2016 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF: Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota And Minnesota Duluth Vie For Playoff Championship And NCAA Tournament Berth
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The WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF gets underway on Saturday at Ridder Arena

Opening Face-Off

- 2016 Final Face-Off: The premier conference tournament in women's college hockey - the WCHA Final Face-Off - returns to Ridder Arena in Minneapolis for the ninth time. Once again featuring a collection of the sport's top programs and student-athletes, the league's playoff championship includes three ranked teams (including the defending national champion), a fourth program that owns five NCAA titles and scored a 2016 first-round upset, and an NCAA-high five of the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalists. The first semifinal (March 5 at 2:07 p.m. CT) pits nationally third-ranked and Final Face-Off top-seed Wisconsin vs. four-seed Minnesota Duluth. The second semi (March 6 at 5:07 p.m. CT) is No. 2 (and tourney second-seed) Minnesota vs. No. 8 (three-seed) North Dakota. The two winners meet Sunday at 2:07 p.m. CT for the 2016 WCHA playoff championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

- FOX Sports North and the WCHA: Bringing live television coverage of its top game throughout the Upper Midwest region and beyond, the WCHA is proud to have an exclusive partnership with FOX Sports North (FSN) to telecast the championship game of the 2016 Final Face-Off. The game will be aired live throughout the FSN footprint, along with the FOX Sports Wisconsin alternate channel (and streamed live on FOX Sports GO). The two semifinals will be streamed live on WCHA.com.

- WCHA Leading at the Polls: Entering championship weekend, the WCHA has matched the ECAC with four ranked teams in the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine polls: No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 8 North Dakota and No. 10 Bemidji State.

- Winning Hockey: Not surprisingly, four of the NCAA's top-12 winning percentages also belong to WCHA teams: Wisconsin (second at .903, 32-3-1), Minnesota (third at .900, 31-3-1), Bemidji State (ninth at .653, 22-11-3) and North Dakota (12th at .603, 18-11-5). Additionally, the WCHA finished its regular season nonconference slate with an NCAA-best .786 winning percentage (32-8-2).

- Selection Sunday: With just the Final Face-Off remaining until Selection Sunday, Wisconsin (second) and Minnesota (third) are both among the top-eight of the PairWise rankings, with Bemidji State in ninth and North Dakota in 10th.

- Desbiens a Patty Kaz Top-3 Finalist: 2016 WCHA Player of the Year Ann-Renée Desbiens is one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. The only goaltender among the trio, the NCAA single-season record-holder with 18 shutouts joins forwards Alex Carpenter (Boston College) and Kendall Coyne (Northeastern). Desbiens advanced from a 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 Final Face-Off, she is the WCHA's all-time assists leader with 165 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 279 points (six 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).

2016 WCHA Final Face-Off

- Wisconsin: The tournament's top seed is Wisconsin, currently ranked third in the national polls. The Badgers, who captured their fifth WCHA regular season crown with a 24-3-1-1 mark and 74 points in league play, enter the weekend with a 32-3-1 record after sweeping Minnesota State last weekend. UW is the defending Final Face-Off champion and has won the league postseason title five times (also 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011). The Badgers have appeared in five-straight and 16 of 17 WCHA playoff championships, going 16-11 (.593) overall (including consolation games) and 5-3 (.625) in title contests.

- Minnesota: The defending national champions, No. 2 Minnesota is the second seed this weekend. The Gophers (31-3-1) finished the WCHA season at 24-3-1-0 with 73 points, then won both games last weekend vs. Ohio State. Minnesota has won a record six WCHA postseason crowns (2002, 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2014). The Gophers have also appeared in all 17 WCHA playoff championships, posting a 19-11 (.633) overall mark (including consolation contests) and a 6-7 ledger (.462) in title games.

- North Dakota: The third seed is No. 8 North Dakota, which is 18-11-5 following a 13-10-5-3, 47-point WCHA season (fourth place finish) and a sweep of St. Cloud State last weekend. After missing the playoff championship their first six years in the league, the Fighting Hawks have advanced to the WCHA Final Face-Off the last five seasons (2-5 overall and 0-2 in championship games).

- Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs (15-20-1) enter the Final Face-Off as the tournament's fourth seed, after finishing the regular season in sixth place (10-17-1-0, 31 pts.) but upsetting Bemidji State on the road in the WCHA quarterfinals. UMD is back in the WCHA playoff championship for the 15th time. Over their first 14 appearances, the five-time champions (2000, 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2010) are 14-9 (.609) overall and 5-2 (.714) in the title game.

- Semifinal Series Histories: Wisconsin has a 14-game unbeaten streak against Minnesota Duluth, including a 4-0-0 mark this season. The Badgers lead the all-time series 38-29-12, but UMD holds a 4-3 edge in seven postseason contests. Minnesota finished 2-1-1 against North Dakota in 2015-16 and is 48-8-1 all-time (including 7-0 in playoff meetings).