WCHA Week 24: 2017 NCAA Women's Frozen Four
Wisconsin And Minnesota In St. Charles, Mo. Vying To Win WCHA's 17th National Championship (16th NCAA Crown)
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Wisconsin And Minnesota In St. Charles, Mo. Vying To Win WCHA's 17th National Championship (16th NCAA Crown)

Opening Face-Off

- Badgers, Gophers and the Quest for 17: For the fourth-straight year and 12th time in the event's 17-year history, at least half of the NCAA Women's Frozen Four field is comprised of teams from the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). This year, Wisconsin and Minnesota are at The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo. vying to win the WCHA's 17th national title in the league's 18 seasons of existence (16th NCAA crown).

  • Wisconsin (32-2-4) will face Boston College (28-5-5), the Hockey East regular season and tournament champion, in Friday's first semifinal contest. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT for this rematch of a 2012 national semifinal, which saw the Badgers defeat the Eagles, 6-2.
  • Minnesota (26-7-5) will skate against Clarkson (30-4-5), the ECAC Hockey regular season and tournament champion, in the second semifinal game (scheduled for an 8 p.m. CT start). The Gophers and Golden Knights meet in the postseason for the first time since Clarkson's 5-4 victory in the 2014 NCAA title game.
  • The two winners will meet Sunday in the national championship, which will be aired live on the Big Ten Network beginning at 2 p.m. CT.

- About Wisconsin: The Badgers, who have been No. 1 in the national polls since the preseason, are the NCAA tournament's top seed for the first time since 2012. UW advanced to its fourth-straight Frozen Four (and 10th overall, second-most in NCAA history) with a 7-0 victory over visiting Robert Morris in the NCAA quarterfinals.

  • Wisconsin enters the tournament with a 21-game unbeaten streak (18-0-3), the longest active stretch in the country. The Badgers have outscored their opponents 98-14 during the streak, which began with a December 4 victory over Minnesota.
  • UW leads the nation in both scoring offense (4.11 goals per game) and scoring defense (0.84 goals allowed per game). Eighteen different Badgers have combined to score 156 goals this season, while senior All-American Ann-Renée Desbiens leads NCAA goaltenders with a 0.69 goals-against average, .963 save percentage, 28 wins, a .909 winning percentage (28-1-4) and 16 shutouts.
  • The Badgers are 20-6 all-time in the NCAA tournament, the second-most victories in the event's history. Wisconsin is a four-time NCAA champion (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011), while the Badgers' .667 Frozen Four winning percentage (10-5) is the second-best mark among any participant (minimum of three games).

- About Minnesota: The two-time defending national champions -- and winners of four of last five Frozen Four titles -- the Gophers are looking to become just the second program to win three-straight titles (Minnesota Duluth accomplished the championship hat trick from 2001-03). Minnesota is making its record sixth-straight and 13th-overall appearance in the Frozen Four, advancing after earning a 1-0 victory at UMD in the quarterfinal round.

  • Minnesota junior forward and All-American Kelly Pannek enters the Frozen Four as the nation's scoring leader with 61 points (19g-42a), having tallied a point in 31 of Minnesota's 38 games. She also leads the NCAA with 42 total assists, 1.11 assists-per-game and 1.61 points-per-contest.
  • The Gophers, who are making their 10th-straight and 15th overall appearance in the NCAA postseason, are 24-9-1 all-time in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota is 14-7-1 in the Frozen Four, with the most wins and third-best winning percentage (.659) in the event's history.
  • Minnesota has won a record six NCAA championships, including four of the last five (2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016). The Gophers' seventh national title came with the 2000 American Women's College Hockey Alliance (AWCHA) crown.

- Eight All-Americans: The WCHA boasts an NCAA-best eight representatives on the 2017 CCM Hockey All-America teams, earning four-of-six spots on both the first and second teams.

  • Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, Minnesota senior defenseman Lee Stecklein and Gophers' junior forward Kelly Pannek, and Minnesota Duluth senior forward Lara Stalder all earned first-team honors.
  • Ohio State redshirt-sophomore goaltender Kassidy Sauve, along with Wisconsin teammates Jenny Ryan (senior, defenseman), Sarah Nurse (senior, forward) and Annie Pankowski (junior, forward) garnered second-team accolades.

- Crowell Earns National Honor: After leading Minnesota Duluth to a 25-win campaign and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011, Bulldogs' head coach Maura Crowell has been named the CCM/AHCA University Division Women's Coach of the Year for 2016-17.

- The WCHA and Patty Kaz: The WCHA has two of the top-three finalists for the 2017 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens and Minnesota Duluth senior forward Lara Stalder. Desbiens is a top-three finalist for the second-consecutive year, the last two seasons of her remarkable and record-setting career in the Badger net. Stalder is Minnesota Duluth's first top-three finalist since the 2007-08 season.

  • The WCHA also had an NCAA-best five of the top-10 finalists for the award, which honors the top player in women's college hockey. Joining Desbiens (the only goaltender in the top-10) and Stalder were Minnesota forwards Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak (as a sophomore, the lone underclassmen in the group), and Wisconsin forward Annie Pankowski.

By the Numbers

- 1-2: Ranks among all-time coaches for NCAA tournament wins and winning percentage, by Wisconsin's Mark Johnson and Minnesota's Brad Frost. Johnson leads in overall victories, 20-17, while Frost has the slight edge in winning percentage (.773 to .769).

- 14: Points for Wisconsin senior Sarah Nurse (6g-8a) in five games since Feb. 24 - most of any NCAA skater since conference tournaments began that weekend. She has a point in all five contests, including a trio of three-point outings and one four-point effort.

- 30: Nonconference wins for WCHA teams this season, entering the Frozen Four. Wisconsin's victory over Robert Morris in the NCAA quarterfinal gives the league an NCAA-best .762 winning percentage in 2016-17 nonconference play.