BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Sept. 18, 2018 – If the 2018-19 preseason coaches’ vote is any indication, the 20th Anniversary season of the women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) will feature quite a race for the regular season crown and home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Three-time defending regular season champion Wisconsin and reigning league playoff winner Minnesota each collected 33 points in the poll of the WCHA’s seven head coaches, with the Badgers’ four first-place votes edging the Gophers’ three.
Ohio State, which set a school record with 24 wins in 2017-18 en route to its first-ever NCAA tournament and Frozen Four appearance, placed third with 24 points. The Buckeyes edged out Minnesota Duluth (23 points), which returns five of its top six scorers and welcomes back U.S. Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney in net. The poll was rounded out by Bemidji State and its pair of returning All-WCHA performers, St. Cloud State with its stellar goaltending tandem and a Minnesota State squad that features its top-three scorers from a year ago.
Rooney, who seven months ago backstopped Team USA to its first Olympic gold since 1998, beat out a crowded field for WCHA Preseason Player of the Year honors. Her three votes edged the two received by Olympic teammate Kelly Pannek (RS-Sr., F, Minnesota), while redshirt-senior Wisconsin forwards Emily Clark (a 2018 Olympian with Canada) and Annie Pankowski (centralized last year with the U.S. National Team) each got a vote apiece.
The WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year selection is Gophers’ freshman forward Taylor Heise, the 2018 Minnesota Ms. Hockey award winner and 2018 USA Today High School Sports All-USA Girls Hockey Player of the Year. Heise received five votes, with the others going to Minnesota’s Amy Potomak and Wisconsin’s Sophie Shirley (the 2017-18 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Rookie of the Year).
The loaded Preseason All-WCHA Team features Pannek, Clark, Pankowski and Minnesota redshirt-junior Sarah Potomak as forwards, Ohio State All-American Jincy Dunne (redshirt-junior) and Wisconsin senior Mikaela Gardner on the blue line and Rooney as the goaltender.
The WCHA’s 20th Anniversary season, which will celebrate the past, present and future of college hockey’s premier conference, opens with four exhibition contests the weekend of Sept. 22-23 (Minnesota Duluth hosts the Minnesota Whitecaps, St. Cloud State plays the HTI Stars, while both Minnesota State and Minnesota welcome the University of British Columbia). The puck drops on the regular season the weekend of Sept. 28-30 with nonconference tests for all seven WCHA teams, while league play begins Oct. 5-6 (Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth). The 2019 WCHA Final Faceoff returns to Ridder Area in Minneapolis the weekend of March 9-10.
Every game in 2018-19 hosted by Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, along with the WCHA Final Faceoff and select games hosted by Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin (those contests available on BTN Plus), will be streamed live and on-demand exclusively on FloHockey.tv.
|2018-19 WCHA Preseason Coaches’ Poll|
|Rk||Team (1st place votes)||Points|
|6.||St. Cloud State||12|
|Predicted order of finish. Based on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.|
Preseason WCHA Player of the Year
Maddie Rooney, RS-Jr., G, Minnesota Duluth (3 votes)
Others receiving votes: Kelly Pannek, Sr., F, Minnesota (2); Emily Clark, Sr., F, Wisconsin (1); Annie Pankowski, Sr., F, Wisconsin (1)
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year
Taylor Heise, Fr., F, Minnesota (5)
Others receiving votes: Amy Potomak, Fr., F, Minnesota (1); Sophie Shirley, Fr., F, Wisconsin (1)
WCHA Preseason Media Teleconference Audio
WCHA Vice President and Women’s League Commissioner Katie Million
WCHA Supervisor of Officials Greg Shepherd
Bemidji State Head Coach Jim Scanlan
Minnesota Head Coach Brad Frost
Minnesota Duluth Head Coach Maura Crowell
Minnesota State Head Coach John Harrington
Ohio State Head Coach Nadine Muzerall
St. Cloud State Head Coach Eric Rud
Wisconsin Head Coach Mark Johnson
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association
The Women’s League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is celebrating 20 Years of Excellence during 2018-19 anniversary season. The nation’s premier women’s hockey conference, WCHA member institutions have won a record 16 national championships since the league’s inception in 1999 (including 15 of a possible 18 NCAA titles), while producing seven Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winners, 98 All-Americans and numerous Olympic and national team members. The seven-team, NCAA Division 1 conference consists of: Bemidji State University (Beavers), the University of Minnesota (Golden Gophers), the University of Minnesota Duluth (Bulldogs), Minnesota State University (Mavericks), Ohio State University (Buckeyes), St. Cloud State University (Huskies) and the University of Wisconsin (Badgers). For more information, visit www.wcha.com.