WCHA Week 17: Key Points On The Line With Four Weeks Remaining
WCHA Continues To Have Three Of The Nation's Top-Four Teams
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Minnesota Duluth hosts Ohio State this weekend at AMSOIL Arena. UMD swept the Buckeyes on Oct. 28-29 in Columbus by 6-0 and 3-2 margins.

Opening Face-Off

- Topping the Polls: The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) has three of the top-four teams in the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine polls. Wisconsin remains the unanimous No. 1 in both, followed by No. 2 Minnesota Duluth and No. 4 Minnesota. A fourth WCHA team, North Dakota, is receiving votes in both polls.

- 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.

  • As of Jan. 26, the top-seven toughest schedules in the country belong to WCHA teams, while the entire membership is in the top-20 of difficulty.
  • Wisconsin has played D-I's toughest schedule to date, while Minnesota Duluth ranks second, St. Cloud State is third, Minnesota is fourth, Bemidji State is fifth, Ohio State is sixth, North Dakota is seventh and Minnesota State is 19th.

- Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, five WCHA teams have reached double-digit win totals, while half of league membership is at .500-or-better entering the weekend.

  • Wisconsin has the nation's top winning percentage at .900 (22-2-1). Minnesota Duluth is sixth at .750 (16-4-4), Minnesota is seventh at .740 (17-5-3), North Dakota is 14th at .558 (12-9-5) and Ohio State is tied for 17th at .481 (11-12-3).

- 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 3,292 fans per game (including 11 dates at LaBahn Arena and one home contest at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.); Minnesota is second by welcoming 1,733 each night (including 11 dates at Ridder Arena and one home contest at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn.); Minnesota Duluth ranks third by hosting 1,206 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

- 5: Categories in which Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens leads the country: wins (18), winning percentage (.925), goals-against average (0.75), save percentage (.957) and shutouts (10).

- 8: Seconds into Saturday's game at Bemidji State that Minnesota Duluth senior forward Lara Stalder scored, the quickest goal in program history.

- 15: Current point streak by Minnesota Duluth senior forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk, longest by a Bulldog since former All-American Caroline Ouellette - the leading scorer in Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) history - also had a 15-game run from Oct. 18, 2003 to Jan. 10, 2004. Brykaliuk has nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points during her current streak.

- 17: Career shutouts for Bemidji State senior goaltender Brittni Mowat, one away from matching former All-American Zuzanna Tomcikova for the all-time program record.

- 44: Points by Kelly Pannek during a just-ended, 20-game point streak (Oct. 14-Jan. 20). The NCAA's overall points leader this season with 49 (14g-35a), Minnesota's junior forward tallied 14 goals and 30 assists during her extended run.

- 99: Career points for North Dakota senior forward Amy Menke (46g-53a), one shy of becoming the seventh 100-point scorer in program history.

- .966: NCAA-best save percentage in January for Ohio State redshirt-sophomore Kassidy Sauve, who has stopped 199-of-206 shots faced this month. She has also posted a 1.16 goals-against average over six games and 362:17 in net.


The Week Ahead

- North Dakota at/vs. Bemidji State: Regional rivals square off in a home-and-home set, as the Beavers host the Fighting Hawks on Friday at the Sanford Center, while UND returns the favor with a Sunday afternoon tilt at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. North Dakota swept the Oct. 28-29 series, when both teams were ranked in the top-10 nationally, by scores of 5-2 (home) and 2-0 (road). UND leads the all-time series, 38-22-5.

- Ohio State at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth: A second-straight homecoming weekend for a member of Ohio State's first-year coaching staff, as Buckeyes' assistant Jess Koizumi returns to Duluth. An All-WCHA performer and two-time captain at UMD, Koizumi still ranks 10th in program history with 155 career points as a Bulldog. On the ice, two sophomore goaltenders who rank 2-3 in the WCHA for save percentage will square off in OSU's Kassidy Sauve (.950) and UMD's Maddie Rooney (.938). UMD swept the Buckeyes on Oct. 28-29 in Columbus by 6-0 and 3-2 margins.

- No. 4 Minnesota at St. Cloud State: The Huskies conclude a four-game homestand with their eighth series against a ranked opponent, hosting the No. 4 Gophers. Minnesota won 5-2 and 4-0 decisions at Ridder Arena on Oct. 27-28 and now has a 32-game winning streak against SCSU, dating back to February 2010. The Gophers lead the all-time series by a 74-3-2 margin.

- Minnesota State at No. 1 Wisconsin: The top-ranked Badgers wrap up a six-game homestand (4-0-0 thus far) by hosting the Mavericks at LaBahn Arena. Wisconsin won a pair of tightly-contested games in Mankato on Oct. 28-29, earning 3-0 and 3-1 victories to extend its all-time series lead to 74-2-3.


The Week in Review

- Second-ranked Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State, playoff opponents each of the last two seasons, met in Bemidji, with the Bulldogs leaving with four points.

- Ohio State played well in head coach Nadine Muzerall's first homecoming to her alma mater, posting a tie and shootout victory in Saturday's series finale at No. 4 Minnesota.

- St. Cloud State and visiting Minnesota State played a highly-entertaining series, including a 3-3 tie and six-round shootout as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2017.

- Fans at LaBahn Arena saw a tightly-contested series, with No. 1 Wisconsin earning a pair of one-goal victories over visiting North Dakota.

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


No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 5, at Bemidji State 1
at Bemidji State 2, No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 2 - OT (BSU wins shootout, 2-0)
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)

Second-ranked Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State, playoff opponents each of the last two seasons, met in Bemidji, with the Bulldogs leaving with four points.

Friday night, the Bulldogs registered 48 shots on net, potting five, to sink the Beavers by a 5-1 margin. WCHA Offensive Player of the Week, UMD senior forward Lara Stalder, scored the game's first three goals for the natural hat trick. BSU's Emily Bergland scored for the host Beavers, but Linnea Hedin and Katherine McGovern put the game away for UMD.

Bergland was the third-period hero Saturday, scoring the game-tying goal with 4:28 remaining in regulation. BSU skated to a 2-2 tie, before capturing the extra point with a 2-0 shootout win. Beavers' goaltender Brittni Mowat finished with 38 saves through 65 minutes, and stopped both shootout attempts. Stalder set a UMD program record by scoring just eight seconds into the contest.


at No. 4 Minnesota 2, Ohio State 1
Ohio State 1 at No. 4 Minnesota 1 - OT (OSU wins the shootout, 2-1)
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn.)

Ohio State played well in head coach Nadine Muzerall's first homecoming to her alma mater, posting a tie and shootout victory in Saturday's series finale at No. 4 Minnesota.

The visiting Buckeyes took a 1-0 lead into the third period of Friday's contest courtesy of a Julianna Iafallo goal, but the Gophers rallied with a pair of final-stanza scores for the 2-1 triumph. Caitlin Reilly tied things up at the 10:43 mark, while the NCAA's leading scorer, Kelly Pannek, scored her 14th goal of the season to give Minnesota the win. Gophers' sophomore goaltender Emma May earned her first collegiate victory, while Kassidy Sauve made 33 saves for OSU.

Sauve had another stellar effort on Saturday, finishing with 35 saves through 65 minutes in the 1-1 tie. Sydney Baldwin slid one past sauve in the second period to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead, but Ohio State's Katie Matheny scored 1:27 into the third period. Iafallo scored in the shootout's seventh round to lift the Buckeyes to the extra point. May made a career-high 25 saves for the Gophers.


at St. Cloud State 2, Minnesota State 1
at St. Cloud State 3, Minnesota State 3 - OT (SCSU wins the shootout, 3-2)
(Jan. 20 and 21 at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center; St. Cloud, Minn.)

St. Cloud State and visiting Minnesota State played a highly-entertaining series, including a 3-3 tie and six-round shootout as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2017.

Friday night, Caroline Markstrom got the home team off on the right foot, scoring the opening goal 6:59 into the first period. Her teammate, Alyssa Erickson, doubled the Huskies' lead midway through the second with her seventh of the season. The Mavericks finally broke through early in the third on a Sara Bustad goal, but SCSU goaltender Janine Alder's 25 saves were enough to give her team the win 2-1.

SCSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead Saturday, only to have Minnesota State rally. Erickson scored her second goal of the weekend to open the scoring at the 11:03 mark in the first; 35 seconds later, Janna Haeg extended Huskies' lead to 2-0. With SCSU leading 3-0 following a Kayla Friesen goal, the Mavericks' Emily Antony got her team on the board near the midway point of the second period. Antony's goal launched a furious Minnesota State comeback. Bustad brought MSU within one late in the second period, before Emma Wittchow completed the rally 6:34 into the third. From there, the teams remained tied 3-3 through regulation and OT. Six rounds into the shootout, Shakopee native and SCSU senior captain Lauren Hespenheide provided a fitting cap to Hockey Day Minnesota 2017 by netting the winner.


at No. 1 Wisconsin 3, North Dakota 2
at No. 1 Wisconsin 2, North Dakota 1
(Jan. 21 and 22 at LaBahn Arena; Madison, Wis.)

Fans at LaBahn Arena saw a tightly-contested series, with No. 1 Wisconsin earning a pair of one-goal victories over visiting North Dakota.

Saturday, after the teams traded goals in the opening period, Wisconsin's Jenny Ryan and Annie Pankowski scored back-to-back to give the Badgers a 3-1 lead heading into the final period. North Dakota outshot Wisconsin by an 18-5 margin in the third, getting a Charly Dahlquist goal at 17:31 to draw within one. But, Badger netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens stood tall in the eventual 3-2 UW victory.

The teams again went toe-to-toe in Sunday's series finale, with UW senior captain Sydney McKibbon proving to be the difference in the Badgers' 2-1 triumph. McKibbon lit the lamp first to put the Badgers up 1-0 midway through the first. UND answered, as freshman Emma Nuutinen knotted the score at 1-1 towards the end of the second. McKibbon would come up huge once again, scoring the game-winner 5:13 into the third-period. Desbiens finished with 15 saves, while UND freshman Kristen Campbell made a career-high 23 stops.