WCHA Week 20: Border Battle Highlights Final Weekend Of The Regular Season; Third Through Sixth Seeds For 2016 WCHA Playoffs Will Also Be Determined
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No. 3 Minnesota hosts No. 2 Wisconsin in a Border Battle at Ridder Arena this weekend

Opening Face-Off

- WCHA Leading at the Polls: The nation's top women's college hockey conference continues to set this season's standard in the opinion polls, with the WCHA matching ECAC Hockey with four ranked teams in both the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 7 Bemidji State and No. 9 North Dakota.

- Winning Hockey: Not surprisingly, four of the NCAA's top-15 winning percentages also belong to WCHA teams: Wisconsin (second at .953, 30-1-1), Minnesota (third at .887, 27-3-1), Bemidji State (ninth at .672, 20-9-3) and North Dakota (13th at .583, 15-10-5). Additionally, the WCHA finished its regular season nonconference slate with an NCAA-best .786 winning percentage (32-8-2).

- Pairing Up: Entering the final four weeks before the NCAA tournament, three WCHA teams are in the top eight of the national PairWise rankings: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Minnesota and No. 8 Bemidji State.

- Badgers Raise the Trophy: Nationally second-ranked Wisconsin has won the fifth WCHA regular season championship in program history, clinching the title with a sweep of Minnesota State last weekend. At 24-1-1 in conference play, the Badgers enter this weekend's Border Battle with a chance to match the 2013-14 Minnesota squad for the second-most league wins (26) in WCHA history; a UW sweep would give it sole possession of the second-most points in league annals with 80.

- A Look at the 2016 Playoffs: Two of the four first-round matchups for the 2016 WCHA playoffs are set, as top-seed Wisconsin will host eight-seed Minnesota State and No. 2 Minnesota will welcome No. 7 Ohio State. Bemidji State and North Dakota are both assured of home-ice advantage; with two points or more this weekend in Mankato, the Beavers will earn the No. 3 seed. Likewise, should St. Cloud State earn at least two points this weekend at Minnesota Duluth, the Huskies will be seeded fifth and the Bulldogs sixth.

- Brandt Watch: One of the all-time great players in WCHA history, Minnesota senior forward Hannah Brandt continues to move up the league and NCAA record books. Entering Friday, she ranks fifth in WCHA history (since 1999-2000) with 114 career goals (UW's Brianna Decker, who scored 115 with UW, is fourth), second with 159 assists (just one shy of matching Jocelyne Lamoureux, who holds the league record with 160 during her career with UMN and UND) and second with 273 points (12 behind J. Lamoureux's league-record 285). In NCAA Division I history (since 2000-01), Brandt is eighth for goals (Decker is seventh), third for assists (J. Lamoureux is second) and fourth for points (J. Lamoureux and Harvard's Julie Chu are tied for second).

- Quickly Around the WCHA: At 20-9-3, BEMIDJI STATE has reached the 20-win plateau during the regular season for the first time in program history; the Beavers got the last two victories on consecutive game-winning goals by Stephanie Anderson, who now owns the school record with nine ... MINNESOTA maintains its hold on the national attendance lead, averaging 1,470 fans per game; at home at Ridder Arena, the Gophers also lead the NCAA with 2,045 fans per game ... MINNESOTA DULUTH freshman G Maddie Rooney set a program record with 61 saves last Friday against UMN (tied for the third-highest single-game total in WCHA history), including a program-standard 31 stops in the second period ... MINNESOTA STATE junior G Brianna Quade leads the WCHA and ranks second nationally with 897 saves ... NORTH DAKOTA senior F Meghan Dufault, who recently surpassed Alyssa Wiebe (2008-12) for fifth place in program history, currently has 126 career points - five shy of Michelle Karvinen (2011-14) in fourth ... OHIO STATE is the only team in the country to finish out its season with six-straight games against ranked opponents (vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, at No. 7 Bemidji State and vs. No. 9 North Dakota) ... ST. CLOUD STATE senior F Molly Illikainen, who has a career high 16 goals this season, is nearing the career 100-point plateau (44g-52a=96pts) ... WISCONSIN sophomore F Annie Pankowski, who ranks eighth nationally by averaging 1.56 points per game, is the first Badger since Brianna Decker in 2012-13 to record 50 points in a season (19g-31a).


By the Numbers

- 0.61, .966, 16 and 28 (and 33): NCAA-leading goals-against average, save percentage, shutouts and wins for sensational Wisconsin junior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. Both the GAA and save percentage numbers are on pace to set NCAA single-season records, while she is tied for second on the shutout list (Wisconsin program record). Her 33 career blank slates are also third in NCAA annals.

- 51: Players honored as 2015-16 WCHA Scholar-Athletes for maintaining a GPA of 3.50+ for the last two quarters or three semesters (or cumulative for time spent at the institution).


The Week Ahead

- No. 2 Wisconsin at No. 3 Minnesota: The regular season title is sewn up, but there is still plenty at stake for the NCAA tournament picture in this Border Battle. The No. 2 Badgers, who swept Minnesota earlier this year, visit the third-ranked Gophers at Ridder Arena.

- No. 7 Bemidji State at Minnesota State: The Beavers could match a program record with their 21st win, while two points gives BSU the third seed for the WCHA playoffs. BSU earned a pair of 3-1 wins over the Mavericks back on Nov. 20-21.

- No. 9 North Dakota at Ohio State: UND enters the final weekend needing help to climb into the No. 3 playoff seed, as the Fighting Hawks face a Buckeyes team that split the Nov. 14-15 series in Grand Forks.

- Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud State: The fifth and sixth WCHA playoff seeds will be determined in St. Cloud, with the Huskies needing two points to outlast the Bulldogs for the higher postseason slot.


The Week in Review

- A pair of game-winning goals by senior F Stephanie Anderson - giving her a school-record nine for her career - lifted Bemidji State to a sweep of visiting Ohio State.

- No. 3 Minnesota showed off the nation's second-ranked offense, unloading 118 shots and scoring a combined 13 goals in a road sweep at Minnesota Duluth.

- Two stalwart senior goaltenders each pitched a shutout, allowing both visiting St. Cloud State and No. 9/8 North Dakota leave the weekend with a win and three points.

- No. 2 Wisconsin clinched the 2015-16 WCHA regular season championship - the fifth in program history - following a sweep of visiting Minnesota State.

- Full recaps and box scores are available at wcha.com.


at No. 7 Bemidji State 3, Ohio State 1
at No. 7 Bemidji State 6, Ohio State 2
(Feb. 12 and 13 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)

A pair of game-winning goals by senior F Stephanie Anderson - giving her a school-record nine for her career - lifted Bemidji State to a sweep of visiting Ohio State.

Bemidji State rallied for a 3-1 win in the opener after falling down 1-0 early in the first period. The Beavers went on to score three unanswered goals in the remaining periods and Brittni Mowat made 25 saves to guide BSU to victory. Alexis Joyce scored the game's tying goal at 12:24 in the second period while Anderson scored the winning goal at 6:53 in the third. Captain Hanna Moher added the insurance marker late in the third.

BSU e then hosted Senior Day on Feb. 13 and, led by their seniors, the Beavers completed the sweep with a 6-2 victory. Five seniors tallied at least one point, including Kaitlyn Tougas, who led the Beavers with a goal and two assists. A total of five Beavers recorded multiple points in the game, including a two-goal effort by Joyce. Kristin Huber and Whitney Wivoda each recorded two assists, while Lauren Miller had a goal and an assist.


No. 3 Minnesota 7, at Minnesota Duluth 3
No. 3 Minnesota 6, at Minnesota Duiuth 2
(Feb. 12 and 13 at AMSOIL Arena; Duluth, Minn.)

No. 3 Minnesota showed off the nation's second-ranked offense, unloading 118 shots and scoring a combined 13 goals in a road sweep at Minnesota Duluth.

The Golden Gophers were three-for-three on the power play, and Milica McMillen (1g-2a) and Hannah Brandt (2g-1a) led all players with three points each in the opener. Five other Gophers also recorded multi-point efforts in Dani Cameranesi (1g-1a), Kate Schipper (1g-1a), Lee Stecklein (2a), Megan Wolfe (2a) and Sarah Potomak (2a). Minnesota Duluth freshman G Maddie Rooney set a school record with 61 saves, tied for the third-highest single-game mark in league history.

The line of Cameranesi, Kelly Pannek and Schipper combined for six points, while Amanda Kessel scored her first goal since returning to the lineup, to lead Minnesota to a 6-2 win in the finale.


St. Cloud State 1, at No. 9/8 North Dakota 0
at No. 9/8 North Dakota 3, St. Cloud State 0
(Feb. 12 and 13 at Ralph Engelstad Arena; Grand Forks, N.D.)

Two stalwart senior goaltenders each pitched a shutout, allowing both visiting St. Cloud State and No. 9/8 North Dakota leave the weekend with a win and three points.

UND outshot the Huskies 39-21 on Friday night, but SCSU's Katie Fitzgerald was up to the task, stonewalling the Fighting Hawks en route to a 1-0 victory. Fellow senior Molly Illikainen scored the game's only goal, finding the back of the net 1:18 into the second period.

Rebounding on Saturday night, the Fighting Hawks scored a goal per period to take down the Huskies, 3-0. Becca Kohler and Amy Menke each had a goal and an assist, while goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie made 18 saves for her eighth shutout of the season.


at No. 2 Wisconsin 4, Minnesota State 0
at No. 2 Wisconsin 8, Minnesota State 1
(Feb. 13 and 14 at LaBahn Arena; Madison, Wis.)

No. 2 Wisconsin clinched the 2015-16 WCHA regular season championship - the fifth in program history - following a sweep of visiting Minnesota State.

UW junior netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens posted her NCAA-leading 16th shutout of the year, a 13-save whitewash, in the Badgers' 4-0 win Saturday. Sydney McKibbon scored twice, while Baylee Wellhausen and Erika Sowchuk also found the back of the net.

Sunday's contest was tied 1-1 deep into the second period, before Emily Clark scored the first of her two goals to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead entering the third. UW then opened the floodgates in the final stanza, setting a program record with 31 shots and scoring six goals. Courtney Burke had a five-point game, including a first-period goal for her 100th career point. The victory brought the regular season league title back to Madison for the first time since the 2011-12 season.