WCHA Weekend Preview: 2016 Playoffs - First Round
News and notes for the upcoming weekend of WCHA hockey
The 2016 Women's WCHA Playoffs get started on Friday afternoon at Bemdji State's Sanford Center when the Beavers host game one against minnesota Duluth

Opening Face-Off

- WCHA Leading at the Polls: After another terrific regular season for the nation's top women's college hockey conference, the WCHA has matched ECAC Hockey with four ranked teams in both the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings: No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 7 Bemidji State and No. 10 North Dakota.

- Winning Hockey: Not surprisingly, four of the NCAA's top-13 winning percentages also belong to WCHA teams: Wisconsin (second at .897, 30-3-1), Minnesota (third at .894, 29-3-1), Bemidji State (eighth at .691, 22-9-3) and North Dakota (13th at .578, 16-11-5). Additionally, the WCHA finished its regular season nonconference slate with an NCAA-best .786 winning percentage (32-8-2).

- Playoffs!!!: Now the fun really begins, as the 2016 WCHA Playoffs get underway this weekend with four, best-of-three first round series at host institutions. Top-seed Wisconsin hosts (8) Minnesota State, (2) Minnesota welcomes (7) Ohio State, (3) Bemidji State - hosting a postseason series for the first-time ever - entertains (6) Minnesota Duluth, and (4) North Dakota is home against (5) St. Cloud State. The four winning teams advance to the 2016 WCHA Final Face-Off, held March 5-6 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis (participating teams will be re-seeded according to regular season finish).

- Patty Kaz Top-10 Finalists: The WCHA makes up half of the top-10 finalists field for the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, with an NCAA-high five league standouts – representing three schools – named to the list by USA Hockey. The finalists are: North Dakota senior G Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Minnesota senior F Hannah Brandt, UMN junior F Dani Cameranesi, Wisconsin junior G Ann-Renée Desbiens and UW sophomore F Annie Pankowski.

- Quickly Around the WCHA: At 22-9-3, BEMIDJI STATE has the most wins in program history, has reached the 20-victory plateau during the regular season for the first time ever and secured its' highest-ever WCHA regular season finish (third place) ... MINNESOTA's five seniors (Hannah Brandt, Brook Garzone, Amanda Kessel, Amanda Leveille and Milica McMillen) enter the playoffs as the most successful class in program history (142-8-6, .929) ... MINNESOTA DULUTH junior F Ashleigh Brykaliuk has moved up to 12th nationally with an average of 1.29 points per game, while senior F Michela Cava is 24th nationally with 0.53 goals per contest ... MINNESOTA STATE junior G Brianna Quade leads the WCHA and ranks second nationally with 950 saves ... NORTH DAKOTA leads the NCAA with an average of 15.56 blocks per game; the Fighting Hawks also rank fifth nationally with a .898 penalty-kill percentage ... A pair of OHIO STATE rookies - D Lauren Boyle (3g-14a) and F Maddy Field (9g-8a) - have 17 points overall, tied for fourth among WCHA freshmen ... ST. CLOUD STATE senior F Molly Illikainen, who has a career-high 17 goals and 31 points this season, is two points shy of the career 100-point plateau (45g-53a=98pts) ... WISCONSIN, which is enjoying the sixth 30-win season in program history, tied the school record with 24 conference wins en route to its fifth WCHA regular season championship (also 2005-06, 2006-07, 2010-11 and 2011-12). 2016 WCHA Playoff seeds listed in parentheses


(8) Minnesota State (0-25-3-0, 3 pts. / 3-27-4) at (1) Wisconsin (24-3-1-1, 74 pts. / 30-3-1)
LaBahn Arena; Madison, Wis.
GAME ONE: Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:07 p.m. CT
GAME TWO: Saturday, Feb. 27 at 4:07 p.m. CT
GAME THREE (if necessary): Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2:07 p.m. CT

- WCHA regular season champion Wisconsin opens the postseason by hosting eight-seed Minnesota State at LaBahn Arena, where the nationally third-ranked Badgers have won a program-record 22-straight games. UW's regular season title is the fifth in program history.

- The Mavericks and Badgers last met in the postseason back in 2014, with Wisconsin outlasting Minnesota State two-games-to-one.

- Wisconsin won all four games during the 2015-16 season series, including 4-0 and 8-1 wins two weeks ago in Madison.

- Minnesota state junior G Brianna Quade recorded 53 saves last weekend, bringing her total this season to 950 – tops in the WCHA and second nationally.

- Of the 143 points scored by the Mavericks this season, 106 have been recorded by underclassmen (74.1%). Forty-three (43) of Minnesota State's 55 goals (78.2%) have been scored by freshmen and sophomores.

- Wisconsin is one of three schools with multiple representatives in the top-10 finalists for the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Award: junior G Ann-Renée Desbiens and sophomore F Annie Pankowski.

- Desbiens leads the nation in save percentage (.956), goals against average (0.82) and shutouts (16). Her 16 shutouts are the most in program history and tied for second most in NCAA annals.

- Pankowski – the first UW player since Brianna Decker in 2012-13 to reach the 50-point plateau – leads the Badgers in points (52) and assists (32), while also being tied for second on the team in goals (20). She ranks eighth in the country averaging 1.53 points per game, which is also fourth best in the WCHA.

- Wisconsin leads the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to 0.76 goals per game. The Badgers have shutout their opponents in 18 of their 34 games this season (26 goals allowed).

(7) Ohio State (6-21-1-1, 20 pts. / 10-23-1) at (2) Minnesota (24-3-1-0, 73 pts. / 29-3-1)
Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, Minn.
GAME ONE: Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:07 p.m. CT
GAME TWO: Saturday, Feb. 27 at 4:07 p.m. CT
GAME THREE (if necessary): Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2:07 p.m. CT

- Minnesota brings a 15-game unbeaten streak (14-0-1) into its series against Ohio State. The No. 2 Gophers are unbeaten in their last 38 games against the Buckeyes (36-0-2), dating back to Feb. 2008 (including a 4-0-0 mark this year).

- These two teams last met in a postseason contest back in the 2013 Final Face-Off, a 5-0 Minnesota win in the semifinals.

- The Buckeyes finished the WCHA regular season in seventh place. The seventh place finish is the lowest finish the team has had since the 2008-2009 season.

- Ohio State freshmen, Maddy Field and Lauren Boyle finished in the top-five in the WCHA for freshman scoring. Both freshmen have tallied 17 points so far this season.

- Minnesota is one of three schools to have multiple representatives among the top-10 Patty Kazmaier Award finalists: senior F Hannah Brandt and junior F Dani Cameranesi.

- Brandt, who has an NCAA-best four hat tricks, is fifth nationally with 54 points and sixth with 24 goals. She finished second in the WCHA with 41 points and 19 goals in conference play.

- Cameranesi, the WCHA's regular season scoring champ with 53 points in 28 league games, ranks fourth nationally with 28 goals and 61 points.

- The Gophers swept Ohio State in the 2015-16 season series, as Minnesota was led by Sarah Potomak (1g-11a), Cameranesi (6g-5a) and Brandt (3g-5a).

(6) Minnesota Duluth (10-17-1-0, 31 pts. / 13-20-1) at Bemidji State (17-9-2-1, 54 pts. / 22-9-3)
Sanford Center; Bemidji, Minn.
GAME ONE: Friday, Feb. 26 at 2:07 p.m. CT
GAME TWO: Saturday, Feb. 27 at 2:07 p.m. CT
GAME THREE (if necessary): Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2:07 p.m. CT

- Nationally seventh-ranked Bemidji State is hosting a WCHA playoff series for the first time ever, and will welcome a Minnesota Duluth team that it swept this season - also the first time the Beavers have gone 4-0-0 in a season against UMD. BSU outlasted host UMD, two-games-to-one, in last season's WCHA playoffs.

- UMD's sixth-place finish in the WCHA is the lowest in program history. This season is also the first season in 17 years where the Bulldogs will start their playoffs on the road.

- The Bulldogs' high-scoring trio of junior F Ashleigh Brykaliuk, senior F Michela Cava and junior F Lara Stalder are all found on the national scoring lists. Brykaliuk (18g-28a=44pts) ranks 12th in the NCAA with a 1.29 points per game average, Cava (18g-17a=35pts) ranks 24th at 0.53 goals per contest and Stalder (15g-21a=36pts) ranks eighth with six power play goals.

- UMD senior G Kayla Black has collected 54 career wins between the pipes for the Bulldogs. Her victory total ranks fourth in program history and is just three wins shy of third place.

- Bemidji State has a program-record 22 wins, reached the 20-win mark during the regular season for the first time ever and enjoyed its highest-ever WCHA regular-season finish (third).

- BSU senior F Stephanie Anderson (11g-8a=19pts) was named to her second consecutive IIHF World Championships roster for Team USA.

- BSU's points leader, senior F Kaitlyn Tougas (8g-20a=28pts) now has 91 career points, good for seventh in program history.

(5) St. Cloud State (9-15-4-3, 34 pts. / 13-16-4) at (4) North Dakota (13-10-5-3, 47 pts. / 16-11-5)
Ralph Engelstad Arena; Grand Forks, N.D.
GAME ONE: Friday, Feb. 26 at 2:37 p.m. CT
GAME TWO: Saturday, Feb. 27 at 2:37 p.m. CT
GAME THREE (if necessary): Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2:07 p.m. CT

- North Dakota and St. Cloud State will meet in the playoffs for the first time ever, two weeks after the teams split in Grand Forks. The 10th-ranked Fighting Hawks are 30-26-1 all-time against the Huskies, including a 2-1-1 mark this season (SCSU won the shootout).

- This weekend marks the first-ever playoff meeting between SCSU and UND.

- SCSU has enjoyed a five-win improvement over 2014-15, including a four-victory (and 17-point) uptick in WCHA play. The Huskies' fifth-place finish was their highest since 2009-10 (third).

- Senior F Molly Illikainen has set career highs with 17 goals and 31 points this season, while the Huskies' points leader added 14 assists.

- Fellow senior Katie Fitzgerald appeared in every WCHA game, while posting an overall save percentage of .910 (925 stops).

- UND senior G Shelby Amsley-Benzie is a top-10 finalist for the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Award. The only netminder in the nation to defeat two No. 1-ranked teams this season, she ranks second in the WCHA and fourth in the NCAA with eight shutouts. She is also third in the league with a 1.60 goals-against average and fourth with a .932 save percentage.

- UND senior F Meghan Dufault, who is second on the team with 29 points this season (9g-20a), is fifth in program history with 129 career points – just two shy of Michelle Karvinen for fourth.

- North Dakota currently holds the fifth-best penalty kill in the country and second best in the WCHA, averaging a .898 shorthanded efficiency.