- Tradition Starts Here: The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), home to a record 15 national championships in 16 seasons, has all eight teams in action this weekend for the first time in the 2015-16 campaign.
- A Look at the Polls: As the new season gets underway, the WCHA is in a familiar place with four teams in identical positions in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national rankings. No. 1 Minnesota garnered preseason top billing in both polls, while the Gophers are joined by 2015 Frozen Four opponent Wisconsin (No. 3) and 2015 Final Face-Off participants North Dakota (No. 6) and Bemidji State (No. 9 and tied for ninth- the Beavers' highest ranking since 2011-12). A fifth WCHA team, Minnesota Duluth, is receiving votes in both polls.
- WCHA Hockey, Coast to Coast: Women's college hockey fans from the Pacific to the Atlantic will be able to watch the sport's premier conference this weekend, as WCHA teams will play as far west as San Jose, Calif. (Wisconsin vs. Providence) and as far east as Boston, Mass. (Minnesota Duluth at Boston College), with a stop near the middle in Wentzville, Mo. (Ohio State at Lindenwood).
- Welcome to Division I: St. Cloud State will have the honor of welcoming the 36th Division I women's college hockey program, as the Huskies visit Merrimack in the Warriors' first-ever regular season games.
- Nonconference Success: Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State continued the WCHA's run of nonconference success, going a combined 4-0-2 against the CHA and ECAC Hockey during the season's opening weekend. WCHA teams finished the 2014-15 season with an NCAA-best 38-11-2 (.765) record against non-league opponents.
- Successful Debuts: The season-opening weekend also marked a pair of WCHA head coaching debuts. Maura Crowell began her tenure at Minnesota Duluth with a road sweep at Lindenwood, while John Harrington, in his first games behind a women's bench, led Minnesota State to a win and tie against Union. This weekend, Crowell returns to Massachusetts, where she coached for 10 years (on the staffs at UMass-Boston and Harvard), to lead the Bulldogs against No. 2 Boston College.
- Potter Up Next: Four-time Olympic medalist and two-time WCHA Player of the Year Jenny Potter officially returns to the league this weekend for her D-I head coaching debut with Ohio State (at Lindenwood).
By the Numbers
- 5: Returning WCHA All-Americans, of the six the league had in 2014-15: First-team members Hannah Brandt (Sr., F, Minnesota) and Brittni Mowat (Jr., G, Bemidji State), and second-team selections Shelby Amsley-Benzie (Sr., G, North Dakota), Dani Cameranesi (Jr., F, Minnesota) and Lee Stecklein (Jr., D, Minnesota).
- 18 and 2: Games into the 2014-15 season until Minnesota State recorded its first win (going 0-16-1 before); and, games into the 2015-16 campaign before the Mavericks earned a "W" (going 0-1-1 before).
- 104: Career games between the pipes for Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Kayla Black, tied for the most in UMD history and ninth-most in WCHA annals. Black also holds Bulldog records for career shutouts (19) and saves (2,558).
- 221: Career points for Minnesota senior forward Hannah Brandt (90 goals, 131 assists). The NCAA's active career scoring leader, Brandt ranks 16th in NCAA history.
- 360: Career wins for Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson, who enters the 2015-16 season fourth all-time among Division I women's coaches (third among active bench bosses).
- 2,125: Distance, in miles, between Madison, Wis. and San Jose, Calif. The third-ranked Badgers open their season against Providence in a two-game series at Sharks Ice - the official training facility for the NHL's San Jose Sharks.
Elsewhere in the WCHA
- No. 1 Minnesota at Penn State: The top-ranked Gophers begin their national title defense in State College, Penn. with a two-game series against the Nittany Lions. Minnesota opened the 2014-15 season with an 8-0 home win over PSU.
- No. 6 North Dakota at Rensselear: UND, which figures to be among the stingiest defensive teams in the country, opens its season with a series in Troy, N.Y. against host RPI.
- No. 9 Bemidji State at Vermont: The ninth-ranked Beavers, who were 11-9-1 away from home last year, travel to face the Catamounts in a WCHA-Hockey East series.
- Minnesota State at RIT: Following an undefeated home weekend, the Mavericks are in Rochester, N.Y. to face the RIT Tigers.
The Week in Review
- No. 9 Bemidji State (vs. Robert Morris), Minnesota Duluth (at Lindenwood) and Minnesota State (vs. Union) combined to post a 4-0-2 record in season-opening, nonconference series.
- UMD's Maura Crowell (2-0-0) and MSU's John Harrington (1-0-1) both guided their teams to undefeated showings in their debuts behind the bench.
- No. 1 Minnesota (vs. Minnesota Whitecaps), No. 6 North Dakota (vs. Manitoba) and St. Cloud State (vs. Minnesota Whitecaps) all tuned up for the season with home exhibition wins.
at No. 9 Bemidji State 3, Robert Morris 1
at No. 9 Bemidji State 4, Robert Morris 4 - OT
(Sept. 25 and 26 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
Behind balanced scoring and the stellar work of WCHA Defensive Player of the Week Alexis Joyce, No. 9 Bemidji State opened its season with an undefeated weekend against visiting Robert Morris.
Joyce scored the season's first goal in Friday's opener, then picked up the secondary assist on Stephanie Anderson's game-winning goal in the second period. The Beavers outshot Robert Morris 35-19 overall, with goaltender Brittni Mowat recording 18 saves in a 3-1 BSU win. Lauren Miller, who scored the Beavers' final goal, also had a multi-point night.
Eight different players found the scoresheet for BSU in Saturday's 4-4 draw, led by a one-goal, two-assist game from Hanna Moher. Anderson also continued her hot start with an assist and a third-period goal that gave the Beavers a short-lived lead.
at Minnesota State 2, Union 2 - OT
at Minnesota State 3, Union 0
(Sept. 26 and 27 at All Seasons Arena; Mankato, Minn.)
In the end of one era and the beginning of another, Minnesota State enjoyed an undefeated final weekend at All Seasons Arena in the Mavericks' first games under new head coach John Harrington.
Minnesota State came out flying in Friday's season opener, outshooting Union 46-19 during an eventual 2-2 tie. However, the Mavs found themselves trailing, 2-1, with just 1:48 remaining in the third period, before freshman Corbin Boyd delivered the clutch, game-tying goal.
Katie Johnson, Anna Keys and Amanda Conway all found the back of the net Saturday, leading the Mavs to a 3-0 victory in just their second game - 16 games sooner than in 2014-15. Hannah Davidson added a pair of assists, while junior goaltender Brianna Quade posted 19 saves in her first career shutout.
Minnesota Duluth 4, at Lindenwood 3 - OT
Minnesota Duluth 4, at Lindenwood 1
(Sept. 26 and 27 at Lindenwood Ice Arena; Wentzville, Mo.)
Led by WCHA Offensive Player of the Week Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Minnesota Duluth and new head coach Maura Crowell opened the season with a road sweep at Lindenwood.
Brykaliuk played the hero role in Saturday's season opener, taking a feed from Lara Stalder and scoring the game-winning goal with just one minute remaining in overtime, lifting the Bulldogs to a 4-3 win. UMD also received first career goals from sophomore Linnea Hedin and freshman Reagan Healey, while Stalder found the back of the net as well.
Brykaliuk (1g, 2a) and Stalder (2g, 1a) each had multi-point efforts for the second-straight contest in UMD's 4-1, Sunday afternoon victory. Senior forward Michele Cava netted the game-winner with a second-period score, while senior goaltender Kayla Black stopped 23-of-24 shots in her 104th career game - matching Riitta Schaublin's all-time UMD record.
at No. 1 Minnesota 5, Minnesota Whitecaps 4 - EXHIBITION
(Sept. 25 at Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn.)
Hannah Brandt and Kelly Pannek each scored twice, and Kate Schipper netted the game-winning goal as defending national champion Minnesota tuned up for the season by defeating the Minnesota Whitecaps, 5-4, in an exhibition game Friday night.
Freshman Sarah Potamak (2a) also had a multi-point game in her first outing as a Gopher.
The Whitecaps, an elite post-college team featuring 11 former Gophers, were led by two goals from Boston College alum Allie Thunstrom.
at No. 6 North Dakota 1, Manitoba 0 - EXHIBITION
(Sept. 25 at Ralph Engelstad Arena; Grand Forks, N.D.)
No. 6 North Dakota received 17 combined saves from goalkeepers Shelby Amsley-Benzie (2), Annie Chipman (9) and Lexie Shaw (6) en route to a 1-0, exhibition victory over visiting Manitoba.
Freshman defenseman Anna Kilponen was credited with the game's lone goal, scoring a second-period marker. For the game, UND outshot the visiting Bisons by a 41-17 margin.
at St. Cloud State 4, Minnesota Whitecaps 3 - EXHIBITION
(Sept. 25 at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center; St. Cloud, Minn.)
Behind a goal and an assist from senior forward Molly Illikainen and 35 combined saves from Katie Fitzgerald (16) and freshman Taylor Crosby (19), St. Cloud State posted a 4-3, exhibition victory over the visiting Minnesota Whitecaps. The game featured a wild third period that saw six goals and, three ties and two lead changes.
Illikainen's goal knotted the contest 2-2 at the 10:15 mark of the third, while her assist was the primary one on another SCSU goal just 17 seconds later. Freshmen Suvi Ollikainen and Hannah Potrykus (game-winner) also scored third-period goals for the Huskies, while senior Vanessa Spataro produced the game's first score.