Every weekday from May 23-June 7, we will be looking back at the "Dandy Dozen" moments from the historic 2015-16 WCHA season. Next up on our countdown is…
Moment 5: Wisconsin Returns to Top of WCHA Mountain
A strong argument can be made that winning the WCHA regular season title is among the highest accomplishments in college athletics, what with half of the league (four teams) finishing the 2015-16 season ranked in the top-10 nationally (and a fifth spending a portion of the year in the polls). Emerging as champion of the WCHA postseason tournament is equally as impressive, with quarterfinal round winners entering a Final Face-Off that, on a nearly annual basis, features the eventual NCAA champ (and, in 2016, boasted a field of three, top-10 teams).
Winning both in the same year? A fantastic feat – and one that was achieved by the Wisconsin Badgers in 2015-16.
The Badgers enjoyed another tremendous season under head coach Mark Johnson, earning their fifth WCHA regular season crown in program history (and first since 2011-12) with a 24-win, 74-point campaign. UW then successfully defended its Final Face-Off championship, in the process matching the league record with its sixth postseason title in program annals.
Wisconsin got off to a blistering start, winning its first 12 conference games en route to a program-best 18-0-0 start. The Badgers, who set an NCAA record with nine-straight shutouts during the 18-game run, outscored opponents 85-9 during the span – a stretch that cumulated with UW's first sweep of Minnesota since the 2009-10 season.
After a loss and tie (with a shootout win) in their final series of the 2015 calendar year, the Badgers promptly went on another 12-game league winning streak to open 2016. UW fittingly clinched the league title in front of their raucous home fans on the season's penultimate weekend, defeating Minnesota State 8-1 on Feb. 14 at LaBahn Arena. The Badgers' 24 league wins tied their own program record and matched the fourth-highest total in WCHA history.
Holding the top seed for the WCHA playoffs, Wisconsin posted four shutouts in the conference postseason to capture the Final Face-Off crown for the second-consecutive year. Junior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, senior defenseman Courtney Burke, sophomore forward Emily Clark and junior forward Sydney McKibbon were each named to the WCHA All-Tournament team for their postseason performance. Desbiens was named the Final Face-Off's Most Outstanding player for her two blank slates in the tournament, including a 35-save effort in a thrilling, 1-0 win over Minnesota in the championship game.
Desbiens, the league's Goaltending Champion, was named the WCHA Player of the Year after her record-setting campaign, becoming only the second netminder to earn the accolade. Additionally, she was named to the All-WCHA First Team, alongside Burke and sophomore Annie Pankowski. Clark and junior Jenny Ryan were named to the Second Team, junior Sarah Nurse was awarded Third Team honors, and Sam Cogan was named to the All-Rookie Team. Johnson was also named the WCHA Coach of the Year for the seventh time in his career.
"Dandy Dozen" Moments from the 2015-16 WCHA Season
12: Trio of New Coaches Join WCHA
11: Husky Pride
10: Record-Setting Year in Bemidji
9: The Next Level
8: Final Face-Off Championship Game Aired Live on FOX Sports North
7: Kessel Returns to the Ice
6: Brandt Concludes Historic Career