2016 NCAA Quarterfinals: Wisconsin And Minnesota Begin Quest For WCHA's 16th National Championship
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The Badgers and Gophers host NCAA quarterfinal games on Saturday

Opening Face-Off

- The Quest for 16: Nationally second-ranked Wisconsin and No. 3 Minnesota are the two Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) representatives in the eight-team 2016 NCAA Tournament, with the Badgers and Gophers vying to earn the league's 16th national championship in its 17 seasons.

- Badgers' Championship Pedigree: Wisconsin is a four-time NCAA Frozen Four champion, winning the title in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 (while posting an 18-5 all-time NCAA tournament record). The Badgers have added two to their trophy case already in the 2015-16 campaign, capturing the WCHA regular season crown and the Final Face-Off title as league playoff champion. UW, the second seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, will host College Hockey America champion Mercyhurst in the NCAA quarterfinals.

- Gophers' Championship History: Minnesota is the defending NCAA champion, has hoisted the hardware in three of the past four years and is a six-time national champ (2000 AWCHA crown and the 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2015 NCAA titles). Minnesota has made nine-straight national tournament appearances and 14 all time (going 20-9-1), while no program in the country has played in more Frozen Fours than the Gophers' 11. The Gophers, who earned at an at-large bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament and are the third seed, will host ECAC entry Princeton, a fellow at-large bid recipient, in the NCAA quarterfinals.

- WCHA Leading at the Polls: Entering the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the WCHA has matched ECAC Hockey with four ranked teams in both the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine opinion polls: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 9 North Dakota and No. 10 Bemidji State. Additionally, the WCHA finished its regular season nonconference slate with an NCAA-best .786 winning percentage (32-8-2).

- Winning Hockey: Not surprisingly, four of the NCAA's top-13 winning percentages through conference tournament play also belong to WCHA teams: Wisconsin (second at .908, 34-3-1), Minnesota (tied for third at .878, 32-4-1), Bemidji State (ninth at .653, 22-11-3) and North Dakota (12th at .603, 18-12-5). Additionally, the WCHA posted the

- Final Face-Off: Wisconsin successfully defended its Final Face-Off crown, defeating Minnesota Duluth, 5-0 in the semifinals and outlasting Minnesota, 1-0 in a championship game thriller. The Badgers have now tied a league record by winning six league playoff championships (also 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2015). UW goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens became the first player since 2007 (and first goaltender ever) to earn Final Face-Off Most Outstanding Player honors in the same season as winning WCHA Player of the Year accolades.

- Desbiens a Patty Kaz Top-3 Finalist: The aforementioned Desbiens is one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, joining forwards Alex Carpenter (Boston College) and Kendall Coyne (Northeastern). The only goaltender among the top trio, the NCAA single-season record-holder with 20 shutouts leads the country with a .961 save percentage and 0.63 goals-against average. Desbiens advanced from the top-10 finalist field that included an NCAA-best five WCHA players (also North Dakota's Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Minnesota's Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi, and the Badgers' Annie Pankowski).

- 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 the 2016 NCAA Tournament, she is the WCHA's all-time assists leader with 166 career helpers. She also ranks fifth in league history (since 1999-2000) with 114 career goals (UW's Brianna Decker, who scored 115 with UW, is fourth) and second with 280 points (five behind former UND star Joceylne Lamoureux's league-record 285). In NCAA Division I history (since 2000-01), Brandt is eighth for goals (Decker is seventh), second for assists (Harvard's Julie Chu holds the NCAA record with 197) and fourth for points (J. Lamoureux and Chu are tied for second).

- Tradition Starts Here: Once again, the WCHA is home to college hockey's best fans, with league teams ranking 1-4 in national attendance: Minnesota (average of 2,001 fans per game), Wisconsin (2,006), Minnesota Duluth (1,331) and North Dakota (1,009).


By the Numbers (NCAA Tournament Edition)

- 4: Consecutive shutouts in the 2016 postseason for Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. In 10 career playoff contests, the junior netminder has posted a .963 save percentage and 0.70 goals-against average.

- 24: Program-record consecutive home wins for Wisconsin entering this weekend's NCAA quarterfinal tilt against Mercyhurst. The Badgers have outscored opponents 104-12 during the streak, while posting 12 shutouts.

- .925: Program-record winning percentage of Minnesota's five seniors. The Gophers' quintent of Hannah Brandt, Brook Garzone, Amanda Kessel, Amanda Leveille and Milica McMillen have gone 145-9-6 from 2012-13 to 2015-16.