2016 NCAA Frozen Four: Wisconsin And Minnesota Continue Quest For WCHA's 16th National Championship
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Wisconsin And Minnesota Continue Quest For WCHA's 16th National Championship

Opening Face-Off

- Badgers, Gophers and The Quest for 16: Nationally second-ranked Wisconsin and No. 3 Minnesota will face-off tonight in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal, with both vying for a berth in the national championship game and a chance to win the WCHA's 16th title 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 a 19-5 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.

- 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 21-9-1), while no program in the country has played in more Frozen Fours than the Gophers' 12.

- Tradition - and Championships - Start Here: In its first 16 seasons, the WCHA has won 15 national championships, including 14 Frozen Four titles. In addition to those won by the Badgers and Gophers, Minnesota Duluth also won three-straight crowns between 2001-2003, and two more in 2008 and 2010.

- #BorderBattle: Wisconsin and Minnesota will meet for the sixth time in the 2015-16 campaign, with the Badgers owning a 3-2 edge. UW swept the Gophers at LaBahn Arena back on Dec. 4-5 (3-2 in OT and 3-1), before Minnesota returned the favor with a brooming at Ridder Arena on Feb. 19-20 (4-0 and 4-3 in OT). Wisconsin gained the upper hand in epic style, earning a thrilling, 1-0 victory in the Final Face-Off championship game just two weeks ago at Ridder. Minnesota has knocked off the Badgers in each of the last two Frozen Four semifinals.

- WCHA Leading at the Polls: Entering the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four, 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.

- 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 .910, 35-3-1), Minnesota (tied for third at .882, 33-4-1), Bemidji State (ninth at .653, 22-11-3) and North Dakota (12th at .586, 18-12-5). Additionally, the WCHA boasts an NCAA-best .818 winning percentage (34-8-2) in nonconference games this season.

- Desbiens a Patty Kaz Top-3 Finalist: Wisconsin junior G Ann-Renée 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 21 shutouts leads the country with a .961 save percentage and 0.72 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 Frozen Four, she is the WCHA's all-time assists leader with 168 career helpers. She is also tied for fourth in league history (since 1999-2000) with 115 career goals (matching UW's Brianna Decker, four behind former UMD star Maria Rooth's 119) and second with 283 points (two behind former UND star Joceylne Lamoureux's league-record 285). In NCAA Division I history (since 2000-01), Brandt is tied for seventh for goals (Melissa Boal, who played for Wayne State between 2006-09, is sixth with 118), 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 2,125 fans per game), Wisconsin (2,019 - including a program record for sellouts), Minnesota Duluth (1,331) and North Dakota (1,009).


By the Numbers (NCAA Tournament Edition)

- 2: Consecutive years in which a WCHA player has earned national Rookie of the Year status. Minnesota forward Sarah Potomak, who leads all NCAA freshmen with 38 assists and 51 points, was this year's winner after Wisconsin's Annie Pankowski garnered the award in 2014-15.

- 2/3: Points needed by Minnesota's Hannah Brandt to tie, and surpass, Jocelyne Lamoureux as the WCHA's all-time points leader. Brandt has amassed 283 points (115g-168a)

- 5: Consecutive shutouts in the 2016 postseason for Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who has blanked Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota and Mercyhurst for all 300 minutes of the playoffs.

- 6: Combined All-Americans for the Badgers and Gophers, with UW's Desbiens and UMN's Brandt earning First Team status. Badgers' defenseman Courtney Burke and Pankowski garnered second-team honors, along with Gophers' forward Dani Cameranesi and blue-liner Lee Stecklein.

- 10: Combined national championships for Wisconsin (4) and Minnesota (6) entering the 2016 Frozen Four.