March 4, 2014
The WCHA FINAL-FACEOFF heads to Bemidji State's Sanford Center this weekend
MADISON, Wis. – The three Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams that have won national championships – Minnesota, Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth – and nationally-ranked North Dakota come together this weekend in the 2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF at Sanford Center on March 7-8 in Bemidji, Minn.
There will be two semifinals played Friday (March 7) with No. 3 seed North Dakota (19-11-4) skating against No. 2 seed Wisconsin (27-6-2) at 4:07 pm CT followed by No. 4 seed Minnesota Duluth (15-14-6) against No. 1 seed Minnesota (34-1-1) at 7:07 pm CT. Friday's two winners will play for the league playoff championship on Saturday (March 8) at 7:07 pm CT.
The winner of the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF, the league's playoff championship tournament, receives the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Division 1 Women's Ice Hockey Tournament.
All games will be streamed live and without cost by America ONE on the WCHA website (www.wcha.com). Veteran broadcaster Jack Swanson and Kelly Schultz will provide commentary.
Here is a closer look at each semifinal playoff series which involves the only three schools that ever won a national championship in the 15 years of women's ice hockey. All five players who took time off from their collegiate seasons to play in last month's Olympic Winter Games will compete in Bemidji.
Minnesota enters the 2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF on a 22-game unbeaten streak (21-0-1) and is 83-1-1 since Feb. 18, 2012. The No. 1-ranked Gophers, the two-time defending national champions, shut out the Bulldogs in three of their four games this season and outscored UMD 22-3, including two 6-0 victories in the final games of the regular season at Ridder Arena. The four-game regular season sweep is also just the second time UMD has lost all four games against the Gophers. The first time was in 2012-13. Minnesota also defeated UMD on the road, 4-0 and 6-3 (Oct. 18-19, 2013). The Gophers have won the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
Minnesota also has won the last two WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF titles, defeating Minnesota Duluth 2-0 in the 2012 title game and topping North Dakota 2-0 to claim the 2013 crown. With two wins so far this season, the Gophers are 35-10-0 (.778) all-time in the WCHA postseason, including five WCHA playoff titles (2002, 2004, 2005, 2012 and 2013). Minnesota is 40-24-6 all-time against Minnesota Duluth. Minnesota is 11-1-0 against the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF field this season with the lone loss to North Dakota in a 3-2 decision at Ridder Arena on Nov. 17
Minnesota Duluth, which received honorable mention in the national polls, has advanced to the WCHA semifinals for the ninth time in 10 years. Since the WCHA went to a quarterfinal game (2005) or series (2006), UMD had advanced every time until last season. UMD owns five WCHA playoff crowns, with the last one won in 2010. The others were won in 2008, 2003, 2001 and 2000. The Bulldogs own an overall record of 31-12 in the WCHA postseason, which includes a dominant quarterfinal record of 17-4 all-time. Overall, the Bulldogs are now 31-12 in WCHA playoff action. Minnesota Duluth has welcomed Olympic defensemen Lara Stalder, from bronze medalist Switzerland, and Tea Villala, from Finland, back to their lineup.
The No. 2/3-ranked Wisconsin Badgers face North Dakota in a semifinal rematch from last year. The Badgers lead the series against UND, 39-5-2. Wisconsin is 5-1-0 in postseason play against North Dakota, with the lone loss coming at last year's WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF semifinal.
Wisconsin holds a 33-13-0 (.720) record in WCHA playoff games. UW has outscored its opponents 180-83 in WCHA postseason games, and the Cardinal and White has captured four WCHA titles (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011). UW also holds a 49-16-0 record in all postseason action.
No. 9/10-rated North Dakota is playing in its fourth-consecutive WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF. UND went to its first championship game last season and lost to Minnesota 2-0 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. In four games against Wisconsin this season, UND went 1-2-1. The teams played a scoreless tie back in October and then Wisconsin took the series finale, 3-1, in Grand Forks while the teams traded 4-1 decisions in Madison in January.
North Dakota's lineup has been bolstered by the return of Finnish Olympians Michelle Karvinen, voted the best forward at the Sochi Games, and Susanna Tapani, as well as defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid, who played for Team Germany.
In games last weekend, the home teams all won in the first round, best-of-three league playoff series Feb. 28-March 2.
Minnesota defeated eighth-seeded St. Cloud State, 4-1 and 7-1, in the WCHA first round best-of-three series in Minneapolis. Hannah Brandt and Meghan Lorence led the Gophers with two goals; Brandt had a six-point weekend and Lorence had five points. Maryanne Menefee (2g, 1a), Sarah Davis (1g, 2a), Rachael Bona (3a) and Rachel Ramsey (1g, 2a) each added three points for Minnesota while Julia Gilbert closed out her St. Cloud State career with a goal in each game.
It took all three games but regular season runner-up Wisconsin beat No. 7 seed Minnesota State in Madison. The second-ranked Badgers sandwiched 4-0 and 2-0 victories around a 3-0 loss to the gritty Mavericks at LaBahn Arena. Goals by Sarah Nurse, Madison Packer, Sydney McKibbon, and Katy Josephs beat the Mavericks last Friday when Alex Rigsby made 26 saves in the first shutout. Saturday was all about Minnesota State goaltender Danielle Butters who made 51 saves and Melissa Klippenstein, Kari Lundberg, and Kelsie Scott scored goals. But in the deciding game, Rigsby collected her 99th career victory and another shutout, UW's 12th of the season, Blayre Turnbull scored the winning goal in the second period and Courtney Burke added a goal in the third period.
North Dakota prevailed in its first round match ups over No. 6 seed Bemidji State at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. Defenseman Gracen Hirschy recorded a three-point outing to help down BSU 4-1 in game one last Friday. The Beavers proved to be peskier on Saturday as UND rallied from a one goal deficit to beat Bemidji State 3-2, with Meghan Dufault scoring the winner in overtime. Shelby Amsley-Benzie played in nets both games for UND, making a total of 37 saves over the weekend.
Minnesota Duluth won two of three hard-fought games from No. 5 seed Ohio State at AMSOIL Arena. UMD took a 1-0 decision last Friday, with Jamie Kenyon scoring the only goal and goalie Kayla Black getting the 26-save shutout, only to see OSU score a 3-2 victory Saturday. Ally Tarr and Kari Schmitt had goals for the Buckeyes in the comeback victory. Minnesota Duluth then got two goals by Zoe Hickel and scored a 5-1 victory Sunday to earn the trip to the conference playoff championship.
In this week's (March 3) USCHO.com Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll, three WCHA-member teams are ranked among the nation's top 10. Minnesota continues at No. 1, Wisconsin is No. 2 and North Dakota is No. 9. Also receiving vote this week was Minnesota Duluth.
And in the latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll for March 3, Minnesota is No. 1, Wisconsin is No. 3 and North Dakota is No. 10. Minnesota Duluth also received votes.
WCHA-member teams are a combined 29-11-2 (.714) through 42 non-conference games this season. The WCHA is 15-4-1 (.775) vs. College Hockey America, 7-4-1 (.625) vs. ECAC Hockey and 7-3-0 (.700) vs. the Hockey East Association.
This Week in the WCHA
2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF - Sanford Center - Bemidji, MN
All games will be streamed live and without cost by America ONE on the WCHA website (www.wcha.com).
Games for Friday, March 7: Semifinal #1: No. 3 North Dakota (19-11-4) vs No. 2 Wisconsin (27-6-2), 4:07 pm CT (NC). Semifinal #2: No. 4 Minnesota Duluth (15-14-6) vs No. 1 Minnesota (34-1-1), 7:07 pm CT (NC).
Games for Saturday, March 8: Playoff Championship Game: North Dakota/Wisconsin winner vs Minnesota Duluth/Minnesota winner, 7:07 pm CT (NC).
Last Week in the WCHA
WCHA Playoffs - First Round - Best-of-Three
Results of Friday, February 28: Ohio State 0 at Minnesota Duluth 1 (NC); Bemidji State 1 at North Dakota 4 (NC); Minnesota State 0 at Wisconsin 4 (NC); St. Cloud State 1 at Minnesota 4 (NC).
Results of Saturday, March 1: St. Cloud State 1 at Minnesota 7 (NC); Ohio State 3 at Minnesota Duluth 2 (NC); Bemidji State 2 at North Dakota 3 ot (NC); Minnesota State 3 at Wisconsin 0 (NC).
Results of Sunday, March 2: Minnesota State 0 at Wisconsin 2 (NC); Ohio State 1 at Minnesota Duluth 5 (NC).
2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF Tickets Go On Sale Now; Playoff Championship Set for March 7-8 at Sanford Center in Bemidji
Tickets for the 2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF, the women's WCHA playoff championship which will be held at Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn., March 7-8, are now on sale.
Semifinal games will be played at 4:07 pm and 7:37 pm CT on Friday, March 7. The semifinal winners will then play at 7:07 pm CT on Saturday, March 8 in the championship game. The winner of this game receives an automatic berth into the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
Tickets for all Sanford Center events may be purchased at the Sanford Center ticket office, any Ticketmaster retail location, Lueken's Village Foods, charge by phone at 1.800.745.3000, or on-line at www.ticketmaster.com.
Ticket prices, which include a facilities fee, are as follows:
General Admission/Bench (adult) =$23
General Admission/Bench =$20
General Admission/Bench (adult) =$15
General Admission/Bench(senior/student/youth) (senior/student/youth) =$11
General Admission/Bench (group 15+) =$9
Go to WCHA.com or WCHA.com/mobile for Live League & National Scoreboards, Live In-Game Stats, Box Scores, Standings
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association's official web site – wcha.com – also features fully functional mobile pages at wcha.com/mobile where visitors can access live league and national scoreboards, live in-game box scores and statistics, complete team and individual statistics, league standings, etc.
To access all the latest developments as games are in progress visit www.wcha.com or www.wcha.com/mobile.