Championship Season: Playoff hockey begins in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, as the 2019 WCHA Playoffs get underway with this weekend's Quarterfinals. Nationally top-ranked Minnesota, the 2019 WCHA regular season champion, earned the No. 1 seed and an automatic bye into the 2019 WCHA Final Faceoff (March 9-10 at Ridder Arena). The remaining six teams will compete in best-of-three, quarterfinal-round series this weekend. More about each team heading into the league's postseason tournament, in order of seed (with the winning team receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament):
- Minnesota: The nation's top-ranked team, the Gophers reached the 20-win mark for the 22nd consecutive season (each year of the program's existence). The Maroon & Gold enters the WCHA postseason rated No. 1 in the PairWise.
- Wisconsin: The Badgers are seeking their ninth-consecutive Final Faceoff appearance in 2019 after posting a 28-4-2 regular season record. UW, which spent much of the year ranked No. 1 in the opinion polls and is currently No. 2 in the PairWise Rankings, will be competing for its fifth Final Faceoff crown in six seasons.
- Ohio State: The 10th-ranked Buckeyes have been ranked among the nation's top-10 teams all season. OSU, currently 11th in the PairWise, is hosting a WCHA Quarterfinal series for the second season in a row and is looking to make back-to-back Final Faceoff appearances for the first time in program history.
- Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs secured home ice for the WCHA Quarterfinals with a pair of shootout victories over Minnesota State last weekend. UMD will see a familiar postseason foe this weekend in Bemidji State as they seek a return to the WCHA Final Faceoff for the first time since winning the championship game in 2017.
- Bemidji State: The Beavers enter the WCHA Quarterfinals with the nation's fifth-best penalty kill and sport a résumé that includes three wins over Ohio State and a victory over Wisconsin this season. BSU is looking to return to the Final Faceoff for the second consecutive season and the third time in the last five years (2015, 2018).
- Minnesota State: The Mavericks, who went to overtime in their final three regular season contests with Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth this season, have played nine extra-period games this season, the most of any team in the WCHA.
- St. Cloud State: The Huskies' goaltending tandem of Emma Polusny and Janine Alder have combined to stop 1,342 shots this season, a total which leads the WCHA by 358 saves and ranks second nationally.
Scoring and Goaltending Champs: Minnesota senior Nicole Schammel and Ohio State sophomore Emma Maltais shared the WCHA lead in scoring (27) and assists (17) in conference play this season. Gopher sophomore Grace Zumwinkle and Wisconsin freshman Sophie Shirley topped the WCHA in goals with 13. Wisconsin junior Kristen Campbell posted a 1.08 goals-against average in 24 league games to earn the distinction as WCHA goaltending champion.
Julianne Bye Cup: The WCHA debuted a new regular season championship trophy in 2018-19 as Minnesota became the first team to hoist the Julianne Bye Cup. The Cup is named in honor of long-time WCHA and women's hockey advocate Julianne Bye.
WCHA Quarterfinal Matchups
No. 7 St. Cloud State at No. 2 Wisconsin: The Badgers and Huskies are meeting in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 this season. Wisconsin swept the season series from St. Cloud in 2018-19, winning 8-2 and 3-1 in St. Cloud Dec. 7-8 and taking 5-0 and 3-1 victories in Madison Jan. 25-26. The two teams have met 88 times since the series' inception in 1999 with the Badgers holding a 78-8-2 advantage, including a 43-3 mark at LaBahn Arena.
No. 6 Minnesota State at No. 3 Ohio State: Minnesota State visits Columbus for a quarterfinal matchup with Ohio State coming of a run of three-straight overtime games to end the regular season. The teams are facing off in the WCHA playoffs for the second year in a row. OSU swept last year's series, which was also played at the OSU Ice Rink, by scores of 6-0 and 5-2. Ohio State won three of four meetings this season and owns a 64-14-8 lead in the all-time series.
No. 5 Bemidji State at No. 4 Minnesota Duluth: Regional rivals meet in the WCHA Quarterfinals for the fourth time in the last five seasons (BSU won a three-game series at AMSOIL Arena to upset the Bulldogs in 2015; UMD returned the favor with a sweep at Bemidji in 2016 and BSU won in three games in 2018). The teams met four times during the regular season, with UMD holding a 3-1 edge. The Bulldogs recorded 6-1 and 2-0 victories at AMSOIL on Oct. 18-19 and the two teams split a pair of games at Bemidji Jan. 11-12. BSU won the opener that weekend, 4-1 with UMD rebounding for a 5-2 decision in game two. Minnesota Duluth leads the all-time series, 72-18-4 and is 9-4 in 13 WCHA playoff meetings between the schools.
The Week in Review
No. 2/2 Minnesota 6, at Bemidji State 3
No. 2/2 Minnesota 4, at Bemidji State 3
(Feb. 22-23 at Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.)
- Minnesota's Kelly Pannek recorded a natural hat trick to lift No. 2/2 Minnesota to a 6-3 win at Bemidji State in the series opener between the two teams on Friday.
- Taylor Wente staked the Gophers to a 1-0 lead with a goal on the first shot of the game, 26 seconds after the puck drop.
- Sarah Potomak upped the lead to 2-0 with her eighth goal of the year at 4:32.
- Bemidji State knotted the contest at 2-2 on first-period goals by Lindsey Featherstone (7:15) and Paige Beebe (10:37).
- Pannek then pushed the Gophers to a 5-2 lead with goals at 14:22 of the first and 8:37 and 14:42 of the second with the second goal coming on the power play.
- Abby Halluska cut the lead to 5-3 28 seconds into the third period but Taylor Heise added an empty-net goal at 19:42 for the final margin.
- Alex Gulstene made 29 saves for the Gophers in the win.
- Minnesota used a 4-3 win on the road at Bemidji State to wrap up the regular season as WCHA champions on Saturday.
- The Gophers held a 4-1 lead midway through the third period, having scored four consecutive goals after surrendering the first goal of the game to BSU's Abby Halluska just 38 seconds into the first period.
- Bemidji State cut the lead to two with 11:41 remaining on a goal by Haley Mack and then one with less than two minutes to play on Halluska's second of the day, but the Gophers held on for the win. Grace Zumwinkle, Emily Oden, Taylor Heise, and Amy Potomak scored goals for the Maroon & Gold.
- Patti Marshall led all players with three assists.
- Sydney Scobee made 25 saves on 28 shots faced for the Gophers.
Minnesota Duluth 5, at Minnesota State 5 (UMD win shootout)
Minnesota Duluth 3, at Minnesota State 3 (UMD wins shootout)
(Feb. 22-23 at Verizon Center; Mankato, Minn.)
- Minnesota Duluth and homestanding Minnesota State skated to a 5-5 tie on Friday with the Bulldogs picking up the extra WCHA point with a 2-1 shootout win.
- Maggie Flaherty scored twice for UMD and Minnesota State picked up goals from five different skaters to record a season-high in goals.
- Flaherty opened the scoring with a power play goal at 11:30 of the first period but Brittyn Fleming answered with a man-advantage goal of her own at 16:08.
- Flaherty scored again on the power play at 11:53 of the second and teammate Gabbie Hughes followed with an even-strength goal just 1:05 later for a 3-1 lead.
- MSU answered with goals from Sofia Poinar (15:10) and Rebekah Kolstad (16:07) to square the score at 3-3.
- The teams then combined for four third-period tallies. Anna Klein (2:28) and Jalyn Elmes (3:55) scored for the Bulldogs while Emily Anthony (3:13) and Anna Wilgren (PP- 7:14) to send the game to OT.
- After going scoreless in both overtime periods, UMD ended the night with a 2-1 shootout win.
- Minnesota State rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to force overtime with Minnesota Duluth on Saturday before UMD clinched the extra WCHA point with a shootout victory for the second day in a row.
- Anneke Linser (9:26) and Maggie Flaherty (12:15) gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead in the first period before MSU cut the margin to 2-1 on a goal by Madison Oelkers at 4:28 of the second.
- Sydney Brodt extended the Duluth lead to 3-1 with a goal just 1:03 into the third period before Oelkers (11:12) and Claire Butorac (SH-17:57) found the back of the net to send the game into overtime before UMD took the shootout win once again.
- Abigail Levy stopped 31 shots for Minnesota State while Maddie Rooney turned away 35 shots for UMD.
10/10 Ohio State 1, at 1/1 Wisconsin 1 (OSU wins shootout)
10/10 Ohio State 2, at 1/2 Wisconsin 1 (OSU wins shootout)
(Feb. 22-23 at LaBahn Arena; Madison, Wis.)
- Ohio State freshman goaltender Andrea Braendli turned away 52 shots and Tatum Skaggs forced overtime with a third-period goal as No. 10/10 Ohio State and No. 1/1 Wisconsin skated to a 1-1 tie before the Buckeyes picked up the extra WCHA point with a shootout win on Friday.
- Abby Roque gave the Badgers 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 8:43 of the first period and the UW defense and goaltender Kristen Campbell kept the Buckeyes at bay before Skaggs' late goal
- Wisconsin and Ohio State battled to a tie for the second day in a row, deadlocking at 2-2 before the Buckeyes once again recorded a shootout win for the extra WCHA point.
- Emma Maltais (0:23 first period) and Liz Schepers (PP- 12:13 second) staked OSU to a 2-0 lead before the Badgers responded with a pair of third-period tallies by Sophie Shirley (15:31) and Emily Clark (18:05) to send the game into overtime.
- Andrea Braendli was strong in the net again for Ohio State, stopping 40 shots for a total of 92 saves in the series.