2018-19 WCHA Women's League Preview
By Bill Brophy for WCHA.com
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Bemidji State senior defenseman Melissa Hunt

Bemidji State

Head Coach: Jim Scanlan, fifth season

Last season: 16-19-3, finished in fifth place in the WCHA (9-13-2-1, 30 points), defeated Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Quarterfinals and qualified for the WCHA Final Faceoff.

Key losses: Alexis Joyce, a second-team All-WCHA defenseman last year, graduated after amassing at least 18 points in each of the last four seasons. She had six goals and 23 points last season. Emma Terres, who shared the team goal-scoring lead with 11, and goalie Erin Deters, who had a 2.30 goals-against average, also graduated.

Key returnees: The Beavers welcome back eight of their top 10 scorers, along with six veteran defensemen, including captain Melissa Hunt and sophomore Mak Langei (4 goals, 18 points last year when she made the All-WCHA Rookie Team) and two goalies (Kerigan Dowhy and Lauren Bench). Leading scorer Haley Mack (11 goals, 25 points), Emily Bergland (11 goals) and Clair DeGeorge, a third team All-WCHA forward when she scored 7 goals with 23 points, are all offensive threats. DeGeorge, who played for Team USA’s U-22 squad this summer in a series against Canada, opened a lot of eyes as a power forward. “Clair is a special player,” said Coach Scanlan. “It’s a credit to her that USA Hockey has recognized her talent. She has an impact on the game on every shift. She plays with a passion that is fun to see. No doubt she will be an integral part of our lineup.”

Top newcomers: Scanlan said the five freshmen will push for an opportunity to play. He feels Lexi Baker will compete with his veteran goalies. Claudia Verkerke joins a deep group of defenders, while Ellie Moser is a power forward who is expected to contribute.

Outlook: Scanlan is happy the Beavers will be part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against St. Cloud in Brainerd, Minn. in November and will be hosting Hockey Day in Minnesota against Minnesota State in January. He is probably even happier that he will have a more experienced team to show off in those events. “The core of our team is made up our sophomore and junior class,’’ he said. The Beavers are picked to finish fifth in the WCHA preseason coaches’ poll.

First series: host No. 1 Clarkson Sept. 28-29

First WCHA series: at UMD Oct. 19-20


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Minnesota sophomore forward Grace Zumwinkle

Minnesota

Coach: Brad Frost, 12th season

Last season: 24-11-3, finished third in the WCHA (13-8-3-0, 42 points), beat St. Cloud State in the WCHA Quarterfinals, won the WCHA Final Faceoff (defeating Ohio State and Wisconsin) and qualified for the NCAA tournament (losing to Wisconsin).

Key losses: All-American defenseman Sydney Baldwin, the WCHA Player of the Year, Caitlin Reilly, a second team All-WCHA forward, and goalie Sidney Peters, who won the Hockey Humanitarian Award, graduated, while defenseman Lindsay Agnew transferred to Boston College.

Key returnees: There are 17 returnees from last year’s roster, including defenseman Patti Marshall, who was invited to Team USA’s National Team Evaluation camp, Grace Zumwinkle, a member of the All-WCHA First Team after leading the league in conference scoring (17 goals, 38 points overall) and Nicole Schammel (17 goals, 32 points). However, the key returnees may be two players who weren’t on the Gopher roster last season. Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak both come back to campus after redshirting the 2017-18 season while training with their respective national teams. Pannek, the WCHA scoring champ in 2017 and a pre-season all-conference choice by coaches, comes back for her redshirt senior season after helping Team USA to a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. She has 155 career points (56g-99a) and is Minnesota's active career scoring leader. Potomak was centralized with Canada's National Women's Team, but was released from the team prior to the Olympic Games. Potomak has 107 career points (35g-72a) in her first two seasons with the Gophers. Defenseman Olivia Knowles was named to the all-rookie team last season.

Top newcomers: The WCHA coaches voted forward Taylor Heise as the preseason rookie of the year. She also was invited to the USA National Team Evaluation camp along with Pannek and is one of six freshmen on the roster. Amy Potomak, Sarah’s sister who centralized with Team Canada last year, also will make her first appearance in the Maroon and Gold. Goalie Sydney Scobee, who played two years at Vermont, is one of four netminders competing for the job.

Outlook: The Gophers are ranked third in the USCHO’s first poll of the new season and are co-favorites with Wisconsin as the coaches’ choice to win the WCHA title. With three elite players back after an Olympic year and a talented freshman class, the Gophers are expected to be a high- octane team with a roster full of world class players. Mark down the two WCHA series against Wisconsin as must-see hockey. The Gophers play in Madison Oct. 27-28 and host the Badgers Jan. 18-19.

First series: host No. 10 Mercyhurst Sept. 28-29

First WCHA series: at No. 9 Minnesota Duluth Oct. 5-6


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Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Maddie Rooney

Minnesota Duluth

Coach: Maura Crowell, fourth season

Last season: 15-16-4, finished in fourth place in the WCHA (10-11-3-2, 35 points), lost to Bemidji State in the WCHA Quarterfinals.

Key losses: Lost seven seniors, including Kateřina Mrázová, a third team All-WCHA forward who had eight goals and 21 points. The Bulldogs also graduated five defensemen.

Key returnees: Goalie Maddie Rooney returns for her final two years of eligibility with a gold medal around her neck. The 2018 Olympic gold medalist was named the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year and landed on the preseason all-conference team. Rooney spent all of last year playing for the U.S. Women’s National and Olympic teams, where she posted a 1.16 GAA and .945 save percentage in four Olympic games. She had a 1.48 GAA and .932 save percentage in six games prior to the Olympics. “Maddie is almost a different person than she was a year a two or go. She has just grown tremendously off the ice,” Crowell said. “She has grown up a lot and I think that maturity and confidence that came from succeeding and winning that gold medal is palpable when she is in the room. The players feed off of that energy.” Rooney was 30-19-5 during her first two seasons from 2015-2017. She posted a 1.65 goals against average and .942 save percentage as a sophomore.

The Bulldogs also return five of their top six scorers, who accounted for 60 of UMD's 71 goals last season. Naomi Rogge, who had 16 goals and 24 points as a rookie, Ashton Bell, who had 11 goals and 23 points, and Sydney Brodt (5 and 16) are the top veteran forwards, while Jalyn Elmes, a third team All-WCHA defenseman last season, figures to get a lot of ice time as the only veteran blueliner.

Top newcomers: UMD has nine freshmen and will ask a lot from rookie defenders Lizi Norton, Maggie Flaherty and Kailee Skinner, who all have international experience. Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser, Minnesota high school teammates, also should be freshman forward contributors.

Outlook: The Bulldogs were picked to finish fourth by WCHA coaches and are nationally ranked ninth in preseason polls, so the return of Rooney has most hockey people thinking UMD is a national power again. “The way she’s playing in net, it’s hard to not notice her,” Crowell said.

First series: host No. 4 Boston College Sept. 28-29

First WCHA series: host No. 3 Minnesota Oct. 5-6


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Minnesota State sophomore forward Brittyn Fleming

Minnesota State

Coach: John Harrington, 4th season

Last season: 5-28-1, finished in seventh place in the WCHA (3-21-0-0, 9 points), lost to Ohio State in the WCHA Quarterfinals.

Key losses: Anna Keys and Emma Wittchow, who were veteran defensemen, both graduated, as did forwards Hannah Davidson and Lindsey Coleman, who were the fourth- and fifth-leading scorers a year ago.

Key returnees: The Mavericks return their top three scorers. Forward Brittyn Fleming led the Mavericks in scoring as a freshman last season, compiling 19 points, which also ranked tied for 10th among first-year WCHA players. Senior forward Jordan McLaughlin was second with 17 points, including a team-leading nine goals, and Corbin Boyd (3-11--14) was third on the scoring list for a team which is looking to improve offensively in 2018-19. Senior Megan Hinze and junior McKenzie Sederberg are veteran defenders and goaltender Katie Bidulka, who split time with junior Chloe Crosby last season, is also back. The Mavs also welcome back forward Emily Antony, a fourth-year player, who was granted a medical hardship season last year, after impressing during her sophomore season.

Key newcomers: The Mavs should have more depth thanks to freshmen Anna Wilgren and California native Brooke Bryant at forward, and 6-foot-1 goaltender Abigail Levy, a New York native who played prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

Outlook: The Mavericks have finished last in the WCHA in each of the last four seasons and haven’t had double-digit wins in the league for over a decade, but Harrington saw his team beat Ohio State, a Frozen Four team last year, and, finally is playing with a team full of his recruits, is excited to take the next step in the rebuilding process. “They want to be better,” said Harrington. “The thing about this group is they've learned over the course of time what it takes to be successful as a group.”

First series: host Rennselaer Sept. 29-30

First WCHA series: at No. 7 Ohio State Oct. 12-13


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Ohio State junior defenseman Jincy Dunne

Ohio State

Coach: Nadine Muzerall, 3rd season

Last season: 24-11-4 (program record for wins), finished second in the WCHA (14-6-4-3, 49 points), swept Minnesota State in the WCHA Quarterfinals, qualified for the WCHA Final Faceoff and the NCAA Frozen Four, losing in the national semifinals.

Key losses: Kassidy Sauvé, an All-American goaltender, transferred to Clarkson. Defenseman Dani Sadek and veteran forwards Lauren Springs and Julianne Iafallo graduated.

Key returnees: All-American defenseman Jincy Dunne was selected to the coaches’ preseason All-WCHA team and will lead the Buckeyes. Muzerall said Dunne, an All-WCHA blue-liner last season, will be OSU’s quarterback on the power play. “She has the capability to be the WCHA Defenseman of the Year and her improvements on the ice can’t be ignored. Jincy puts in the time away from the rink that most people don’t see, and she’s a phenomenal leader for us as a captain this year.” Dunne was invited to Team USA’s development camp this summer, while two other Buckeye returnees, Emma Maltais and Madison Field, were invited to Team Canada’s camp (where Muzerall was the head coach). Field has had consecutive 30-point seasons, while Maltais had a spectacular rookie year and was named to the All-WCHA First Team. She led the Buckeyes with 40 points after playing in 37 games, tallying 16 goals and 24 assists. Tatum Skaggs (23 goals and 37 points), a third team All-WCHA forward, also returns after a terrific rookie season and Charly Dahlquist (8 goals, 23 points) is a veteran forward. Lauren Boyle (5 goals, 26 points last season) is a solid defender who was invited to the U.S. development camp in August. Amanda Zeglen, who will compete for the starting goaltender job, had a 5-2 record with a 1.86 goals against average and a .912 save percentage as a freshman last year, including a shutout in the WCHA tournament.

Top newcomers: Andrea Brändli competed in the Olympics with Switzerland and will get a chance to take over the net for the Buckeyes. There are six other freshmen, including two players from Finland – forward Sara Säkkinen and defenseman Eve Savander.

Outlook: The Buckeyes are picked by coaches to finish in third place and are ranked seventh nationally in the USCHO preseason poll. The Buckeyes are solid in their own end and can score goals. Goaltending is the biggest question mark. “I have high hopes for all of our goalies,” said Muzerall. “I am comfortable in our goaltenders.”The Buckeyes are picked by coaches to finish in third place and are ranked seventh nationally in the USCHO preseason poll. The Buckeyes are solid in their own end and can score goals. Goaltending is the biggest question mark. “I have high hopes for all of our goalies,” said Muzerall. “I am comfortable in our goaltenders.”

First series: at Quinnipiac Sept. 28-29

First WCHA series: host Minnesota State Oct. 12-13


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St. Cloud State soophomore forward Laura Kluge

St. Cloud State

Coach: Eric Rud, 5th season

Last season: 8-20-5, finished in sixth place in the WCHA (6-14-4-1, 23 points), lost to Ohio State in the WCHA Quarterfinals.

Key losses: Alyssa Erickson and Brittney Anderson, both four-year regulars, graduated.

Key returnees: SCSU returns a veteran goaltending tandem – Janine Alder (a .935 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average last season), who played in the Olympics for Switzerland, and third team All-WCHA selection Emma Polusny (a .934 save percentage, a 2.20 GAA and a SCSU program-record four shutouts), who was invited to the Team USA Development camp this summer. Goal-scoring has been St. Cloud’s problem, but the Huskies’ top three scorers return – Laura Kluge (7 goals, 24 points), Julia Tylke (10 goals, 16 points) and Kayla Friesen (4 goals, 13 points). Abby Thiessen and Rachel Herzog are veteran defensemen.

Top newcomers: The Huskies have five incoming freshmen – including Finnish forward Jenniina Nylund and defensemen Olivia Hanson and Taytum Geier, who may get regular shifts.

Outlook: The Huskies went 6-6-5 in their final 17 games and 5-4-3 after the Christmas break, so Rud feels team is moving in the right direction. “We left the season feeling confident as how far we had come as a group,” said Rud. The Huskies were picked to finish sixth in the preseason poll, but they have two proven goalies in Alder and Polusny, who also made the WCHA’s All-Rookie team last season, to help progress in the rebuild. They need to find more offense.

First series: at Connecticut Sept. 28-29

First WCHA series: host No. 3 Minnesota Oct. 12, at Gophers Oct. 13


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Wisconsin senior forward Emily Clark

Wisconsin

Coach: Mark Johnson, 16th season

Last season: 31-5-2, won the WCHA regular-season title for the third-straight season and seventh time overall (20-2-2-2, 64 points), was runner-up at the WCHA Final Faceoff and made its fifth-consecutive NCAA Frozen Four appearance (losing in the national semifinals).

Key losses: Forwards Baylee Wellhausen and Claudia Kepler, a second team All-WCHA forward when she scored 22 goals, were significant contributors to last year’s NCAA semifinalists. Both graduated.

Key returnees: Forwards Emily Clark and Annie Pankowski are back from Olympic centralization last season — Clark played in the Pyeongchang Games for Canada while Pankowski, who scored 25 goals and 55 points for UW two years ago, wasn't selected for the U.S. They join a strong roster that includes All-WCHA goalie Kristen Campbell (who posted a 1.19 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage and 12 shutouts last season) and returns its top three scorers from 2017-18. Junior Abby Roque, who brings a physical presence on the ice every shift, was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Year, Powered by GoodWood Hockey, a year ago after scoring 11 goals with 41 points. Senior Sophia Shaver (12 goals, 24 points) was a second team All-WCHA forward last season, while senior Sam Cogan (9 goals, 28 points last year) and junior Presley Norby (10 goals, 29 points) were among the team’s top three scorers. Defenseman Mikaela Gardner was named to the WCHA’s pre-season all-league team with Clark and Pankowski. She will solidify a blue line corps which is traditionally stingy. It also includes Maddie Rolfes, an All-WCHA Third Team selection a year ago, and Natalie Buchbinder.

Top newcomers: Forward Sophie Shirley is one of the most intriguing rookies Wisconsin has had. She was the league rookie of the year playing against pro players in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League last year, has great speed and a scoring touch. Forward Britta Curl is also expected to crack Johnson’s loaded lineup.

Outlook: The Badgers are co-favorites with Minnesota to win the WCHA. They are seeking an unprecedented fourth-straight title and are ranked No. 2 nationally in the preseason USCHO poll. Like Minnesota, they are loaded with world-class players. Seven Badger players were invited to Canada and the U.S national camps this summer. Gardner, Rolfes, Buchbinder, Shaver and Pankowski went to the U.S. camp, while Clark and Shirley were invited to the Team Canada developmental camp.

First series: host Lindenwood Sept. 28-29

First WCHA series: host No. 9 Minnesota Duluth Oct. 12-13