2019-20 WCHA Women's League Preview
By Bill Brophy for WCHA.com
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Bemidji State senior forward Jacqueline Kaasa

Bemidji State

Head Coach: Jim Scanlan, sixth season, (at BSU/Career: 84-88-12)

Last season: 13-21-2, finished in fifth place in WCHA with 10-12-2 record.

Key losses: Forward Emily Bergland, the second leading scorer last year and defenseman Melissa Hunt.

Key returnees: The Beavers welcome back 12 of their top 13 scorers along with both goaltenders (Kerigan Dowhy and Lauren Bench). The netminders will be aided by veteran defensemen including Lydia Passolt (6g-7a/13pts), Mak Langei (3g-8a/11pts) and shot blocker Heather Olson (47 blocks). Leading goal scorer Jacqueline Kaasa (10g-9a/19pts) and points leader Clair DeGeorge (9g-13a/22pts) are proven veterans. DeGeorge is also coming off of her second summer with USA Hockey's U-22 team. Senior forward Haley Mack, who has scored 36 points over the last two years, also returns.

Top newcomers: Scanlan said six freshmen will push for an opportunity to play. Forwards Cheyenne Abear , Paige Anderson, Mya Neugent and Reece Hunt will try to crack the top three lines while Kate Boland and Abigail DeLaRosa will compete for a spot on the blueline.

Outlook: The Beavers are a veteran team with 16 upperclassmen on this year's roster. "They are our go-to players," said Scanlan whose team will compete in the Minnesota Cup in January for the first time. The Beavers, always a tough team to play against, are picked to finish fifth in the WCHA preseason poll. "We do not have a lot of spots open in the top three lines so depth will be a strength. We also have five defensemen back. We have a lot of experience. But I go back to how challenging this league is every week. However, that experience should help us."

First series: Host Lindenwood, Oct. 4-5

First WCHA series: at Minnesota Duluth, Oct. 19-20


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Minnesota junior forward Grace Zumwinkle

Minnesota

Coach: Brad Frost, 13th season (at UMN/Career: 375-70-31)

Last season: 32-6-1, won WCHA regular season title with 19-4-1 record, runnerup in WCHA Final Faceoff and NCAA Frozen Four.

Key losses: Olympian Kelly Pannek, WCHA co-scoring champion Nicole Schammel and Taylor Williamson.

Key returnees: Grace Zumwinkle, a member of the All-WCHA first team after posting 25 goals, 16 assist and 41 points, is among the top returnees. She was named to the preseason All-WCHA team and received consideration for WCHA Preseason Player of the Year. Sarah Potomak received votes for the preseason team after tallying 26 points (11g/15a) a season ago. Potomak's sister, Amy, had 11 goals, 20 assists and 31 points and also returns along with Taylor Heise (13g-22a/35pts). Defensemen Patti Marshall and Emily Brown received votes from coaches on the preseason All-WCHA team and team with Olivia Knowles to give the Gophers a veteran backline. Alex Gulstene (20-3-2, .921 save percentage, 1.69 goals against) and Sydney Scobee (12-3-1, .927, 1.78), who alternated in goal during the Gophers' march to the WCHA title last season, both return between the pipes.

Top newcomers: The WCHA coaches voted defenseman Maddie Wethington as the preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year. She "is one of the most talented defensemen in North America for her age and we are very excited what she brings to the table,'' said Frost. "She brings a great presence back there." Wethington is one of four freshmen on the Gopher roster, two of whom are goaltenders.

Outlook: The Gophers were picked second in the WCHA coaches' preseason poll and ranked second in the country by USCHO. Minnesota won the league title on the last day of the season last February and then lost to Wisconsin by two goals in championship games of both the WCHA Final Faceoff and NCAA Frozen Four.

Once again, the Gophers are expected to be a high- octane team with a roster full of world class players. "The excitement level is extremely high,'' Frost said. "I feel like we have a really nice team on paper, and the question is where that goes throughout the year as we continue to coach them up and get to know them better and they get to know each other.''

Mark down the two WCHA series against Wisconsin as must-see women's hockey. The Gophers host the Badgers Nov. 2-3 and play in Madison Jan. 24-25. Minnesota also will play Minnesota State Dec. 7 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in Prior Lake, Minn. and host Ohio State in an outdoor game as part of the Hockey Day Minnesota festivities at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis Jan. 18.

First series: host Colgate, Sept. 27-28

First WCHA series: at Minnesota State, Oct. 4-5


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Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Maddie Rooney

Minnesota Duluth

Coach: Maura Crowell, fifth season at UMD/10th career season (UMD: 70-60-14; Career: 160-120-22)

Last season: 15-16-4, finished in fourth place in the WCHA with 9-11-4 record and reached Final Faceoff.

Key losses: Graduated forward Reagan Haley

Key returnees: Gold medal-winning goalie Maddie Rooney returns for her senior year and the Bulldogs return 100 percent of their goal scoring from a year ago, including Gabbie Hughes who posted 37 points (19g-18a) as a freshman. Both Rooney (12-15-4 with a .919 save percentage and 2.81 goals-against) and Hughes received votes on the WCHA preseason all-league team.

The Bulldogs also return Anneke Linser (10 goals, 14 assists and 24 points) and Naomi Rogge (12-11-23), who has 28 goals and 47 points in her first two college seasons. Ashton Bell, Ryleigh Houston and Sydney Brodt are also top veteran forwards while Jalyn Elmes figures to get a lot of ice time as a veteran blueliner who played for the United States U-22 Select team in the USA-Canada series this summer. Bell, Brodt, Houston and Hughes also participated in the three games.

Top newcomers: UMD has three freshmen – forwards Mannon McMahon and Kasundra Bethinol and defenseman Taylor Stewart – who will look to crack Crowell's veteran lineup.

Outlook: The Bulldogs will host three other league foes (Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Bemidji State) in the Minnesota Cup Jan. 4-5 and probably will be favored to win the tournament. They were picked to finish fourth by WCHA coaches and were ranked No. 10 in the USCHO preseason poll because of Rooney and veteran cast in front of her "We want to make a statement.," Crowell said.

First series: Host Clarkson, Oct. 4-5.

First WCHA series: Host Minnesota State, Oct. 11-12


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Minnesota State sophomore goaltender Abigail Levy

Minnesota State

Coach: John Harrington, fifth season/19th career season (MSU: 24-102-16; Career: 265-244-47)

Last season: 9-19-7, finished in sixth place in WCHA with 3-16-5 record

Key losses: Forward Corbin Boyd, who had eight goals and 22 points en route to winning the WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year, graduated, along with forward Jordan McLaughlin and defenseman Megan Hinze.

Key returnees: The Mavericks return second-team All-WCHA goaltender Abigail Levy (9-18-7, .924 save percentage, 2.35 goal against), as well as two all-conference rookie-team picks in Levy and defender Anna Wilgren, and two 20-point scorers in junior forward Brittyn Fleming and sophomore Brooke Bryant. Senior Emily Antony (2-11-13) hopes for good health after missing much of her junior year because of assorted ailments.

Key newcomers: The Mavs should continue to add depth, thanks to freshman forwards Kelsey King, Kennedy Bobyk and Danielle England. Defenders Charlotte Akervik and Lyndsey Howard are also expected to play a lot and goaltender Calla Frank is expected to take some of the workload off of Levy who played in 34 of 35 games as a freshman.

Outlook: The Mavericks finished out of the WCHA basement for the first time in five seasons and Harrington thinks the skill level of his team has increased enough that the improvement will continue. Scoring is one area Minnesota State must improve. "We are in a position where we have had a lot of parts that we haven't had in previous years," said Harrington. "We are excited about our team and looking forward to getting the season started. The Mavs will play in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game – against Minnesota in Prior Lake, Minn. Dec. 7 and will take part in the Minnesota Cup in Duluth Jan. 4-5

First series: at Rensselaer, Sept. 27-28

First WCHA series: host Minnesota, Oct. 4-5


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Ohio State senior defenseman Jincy Dunne

Ohio State

Coach: Nadine Muzerall, Fourth season (at OSU/Career: 58-42-11)

Last season: 20-13-2, finished third in WCHA with a 12-10-2 record, qualified for Final Faceoff.

Key losses: Forwards Charly Dahlquist, career 56-goal scorer Madison Field, Jacyn Reeves and defenseman Lauren Boyle, a Big Ten Medal of Honor finalist last year.

Key returnees: All-American defenseman Jincy Dunne was a unanimous selection on the coaches' preseason All-WCHA team and will lead the Buckeyes. She also received a vote as the WCHA preseason player of the year – an award that her teammate Emma Maltais shared with Wisconsin's Abby Roque. Maltais had 15 goals, 28 assists and 43 points a year ago to earn all-league honors and share the scoring title with Minnesota's Nicole Schammel. Dunne had four goals, 24 assists and 28 points a season ago. Tatum Skaggs (17g-11a/ 28pts) has scored 40 goals in her first two seasons in the league. Sophie Jaques provides the Buckeyes with another veteran defender who can dominate a game alongside Dunne. Andrea Braendli took over the Ohio State goaltending job last year and the Swiss Olympian compiled a 18-10-2 record, a .939 saves percentage and a 1.88 goals-against average.

Top newcomers: The Buckeyes bring in eight freshmen, including defenders Miranda Anthony, Maddie Babnik, Addi Scribner and Teghan Inglis, forwards Brooke Bink, Jennifer Gardiner and Ramsey Parent and goaltender Quinn Kuntz.

Outlook: Ohio State was picked by coaches to finish in third place in the WCHA and are ranked ninth nationally in the USCHO preseason poll. The Buckeyes, coming off their first back-to-back 20-win seasons, are solid in their own end and can score goals. They will play Minnesota outdoors in Minneapolis for Hockey Day Minnesota Jan. 18. "I know I am getting a good parka for it," said Muzerall, a former Minnesota athlete and coach who also recognized the importance of facing the defending league champs. "But it is a very important game."

First series: host St. Lawrence Sept. 27-28

First WCHA series: at St. Cloud State Oct. 4-5


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St. Cloud State sophomore forward Jenniina Nylund

St. Cloud State

Coach: Steve McDonald, First year

Last season: 10-25-2, finished in seventh place in WCHA with 5-19-0 record

Key losses: Senior forwards Julia Tylke and Hannah Potrykus, who combined for 43 points last year, graduated while junior forward Kayla Friesen transferred to Clarkson.

Key returnees: SCSU returns a veteran goaltending tandem – Janine Alder (4-14-1,.935 save percentage and 2.63 GAA last season), who played in the Olympics for Switzerland and Emma Polusny, (6-11-1, .919 save percentage and 3.49 GAA a season ago), who received consideration for the WCHA preseason all-league team. Senior Abby Thiessen and Rachel Herzog return as veteran defenders and Finnish forward Jenniina Nylund (8g/13a/21pts), Hallie Theodosopoulos (10g-9a/19pts) and German-born Laura Kluge (4g-8a/12pts) are the top returning scorers.

Top newcomers: The Huskies have five incoming freshmen – including Czech forward Klara Hymlarova, who received consideration as the WCHA preseason rookie of the year. St. Cloud State also welcomes four other new forwards – Claire Hickey, Olivia Cvar, Taylor Lind and Courtney Hall.

Outlook: McDonald is the fifth coach in Huskies' history and succeeds Eric Rud, who joined the men's staff at Miami (Ohio). St. Cloud State will roster players from seven different countries this season and McDonald is hoping the mix can work. "Having diversity makes us a better team," said McDonald. The Huskies were picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll despite having two proven goalies. However, goal-scoring has long been St. Cloud State's problem as the Huskies averaged 1.78 goals per game a year ago. St. Cloud State will play Bemidji State in the Minnesota Cup Jan. 3 in Duluth, Minn.

First series and first WCHA game: host Ohio State, Oct. 4-5


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Wisconsin senior forward Abby Roque

Wisconsin

Coach: Mark Johnson, 16th season (at UW/Career: 494-87-43, winningest coach in women's collegiate hockey history)

Last season: 35-4-2, finished second in the WCHA during regular season with 18-4-2 record, won the WCHA Final Faceoff and beat Minnesota 2-0 in the NCAA championship game.

Key losses: Forwards Annie Pankowski, an all-American and Patty Kazmaier Award finalist, and former Canadian Olympian Emily Clark both graduated along with solid players like defenders Maddie Rolfes and Mikaela Gardner and forwards Sam Cogan and Sophia Shaver.

Key returnees: Badgers senior forward Abby Roque tied in the coaches' voting for preseason player of the year and finished second behind Pankowski in scoring last year with 43 points and led the team in plus/minus at plus-41. She was a second-team All-WCHA pick last season. Roque, sophomore forward Sophia Shirley (last year's WCHA rookie of the year) , senior goaltender Kristen Campbell (an all-WCHA performer and all-American last year with a 35-4-2 record, .940 save percentage and 1.03 goals-against) and junior defenseman Mekenzie Steffen (an all-WCHA player last year), all were named to the preseason All-WCHA team. Sophomore forward Britta Curl, who had 22 goals as a freshman, also returns to Johnson's loaded lineup.

Top newcomers: The Badgers have five incoming freshmen, including forwards Grace Shirley, Sophia's younger sister, and Dara Grieg, who both received votes as preseason WCHA rookie of the year. They have also added 2018 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Daryl Watts, who transferred from Boston College. Watts, who scored 82 points as a freshman at BC and notched 48 last season, has two seasons of eligibility left. "That situation may never be presented to anybody ever again, to get someone with two years of experience, winning the Patty Kazmaier her freshman year," Johnson said. "I'm anxious to work with her. I'm anxious to try to help her develop. Hopefully, she'll be comfortable sooner than later. You're into a new city, you're into a new college, you're into a new environment, you have a different routine. She seems to be doing well. She seems to be happy in her setting right now. So I'm anxious to get more opportunities to get on the ice and work with her and see her in competition."

Outlook: The Badgers are ranked No. 1 in the country in the USCHO preseason poll after winning their fifth national title a year ago. They won the league playoff title and would like to reclaim the regular season crown for the fifth time in six years, Johnson doesn't expect a hangover from winning the national championship. "They certainly enjoyed last spring and the early part of the summer, which they earned the right to do," Johnson said. "Now, it's back to work. It's our job as coaches and with our captains to get everybody focused in in a couple weeks when we start the journey of trying to have a good season. I don't look at it as trying to defend something. I look at it as another opportunity to have a good season, try to become better each weekend, prepare ourselves for our next opponent. Through that process, hopefully by the time we get to January or February, we've developed into a strong group and a team that's difficult to play against."

First series: at Lindenwood, Sept. 27-28

First WCHA series: at Ohio State, Oct. 11-12