The mitten is heating up and so is the action on ice here. Mitten teams have anywhere from two to six games left on the schedule and regardless who you root for, every shift and every play counts toward making a strong finish towards the end.
It'll be a limited schedule here again this weekend. Exempt from this edition will be Lake Superior State (10-24-4) and No. 17 Northern Michigan (20-11-3). Both teams are coming off sweeps against the Alaska-based schools; LSSU winning in Anchorage to extend their winning streak to four, while NMU took care of the Nanooks at home and have now won nine of ten overall.
Let's see what is on tap for everyone else.
FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS
RECAP: Ferris State (12-19-1) is coming off a bye, after getting swept on the road at aforementioned Alaska-Fairbanks two weekends ago, allowing four goals in both games to the Nanooks.
UP NEXT: The Bulldogs wrap up their road slate this weekend, but it'll arguably be their toughest games of the year when they head west for Mankato to take on No. 5 Minnesota State (23-7). You won't find too many teams, if any, hotter than the Mavericks who have now won eight straight. This is the lone matchup between these two teams this season; they split their four meetings a season ago.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Mitch Maloney potted his 13th of the season in the 4-2 loss to Alaska, giving him 21 points on the year to surpass his junior mark and set a new career-high with four games remaining plus the conference tournament. It was, however, the first goal for the Macomb-native and Utica Eisenhower product since Thanksgiving weekend (15 games). Ferris needs a big spark from him down the stretch if they want any shot.
SCHEDULE: Friday (02.16) and Saturday (02.17) | 8:07 p.m. ET
BROADCAST: WCHA.tv | 97.3 FM WDEE
RECAP: Michigan (14-13-3) had themselves a productive weekend against arch-rival Michigan State. They won a shootout in the series opener in East Lansing, then downed the Spartans at Little Caesars Arena in the annual ‘Duel in the D' showcase to retain the Iron D Trophy. The successful series earned them a small uptick in the polls, up to No. 18 now.
UP NEXT: The Wolverines now get ready for their second of two season meetings with top-ranked Notre Dame (22-6-2). The Irish have come back to earth to some degree, just 3-3-1 in their last seven following a 16-game winning streak. Michigan was swept by the gold-domers back in early January, both 2-1 finals in what was a home-and-home series, like this weekend's matchup will be.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Entering the series against Michigan State, Wolverines freshman defenseman Quinn Hughes had just one goal on the year, and it came all the way back in the team's first game of the season. The youngest player in college hockey this season scored in each game against the Spartans this past weekend; he now has 15 points in his freshman campaign.
SCHEDULE: Friday (02.16) and Sunday (02.18) | 7:35 p.m. ET
BROADCAST: Big Ten Network (SUN) | MGoBlueTV | 1050 AM WKTA
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
RECAP: As previously mentioned, Michigan State (10-18-2) lost a couple of tough ones to Michigan over the weekend. They finish this year with a 1-3-1 record overall against their rival Wolverines, with one of the losses coming in the Great Lakes Invitational consolation game, and the tie ending in a shootout loss.
UP NEXT: MSU now returns home to Munn and welcomes in No. 16 Penn State (13-12-5). The Nittany Lions are coming off a bye and are two weeks removed from a series loss at home against Notre Dame. PSU has not earned a regulation/overtime win in seven straight contests. These two split their first meeting back during Thanksgiving weekend, with MSU earning their victory in a shootout.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore Patrick Khodorenko assisted on all three of the Spartans' goals last weekend against Michigan, giving him 15 in that department and 25 points on the season. The former USNTDP product has seven points in his last ten games. He already has two assists in two previous games against Penn State this season.
SCHEDULE: Friday (02.16) @ 6:35 p.m. ET | Saturday (02.17) @ 5:05 p.m. ET
BROADCAST: Big Ten Network (both games) | Spartan Sports Network
MICHIGAN TECH HUSKIES
RECAP: Michigan Tech (15-13-5) salvaged a split at home against conference foe Bemidji State last weekend. They keep pace with the Beavers in the WCHA standings, sitting just two points behind them. But with a considerable gap ahead of them, the Huskies cannot finish any better than fourth in the conference.
UP NEXT: The mitten's resident club from Houghton now steps out of conference for a rare non-league tilt in mid-February, welcoming in independent Arizona State (7-18-5) to the upper peninsula. The Sun Devils, coming off a bye after getting swept at Yale two weeks ago, have lost five straight overall. These two actually met once earlier this season, in the inaugural Vegas Ice Invitational back on January 6. Sparky beat the Huskies 3-2 to win the tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Michigan Tech got their senior captain Brent Baltus back from injury last weekend, he returned in the 5-1 win over Bemidji and scored a goal. Baltus had been sidelined since that hockey tournament in Vegas. Prior to that, he was on a serious scoring streak, tallying six goals and 13 points over a 10-game stretch.
SCHEDULE: Friday (02.16) and Saturday (02.17) | 7:07 p.m. ET
BROADCAST: WCHA.tv | 93.5 FM WKMJ | Pasty.net
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
RECAP: Western Michigan (14-13-1) continues to try and weather the storm without their leader Wade Allison. They did just that two weeks ago, splitting a road series against Miami-OH last weekend and maintaining the No. 15 position in the latest USCHO poll.
UP NEXT: The good news is that the Broncos return home to the mitten, where they are 10-4-1 this season at Lawson Ice Arena. However, it'll be no easy task when No. 3 St. Cloud State (19-6-3) comes waltzing into Kalamazoo. This pack of Huskies has won five straight and has not left the USCHO top 10 all year. Western split the first series with SCSU earlier this year. Since the formation of the NCHC back in the 2013-14 season, the Broncos have not beaten St. Cloud at home (0-4-2 all-time).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Freshman Ethen Frank has only appeared in 23 games this year for Western Michigan, but he easily had his most productive series in his young career. Frank tallied a series hat trick, with two of his three goals coming in the 3-2 win. His first goal in the 4-2 loss was his first since November 18. In fact, he was an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick, after logging 15 minutes of penalties in his two-goal game.
SCHEDULE: Friday (02.16) and Saturday (02.17) | 7:05 p.m. ET
BROADCAST: NCHC.tv | 96.5 FM WZOX