a game changer for two clubs so evenly matched.

Prognosis: Despite skating in enemy territory, the state of Minnesota is fighting another challenger to its throne and reclaiming the top spot in the CCHA rankings.

Lake Superior Vs St Thomas

2022 Lake Superior State v St. Thomas (MN) – Men

Rico Blasi and the Tommies will finally escape their Kafka nightmare and beat another CCHA team than Ferris State. It’s worth tuning in to the Twin Cities on Summer for the insane purple rain.

Prediction: A breakup that feels like a sweep for the home side.