The championship chase is just beginning, but it never hurts to start the postseason by putting a bit of hardware in the trophy case, and that’s exactly what North Dakota, Union and Michigan did over the weekend.

The Sioux got three goals apiece from Jason Gregoire and Matt Frattin as they swept Bemidji State. Gregoire and Frattin scored two goals each on Saturday afternoon in a 5-2 win over the Beavers, then added another goal apiece in Sunday’s 5-1 win. The victories gave North Dakota a four-point lead over Denver in the WCHA standings with two games to play, and with the Sioux owning a tiebreaker over the Pioneers by virtue of having more wins in conference play, the No. 1 team in the land has captured the McNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions.

Meanwhile, in ECAC Hockey, No. 4 Union opened a window for Yale to win the Cleary Cup as regular-season champion on Friday, when the Dutchmen surrendered a game-tying goal to Quinnipiac’s John Dunbar with 6:54 to play in the third period en route to a 2-2 draw. On Saturday, though, Nate Leaman’s team left no doubt against Princeton, getting a pair of goals in the first period from Daniel Carr and an assist in the third to bear Princeton, 5-0, at Messa Rink in Schenectady, N.Y. With the win, Union finished with 35 points in conference play to Yale’s 34, clinching the Dutchmen’s first championship since reclassifying to Division I in 1991.

No. 5 Michigan, for its part, went on the road to capture its prize, heading to the Upper Peninsula to sweep Northern Michigan, topping the Wildcats by scores of 3-2 and 5-0. The wins allowed the Wolverines to leapfrog Notre Dame, which won at Western Michigan on Friday, 3-2, but suffered a 2-0 loss to the Broncos on Saturday in South Bend, allowing the Wolverines to capture the regular-season title.

With regular-season championships decided in four of the five Division I conferences – RIT clinched the Atlantic Hockey regular-season title on February 13 – only Hockey East remains without a champion. No. 7 New Hampshire holds a one-point lead in the standings over No. 2 Boston College, and the Wildcats and Eagles will decide the regular-season championship this weekend, as they’ll close out the Hockey East schedule with a home-and-home series. The puck drops at 7:30 on Friday at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., with the series moving to the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. on Saturday night.

Need to Know 
• Oswego has battled back and forth with St. Norbert all season long for the right to be called the best team in Division III, but the Lakers will not be the best team in the SUNYAC this season. Mark Freisen made 43 saves on 44 shots, Fredonia center Ben Waldman scored 11:34 into overtime, and the Blue Devils stunned the then-No. 1 Lakers, 2-1, in the semifinals of the SUNYAC tournament. Oswego dropped to No. 2 in this week’s Division III Men’s Poll, and Fredonia will travel to No. 6 Plattsburgh – a 3-2 overtime winner over then-No. 10 Geneseo in the other semifinal – to play for the SUNYAC championship on Saturday.

• The long road to Orono, Maine was not kind to Merrimack over the weekend. The absence of top scorer Stephane Da Costa finally caught up with the Warriors, as they mustered just one goal in a pair of losses at Alfond Arena against then-No. 16 Maine. The Black Bears got goals from four different players on Friday in a 4-0 victory, then got two goals and an assist from defenseman Jeff Dimmen on Saturday to lead the way in a 7-1 win. Merrimack will face Providence on Friday and Saturday to close out the Hockey East regular season.

• Neumann has joined the Division III Men’s Poll this week as the No. 14 team in the nation, but the Knights have a chance to stand tall as the No. 1 team in the ECAC West. Jordan Zalba’s goal and assist in the second period gave the Knights all the offense that they’d need over the last 40 minutes of play, as the Knights defeated Utica, 5-2 in a conference semifinal game. Neumann will travel to Elmira – a 5-2 winner over Hobart – on Saturday to play for the conference title.

Quick Hits
• No. 18 Dartmouth’s 4-2 win over St. Lawrence on Friday night was notable primarily because the victory over the Saints clinched a first-round bye for the Big Green in the ECAC Hockey playoffs, but two of Dartmouth’s seniors scored their 100th career points in the win. With an assist on classmate Adam Estoclet’s game-winning goal at 14:08 of the third period, senior forward Scott Fleming notched his 100th career point to become the 34th player in Dartmouth’s century club, and with an empty-net goal late in the third, Estoclet joined him to become the 35th.

• The NESCAC couldn’t settle on a single Player of the Week honoree after the conference quarterfinals, so two honorees were chosen: Bowdoin freshman forward Colin Downey and Wesleyan sophomore goaltender Matt Hadge. Downey scored the game-winning goal in overtime and assisted on two others in regulation to give the No. 8 Polar Bears a 4-3 win over Amherst, while Hadge made 33 saves on 35 shots – including 21 stops in the third period – to backstop the Cardinals to a 5-2 win over then-No. 13 Hamilton.

• UMass hasn’t had much luck this season – nearly half of the Minutemen’s 20 losses in 2010-11 have been by a single goal – but goaltender Paul Dainton made program history over the weekend during UMass’ pair of one-goal losses (naturally) to Boston College. In those games, goaltender Paul Dainton set the UMass career records for saves (3,097) and minutes played (6,799).

• Southern New Hampshire forward Adam Ziegler had seven points in his first 19 games of the season, but the senior from Medford, Mass., nearly doubled that total in two games this week to earn Northeast-10 Player of the Week honors. First, Ziegler had a goal and two assists, the last on the game-winning goal, in a 4-3 overtime win over Framingham State, and then, he scored two goals (including the game-winner) and added an assist in a 3-2 win over Franklin Pierce in the NE-10 quarterfinals.