October 13, 2015 at 2:46 AM CDT - Updated July 25 at 4:39 AM
EDINA, Minn. – Oct. 12, 2015 – The league’s top opening-weekend scorer and a pair of netminders highlight the first men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Players of the Week for the 2015-16 campaign. The honorees for the week of Oct. 4-11, 2015 are: Alabama Huntsville sophomore forward Brennan Saulnier (Offensive Player of the Week), Bemidji State sophomore goaltender Michael Bitzer (Defensive Player of the Week) and Northern Michigan freshman goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Rookie of the Week).
WCHA Offensive Player of the Week
Brennan Saulnier, So., F, Alabama Huntsville (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
One of only nine players across the country to record at least five points during the season’s opening weekend, Saulnier tallied three goals and two assists as Alabama Huntsville rallied to split a pair of games with visiting Connecticut. The sophomore from Halifax, Nova Scotia lifted the Chargers to a 5-2 victory Saturday by assisting on UAH’s first goal, notching the tying marker to knot the game 2-2, assisting on the second-period game-winner and scoring an insurance marker in the third. Saulnier also recorded an unassisted goal Friday, finishing the weekend with a +1 rating. Alabama Huntsville opened 1-1-0 for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Also nominated: Kenny Babinski, Sr., F, Ferris State; Charlie O’Connor, Jr., F, Bemidji State; Matt Pohlkamp, Jr., F, Bowling Green; Filip Starzynski, So., F, Northern Michigan
WCHA Defensive Player of the Week
Michael Bitzer, So., G, Bemidji State (Moorhead, Minn.)
Bitzer, the 2014-15 WCHA Rookie of the Year, opened his sophomore campaign in fine fashion by backstopping Bemidji State to a 3-2 upset win over No. 2/3 Minnesota Duluth. The Moorhead, Minn. native stopped 28-of-30 shots, while making a dozen saves during a first period in which the Beavers were outshot 12-5 and another 11 during the decisive third frame. Deadlocked at 2-2 late in the game, Bemidji State won 3-2 on Charlie O’Connor’s goal with 22 seconds remaining in regulation.
Also nominated: Jordan Klimek, So., D, Northern Michigan; Chris Nell, So., G, Bowling Green; Charles Williams, Jr., G, Ferris State
Making his collegiate debut, Tolvanen logged a .930 save percentage by making 66 saves – tied for most in the nation on opening weekend – on 71 shots, helping Northern Michigan open the campaign with a pair of hard-fought ties on the road at Wisconsin. The freshman from Vihti, Finland made 41 stops Saturday night, including 19 from the start of the third period on. He also turned back 13 shots in the first period Friday, a stanza in which the Wildcats had only five shots on goal. Tolvanen made all four saves asked of him during Friday’s and Saturday’s extra sessions, as NMU left Madison with an undefeated weekend.
Also nominated: Hans Gorowsky, Fr., F, Alabama Huntsville; Ian Janco, Fr., D, Bemidji State; John Schilling, Fr., F, Bowling Green
About Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, among the most historic, tradition-rich and successful conferences in all of collegiate athletics, proudly marks its 64th season of men’s competition in 2015-16. The 10-team Division 1 conference consists of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), the University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats). For more information, visit wcha.com.