WCHA 2016-17 Season In Review
Another Fantastic Season For College Hockey's Premier Conference
photo
Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who cemented her place as one of the sport's all-time greatest during a record-setting career in the Badger net, won the 2017 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in Division I.

Opening Face-Off

- No. 18 In the Books: The Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) proudly completed its 18th year of competition in 2016-17, another fantastic season of on- and off-ice accomplishments by its student-athletes, coaches and programs.

  • The WCHA led the country with three teams in the top-five of the final opinion polls; landed three programs in the NCAA tournament and comprised half of the Frozen Four Field; celebrated the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, along with another top-three finalist and five top-10 finalists; honored the National Coach of the Year (as awarded by both the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA)/CCM Hockey and USCHO); saw a NCAA-high eight players earn AHCA/CCM Hockey All-America accolades; was inspired by the four student-athletes nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year and/or the Hockey Humanitarian award; and, applauded numerous current and former players that competed on the international stage, along with 39 alumnae that starred professionally in either the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) or the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).

- Polling Place: Second-ranked Wisconsin, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth gave the WCHA an NCAA-best three of the top-five teams in the final USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine opinion polls.

  • Five (5) of the WCHA's eight teams (also Bemidji State and North Dakota) spent at least one week ranked in the top 10 of at least one poll, while a sixth school (Ohio State) received votes at various times.

- NCAA Tournament and the Frozen Four: For the first time since 2012, the WCHA landed three teams in the NCAA tournament: Top overall seed Wisconsin, No. 3 seed Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota.

  • 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 was comprised of teams from the WCHA, with the Badgers and Gophers competing in national semifinals.
  • With UW's appearance, the WCHA has been in every NCAA National Championship game held to date (17-straight).

- Badgers Remain atop WCHA Mountain: Wisconsin's stellar season included its second-consecutive WCHA regular season title and its third-straight Final Face-Off crown.

  • The Badgers repeated as league regular season champions, capturing the program's sixth WCHA title with a 22-win, 73-point campaign.
  • UW won its league-record seventh WCHA playoff championship, while becoming the second team in league history to earn three-straight postseason titles, by defeating North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth to win the 2017 Final Face-Off.

- National On-Ice Accolades led by Patty Kaz: Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who cemented her place as one of the sport's all-time greatest during a record-setting career in the Badger net, won the 2017 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in Division I.

  • The WCHA also boasted two of the top-3 Patty Kaz finalists, along with star Minnesota Duluth senior forward Lara Stalder. Minnesota forwards Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak (as a sophomore, the lone underclassmen in the group), and Wisconsin junior forward Annie Pankowski (a two-time top-10 finalist), gave the WCHA a NCAA-best five players among the top-10 finalists.
  • For leading Minnesota Duluth to a 25-win campaign, an NCAA-best 12-game improvement over the previous season and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011, second-year bench boss Maura Crowell was named the national Coach of the Year by both AHCA/CCM Hockey and USCHO.
  • A NCAA-high Eight WCHA players earned AHCA/CCM Hockey All-America honors, including first-team selections Desbiens (UW), Minnesota senior defenseman Lee Stecklein, the Gophers' Pannek (a junior) and Stalder (UMD). Ohio State redshirt-sophomore goaltender Kassidy Sauve, along with Wisconsin teammates Jenny Ryan (senior, defenseman), Sarah Nurse (senior, forward) and Pankowski (junior, forward) garnered second-team accolades.
  • The WCHA was also well-represented on the All-USCHO teams, with nine players earning recognition: UW's Desbiens, UMN's Pannek and UMD's Stalder (First Team); UMN's Stecklein and UW's Pankowski (Second Team); and, UMD's Sidney Morin (senior defenseman), UW's Ryan and Sarah Nurse (senior forward), and UMN's Potomak (Third Team).

- College Hockey's Best Fans: For the sixth straight season, WCHA teams ranked 1-4 nationally by total and average attendance.

  • Wisconsin drew 55,315 (2,911 per game) for 18 dates at LaBahn Arena and one game at the Kohl Center; Minnesota welcomed 39,059 (1,953) over 19 dates at Ridder Arena and one game at Braemar Arena; 22,342 fans (1,176) saw games at Minnesota Duluth's AMSOIL Arena and North Dakota hosted 15,344 (808) at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Celebrating Incredible Accomplishments

photo
Minnesota Duluth standout Lara Stalder, the WCHA Player and Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, became the Bulldogs' first top-three finalist for the Patty Kaz Award since the 2007-08 season.

- Desbiens' Record-Setting Career: Fans of Wisconsin women's hockey and the WCHA have had the privilege of watching Ann-Renée Desbiens fashion possibly the greatest goaltending career in the sport's history. Through 122 record-setting games in a Badgers sweater, Desbiens kept pucks out of the net at an historic rate, helped UW to tremendous team success and, with an equally impressive commitment to academics and the Madison community, crafted a truly remarkable legacy.

  • Desbiens set NCAA Division I career records (regardless of gender) with 55 shutouts (topping the 43 by Minnesota's Noora Räty from 2010-13), a 0.89 goals-against average (lower than the 1.09 mark posted by UW's Christine Dufour from 2004-07) and a .955 save percentage (besting the .947 mark by UMN's Amanda Leveille between 2013-16).
  • She holds NCAA Division I single-season standards (regardless of gender) in the same categories, with 21 shutouts in 2015-16 (Räty had 16 in 2012-13), a 0.71 GAA in 2016-17 (her 0.76 mark in 2015-16 was also a record at the time, topping the 0.83 by UW's Jesse Vetter in 2006-07) and a .963 save percentage in 2016-17 (again, her .960 in 2015-16 had been the record, breaking the previous mark of .956 set by Räty in 2012-13).
  • Desbiens' scoreless run of 543:33 between Oct. 3 and Nov. 14, 2015 also set a new NCAA D-I standard (men's or women's), and was nearly 100 minutes longer than the previous record of 448:32 (posted by Vetter during the 2006-07 season).
  • She also finished her illustrious career ranked fourth among the all-time NCAA leaders with 99 victories and fifth with an .848 winning percentage (99-14-9).
  • Desbiens earned the 2017 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in NCAA Division I women's ice hockey, becoming just the third goaltender to win the award in its 20-year history. In addition to her NCAA single-season records for GAA and save percentage, Desbiens led the country with 29 wins, a .963 winning percentage (29-2-4) and 17 shutouts.
  • The 2016 WCHA Player of the Year, she was a two-time first-team AHCA/CCM Hockey All-American and a four-time All-WCHA selection (two first-team nods, a third-team selection and an All-Rookie team member).
  • Off the ice, Desbiens was a three-time member of the WCHA All-Academic Team and has been accepted into the Wisconsin School of Business to begin her Integrated Master of Accountancy degree.

- Sauve's Sensational Season: After missing the entire 2015-16 campaign following double hip surgery, Ohio State redshirt sophomore Kassidy Sauve returned with a sensational 2016-17 season, earning second-team All-America honors.

  • Sauve led the country with an Ohio State-record 1,135 saves (second-most in WCHA history and the sixth-most in NCAA annals), while she was fifth nationally with an all-time Buckeyes-best .942 save percentage, sixth with 2098:20 minutes in net, tied for seventh with six shutouts and 16 with a 2.00 goals-against average.
  • Her saves total, which bettered Lisa Steffes' 2010-11 Ohio State mark by 50, was just three shy of the WCHA standard of 1,138, set by Minnesota Duluth's Jennifer Harss (a 2014 Olympian with Germany) during the Bulldogs' 2010-11 NCAA tournament campaign.
photo
Another All-America goaltender, Bemidji State's Brittni Mowat, capped a fantastic career by establishing the WCHA record with 3,620 collegiate saves.

- Mowat Sets WCHA Saves Standard: Another All-America goaltender, Bemidji State's Brittni Mowat, capped a fantastic career by establishing the WCHA record with 3,620 collegiate saves.

  • Mowat, who was a first-team All-American in 2014-15, surpassed the 3,590 saves compiled by former Minnesota State netminder (and current Mavericks assistant coach) Shari (Vogt) Dickerman between 2001-04.
  • She set the mark in impressive style, compiling three-straight, 30-save efforts in the 2017 WCHA quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed Beavers nearly toppled No. 2 seed Minnesota in the best-of-three series.

- Stalder Leads Bulldog Resurgence: Minnesota Duluth standout Lara Stalder, the WCHA Player and Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, became the Bulldogs' first top-three finalist for the Patty Kaz Award since the 2007-08 season.

  • Stalder led the NCAA by averaging 1.60 points per game during her senior campaign, compiling 23 goals (tied for fifth in the NCAA), 33 assists (tied for sixth) and 56 points (tied for fourth) in 35 games, along with a terrific plus-44 rating (tied for second).
  • The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist missed two WCHA games while helping her native Swiss qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics, then returned to lead UMD back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011, finish No. 5 in the national rankings and compile its best league finish since 2010-11.


The Next Level

photo
USA Hockey named Wisconsin great Brianna Decker as the Bob Allen Women's Player of the Year. Decker also repeated as NWHL Most Valuable Player and was the Most Valuable Player at the IIHF Worlds.

- International Stage: The nation's premier women's college hockey conference continued to make its mark on international ice during the 2016-17 season.

  • Four Nations Cup: Twenty-nine (29) current or former WCHA student-athletes, representing seven member institutions and all four competing countries, participated in the 2016 Four Nations Cup hosted by Finland.
    • The U.S. won its second consecutive Four Nations Cup gold medal with a roster featuring 13 WCHA players - including 2016-17 student-athletes Annie Pankowski (Wisconsin) and Lee Stecklein (Minnesota). Team USA defeated Canada, 5-3, in the championship game behind three combined goals from former Badgers stars Hilary Knight (2g) and Brianna Decker (1g).
  • IIHF Worlds: Forty-six (46) current, former or incoming WCHA student-athletes, representing seven member institutions and competing for all eight participating countries, skated in the 2017 IIHF World Championships.
    • Led by the 13 who helped the United States win its fourth consecutive gold, 30 players with WCHA ties medaled at the 2017 Worlds, held March 31-April 7 in Plymouth, Mich. Nine members of the silver-medalist Canadian squad hailed from the WCHA, while eight Finns earned bronze.
    • UW's Hilary Knight lifted the inspirational "Be Bold for Change" U.S. squad to gold on home ice with a dramatic, championship-winning overtime goal. Her score, which came at the 10:17 mark, gave the Americans a 3-2 triumph. Fellow Badger Brianna Decker tallied a pair of assists in the gold medal game, part of a 12-point tournament that earned her Most Valuable Player honors.
    • Decker, in fact, was a triple winner, earning one of three Directorate Awards and, as the tournament's co-scoring leader, was named to the All-Star Team. Former Minnesota great Noora Räty, who led Finland to bronze, was also given a Directorate Award and tabbed the All-Star Team goaltender. North Dakota standout Monique Lamoureux-Morando was an All-Star defenseman.
    • The final 2017 Women's Worlds statistical leaderboard featured several WCHA products. Decker led the tournament with nine assists and tied for first with 12 points, while matching Lamoureux-Morando with a Worlds-best +11 rating. Hannah Brandt, a two-time WCHA Player of the Year at Minnesota, was the top face-off artist with a 70.2 percent success rate in the circle (33-for-47). Räty tied for the tournament lead with two shutouts, while ranking second with 145 saves.

- Olympic Centralization: A total of 27 players with WCHA ties have been named to the 2017-18 Olympic centralization rosters for the U.S. and Canadian national teams, respectively. Several other players, representing Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and possibly Russia, are expected to be at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea.

  • Fifteen (15) players -- including five that played collegiately in 2016-17 -- are on the 23-player 2017-18 U.S. Women's National Team roster: Megan Bozek, D, Minnesota; Hannah Brandt, F, UMN; Dani Cameranesi, F, UMN; Brianna Decker, F, Wisconsin; Meghan Duggan, F, UW; Amanda Kessel, F, UMN; Hilary Knight, F, UW; Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, F, North Dakota; Monique Lamoureux-Morando, D, UND; Gigi Marvin, D, UMN; Annie Pankowski, F, UW; Kelly Pannek, F, UMN; Alex Rigsby, G, UW; Maddie Rooney, G, Minnesota Duluth; Lee Stecklein, D, UMN.
  • Twelve (12) players -- including five that played collegiately in 2016-17, along with one incoming freshman -- are on the 28-player 2017-18 centralization roster for Canada's National Women's Team: Emily Clark, F, UW; Ann-Renée Desbiens, G, UW; Haley Irwin, F, UMD; Halli Krzyzaniak, D, UND; Brigette Lacquette, D, UMD; Jocelyne Larocque, D, UMD; Meaghan Mikkelson, D, UW; Sarah Nurse, F, UW; Amy Potomak, F, UMN; Sarah Potomak, F, UMN; Natalie Spooner, F, Ohio State; Blayre Turnbull, F, UW.

- CWHL and NWHL Impact: WCHA alumni dotted rosters across the two women's professional leagues, with the league (and four of its institutions) represented on eight of the nine combined rosters for the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) and the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).

  • Twenty (20) former WCHA players competed on four of the five CWHL clubs: Calgary (7 players), Toronto (6), Brampton (4) and Montréal (3).
  • Nineteen (19) league alumni played across the four NWHL franchises: Boston (5), Buffalo (5), New York (5) and Connecticut (4).
  • Both league champions were well-stocked with WCHA products. Minnesota Duluth alumnae Emmanuelle Blais, Noémie Marin and Caroline Ouellette all played for Clarkson Cup champion Les Canadiennes de Montréal. A quartet of former Gophers (Megan Bozek, Jordyn Burns, Amanda Leveille and Anne Schleper), along with Ohio State alumna Lisa Chesson, all helped the Buffalo Beauts win the Isobel Cup.

- Minnesota Whitecaps and the WCHA: The Minnesota Whitecaps, an elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players, also had 22 former WCHA players – from seven league schools – on its Minneapolis-based roster.

- NWHL Draft: More than half – 11 of 20 – selections in the 2016 NWHL Draft were 2016-17 rising seniors, representing four WCHA schools.

  • Each of the draft's five rounds featured at least one WCHA player chosen, while the first and third rounds saw three of the four picks coming from league schools.
  • Wisconsin led all NCAA schools with five players selected. Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota each had two picks apiece.
  • The full list: Lee Stecklein, D, UMN (Buffalo Beauts, 1st Round – 2nd pick overall); Dani Cameranesi, F, UMN (Connecticut Whale, 1st Round – 3rd pick overall); Ann-Renée Desbiens, G, UW (Boston Pride, 1st Round – 4th pick overall); Sarah Nurse, F, University of Wisconsin (Boston Pride, 2nd Round – 8th pick overall); Jenny Ryan, D, UW (New York Riveters, 3rd Round – 9th pick overall); Mellissa Channell, D, UW (Connecticut Whale, 3rd Round – 11th pick overall); Ashleigh Brykaliuk, F, UMD (Boston Pride, 3rd Round – 12th pick overall); Sydney McKibbon, F, UW (New York Riveters, 4th Round – 13th pick overall); Halli Krzyzaniak, D, UND (Boston Pride, 4th Round – 16th pick overall); Amy Menke, F, UND (New York Riveters, 5th Round – 17th pick overall); Lara Stalder, F, UMD (Boston Pride, 5th Round – 20th pick overall).

- Award Winners: The following WCHA alumnae earned recognition for their achievements in 2016-17:

  • USA Hockey named Wisconsin great Brianna Decker as the Bob Allen Women's Player of the Year.
  • Decker also repeated as NWHL Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 31 points, while Minnesota alumna Megan Bozek earned Best Defender honors and St. Cloud State's Katie Fitzgerald was tabbed Best Goaltender.
  • Of the 19 WCHA alumnae who played in the NWHL, 10 were All-Stars: Bozek, Courtney Burke (UW), Decker, Meghan Duggan (UW), Fitzgerald, Zoe Hickel (UMD), Amanda Kessel (UMN), Hilary Knight (UW), Gigi Marvin (UMN) and Madison Packer (UW).
  • The CWHL's all-time leading scorer, Minnesota Duluth star Caroline Ouellette reached the career 300-point milestone in December. Joining Ouellette as 2016-17 CWHL All-Stars were fellow Bulldogs Michela Cava, Haley Irwin and Jocelyne Larocque, along with Meagan Mikkelson (UW), Natalie Spooner (OSU) and Kelly Terry (UMN).

In the Classroom and In the Community

photo
North Dakota senior Halli Krzyzaniak was awarded the 2017 WCHA Postgraduate Scholarship. The three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award recipient compiled a near-perfect GPA and graduated with a bachelor's degree in UND's Honors program.

- NCAA Woman of the Year: Three WCHA student-athletes are among the record 543 female college athletes nominated by member schools for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year award: Halli Krzyzaniak (North Dakota), Lara Stalder (Minnesota Duluth) and Lee Stecklein (Minnesota). Eight ice hockey players were nominated nationwide, including five from the Division 1 ranks. The NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.

- CoSIDA Academic All-Americans: Minnesota senior Lee Stecklein earned second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors for her combined performance athletically and in the classroom.

  • A two-time Academic All-American, Stecklein was one of just three ice hockey players on the Division I Women's At-Large Teams.

- Hockey Humanitarian Award: Ohio State junior Lauren Spring and Minnesota senior Lee Stecklein were two of 15 nominees for the 2017 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented annually to college hockey's finest citizen – a student-athlete who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team but also to the community-at-large through leadership in volunteerism.

- Scholar-Athletes: A league-record 61 student-athletes, representing all eight WCHA Women's League member institutions, earned WCHA Scholar-Athlete Awards for maintaining a GPA of 3.50 or above.

- All-Academic Team: One hundred and fourteen (114) student-athletes, representing all eight WCHA Women's League member institutions, earned a spot on the WCHA All-Academic Team for maintaining a GPA of 3.00 or above.

- Postgraduate Scholarship: North Dakota senior Halli Krzyzaniak was awarded the 2017 WCHA Postgraduate Scholarship.

  • For a wonderful example of the best of what college athletics can offer, look no further than Krzyzaniak. One of college hockey's top defensemen, a burgeoning star on the international scene with Canada's National Women's Team, a dedicated student with a 3.92 grade-point-average, and an engaged community member both in Grand Forks and her native Manitoba, she is an ideal representative of the University of North Dakota, the WCHA and the NCAA.
  • Twice voted by her peers to wear the captain's "C," Krzyzaniak was a three-time All-WCHA defenseman. She played in 139 career games, tallying 58 points on 14 goals and 44 assists. Most importantly, the blue-liner compiled a career plus-54 rating, helping UND to a 76-52-18 mark, four-straight berths in the WCHA Final Face-Off and a trio of season-ending, national top-10 rankings.
  • Krzyzaniak has also become a fixture for Hockey Canada during this time, participating in the last two World Championships and 4 Nations Cup tournaments. Recently, she was named to Canada's 28-player 2017-18 centralization roster, moving one step closer to fulfilling a dream of representing her country in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
  • While compiling a prestigious and ongoing athletic career, Krzyzaniak has excelled academically. The three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award recipient compiled a near-perfect GPA and graduated with a bachelor's degree in UND's Honors program, while completing dual minors in chemistry and communication. Following preparation for the 2018 Olympics, Krzyzaniak plans on obtaining a master's degree, with the goal of attending medical school following her hockey career. Ultimately, she intends to become a surgeon specializing in orthopedics.

More from the 2016-17 Season

photo
Minnesota's Kelly Pannek led the nation with 62 points in 2016-17.

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

  • The country's top-five toughest schedules in 2016-17 belonged to WCHA teams, while the entire membership was in the top-16.
  • NCAA runner-up Wisconsin played the nation's toughest schedule overall, while Minnesota Duluth ranked second, St. Cloud State third, Minnesota fourth, Bemidji State fifth, North Dakota ninth, Minnesota State 14th and Ohio State 16th.

- Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, six WCHA teams reached double-digit win totals, while half of league membership finished at .500-or-better.

  • Wisconsin finished with the NCAA's best winning percentage at .875 (33-3-4), while Minnesota Duluth ranked sixth at .743 (25-7-5), Minnesota finished seventh at .731 (26-8-5) and North Dakota was tied for 16th at .500 (16-16-6).

- Continued Nonconference Success: The WCHA once again boasted, far and away, the best nonconference winning percentage in the country at .733 (31-10-4).

  • WCHA teams finished above .500 against all other conferences, going 17-4-2 (.783) against teams from College Hockey America, 10-3-1 (.750) vs. ECAC schools and 4-3-1 (.563) against Hockey East opponents.
  • Seven (7) of eight WCHA member schools posted winning records in nonconference play, while the only that didn't was just short at 2-3-1 (and earned a win over a top-10 opponent).

- Statistically Speaking: The nation's top scorer by total points (Minnesota's Kelly Pannek with 62) and points per game (Minnesota Duluth's Lara Stalder at 1.60) hailed from the WCHA, as did the NCAA's top goaltender (Wisconsin's Ann-Renée Desbiens) by save percentage (.963), goals-against average (0.71), wins (29), winning percentage (.886) and shutouts (17). The league was also home to the country's saves leader (Ohio State's Kassidy Sauve with 1,135).

  • Stalder led seven WCHA players among the top-20 in NCAA scoring (by points per game). Pannek was second at 1.59, followed by Wisconsin's Annie Pankowski (fifth at 1.53), Minnesota's Sarah Potomak (eighth at 1.39), UW's Sarah Nurse (10th at 1.36), Minnesota Duluth's Ashleigh Brykaliuk (17th at 1.22) and UW's Emily Clark (19th at 1.18).
  • Joining Desbiens among the NCAA save pct. leaders were UMD's Maddie Rooney (fourth at .942), Sauve (fifth at .942), North Dakota's Lexie Shaw (14th at .928) and St. Cloud State's Janine Alder (17th at .926).
  • The top-25 list by GAA included Desbiens, Rooney (10th at 1.65), UMN's Sidney Peters (11th at 1.66), Shaw (12th at 1.68), Sauve (16th at 2.00), Bemidji State's Brittni Mowat (24th at 2.43) and Alder (25th at 2.54).

- 'Fill the Bowl' Sets U.S. Attendance Record: Wisconsin drew 15,369 fans for their Jan. 14 "Fill the Bowl" game at the Kohl Center in Madison, making it the highest-attended women's hockey game ever in the United States.

  • The Badgers defeated St. Cloud State, 2-0, in a game that outdrew NHL contests played that day in Florida (14,795) and Arizona (12,015).

- Fabulous Final Face-Off: Annually the nation's top conference championship tournament, the 2017 WCHA Final Face-Off -- featuring Wisconsin, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota -- did not disappoint.

  • The four-team, three-game event to cap off the season featured three NCAA tournament teams, three teams that would finish in the top-five of the final opinion polls, five of the top-10 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award finalists, seven All-Americans and at least 16 potential 2018 Olympians.

- Coaching Milestones: Two of the WCHA's legendary head coaches added milestone victories to their résumés during the 2016-17 campaign, the league's newest bench boss enjoyed her first career win and another longtime coach added an important triumph as well.

  • Ohio State's Nadine Muzerall enjoyed a successful first season as a Division I head coach, leading the Buckeyes to an overall four-win improvement (from 10-25-1 to 14-18-5) and a jump from seventh- to fifth-place in the WCHA standings. A two-time All-American during her playing days at Minnesota and a four-time national champion as an assistant coach with her alma mater, Muzerall made her head coaching debut Sept. 30 at RPI -- less than three weeks after being officially introduced at OSU on Sept. 10. The Buckeyes scored three, first-period goals on opening night en route to a 4-1 road win.
  • With Wisconsin's 4-1 win Oct. 15 at Clarkson, Badgers head coach Mark Johnson became the first head coach in WCHA history – and just the third in NCAA National Collegiate (D-1) women's hockey annals – to reach the 400-victory plateau. Having just completed his 14th season, the seven-time WCHA Coach of the Year is 428-78-39 (.821) in his illustrious career – all spent at his alma mater, UW.
  • When the Gophers won 2-1 at Ohio State on Oct. 22, Minnesota head coach Brad Frost became the 11th bench boss in NCAA D-1 women's hockey history to earn 300 wins (and just the third to win 300-plus all in the WCHA, joining Johnson and Minnesota Duluth's Shannon Miller). In 10 seasons, Frost has compiled a 319-53-27 (.833) mark to stand as Minnesota's all-time winningest coach (ninth-most in NCAA D-1 annals).
  • North Dakota's Brian Idalski captured his 275th career victory – and program-best 169th with UND – with the Fighting Hawks' 3-2 triumph over Ohio State on Feb. 18.

- Fifteen Short Years: The 2016-17 season, sadly, marked the final one for the North Dakota women's hockey program.

  • On March 29, UND President Mark Kennedy announced the program was being eliminated due to severe budget cuts affecting the entire campus.
  • The final game in program history was a 2-1 loss to Wisconsin in a Final Face-Off semifinal contest on March 4. UND's last victory came, fittingly, in front of the home crowd at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Feb. 26 -- a 2-1, overtime triumph over Ohio State in the decisive Game Three of a WCHA quarterfinal series.
  • North Dakota's 144 wins since opening night of the 2010-11 season were tied for the ninth-most nationally this decade (third-most in the WCHA).
  • The WCHA and the entire college hockey community are left to mourn a program that, in just 15 short years, had produced three All-Americans (and Academic All-Americans), nine Olympians and 26 national team players, while appearing in two NCAA tournaments, becoming a fixture in the national rankings; and, had positioned itself for a long run of prominence.

Once Around the Rink

photo
Ohio State's Kassidy Sauve earned second-team AHCA/CCM Hockey All-America honors after leading the country with a Buckeyes-record 1,135 saves (second-most in WCHA history).

- BSU: In addition to setting the WCHA record with 3,620 career saves, Brittni Mowat graduated with program records in five other statistical categories: games played (134), minutes (7895:30), wins (62), GAA (2.05) and save percentage (.931).

- UMN: The Gophers' six seniors, Dani Cameranesi, Kelsey Cline, Paige Haley, Schipper, Lee Stecklein, and Megan Wolfe, wrapped up their careers with two national championships, an overall record of 133-17-11 (.860) and a WCHA mark of 91-10-11.

- UMD: The Bulldogs made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011 and finished at 25-7-5 overall, the program's most wins since the 2009-10 national champions (31-8-2). UMD's 19-5-4-1 league mark and third-place finish were the team's most WCHA wins since 2009-10 and best finish since 2010-11.

photo
Minnesota State's seven victories were more than the program's win total from the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons combined.

- MSU: The Mavericks' seven victories (7-26-4) were more than the program's win totals from the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns combined (6-61-5) and represented MSU's highest single-season total since 2013-14. The Mavs snapped a 46-game WCHA regular season winless streak en route to four league wins, their most since that same 2013-14 season.

- UND: The Fighting Hawks advanced to their seventh-straight WCHA Final Face-Off on the strength of the WCHA's top-scoring freshman class. UND's Ryleigh Houston, Sarah Lecavalier, Alyssa MacMillen, Emma Nuutinen, Annelise Rice, Abbey Stanley, Hallie Theodosopoulos and Abby Thiessen combined for league rookie-bests of 30 goals, 50 assists and 80 points.

- OSU: On the ice, the Buckeyes had two All-WCHA selections for the first time since 2013-14 in redshirt sophomore goaltender Kassidy Sauve (Second Team) and redshirt freshman defenseman Jincy Dunne (Third Team and All-Rookie Team). Off the ice, junior forward Lauren Spring gave OSU its third-straight nominee for the prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award (following Cara Zubko in 2016 and Kayla Sullivan in 2015).

- SCSU: WCHA All-Rookie Team goaltender Janine Alder set the standard for Huskies freshman netminders, winning nine games and boasting a 2.55 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and three shutouts in 31 games. Her save percentage and goals-against average ranked third and fourth, respectively, for a single season in program history and her trio of clean sheets tied for first.

- UW: En route to the national title game, the Badgers led the country in an astounding 15 team statistical categories: wins (33), fewest losses (3), winning percentage (.875), goals scored (157), goals per game (3.92), goals allowed (35), goals allowed per game (0.88), goal margin (+122), goal margin per game (+3.05), penalty kill percentage (.918), shots on goal (1,651), shots on goal per game (41.27), shots on goal allowed per game (18.95), shots on goal margin (+893) and shots on goal margin per game (+22.32).


From the League Office

photo
WCHA All-Rookie Team goaltender Janine Alder and the Huskies were featured on FOX Sports North as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2017 festivities.

- Million Completes First Season at the Helm: On Sept. 2, 2016, Katie Million began her tenure as the third full-time vice president and Women's League commissioner in WCHA history.

  • Million joined the WCHA after a highly-successful 17-year run as an executive with the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). Over her first 10 months with the WCHA, she has spearheaded a re-focused emphasis on the student-athlete experience, alumni outreach, increased exposure and new, outside-the-box fundraising efforts on behalf of the League and its institutions.

- Historic Partnership: The 2016-17 season brought unprecedented exposure for the nation's premier conference, as the WCHA partnered with FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin on the Association's first-ever extended women's hockey television package. The region's preeminent sports network televised seven regular season contests during the campaign, plus the 2017 WCHA Final Face-Off championship game.

  • For the first time in the 11-year history of the event, women's college hockey and the WCHA were featured on Hockey Day Minnesota 2017, as St. Cloud State hosted Minnesota State live on FOX Sports North (Jan. 21).
  • Other live telecasts of regular season games included Minnesota at Wisconsin (shown on both FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin on Dec. 4), Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth (Jan. 13), St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (the record-setting attendance for the "Fill the Bowl" game was aired on FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin), Minnesota State at St. Cloud State (Jan. 20) and Bemidji State at St. Cloud State (Feb. 10 and 11). All told, six of the league's eight teams were featured.

- Debut of "This Week in the WCHA": Thanks to the efforts of Kelly Schultz and the Beaver Radio Network, the 2016-17 season marked the debut of "This Week in the WCHA," a six- to eight-minute weekly show featuring highlights, interviews and more from around the league.

  • Available on WCHA.com, 24 episodes were produced, beginning with a Sept. 30 season preview and extending through a March 27 season finale.

- Digital Exposure Up 112.8 Percent: During the 2016-17 season, the WCHA Women's League-specific social media handles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram generated a 112.8-percent increase in organic impressions (year-to-year, from the 2015-16 campaign).

  • Between Sept. 1 and April 15, the league's aggregate social media followers grew by 52.1 percent.

- #WeAreWCHA: Along with growth in impressions, engagement with the hashtag #WeAreWCHA increased throughout the season.

  • The tagline aims to engage everyone who makes the WCHA Women's League the premier conference in women's college hockey – from alumni and current players to future student-athletes; from administrators to coaches; and, most importantly, the league's fans. We are all the WCHA.

Tradition Starts Here

- Leaders and Champions: With 16 national championships in its 18 years of existence - including 15 of a possible 17 NCAA crowns - along with seven Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Winners, 95 All-Americans, hundreds of Olympic and national team members, and countless women inspired, the WCHA Women's League has become the nation's premier college hockey conference.