With Minnesota State Mankato winning on Friday, while top-ranked North Dakota was losing on the other side of town, the computer rankings say the Mavericks are the No. 1 team in the nation.
Their coach will settle for a victory on Saturday night in the WCHA Final Five title game and let someone else figure out the final seeds for the NCAA tournament. After blanking Ferris State 4-0 on the strength of two Brad McClure goals and a 25-save shutout by Stephon Williams, the Mavericks (28-7-3) will face Michigan Tech in the conference finale at Xcel Energy Center.
"I've got a lot of respect for North Dakota and what's going on across the river [in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff], and I've got a lot of respect for what's facing us [Saturday] night," MSU Mankato coach Mike Hastings said. "Tech's as good a hockey team as there is in the country."
It was the fifth shutout of the season for Williams, who was given an early lead by McClain, then held fast while the Bulldogs (18-20-2) controlled the game for a stretch in the second period but were unable to get on the scoreboard.
"In my opinion, Minnesota State is the number one team in the nation," Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. "We couldn't tell you any differently. We haven't had any success in the five games we've played against them this year."
Michigan Tech 5, Bowling Green 2: Michigan Tech advanced on the strength of some local talent when Delano native Tyler Heinonen, playing at Xcel Energy Center for the first time in his life, notched two goals and an assist for the fourth-ranked Huskies in their 5-2 victory over Bowling Green. It will be Tech's first crack at a WCHA playoff title since they fell to the Gophers in the 1996 championship game.
"Any time you can get a win, it's an awesome homecoming," said Heinonen, who has nine points in his past five games. "It was an awesome night."
His third-period breakaway goal broke a 2-2 tie and helped send the Huskies to the tournament's championship. But the offense might have been secondary to Jamie Phillips' work in goal. Phillips had 22 saves and notched his NCAA-leading 28th win.
"He was Jamie Phillips. He is what he is, and his record is what it is," Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. "The frustrating part is we stressed execution and our game plan and we just weren't able to get to that part."
Bowling Green, ranked No.9, led 1-0 early on a Mitchell McLain goal, and forged a 2-2 tie early in the third before the Huskies scored the last three goals. While Tech (29-8-2) is a lock for its first NCAA tournament trip since 1981, the Falcons (23-11-5) are on the bubble.
"I thought our team did a great job, like they did all year," Huskies coach Mel Pearson said. "We've been in a lot of tight games and we've found a way to get it done."