- Leading at the Polls: The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) opens the 2017 calendar year with four teams ranked in the national opinion polls, tied with ECAC Hockey for the most of any conference.
- Wisconsin remains No. 1 in the USCHO.com (unanimous) and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings, followed by No. 2 Minnesota, No. 5 Minnesota Duluth and No. 10 North Dakota.
- A fifth WCHA team, Ohio State, is receiving votes in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine poll.
- Pairing Up: Three WCHA teams open the new year in the top-eight of the national PairWise rankings: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 6 Minnesota Duluth.
- Every Game, Every Rink: Between a challenging nonconference slate and the gauntlet of arguably the nation's premier conference, WCHA teams played some of D-I's toughest schedules in the first half, according to the RPI Strength-of-Schedule ledger.
- Four of the NCAA's top-10 toughest schedules and seven-of-20 belong to WCHA teams.
- Wisconsin has played D-I's second-toughest schedule, Minnesota Duluth ranks fourth, St. Cloud State is seventh, Ohio State is eighth, Minnesota is 11th, Bemidji State is 12th and North Dakota is 16th.
- Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, half of WCHA membership (four teams) are at .500 or better and 75 percent (six-of-eight) are at least .400, both just behind Hockey East (55.6 percent, five-of-nine; and, 77.8 percent, seven-of-nine) for tops nationally.
- Wisconsin ranks second nationally with an .875 winning percentage (17-2-1). Minnesota is fifth at .800 (15-3-2), Minnesota Duluth is eighth at .725 (13-4-3), North Dakota is 14th at .568 (10-7-5), Ohio State is 18th at .450 (8-10-2) and Bemidji State is tied for 19th at .425 (8-11-1).
- Nonconference Success: The WCHA continues to have the nation's best nonconference winning percentage at .736 (25-8-3). WCHA teams are 13-4-2 (.737) against College Hockey America opponents, 9-1-0 (.900) against ECAC Hockey and 3-3-1 (.500) against Hockey East.
- Pannek Sets the Pace: Minnesota junior Kelly Pannek enters the new year on a 16-game point streak in which she has at least one assist in each contest and 35 points total (9g-26a).
- Pannek leads the NCAA in: assists (31) and assists-per-game (1.55); points (40) and points-per-game (2.00); and, power-play assists (10) and power-play points (14). She is also second to linemate Sarah Potomak with a +25 rating.
- 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 (3.90 goals per game) and scoring defense (1.00 goals allowed per game).
- 5: Categories in which Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens ranks either first or second nationally: goals-against average (1st - 0.75), winning percentage (1st - .906, 14-1-1), shutouts (1st - 8), save percentage (2nd - .957) and wins (2nd - 14).
- 6: Wins this season for Minnesota State, equaling the program's entire victory output for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns combined (6-61-5).
- 11: St. Cloud State skaters that have already either equaled or surpassed their previous career-high goal, assist and/or point totals.
- 14: Straight 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 27-for-27 in that span. The Buckeyes now rank second in the WCHA and fifth nationally with a 91.5 penalty-kill efficiency (54-for-59).
The Week Ahead
- Nonconference Tests Await: The puck drops on 2017 with a slate of nonconference matchups. Top-ranked Wisconsin (at Lindenwood) and Ohio State (at Penn State) play road series against College Hockey America opponents, while St. Cloud State hosts No. 7 Colgate from ECAC Hockey.
- U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Women's Face-off Classic: Second-ranked Minnesota will once again host the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Face-off Classic at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minn. The Gophers will take the ice Sunday afternoon against Minnesota State for the rare nonconference game between WCHA opponents.
- Minnesota Whitecaps Exhibitions: Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth will each get their feet wet with exhibition contests against the Minnesota Whitecaps (Friday in Minneapolis and Saturday in Duluth). The Whitecaps, an elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players, has 22 former WCHA players – from seven league schools – on its Minneapolis-based roster.