WCHA Week 15: Top-Four Matchup In Duluth Highlights Full WCHA Weekend
No. 4 UMD Hosts No. 2 UMN, Including Friday Tilt On Fox Sports North; No. 1 UW Hosts SCSU, NO. 10 UND Visits MSU And OSU Welcomes BSU
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No. 4 UMD Hosts No. 2 UMN, Including Friday Tilt On Fox Sports North

Opening Face-Off

- Leading at the Polls: The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) once again has an NCAA-best (matching ECAC Hockey) four teams ranked in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine opinion poll, including three of the top-four. Those three teams also occupy the same spots in the USCHO.com rankings.

  • Wisconsin remains the unanimous No. 1 in both polls, followed by No. 2 Minnesota and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth. North Dakota is ranked 10th in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine poll and is receiving votes in the USCHO.com ledger.

- On the Airwaves: A pair of WCHA games will be televised live this weekend. FOX Sports North will carry Friday afternoon's top-four tilt between No. 2 Minnesota and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth from AMSOIL Arena, while No. 1 Wisconsin's "Fill the Bowl" game at the Kohl Center against St. Cloud State will be shown Saturday afternoon on both FOX Sports Wisconsin and FOX Sports North.

- Every Game, Every Rink: Between a challenging nonconference slate and the gauntlet of arguably the nation's premier conference, WCHA teams are playing some of D-I's toughest schedules, per the RPI Strength-of-Schedule ledger.

  • Seven of the NCAA's top-10 toughest schedules belong to WCHA teams, while the entire membership is in the top-20 of current difficulty level.
  • Wisconsin has played D-I's toughest schedule to date, while Minnesota Duluth ranks third, St. Cloud State is fourth, Ohio State is sixth, Minnesota is seventh, Bemidji State is eighth, North Dakota is 10th and Minnesota State is 18th.

- Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, 62.5 percent of WCHA membership is at .500-or-better entering the weekend - the highest current percentage among the D-1 women's conferences.

  • Wisconsin has the nation's top winning percentage at .881 (18-2-1). Minnesota is fourth at .810 (16-3-2), Minnesota Duluth is eighth at .725 (13-4-3), North Dakota is tied for 14th at .568 (10-7-5) and Ohio State is 17th at .500 (10-10-2).

- Turnarounds in Mankato, Columbus and Duluth: Minnesota State has already doubled its victory total from the 2015-16 campaign, Ohio State has equaled its previous season's success and Minnesota Duluth is just two wins shy.

  • After winning just six games in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons combined (6-61-4), Minnesota State is 6-15-2 under second-year head coach John Harrington. The Mavericks went 3-3-0 (2-2-0 WCHA) in December, the program's most wins in a single month since finishing February 2014 with a 3-3-1 mark.
  • In her Division 1 head coaching debut, Nadine Muzerall has guided Ohio State to a 10-10-2 record through 22 games - this, a season after the Buckeyes finished 10-25-1.
  • Minnesota Duluth opens its second half schedule at 13-4-3, just two wins shy of matching its 15 victories during Maura Crowell's inaugural, Final Face-Off-bound 2015-16 campaign (15-21-1).

- Nonconference Success: The WCHA continues to have the nation's best nonconference winning percentage at .736 (29-8-4). WCHA teams are 16-4-2 (.773) against College Hockey America opponents, 10-1-1 (.875) against ECAC Hockey and 3-3-1 (.500) vs. Hockey East.

  • Following St. Cloud State's win and tie against then-No. 7 Colgate last weekend, WCHA teams remained unbeaten (4-0-2) against ranked nonconference opponents.
  • Ohio State goaltender Kassidy Sauve finished regular season nonconference play with a perfect 6-0-0 record, along with five shutouts, a .994 save percentage and a 0.17 goals against average. The only other goalie in the country with five shutouts outside of conference play is Quinnipiac's Sydney Rossman, who has played 11 such games compared to Sauve's six.

- Pannek Sets the Pace: Minnesota junior Kelly Pannek enters the weekend riding a 17-game point streak, in which she has at least one assist in each contest and 39 points total (11g-28a).

  • Pannek leads the NCAA in: assists (33) and assists-per-game (1.57); points (44) and points-per-game (2.10); power-play assists (10) and power-play points (15); and, +/- rating (+28).

- We Are WCHA: Once again, the top-four teams in NCAA D-I women's hockey for average and total attendance are WCHA schools.

  • Wisconsin leads the country with an average of 2,194 fans per game at LaBahn Arena; Minnesota is second by welcoming 1,563 each night to Ridder Arena; Minnesota Duluth ranks third by hosting 1,041 per contest at AMSOIL Arena; and, North Dakota is fourth with an average of 902 per game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

By the Numbers

- 1: In addition to being at the top of both national polls, Wisconsin also ranks first in the NCAA for scoring offense (3.95 goals per game) and scoring defense (1.00 goals allowed per game).

- 16: Consecutive, full games in which Ohio State has not allowed a power-play goal (beginning Oct. 21), the NCAA's longest active streak. The Buckeyes' penalty-kill is 33-for-33 in that span. OSU now leads the WCHA and ranks third nationally with a 92.3 penalty-kill efficiency (60-for-65).

- 98: Career points for North Dakota senior forward Amy Menke, just two shy of becoming the seventh 100-point scorer in program history.


The Week Ahead

- Top-Four Matchup in Duluth: The top series in women's college hockey this weekend takes place in the WCHA, as No. 4 Minnesota Duluth hosts No. 2 Minnesota at AMSOIL Arena. The Gophers won a pair of one-goal contests Oct. 14-15 at Ridder Arena, including an overtime victory in the series finale.

- "Fill the Bowl" in Madison: No. 1 Wisconsin hosts St. Cloud State, with Saturday's game marking the Badgers' "Fill the Bowl" game at the Kohl Center. The Badgers have a nine-game winning streak in the series, including a season-opening sweep in St. Cloud (Sept. 23-24).

- No. 10 North Dakota at Minnesota State: The Fighting Hawks open their second-half schedule with a trek to Mankato to face the Mavericks, whom UND swept Oct. 14-15 in Grand Forks.

- Bemidji State at Ohio State: Two teams jockeying for playoff position meet in Columbus, as the tied for fifth-place Buckeyes hold a one-point lead over the seventh-place Beavers. The teams split Oct. 14-15 in Bemidji, with the home team winning the series finale.


The Week in Review

- Top-ranked Wisconsin cruised to an easy Friday night, nonconference victory at Lindenwood before Saturday's game was cancelled due to a facility issue.

- Second-ranked Minnesota outlasted Minnesota State, 5-3, in an entertaining U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Classic at the Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn.

- Ohio State opened its second-half schedule in style, rolling to a pair of shutouts and nonconference sweep at Penn State by the combined score of 11-0.

- St. Cloud State rode the stellar goaltending of Janine Alder and a Friday hat trick by Hannah Potrykus to an upset win and tie against No. 7 Colgate at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

- Both the Gophers and Bulldogs hosted exhibition contests against the Minnesota Whitecaps, a Minneapolis-based elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players -- including 22 former WCHA student-athletes.

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


No. 1 Wisconsin 5, at Lindenwood 1
(January 6 at Lindenwood Ice Arena; Wentzville, Mo.)

Top-ranked Wisconsin cruised to an easy Friday night, nonconference victory at Lindenwood before Saturday's game was cancelled due to a facility issue.

The Badgers outshot the Lady Lions 35-to-11 in a dominant offensive performance from start to finish Friday. After Annie Pankowski lit the lamp first early in the first, a pair of goals by Sam Cogan led the way as the Badgers went on to win 5-1. Mellissa Channell and Baylee Wellhausen also scored for UW, while freshman goaltender Nikki Cece made 10 stops.


No. 2 Minnesota 5, Minnesota State 3
(U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Faceoff Classic; Sunday, Jan 8 at Braemar Arena; Edina, Minn.)

Second-ranked Minnesota outlasted Minnesota State, 5-3, in an entertaining U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Classic at the Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn.

The Gophers struck first off Sunday afternoon, getting a goal off the stick of Kate Schipper late in the first period. The Mavericks tied things up as Corbin Boyd got her first goal of the season at the 9:46 mark of the middle frame. But, Minnesota's offense got hot soon after, getting three goals before the period, including two from Kelly Pannek and the first career goal for freshman Katie Robinson. Minnesota State rallied within one on third-period goals from Boyd and Hannah Davidson, but the Gophers held on for the 5-3 triumph.


Ohio State 5, at Penn State 0
Ohio State 6, at Penn State 0
(Jan. 6 and 7 at Pegula Ice Arena; State College, Pa.)

Ohio State opened its second-half schedule in style, rolling to a pair of shutouts and nonconference sweep at Penn State by the combined score of 11-0.

The Buckeyes rode Katie Matheny's first career hat trick and a 29-save shutout by Kassidy Sauve to win the opener, 5-0. Ohio State used a hot start to put the Nittany Lions away early, getting an opening strike by Jincy Dunne followed by the first two Matheny goals to end the first period with a 3-0 lead. After Maddy Field potted her seventh goal of the season in the second period, Matheny finished the contest with her third goal, scoring at 6:53 of the third period to put an exclamation point on the victory.

OSU continued to roll right into the next game, as six different skaters scored goals for the visiting squad. Along with Field scoring her second goal of the weekend, the Buckeyes got a four-goal third period that included scores by sisters Jessica and Jincy Dunne. In net, Sauve had another stellar performance, recording 26 saves en route to her sixth shutout of the season.


at St. Cloud State 7, No. 8 Colgate
at St. Cloud State 0, No. 8 Colgate 0
(Jan. 6 and 7 at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center; St. Cloud, Minn.)

St. Cloud State rode the stellar goaltending of Janine Alder and a Friday hat trick by Hannah Potrykus to an upset win and tie against No. 7 Colgate at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Friday was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, with the Huskies netting the game's final four goals to win, 7-4. Trailing 2-1 entering the second period, Potrykus scored back-to-back goals to put SCSU in front, 3-2. After Colgate regained the lead at 4-3, Alder entered the contest and Payge Pena tied things up before the second intermission. The final frame was all Huskies, as freshman Janna Haeg put SCSU ahead with the eventual game-winner, Alyssa Erickson scored and Potrykus - playing for the first time since Nov. 19 due to injury - wrapped up her hat trick and four-point night. Alder stopped all 17 shots she faced in her 29:05 to earn the win.

The script was flipped Saturday afternoon, as neither team could tally a goal in regulation or the overtime period. Alder made a career-high 40 saves in her third collegiate shutout, stopping 13 shots in the first period, 14 in the second, 11 in the third and two more in overtime.


at No. 2 Minnesota 5, Minnesota Whitecaps 4 - OT (Exhibition)
Minnesota Whitecaps 5, No. 5 Minnesota Duluth 2 (Exhibition)
(Jan. 6 at Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn. and Jan. 7 at AMSOIL Arena; Duluth, Minn.)

Both the Gophers and Bulldogs hosted exhibition contests against the Minnesota Whitecaps, a Minneapolis-based elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players -- including 22 former WCHA student-athletes.

Friday, No. 2 Minnesota hosted the Whitecaps in a high-scoring contest at Ridder Arena. After Nicole Schammel and Cara Piazza scored first period goals to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead, the visiting team rattled off three-straight goals to gain a 4-2 lead early in the third. But the Gophers came roaring back as Kippin Keller cut the lead in half just seven seconds after the Whitecaps' fourth goal, while Taylor Williamson tied things up with a power-play goal. The teams remained locked deep into overtime, before Lee Steckein gave the Gophers the 5-4, exhibition victory with just 39 seconds remaining. Former Bemidji State star Stephanie Anderson scored for the Whitecaps, while Wisconsin alumna Alex Rigsby was in net.

No. 5 Minnesota Duluth returned to the ice after a month absence, falling 5-2 to the Whitecaps at AMSOIL Arena. After a scoreless first period, the Whitecaps scored four unanswered goals - including three in the second period by former WCHA greats Monique Lamoureux-Morando (North Dakota), Hannah Brandt (Minnesota) and Anderson. Sydney Brodt and Demi Crossman both scored late, but former UND goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie wrapped up a 35-save effort for the win.