MADISON, Wis. – Both the 2013 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF playoff championship and the NCAA Women's Frozen Four will be conducted at 3,400-seat Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis next March, two spotlight events that highlight the 2012-13 women's composite schedule announced by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association today. Also of note, the University of Wisconsin opens a new home-ice facility this season in La Bahn Arena.
With a record 13 consecutive national championships under it's collective belt, including last season's title earned by the University of Minnesota, the WCHA will look to continue that record streak in what should be one of the most competitive league races ever.
The 112-game conference slate, comprised of 28 games per each of the Association's eight-member teams (four games – two home and two away – vs each of other seven members), gets underway during the season-opening weekend of Sept. 28-29 when Minnesota State welcomes two-time defending league champion Wisconsin. Two other league teams will host non-conference series with Ohio State taking on Lindenwood University and Minnesota engaging Colgate University. In exhibition play, Bemidji State will tentatively entertain an opponent TBA on Thursday, Sept. 27 while Minnesota Duluth will skate against the Minnesota Whitecaps on both Friday and Saturday.
"The Association looks forward to putting another action-packed, highly-competitive product on the ice in 2012-13," said WCHA Associate Commissioner Sara R. Martin, the guiding force of the women's league since it's founding in 1999. "The commitment to fielding top-quality programs and the dedication to success that our member institutions continue to display has resulted in some of the most entertaining women's hockey in the world over the past 13 seasons and we know that will continue in the future.
"I have no doubt this coming season's league race will be one of the most intriguing yet. We anticipate our teams will improve across the board and be both competitive and successful against opponents across the country. Last season, we had four teams ranked among the nation's top 10, four of our teams win at least 21 games overall, six finish at .500 or above and six win at least 11 games in league play. We also look forward to a tremendous post-season next March when both our WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF and the NCAA Women's Frozen Four are showcased at UM's Ridder Arena. The University of Minnesota and the facility itself have a distinguished tradition of hosting first-class events."
The 2013 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF is set for March 8 and March 9. There will be two semi-final match ups at Ridder Arena on Friday at 4:07 pm CT and 7:07 pm CT, with the playoff championship game slated for Saturday evening at 7:07 pm CT. The winner of the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF receives an automatic bid to the national tournament. This will mark the eighth time that Ridder Arena has served as the host of the league playoff championship round, with the others occurring in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The NCAA Women's Frozen Four, to be held at Ridder Arena on Friday, March 22 and Sunday, March 24, will be appearing in Minneapolis for the fourth time overall. Minnesota is the defending national champion. Previous Frozen Fours were held in Minneapolis in 2001 when Minnesota Duluth earned the national title, in 2006 when Wisconsin prevailed, and in 2010 when the Bulldogs claimed the crown. This season's championship will consist of two semi-final match ups on Friday and the national title contest on Sunday.
In between the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF and the NCAA Women's Frozen Four will be NCAA Regionals the weekend of March 15-17.
On the second weekend of the new season, Friday, Oct. 5 and Saturday, Oct. 6, five more WCHA teams will launch their league campaigns as defending national champion Minnesota hosts St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth entertains Ohio State and North Dakota welcomes Minnesota State. Bemidji State's first WCHA series this fall will come on Oct. 12-13 when the Beavers host St. Cloud State.
In Madison this season, the Wisconsin Badgers will call La Bahn Arena their new home. With seating for approximately 2,400 spectators, the on-campus facility, which is located adjacent to the Kohl Center, will feature a 200 x 90 ice sheet for women's competition, women's and men's hockey practice, women's and men's team locker rooms and a visiting team locker room, offices for the women's hockey staff and an underground connection to the Kohl Center. The facility is named after Chuck La Bahn, a former UW swimmer who has been a longtime supporter of various campus initiatives. Wisconsin will play its first two-game series in La Bahn Arena on Oct. 19 & 21 vs WCHA foe Bemidji State.
There will be a total of seven weekends this coming season that feature all eight teams engaged in league action. Those occur on Oct. 19-21, Nov. 16-18, Jan. 11-13, Jan. 18-19, Feb. 8-10, Feb. 15-17 and Feb. 22-23. The Feb. 22-23 slate will also mark the final regular season match ups as Minnesota State visits Ohio State, Wisconsin travels to Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth entertains North Dakota and St. Cloud State hosts Minnesota.
The pursuit of the annual WCHA playoff championship will get underway the weekend of Friday, March 1 thru Sunday, March 3 with four first round, best-of-three, playoff series. The top four ranked teams in the final regular season standings will host the bottom four in the first round, with the No. 8 playoff seed at the No. 1 playoff seed, No. 7 playing at No. 2, No. 6 at No. 3 and the No. 5 seed at the No. 4 seed. The four first-round conference playoff winners will then advance to the 2013 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF on March 8-9 at Ridder Arena.
Following the league's playoff championship, four NCAA Division 1 Women's Regional tournaments will be contested the weekend of Friday, March 15 thru Sunday, March 17 at sites to be determined.
The four NCAA regional winners will earn a trip to the 2013 NCAA Women's Frozen Four at Ridder Arena the weekend of March 22-24.
WCHA-member teams will also engage in a number of non-conference pairings this season. By team, those are:
Bemidji State: Oct. 5-6 @ Providence College; Nov. 9-10 vs University of Maine.
Minnesota: Sept. 28-29 vs Colgate University; Oct. 12-13 @ St. Lawrence University; Nov. 24-25 @ University of New Hampshire.
Minnesota Duluth: Oct. 26-27 @ Boston College; Dec. 8-9 vs Boston University.
Minnesota State: Oct. 12-13 vs Lindenwood University; Oct. 26-27 @ Mercyhurst College; Jan. 1-2 @ Lindenwood University.
North Dakota: Nov. 2-3 vs Clarkson University; Nov. 30-Dec. 1 vs RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology); Jan. 4-5 @ Lindenwood University.
Ohio State: Sept. 28-29 vs Lindenwood University; Nov. 23-24 @ Princeton University; Dec. 8-9 vs RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). Of note, the Buckeyes will also host league-rival Wisconsin on Nov. 16-17 at Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
St. Cloud State: Oct. 27-28 @ Providence College; Nov. 9-10 vs Lindenwood University; Nov. 30-Dec. 1 @ Lindenwood University.
Wisconsin: Oct. 5-6 @ Lindenwood University; Oct. 26 & 28 vs University of New Hampshire.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will also welcome back a plethora of outstanding student-athletes for the 2012-13 campaign, including the likes of reigning Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, WCHA Player of the Year and All-American First Team forward Brianna Decker of Wisconsin. Also back are two All-American First Team honorees in defenseman Megan Bozek of Minnesota and forward Jocelyne Lamoureux of North Dakota, who was also the WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year and league scoring champion, and two All-American Second Team selections in defenseman Monique Lamoureux of North Dakota and forward Amanda Kessel of Minnesota. Last season's WCHA Defensive Player of the Year returns in the Badgers' Stefanie McKeough as does the WCHA Rookie of the Year in forward Michelle Karvinen of North Dakota and the league's goaltending champion in Alex Rigsby of Wisconsin.
Returning All-WCHA honorees include first teamers in Decker (F) of Wisconsin, Jocelyne Lamoureux (F) of North Dakota and Bozek (D) of Minnesota, second teamers in Kessel (F) of Minnesota, Monique Lamoureux (D) of North Dakota, McKeough (D) of Wisconsin and Rigsby (G) of Wisconsin, and third teamers in Karvinen (F) of North Dakota, Jessica Wong (D) of Minnesota Duluth and Noora Räty (G) of Minnesota.
Members of the All-WCHA Rookie Team a season ago were Karvinen (F) of North Dakota, Jenna McParland (F) of Minnesota Duluth, Josefine Jakobsen (F) of North Dakota; Rachel Ramsey (D) of Minnesota, Brigette Lacquette (D) of Minnesota Duluth, and Julie Friend (G) of St. Cloud State University.
Among the many highlights from the most recent 2011-12 season were … WCHA teams forged a 36-7-6 record (.796) against opponents from other Division 1 conferences. League-member clubs went 7-0-2 (.889) vs ECAC Hockey, 14-2-1 (.853) vs. the Hockey East Association, 9-5-3 (.618) vs. College Hockey America, and 6-0-0 vs. Independents … Four WCHA-member teams ranked among the nation's top 10 in the final two weekly national polls for 2011-12. In the USCHO.com Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll, the WCHA had national champion and WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF champion Minnesota at No. 1, WCHA regular season champion Wisconsin at No. 2, North Dakota at No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth at No. 10. And in the final USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women's Div. 1 College Hockey Poll, UM was No. 1, UW was No. 2, UND was No. 6 and UMD was No. 10 … The WCHA also had the top four teams in attendance for the women's college hockey. Buoyed by the biggest crowd to ever watch a collegiate game – the 12,402 who saw Wisconsin win over Bemidji State at the Kohl Center Jan. 28, 2012 – the Badgers attracted 56,471 to home games (2,689 per game). North Dakota was second in home attendance nationally (drawing 28,218 for an average of 1,455 per game), followed by Minnesota (27,658/1,307 per game) and Minnesota Duluth (22,435/1,181 per game).
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