January 17, 2012
Ohio State returns home to face Minnesota State this weekend
MADISON, Wis. – Defending national champion Wisconsin added to its lead atop the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, climbed back into the top spot in the women's national rankings and confirmed its reputation as road warriors by capturing four points at North Dakota last weekend. Now the Badgers are looking forward to returning to the Kohl Center, where they have not played a home game since Thanksgiving weekend.
Having survived the road, the Badgers now face an old rival, Minnesota Duluth, in one of four WCHA series this weekend, Jan. 20-21. No. 1-ranked Wisconsin (20-2-2, 14-2-2-1 WCHA) and No. 8-ranked UMD (12-9-1, 9-8-1-1 WCHA) will face-off at 2:07 pm CT on both Friday and Saturday afternoons at the Kohl Center (15,325). These teams have combined to win the last six NCAA titles and their matchup is always special. In the first two-game set of the 2011-12 season, the Badgers swept the Bulldogs at AMSOIL Arena, winning 4-3 on Oct. 21 and 6-3 on Oct. 22. Wisconsin has only played one home WCHA series since Oct. 28-29 but the Badgers now play eight of their final 10 games at home.
In the three other WCHA series this weekend St. Cloud State, with the league's longest current winning streak at three games heads to North Dakota, Minnesota State travels to Ohio State and Bemidji State is at Minnesota.
No. 6-ranked North Dakota (13-8-2, 9-7-2-1 WCHA) will host the SCSU Huskies (5-17-2, 4-14-0 WCHA) at Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,634) at 7:07 pm CT both Friday and Saturday evenings. UND stands 2-0 against St. Cloud State so far this season, after a 6-2, 5-1 sweep at the National Hockey Center on Nov. 4-5.
Ohio State (11-9-4, 8-9-1-1 WCHA) and Minnesota State (7-17-0, 3-15-0 WCHA) will engage for two games at the OSU Ice Rink (800) in Columbus, with the opener at 7:07 pm ET on Friday night and game two at 4:07 pm ET on Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes won a pair of one-goal games at MSU's All Seasons Arena back on Oct. 28-29 by 2-1 and 1-0 scores.
And at Ridder Arena (3,400) in Minneapolis, No. 2-ranked Minnesota (19-4-1, 13-4-1 WCHA) will entertain Bemidji State (14-9-2, 8-9-1 WCHA), with puck drops set for 6:07 pm CT Friday evening and 4:07 pm CT on Saturday afternoon. The Golden Gophers and Beavers split their first two-game series of the season at Sanford Center on Oct. 28-29, with Minnesota taking the opener by a 4-1 count and BSU battling back for a 2-1 triumph in game two.
With 10 conference games remaining for each of the league's eight-member teams, the current WCHA standings have Wisconsin (14-2-2-1 WCHA) at the top with 45 points, five more than Minnesota (13-4-1-0 WCHA). North Dakota (9-7-2-1 WCHA) is in third place with 30 points, followed closely by Minnesota Duluth (9-8-1-1) in fourth with 29 points. Ohio State (8-9-1-1 WCHA) stands fifth with 26 points, one ahead of sixth place Bemidji State (8-9-1-0 WCHA) while St. Cloud State (4-14-0 WCHA) has leaped into seventh place with 12 points and Minnesota State (3-15-0 WCHA) is eighth with nine.
In action last weekend (Jan. 13-15), Wisconsin defeated (8-2) and tied (4-4 ot) North Dakota in Grand Forks, with UND gaining the extra point last Sunday with a shootout victory. The trio of Brianna Decker, Carolyne Prévost and Brooke Ammerman combined for five goals and seven assists to lead Wisconsin to an 8-2 victory Saturday. Decker had a three-goal hat trick (her fourth of the season) in the victory which gives Wisconsin its 10th 20-win season. Decker remains the nation's leader for both points (55) and goals (25). Last Sunday, Prévost had three goals, but host North Dakota rallied from two, two-goal deficits to gain the 4-4 overtime tie. Andrea Dalen had the game-tying goal for UND with :32 seconds left in regulation, while Jocelyne Lamoureux had three assists and her twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Kolls had two goals. The shootout victory (2-1 in 4 rounds) was UND's first ever.
Up at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, visiting Minnesota split with Minnesota Duluth. Haley Irwin had two goals and two assists to help the Bulldogs power past the then top-ranked Golden Gophers 4-2 last Friday, but on Saturday UM goaltender Noora Räty made 29 saves and Sarah Erickson had two goals as the Gophers came back to blank the Bulldogs 3-0. It was Räty's fifth shutout of the season, the second in three games and 21st in her career, tying a school record, and she ranks first in the WCHA in goals-against average at 1.34.
In Mankato on Jan. 13-14, St. Cloud State stayed hot by sweeping host Minnesota State, 4-2 and 3-1, at All Seasons Arena. Right winger Brittany Toor had two goals to lead the Huskies in the Friday victory while center Abby Ness had a goal and an assist on Saturday. It was St. Cloud State's first series sweep since Nov. 27-28, 2009 at Brown University and their first WCHA sweep since Jan. 16-17, 2009 at Ohio State. SCSU has now won four of the last five games and freshman goalie Julie Friend has been in goal for each of her teams' victories this season.
And up at Sanford Center last weekend, visiting Ohio State split with Bemidji State. The Buckeyes won 5-3 last Friday behind two goals and two assists from center Natalie Spooner and two scores from left winger Ally Tarr. Then last Saturday, the Beavers received two goals from right winger Emily Erickson and won 4-2 as the BSU senior class (Kimberly Lieder, Alana McElhinney, Zuzana Tomcikova, Montana Vichorek, Marlee Wheelhouse and Lauren Williams) picked up its 46th victory to earn the most wins by a four-year class in program history. The win also continues BSU's streak of bouncing back in the second game of a series. The Beavers are 10-2-0 in series finales this season.
With no more non-conference games remaining in the regular season, WCHA-member teams forged an impressive 33-7-6 record and .778 winning percentage against opponents from other Division 1 conferences this season. WCHA teams are 6-0-2 (.875) vs ECAC Hockey, 13-2-1 (.844) vs. the Hockey East Association, 8-5-3 (.594) vs. College Hockey America, and 6-0-0 vs. Independents.
In this week's (Jan. 16) USCHO.com Women's Div. 1 College Hockey Poll, Wisconsin has returned to the No. 1 national ranking, with Minnesota No. 2, North Dakota at No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth at No. 8. Also receiving votes this week was Bemidji State.
And in the latest USA Hockey/USA Hockey Magazine Women's Div. 1 College Hockey Poll for Jan. 17, Wisconsin is ranked No. 1, Minnesota is ranked No. 2, North Dakota is No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth is No. 8. Bemidji State also received votes.
Looking ahead to the weekend of Friday, January 27 and Saturday, January 28, the four WCHA series on the docket have North Dakota heading to Ohio State, St. Cloud State hosting Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota heading to Minnesota State, and Wisconsin hosting Bemidji State. The WCHA regular season will conclude the weekend of Feb. 17-18.
Following the regular season, the first round of WCHA Playoffs – a best-of-three format – will be contested the weekend of Friday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 26. All eight teams will participate in the playoffs, with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 8 seed, No. 2 hosting No. 7, No. 3 hosting No. 6 and No. 4 hosting No. 5.
The four first round winners will then advance to the league playoff championship – the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF – which will be contested Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth. There will be two semi-finals played on Friday at 4:37 pm CT and 7:37 pm CT while the championship contest will face-off at 7:07 pm CT on Saturday.
After the league tournament, the NCAA Regionals will be played the weekend of March 9-11 with the 2012 NCAA Women's Frozen Four to follow on March 16 & 18 at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth.
Home to a record 12 consecutive national championship teams, including the latest NCAA Frozen Four crown won by Wisconsin last spring, the women's WCHA marks its 13th season in 2011-12.
This Week in the WCHA
Games for Friday, January 20: Minnesota Duluth at Wisconsin (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at Minnesota (WCHA), 6:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at Ohio State (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; St. Cloud State at North Dakota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT.
Games for Saturday, January 21: Minnesota Duluth at Wisconsin (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at Ohio State (WCHA), 4:07 pm ET; Bemidji State at Minnesota (WCHA), 4:07 pm CT; St. Cloud State at North Dakota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT.
Last Week in the WCHA
Results of Friday, January 13: Minnesota 2 at Minnesota Duluth 4 (WCHA); Ohio State 5 at Bemidji State 3 (WCHA); St. Cloud State 4 at Minnesota State 2 (WCHA).
Results of Saturday, January 14: Wisconsin 8 at North Dakota 2 (WCHA); St. Cloud State 3 at Minnesota State 1 (WCHA); Minnesota 3 at Minnesota Duluth 0 (WCHA); Ohio State 2 at Bemidji State 4 (WCHA).
Results of Sunday, January 15: Wisconsin 4 at North Dakota 4 ot (WCHA).