- Topping the Polls: The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) has three of the top-five 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 Minnesota, which is ranked fifth in the former and fourth in the latter. North Dakota is receiving votes in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine poll.
- Badgers Closing in on Crown: Top-ranked Wisconsin is poised to repeat as WCHA regular season champions, as the Badgers have a magic number of three points vs. third-place Minnesota Duluth (combination of UW points earned and/or Bulldogs points lost) and four points against second-place Minnesota (again, combo of UW points earned and/or Gophers points lost).
- The defending league champs can clinch their second-straight crown as early as Saturday afternoon. Wisconsin, which has won five WCHA regular season titles overall, have repeated twice before in program history. The Badgers won back-to-back championships following the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, and again after the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns.
- A Look at the Standings: The top four teams, which will all host a quarterfinal round series in the 2017 WCHA Playoffs, are set. North Dakota is locked into the fourth seed, while Wisconsin, Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth -- in some order -- will also be home the weekend of Feb. 24-26.
- The rest of the playoff field is more unsettled, as just four points separate the current fifth- through seventh-place teams (St. Cloud State, Ohio State and Bemidji State). Minnesota State is currently in eighth place, but can still finish in a higher slot.
- Stalder Wins WHCA Award: Minnesota Duluth senior forward Lara Stalder is the inaugural Women's Hockey Commissioners' Association National Division I Player of the Month, earning the historic honor for January 2017 after producing an NCAA-best 2.67 points-per-game and +16 rating.
- Stalder ranked among the WCHA and NCAA leaders in several offensive categories last month, propelling the Bulldogs to an undefeated, 5-0-1 mark and a climb to No. 2 in the national polls – the program's highest ranking since October 2010.
- 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 Feb. 8, seven of the country's top-eight toughest schedules belong to WCHA teams, while the entire membership is in the top-20.
- Bemidji State has played D-I's toughest schedule to date, while Minnesota Duluth ranks second, St. Cloud State is third, Wisconsin is fourth, North Dakota is sixth, Ohio State is seventh, Minnesota is eighth and Minnesota State is 14th.
- 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 .914 (26-2-1). Minnesota Duluth is fourth at .786 (20-4-4), Minnesota is sixth at .776 (21-5-3) and North Dakota is tied for 14th at .533 (13-11-6).
- 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 3,146 fans per game (including 13 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 1,239 per contest at AMSOIL Arena; and, North Dakota is fourth with an average of 911 per game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
By the Numbers
- 3 (by 20): WCHA teams to reach the 20-win mark: Wisconsin (26), Minnesota (21) and Minnesota Duluth (20). UMD has bettered its 2015-16 win total (15-21-1) by five, while the Badgers reached 20 for the seventh-straight year. The Gophers have recorded 20+ victories all 20 seasons in program history.
- 5a: Categories in which Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens leads the country: wins (22), winning percentage (.938), goals-against average (0.79), save percentage (.956) and shutouts (11).
- 5b: Consecutive games with a goal by Bemidji State sophomore Emily Bergland from Jan. 20 to Feb. 3. The streak, which tied for the second-longest in program history, came in games against No. 2 Minnesota Duluth (two contests), North Dakota (two) and No. 1 Wisconsin (one).
- 19: Current point streak by Minnesota Duluth senior forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk, the second-longest in program history (10g-16a=26pts). Only Finnish Olympian Hanne Sikio recorded a longer scoring spree as Bulldog, posting a 23-game run during the 1999-2000 season (17g-31a=48pts).
- 55: NCAA-leading points total by Minnesota forward Kelly Pannek, on 16 goals and 39 assists. The junior also leads the country in points-per-game (1.90), assists, assists-per-game (1.34) and face-offs won (403). She has tallied a point in 26 of the Gophers' 28 contests thus far.
- 501: All-time wins by the Wisconsin Badgers. UW became the 10th program in NCAA Division I women's hockey history to reach the 500-victory plateau (and second WCHA school) with a 6-1 triumph last Friday at Bemidji State.
- 934: NCAA-best saves by Ohio State's Kassidy Sauve, 139 more than the next-highest goaltender and 191 more than the second-place WCHA netminder. The redshirt-sophomore ranks third nationally with a .944 save percentage and tied for third with six shutouts.
The Week Ahead
- Top-Two Showdown in Madison: Top-ranked Wisconsin, winners of 12-straight, look to clinch the WCHA regular season title when hosting No. 2 Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs, who sit a point out of second place in the WCHA, are undefeated in their last seven contests (7-0-1).
- FOX Sports North to Showcase BSU at SCSU: St. Cloud State will host Bemidji State this weekend, with Friday's game televised live on FOX Sports North and Saturday's contest broadcast live on FOX Sports North PLUS. The seventh-place Beavers sit four points behind the fifth-place Huskies.
- Rivalry Renewed at Ridder: The latest installment of the Minnesota vs. North Dakota rivalry takes place at Ridder Arena. The teams played to a pair of 2-2 ties in November at the Ralph, with the Gophers winning both shootouts.
- Key Points on the Line in Columbus: Sixth-place Ohio State, which is just two points out of fifth and two points clear of seventh, hosts Minnesota State. The Mavericks, who split with the Buckeyes when the teams played Nov. 18-19 in Mankato, can still climb out of eighth place.
The Week in Review
- Top-ranked Wisconsin became the 10th program in NCAA Division I women's hockey history reach the 500-win milestone with a victory Friday, part of a weekend sweep at Bemidji State.
- Behind the stellar goaltending of Maddie Rooney and clutch scoring by Lara Stalder, No. 2 Minnesota Duluth extended its unbeaten streak to eight games with a sweep of visiting North Dakota.
- Fourth-ranked Minnesota stretched its unbeaten streak to six-straight games, scoring 10 goals in a road sweep at Minnesota State.
- St. Cloud State jumped up to fifth place in the standings with a four-point weekend in Columbus, while Ohio State rallied to earn a tie and shootout win in Saturday's series finale.
- Full recaps and box scores are available at wcha.com.
No. 1 Wisconsin 6, at Bemidji State 1
No. 1 Wisconsin 4, at Bemidji State 2
(Feb. 3 and 4 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
Top-ranked Wisconsin became the 10th program in NCAA Division I women's hockey history reach the 500-win milestone with a victory Friday, part of a weekend sweep at Bemidji State.
Friday, the Badgers struck early and often. Emily Clark scored just 44 seconds after puck drop, before adding another at the 9:56 mark. Freshman Abby Roque scored a pair of goals of her own, while UW breezed to a 6-1 victory. Sarah Nurse tallied three assists for the Badgers, while Ann-Renée Desbiens made 27 saves.
Another two-goal effort by Clark was the difference in a 4-2 Badger victory Saturday. After Alexis Joyce put Bemidji State ahead 1-0 midway through the first, Clark tied things up in the second. The teams traded goals before the end of the period, before Clark scored her second of the day. Her fourth goal of the series gave UW a 3-2 lead 43 seconds into the third period, while freshman Mekenzie Steffen added an insurance marker. Despite the losses, Bemidji State goaltender Brittni Mowat made a WCHA-high 85 saves on the weekend.
at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 2, North Dakota 0
at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth 2, North Dakota 1
(Feb. 3 and 4 at AMSOIL Arena; Duluth, Minn.)
Behind the stellar goaltending of Maddie Rooney and clutch scoring by Lara Stalder, No. 2 Minnesota Duluth extended its unbeaten streak to eight games with a sweep of visiting North Dakota.
Stalder's goal 16:46 into the first period would be all Rooney needed in Friday's 2-0 UMD victory. The teams traded chances throughout, but the Bulldogs put things away down the stretch as senior Sydney Morin got her seventh goal of the season with 6:25 remaining in regulation. Rooney finished the shutout performance with 24 saves.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring first once again on Saturday, as freshman Sydney Brodt netted her fourth of the year just 3:46 following the puck drop. The score would remain 1-0 in favor of UMD until the opening minutes of the final frame, when Marissa Salo gave the Fighting Hawks their first goal of the weekend to tie things up. But just 1:10 later, Stalder broke the tie with her second game-winner of the weekend. Rooney made 28 stops, lifting the Bulldogs to a 2-1 win despite being outshot, 29-22.
No. 4 Minnesota 5, at Minnesota State 0
No. 4 Minnesota 5, at Minnesota State 3
(Feb. 3 and 4 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.)
Fourth-ranked Minnesota stretched its unbeaten streak to six-straight games, scoring 10 goals in a road sweep at Minnesota State.
The Gophers smothered the Mavericks early for a 5-0 victory in Friday's series opener, as Sophie Skarzynski and Kelly Pannek scored back-to-back within the first three minutes of the opening period. Second-period goals from Sarah Potomak, Cara Piazza and Kate Schipper (also two assists) helped secure the win. Minnesota goaltenders Sidney Peters and freshman Serena D'Angelo combined on the 12-save shutout.
The Gophers once again jumped out to a 5-0 lead Saturday, then withstood a late Minnesota State rally to finish the sweep with a 5-3 triumph. Schipper led the Minnesota offense with her second three-point game of the weekend (2g-1a), while the Gophers also received scores from Pannek, Skarzynski and Taylor Williamson. Minnesota State freshman defenseman Jordan Jackson got the Mavericks going at the 14:21 mark of the second period, scoring her first career goal. Jordan McLaughlin and Demi Gardner tallied third-period goals, but the Gophers held on for the win.
St. Cloud State 3, at Ohio State 1
at Ohio State 2, St. Cloud State 2 - OT (OSU wins shootout, 1-0)
(Feb. 3 and 4 at OSU Ice Rink; Columbus, Ohio)
St. Cloud State jumped up to fifth place in the standings with a four-point weekend in Columbus, while Ohio State rallied to earn a tie and shootout win in Saturday's series finale.
Lauren Spring got the home team off on the right foot by scoring 4:59 into Friday's contest, but the visiting Huskies scored the game's final three goals for a 3-1 win. Lauren Hespenheide knotted things up late in the first, while Christa Moody broke the tie 2:43 into the final period. Kayla Friesen added an insurance goal, while fellow freshman Janine Alder made 33 saves in the SCSU net.
The teams played another close contest on Saturday. Julia Tylke and Emma Turbyville gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. But the Buckeyes staged a big rally, beginning with a goal by freshman Rebecca Freiburger at the 9:11 mark. Just over three minutes later, Jessica Dunne scored a goal of her own to tie the contest at 2-2. The teams remained tied through overtime, with Ohio State earning the extra WCHA point with a shootout victory. Dani Sadek scored the lone shootout goal, while OSU goaltender Kassidy Sauve (29 saves through OT) made a pair of stops.