WCHA Weekend Preview: Oct. 29-31, 2015
News and notes for the upcoming weekend of WCHA hockey
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Minnesota State hosts Wisconsin at Verizon Wireless Center for the first time since the 2002-03 season

Opening Face-Off

- Leading at the Polls: The WCHA continues to have an NCAA-best four teams (tied with the ECAC) in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. Minnesota remains the unanimous No. 1 in both polls, followed by No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 6 Bemidji State and No. 7/8 North Dakota. Minnesota Duluth is receiving votes in both.

- Winning Hockey: Of the 16 Division I schools with a .500-or-better record thus far (14 that have played at least five games), five play in the WCHA. Minnesota and Wisconsin (both 8-0-0) are two of the six remaining unbeaten and untied teams (four with at least eight games played), while North Dakota (5-1-2, .750) is tied for ninth nationally for winning percentage, Bemidji State (6-2-2, .700) is tied for 11th and Ohio State (4-4-0, .500) is tied for 14th.

- Half a Dozen Bagels: Wisconsin has posted a program-record six-consecutive shutouts, tied for the longest such streak in WCHA history (matching Minnesota's six-game run from Feb. 22 to March 16, 2013). The Badgers have not given up a goal in the last 401 minutes, 15 seconds, dating back to the first period of UW's 8-1 win over Providence in San Jose, Calif. on Oct. 3.

- From Lake Placid to the WCHA: This weekend marks the first meeting as head coaches between Wisconsin bench boss Mark Johnson and Minnesota State's John Harrington, who were teammates on the fabled "Miracle on Ice" 1980 U.S. Olympic Team. Johnson, who led the U.S. in scoring at the 1980 Olympic Games (5g-6a), scored twice in Team USA's historic 4-3 upset of the USSR in the semifinal round. Harrington, who had five assists during the U.S. run to Gold in Lake Placid, N.Y., had a helper on Mike Eruzione's go-ahead, game-winning goal against the USSR.


The Week Ahead

- Minnesota at North Dakota: This week's installment of the WCHA Top-Ten Series takes place in Grand Forks, N.D., where No. 7/8 North Dakota hosts the top-ranked Gophers. Minnesota and UND split last season's series at Ralph Engelstad Arena, while the Gophers own an all-time 46-7-0 edge (13-2-0 the last three seasons).

- St. Cloud State at Bemidji State: Fresh off an inspiring effort last Saturday against UND, the Huskies travel to No. 6 Bemidji State. The Beavers, who rank sixth nationally for scoring defense (1.50gapg) will look to bounce back after being shut out in consecutive games last weekend for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

- Wisconsin at Minnesota State: The No. 3 Badgers will look to win their first nine games for the first time in program history, while a UW shutout in the opener would set the WCHA record for consecutive blankings. Minnesota State is aiming to break in overall six-game losing streak, as the Mavs host the Badgers at Verizon Wireless Center for the first time since the 2002-03 season.


All rankings listed by USCHO.com poll first, followed by USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll

WCHA

No. 1 Minnesota (6-0-0-0, 18 pts. WCHA / 8-0-0) at No. 7/8 North Dakota (3-1-2-1, 12 pts. WCHA / 5-1-2)
Ralph Engelstad Arena; Grand Forks, N.D.
Thursday, Oct. 29 and Friday, Oct. 30 at 7:07 p.m. CT (7:07 p.m. CT both nights)

- No. 1 Minnesota and No. 7/8 North Dakota renew their rivalry with a Thursday-Friday series in Grand Forks, N.D.

- The Gophers are the unanimous No.1 in both polls following their 8-0-0 start, one of six remaining unbeaten and untied teams in the country.

- Minnesota senior F Hannah Brandt enters the weekend with 99 career goals, one shy of becoming the fourth Gopher in program history to reach 100 career goals. Brandt is also the NCAA's active career points leader with 239 points (99g-140a).

- Minnesota's power play has been a force this season, scoring 13 times on 26 chances for an NCAA-best .500 efficiency rate. Dani Cameranesi is tied for the national lead with four power-play goals, while Kelly Pannek is tied for third with three.

- On the flip side, North Dakota's penalty-killing this season has been elite, ranking sixth nationally with a .926 rate (25-of-27).

- North Dakota senior G Shelby Amsley-Benzie, the program's all-time leader with 16 career shutouts, ranks second in the country this season with a 0.98 GAA.

- Both teams will be without a key skater, as Minnesota freshman F and team points leader Sarah Potomak (4g-15a19pts), and North Dakota junior D and team captain Halli Krzyzaniak will both be with Team Canada in preparation for next week's Four Nations Cup in Sweden.

- The Gophers hold a 46-7-0 all-time record against North Dakota. Over the last three seasons, the Gophers have won 13 of the 15 contests between the two teams; however, UND split last season's two games at Ralph Engelstad Arena.


No. 3 Wisconsin (6-0-0-0, 18 pts. WCHA / 8-0-0) at Minnesota State (0-6-0-0, 0 pts. WCHA / 2-7-1)
Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn
Friday, Oct. 30 at 2:07 p.m. CT and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2:07 p.m. CT

- No. 3 Wisconsin will look to continue a pair of impressive streaks in the series opener Friday at Minnesota State. A win will give the Badgers a program-best 9-0-0 start, while a shutout would break the WCHA record for consecutive blankings at seven-straight.

- Wisconsin has posted a program-record six-straight shutouts and has not surrendered a goal in the last 401 minutes and 45 seconds of game time.

- Badger goalkeeper Ann-Renee Desbiens has been a brick wall this season, leading the nation in shutouts (5), goals against average (0.33), save percentage (.980) and winning percentage (tied for tops at 1.000).

- To complement Wisconsin's stout defense, the Badgers also rank third in the country for scoring at 5.25 goals per game. Junior F Sarah Nurse (1.17) and sophomore F Annie Pankowski (1.12) are tied for third and fifth, respectively, in the nation for scoring.

- The Mavericks will look to their own goalie, junior Brianna Quade, who leads the NCAA in saves (289), shots faced (314) and minutes played (598:08).

- Minnesota State's core of young talent continues to produce results, as the Maverick underclassmen have accounted for 33 of the team's 41 points and 15 of 18 goals.

- The Badgers lead the all-time series with the Mavericks 66-2-3 and have outscored Minnesota State 330-70 in the last 71 meetings.


No. 6 Bemidji State (3-2-1-0, 10 pts. WCHA / 6-2-2) vs. St. Cloud State (0-5-1-1, 2 pts. WCHA / 2-5-1)
Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.
Friday, Oct. 30 at 7:07 p.m. CT and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4:07 p.m. CT

- No. 6 Bemidji State will look to rebound from a sweep last weekend in Madison, while St. Cloud State is riding momentum from a shootout win over UND.

- SCSU senior F Molly Illikainen recorded her first collegiate hat trick last Saturday, scoring on all three shots she took including a short-handed tally.

- Huskies' senior G Katie Fitzgerald made 71 saves last weekend against UND and is fifth nationally with 205 stops on the season.

- Bemidji State was shutout in both games last weekend at Wisconsin, marking the first time since the 2008-09 season that the Beavers failed to score during a two-game series.

- BSU goalie Brittni Mowat stopped 65 pucks from entering the net last weekend, including a season-high 42 saves on Saturday. She ranks among the national leaders for: save percentage (2nd - .960), minutes (2nd 551:09), shutouts (t2nd 3), saves (3rd 242), wins (t4th 6) and GAA (5th 1.09).