The tournament’s biggest underdog hoisted the North Star College Cup on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, but the biggest winner of the weekend might have been the WCHA.
The conference couldn’t lose in the title game with WCHA foes Bemidji State and Minnesota State Mankato facing off and making the statement that the league is still strong after college hockey’s realignment last season. Bemidji State, playing in the tournament for the first time, upset the No. 1-ranked Mavericks 3-1 despite entering the four-team event as the only unranked program.
Charlie O’Connor, Gerry Fitzgerald and Kyle Bauman scored goals for the Beavers (9-12-3). They built a 3-0 lead after Bauman’s goal late in the second period and outscored opponents 7-1 over the weekend.
Bemidji State goalie and tournament MVP Michael Bitzer had 26 saves and stopped a penalty shot by Dylan Margonari midway through the third period.
Jon Jutzi scored for the Mavericks (19-5-1) late in the second period. Bemidji State ended Minnesota State’s nine-game unbeaten streak.
“Very difficult field. I was really proud of our guys,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “They showed a lot of toughness throughout the weekend. We’ve got a heck of a league. Our league is deep, and I think our nonconference record shows that.”
“The North Star Cup has proven that the WCHA can compete with any conference in college hockey,” WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson said. “We have three teams in the top 10, the No. 1 ranked team in the country, and then you go into a tournament like this and you get two WCHA teams into the final — this is as good as it gets, right now.”