February 14, 2012
Wisconsin has clinched a share of the WCHA regular season title
MADISON, Wis. – No. 1-ranked Wisconsin sewed up its fourth conference championship with two league victories at St. Cloud State last weekend and claimed at least a share of the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association crown for the second consecutive season. With two games left in the regular season, the defending national champion Badgers hold a six-point advantage on second-place and No. 2-ranked Minnesota. The Badgers need just one win or a Minnesota loss on the final weekend of the regular season to clinch the conference title outright. The UW's other WCHA championships came in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2010-11.
No. 5/6-ranked North Dakota clinched third place last week, leaving No. 9-ranked Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State to battle for the last of four first round home playoff berths.
This coming weekend of Feb. 17-18 will feature four two-game WCHA series as Ohio State visits Wisconsin, Minnesota hosts North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth entertains Minnesota State, and St. Cloud State hosts Bemidji State.
In Madison, Wisconsin (28-2-2, 22-2-2-1 WCHA) will square off against Ohio State (15-13-4, 12-13-1-1 WCHA) in a pair of afternoon contests at the Kohl Center (15,325). Face-offs are at 2:07 pm CT on Friday and 12:37 pm CT on Saturday. In their first head-to-head meetings this season, the Badgers won twice over the Buckeyes in Columbus by 3-1 and 2-0 counts. Wisconsin enters the series in the midst of the nation's longest current unbeaten streak at 10 games (9-0-1).
At Ridder Arena (3,400) in Minneapolis, Minnesota (26-4-2, 20-4-2-1 WCHA) will skate against North Dakota (19-9-3, 15-8-3-2 WCHA) in a 6:07 pm CT puck-drop on Friday evening and a 4:07 pm CT start on Saturday afternoon. The two teams split their first series of the season in Grand Forks on Dec. 2-3, with UM winning 7-2 in game one and UND forging a 3-0 shutout in game two. Minnesota is riding a nine-game unbeaten streak at 8-0-1 while North Dakota is unbeaten over their last five encounters at 4-0-1.
Up at AMSOIL Arena (6,726) in Duluth, Minnesota Duluth (16-13-1, 13-12-1-1 WCHA) will hook-up with Minnesota State (7-24-1, 3-22-1 WCHA) at 7:07 pm CT on Friday night and 6:07 pm CT on Saturday evening. The Bulldogs swept the Mavericks in their first head-to-head series back on Dec. 16-17 in Mankato, claiming 4-2 and 3-0 victories.
And at the National Hockey Center (5,371) in St. Cloud this weekend, the SCSU Huskies (5-25-2, 4-22-0 WCHA) will entertain Bemidji State (15-15-3, 9-15-2 WCHA) in a pair of matinees. Face-offs are 2:07 pm CT both Friday and Saturday. The Beavers hold a 2-0 season advantage over St. Cloud State after 8-1 and 5-2 wins in Bemidji back on Oct. 21-22.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Wisconsin (22-2-2-1 WCHA) sits atop the conference standings with 69 points, six more than Minnesota (20-4-2-1 WCHA) with 63. Should the Badgers and Gophers tie for first place, the two teams would be declared co-champions with tie-breakers determining the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. North Dakota (15-8-3-2 WCHA) has secured third place with 50 points, nine better than Minnesota Duluth (13-12-1-1 WCHA) with 41. Ohio State (12-13-1-1 WCHA) lies three points behind UMD in the battle for fourth place with 38 points while Bemidji State (9-15-2-0 WCHA) is in sixth place with 29 points. St. Cloud State (4-22-0-0 WCHA) is seventh with 12 points and Minnesota State (3-22-1-0 WCHA) is eighth with 10.
Last weekend little changed in the league standings as Minnesota State salvaged a point from North Dakota to enhance its hopes of passing St. Cloud State and escaping the basement. A Mavericks' win in Duluth can accomplish the feat if the Huskies are unable to gain points while hosting Bemidji State. Minnesota Duluth holds the upper hand with a game lead over Ohio State for fourth and the chance to host in the first round.
After the conclusion of the regular season on Feb. 18, the first round of WCHA Playoffs – a best-of-three format – will be contested the following weekend of Friday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 26. All eight teams will participate in the playoffs, with the top four finishers in the regular season standings hosting first round series. The No. 1 seed will host the No. 8 seed, No. 2 will host No. 7, No. 3 will host No. 6 and No. 4 will host No. 5. No matter what happens this weekend, North Dakota has the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 seed Bemidji State and Ohio State will play Minnesota Duluth in the first round with home ice yet to be determined. Wisconsin will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed and will host either Minnesota State or St. Cloud State and Minnesota will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed and will host either St. Cloud State or Minnesota State.
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.
Following the league tournament, the NCAA Regionals will be played the weekend of March 9-11 with the 2012 NCAA Women's Frozen Four to be held March 16 & 18 at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth.
In on-ice action last weekend, both Wisconsin and Minnesota were able to record two-game WCHA road sweeps and bank six more points each, North Dakota won and tied at Minnesota State, then won a shootout to gain five points, and Minnesota Duluth split at Bemidji State.
A familiar name, senior forward Hilary Knight, led the charge for Wisconsin last weekend at the National Hockey Center in the Badgers' 5-0 and 6-2 wins over St. Cloud State. After scoring her 28th career game-winning goal in the series opener last Friday, Knight had a hand in all six Badger goals in game two, recording a season-high six points (1g, 5a). Knight started the game by assisting on the first five UW goals before scoring one of her own to give her 255 career points. Eight different players scored goals for Wisconsin over the Feb. 10-11 weekend while goaltender Alex Rigsby recorded her seventh shutout of the season making 19 saves in last Friday's win. Brooke Ammerman and Carolyne Prévost led the way for the Badger offense in Friday's game as both recorded one goal and two assists in the 5-0 win. Two other milestones were reached in last Saturday's win by UW skaters, with Brooke Ammerman's goal marking her 200th career point – just the fourth Badger in program history to reach 200 points – and Knight surpassing the 250 career point mark.
At the OSU Ice Rink in Columbus last weekend, Minnesota won two games over Ohio State. In last Friday's 5-0 win, Gopher captain Jen Schoullis had a power-play goal and two assists while defenseman Anne Schleper had a goal and an assist. Then last Saturday, Schoullis she scored another goal and added an assist in Minnesota's 7-4 win. Her goal on Saturday was a shorthander, marking her first shorty of the season and second of her career. Schleper also added two more assists in the series finale. Between the pipes, UM goaltender Noora Räty tied her own school record for wins in a season with 25 after the two victories over OSU. For the Buckeyes, right winger Natalie Spooner tied a career-best with four points on Feb. 11, having a hand in all four Ohio State goals. She tallied two power-play goals while dishing out two assists. With the four points, Spooner moves to 47 on the season to lead the team. She also moves into a tie for second on OSU's career points list with 160 points.
At All Seasons Arena in Mankato on Feb. 10-11, visiting North Dakota defeated Minnesota State 7-1 in game one before skating to a 3-3 overtime tie in game two (UND won the ensuing shootout 4-3 in four rounds). North Dakota right winger Jocelyne Lamoureux extended her nation-leading point total to 77 with a three-goal and four-assist weekend for seven points, and broke the program's single-season goal-scoring record of 28 which she set last season. Linemates Michelle Karvinen (LW) and Josefine Jakobsen (C) combined for four goals and five assists in the series while Monique Lamoureux-Kolls added one goal and two assists on the weekend at defense. For the Mavericks in the tie last Saturday, left winger Emmi Leinonen and right wing Lauren Zrust scored first period goals to give MSU a 2-0 lead while right winger Lauren Smith's second period power-play goal gave her club a 3-2 advantage.
And up at Sanford Center in Bemidji last weekend, host Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth split a tight-checking series. UMD's Jennifer Harss made 25 saves in nets and right winger Jenna McParland scored the only goal in the series opener at 4:19 of the second period in a 1-0 Minnesota Duluth victory. It was the second shutout of the season for Harss and the 11th of her collegiate career. But Bemidji State netminder Zuzana Tomcikova got revenge last Saturday, stopping all 20 UMD shots on goal to record her 18th career shutout and her fourth of the season in a 2-0 victory. Right wingers Emily Erickson and Tess Dusik were responsible for BSU's two goals in the victory, with Erickson's tally at 10:49 of the second period standing as the game-winner.
Individually this season, North Dakota's Jocelyne Lamoureux (31-46=77) leads the country in scoring in total points (77), points per game (2.48), and goals (31). Wisconsin's Brianna Decker (30-36=66) and UND's Monique Lamoureux-Kolls (25-41=66) are tied for second in the nation in points, respectively, with Decker ranking second in goal scoring (30). Among Div. 1 rookies, North Dakota's Michelle Karvinen is first in scoring with 55 points (23g, 32a) and leads all other rookies by 11 points.
Minnesota defenseman Megan Bozek leads the WCHA and is tied for first in the country in points by a blueliner with 35 (12g, 23a).
Among Div. 1 goaltenders this season, Wisconsin's Alex Rigsby leads the nation with a .951 save percentage (her 860 saves are the second most in the nation), ranks second in goals-against average at 1.40, second in winning percentage at .906, and is tied for most shutouts (7) with Minnesota's Noora Räty and Northeastern's Florence Schelling.
In the latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women's Div. 1 College Hockey Poll released for Feb. 14, Wisconsin was No. 1, Minnesota was No. 2, North Dakota was No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth was No. 9. Also receiving votes was Bemidji State.
And in this week's USCHO.com Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll released on Feb. 13, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association had three of the top 10 ranked teams and two that received votes. Defending WCHA and national champion Wisconsin continued at No. 1, Minnesota is at No. 2, and North Dakota is at No. 5. Also receiving votes were Minnesota Duluth and Bemidj State.
WCHA teams have a .778 winning percentage against opponents from other Division 1 conferences this season, WCHA teams are 33-7-6 overall. 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.
This Week in the WCHA
Games for Friday, February 17: Bemidji State at St. Cloud State (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; Ohio State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Minnesota (WCHA), 6:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT.
Games for Saturday, February 18: Ohio State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 12:37 pm CT; Bemidji State at St. Cloud State (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Minnesota (WCHA), 4:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 6:07 pm CT.
Last Week in the WCHA
Results of Friday, February 10: Minnesota Duluth 1 at Bemidji State 0 (WCHA); Minnesota 5 at Ohio State 0 (WCHA); North Dakota 7 at Minnesota State 1 (WCHA); Wisconsin 5 at St. Cloud State 0 (WCHA).
Results of Saturday, February 11: Minnesota Duluth 0 at Bemidji State 2 (WCHA); Wisconsin 6 at St. Cloud State 2 (WCHA); Minnesota 7 at Ohio State 4 (WCHA); North Dakota 3 at Minnesota State 3 ot (WCHA).