WCHA Lands Top Two Seeds in NCAA Championship: The Western Collegiate Hockey Association landed the top two seeds in the 2019 NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship, as Wisconsin and Minnesota were seeded No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the eight-team field announced Sunday by the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Committee. The Badgers and Gophers will by seeking the WCHA's 17th national title in its 20 seasons (including 16 NCAA crowns).
- Wisconsin (32-4-2), which won its fourth WCHA postseason title in the last five years on Sunday, will host CHA postseason champion Syracuse (13-21-3) in a quarterfinal at LaBahn Arena on Saturday, March 16 at 2 p.m. CT. The Badgers are back in the national postseason for the sixth-straight campaign and 13th time overall. Wisconsin has won four national titles under head coach Mark Johnson (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011).
- Minnesota (30-5-1), the WCHA regular season champion, will also drop the puck on its quarterfinal matchup on March 16, hosting ECAC foe Princeton (20-7-5) in a 4 p.m. CT contest at Ridder Arena. Minnesota has now advanced to the NCAA tournament in each season of head coach Brad Frost's 12-year tenure (and 17 times overall). Minnesota has won seven national titles (including the 2000 AWCHA crown), while hoisting a record six NCAA championship trophies (2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016).
About Wisconsin: The Badgers, who have split time as the nation's No. 1 team with Minnesota for the majority of the season, are eying their sixth-straight NCAA Frozen Four appearance, which would extend the longest active streak in the NCAA and would match the longest streak in NCAA women's hockey history. UW is 22-8 in NCAA tournament games and has won its last 11 NCAA quarterfinal games. The Badgers are 5-0 in their previous NCAA quarterfinals at LaBahn Arena, outscoring their opponents 24-2 in the process. At 32-4-5, Wisconsin leads the nation in wins, fewest losses (four) and winning percentage (.868) among Division I programs.
- Senior Annie Pankowski, who was named a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top-Three Finalist on Feb. 28, leads the WCHA with 45 points this year off 23 goals and 22 assists. Pankowski became only the sixth Badger in school history to score 200+ points in her career at Wisconsin after scoring the game-winning goal in UW' 3-2 victory over Ohio State on March 9. A two-time All-American, Pankowski ranks in the top-10 in school history in points (201), goals (91), assists (110), shots on goal (721) and plus/minus (+149).
- Goaltender Kristen Campbell leads the NCAA with 32 wins this year while her goals-against average of 1.12 is also the best in the WCHA. The Brandon, Manitoba, native ranks first in the NCAA with eight shutouts. Campbell's 32 wins are the second-most in a single season at Wisconsin as a win would move the junior into a tie for first-place. Campbell is the only goaltender in program history to post multiple 30-win seasons her 63 career wins rank fifth in program history.
About Minnesota: The Gophers are making their 12th-straight and 17th overall appearance in the NCAA postseason. The 2019 WCHA regular-season champion Gophers have won four of the last seven national championships, and Minnesota has only missed the NCAA Tournament twice in its 19-year history. Overall, the Gophers are 24-11-1 in NCAA tournament games since 2000-01.
- The Gophers are 10-3 all-time in NCAA quarterfinal games since the tournament expanded to eight teams in 2005. A year ago, Minnesota fell to Wisconsin in the NCAA quarterfinal round. This season, Minnesota looks to secure the program's 14th overall appearance at the Frozen Four and the team's first since the 2016-17 season.
- Minnesota has the WCHA's top-scoring offense averaging 4.25 goals per game while allowing just 1.81 goals per game. Minnesota's 153 goals for this season is the best in the NCAA.
- The Gophers rank second in the NCAA with a .253 power-play percentage (25-for-99). Meanwhile, the Gophers are third in the WCHA with a penalty kill percentage of .857 (72-for-84).
- Kelly Pannek is Minnesota's active career scoring leader ranked 10th among all-time Gophers with 183 points (71g-112a). She chases Gigi Marvin in ninth place (87g-108a). Pannek's 112 career assists are tied for sixth in program history as well. She recorded her 100th career assist in Minnesota's season opener.
The Week in Review
WCHA Semifinal 1- Saturday, March 9
(1) Minnesota 4, (4) Minnesota Duluth 1
(Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn.)
The top-ranked University of Minnesota women's hockey team scored four-straight goals to rally from an early deficit and post a 4-1 win over No. 4 seed Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal round at Ridder Arena on Saturday afternoon.
- Minnesota (30-4-1) received goals from Kelly Pannek, Nicole Schammel (2g), and Grace Zumwinkle along with an eight-save effort from Alex Gulstene in the team's sixth game of the season against the Bulldogs.
- Minnesota Duluth (15-16-4) got on the board first with a goal by Gabbie Hughes when she solved Gulstene on the Bulldogs' lone shot on goal of the opening period at the 7:20 mark, but the Gophers responded quickly. Pannek tied the game at one just 5:28 later, solving fellow U.S. Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney to even the score at the 12:48 mark.
- The Gophers extended their lead to two during the second period as Schammel and Zumwinkle found the back of the net. The WCHA regular-season scoring champion, Schammel scored her 13th goal of the season at the 6:08 mark of the middle frame before Zumwinkle netted her team-leading sixth power-play goal of the year with 4:04 remaining.
- The teams played a scoreless third period until Schammel iced the win with an empty-net goal with 2:29 remaining after UMD pulled Rooney for the extra attacker.
- Minnesota outshot the Bulldogs, 44-9, for the game, including a 17-1 advantage in the first period. Minnesota Duluth received 40 saves from Rooney along with the lone goal from Hughes.
- For the game, Minnesota was one-for-three on the power play while holding the Bulldogs scoreless on their lone opportunity with the skater advantage.
WCHA Semifinal 2- Saturday, March 9
(2) Wisconsin 3, (3) Ohio State 2
(Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn.)
The No. 2 Wisconsin women's hockey team took care of business Saturday afternoon, defeating the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes, 3-2, at Ridder Arena to advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff Championship.
- Britta Curl, Sophie Shirley and Annie Pankowski all scored for Wisconsin (31-4-2, 18-4-2-0 WCHA) in Saturday's' matchup.
- The Badgers struck first, lighting the lamp thanks to Curl's clean-up effort at the front of the OSU net with 9:42 remaining in the period at the tail-end of the UW power-play.
- Ohio State (20-13-2, 12-10-2) would answer back with a goal from Tatum Skaggs at 18:51 to close the first frame tied at 1-1 heading into the second period.
- The Buckeyes would take the lead midway through the second frame when Charly Dahlquist lit the lamp at 11:28, holding the lead and the momentum throughout the length of the period.
- However, Shirley knotted the game up at 2-2 with just 45.7 seconds left in the second as she launched a beautiful shot that snuck behind OSU netminder Andrea Braendli. The effort was Shirley's 20th goal of the season making her just the third Badger to reach the 20 goal mark this year.
- With just under five minutes left in the third, Pankowski broke the game open, going five-hole to give UW a 3-2 lead.
- The Badgers held on for the victory to advance to their fourth WCHA Final Faceoff title in the last five seasons.
WCHA Championship - Sunday, March 10
(2) Wisconsin 3, (1) Minnesota 1
(Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn.)
The No. 2 Wisconsin women's hockey team is back on top of the WCHA after defeating the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers, 3-1, at Ridder Arena to win the 2019 WCHA Final Faceoff Championship on Sunday.
- Caitlin Schneider, Britta Curl and Annie Pankowski all scored for Wisconsin (32-4-2, 18-4-2-0 WCHA) in Sunday's' contest to lead UW to its eighth WCHA tournament title, the most of any school in the league.
- The Badgers took the lead early off a blast from Schneider with 11:49 left in the fi rst to send UW up a goal after one period of play.
- Curl extended that lead in the second on a beautiful step-through shot just 2:41 into the period.
- Minnesota (30-5-1, 19-4-1) would respond back late in the second on a power play tally by Grace Zumwinkle that cut the lead to 2-1 heading into the fi nal period of play.
- In one of the most heated and contested periods of the season, the Badgers hung tough against relentless Minnesota attack on net in the third. With time winding down, Pankowski struck on an emptynet to give the Badgers a 3-1 lead and secure the championship victory for the Badgers.
- Badgers netminder Kristen Campbell thwarted 21 Golden Gophers shots on goal in the win. The junior now has 32 wins this year and is one victory away from tying the school single-season wins record.
- The scoring-duo of freshman Britta Curl and senior Annie Pankowski has been electric as of late. Both Curl and Pankowski tallied their sixth goal in their last four games on Sunday.
- UW has now won 17 of its last 18 WCHA postseason games and holds a 51-15-0 all-time record in conference playoff games.