EDINA, Minn. – May 31, 2016 – The annual 112-game league slate – always among the toughest and most exciting in women's college hockey – along with an intriguing nonconference schedule and the Final Face-Off playoff championship, to be held at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, highlight the 2016-17 composite schedule for the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
The schedule, announced today by WCHA President and Interim Women's Commissioner Bill Robertson, outlines weekend dates and opponents for each of the league's eight member institutions. Exact game days and times, which will follow the :07 and :37 format for league games and nonconference home contests, will be finalized and announced at a later date.
"On behalf of the WCHA and its member institutions, we are proud to announce the league's 2016-17 composite schedule," said Robertson. "It is always an exciting day to reveal when and where WCHA fans will be able to watch the nation's premier women's college hockey conference. With four teams in the national rankings at last season's end – including the two-time defending national champions – and several programs on the rise, the league cannot wait to get started on what promises to be another fantastic campaign."
The full 2016-17 WCHA composite schedule can be found by clicking here.
WCHA member institutions once again have 42 games against nonconference opponents scheduled, including games against a trio of 2016 NCAA tournament participants.
Among the highlights:
- Minnesota and Boston University, who met in the 2013 National Championship game, face off for a two-game series in Massachusetts the weekend of Dec. 9-11.
- Minnesota Duluth opens its season against 2016 national runner-up Boston College, hosting the Eagles for a series at AMSOIL Arena the weekend of Sept. 30 – Oct. 2.
- After serving on Harvard coaching staff from 2010-15, UMD head coach Maura Crowell leads the Bulldogs to Cambridge, Mass. for a series against the Crimson the weekend of Nov. 25-27.
- North Dakota opens its season the weekend of Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 with a road test at 2016 NCAA tournament participant Mercyhurst.
- St. Cloud State will participate in the second annual Windjammer Classic, hosted by Vermont on the weekend of Nov. 25-27.
- Wisconsin's six-game nonconference slate includes an Oct. 14-16 series at 2016 NCAA tournament participant Clarkson.
A full breakdown of nonconference opponents, by institution:
- Bemidji State – at Syracuse, at RIT
- Minnesota – vs. Lindenwood, at Boston University
- Minnesota Duluth – vs. Boston College, at Harvard
- Minnesota State – vs. RIT, vs. Lindenwood, at Union
- North Dakota – at Mercyhurst, vs. Syracuse, at Lindenwood
- Ohio State – at RPI, vs. Lindenwood, at Penn State
- St. Cloud State – vs. Merrimack, at Windjammer Classic (hosted by Vermont), vs. Colgate
- Wisconsin – at Clarkson, vs. Cornell, at Lindenwood
The always ultra-competitive 112-game league slate, which features a 28-game schedule comprised of two series (one home and one away) against each of the other seven WCHA institutions, begins right away with a single series on the season's opening weekend of Sept. 23-25. A total of 17 weekends will feature at least one WCHA matchup, including 11 with all eight teams competing in league play (Oct. 7-9, Oct. 21-23, Oct. 28-30, Nov. 18-20, Dec. 2-4, Jan. 13-15, Jan. 20-22, Jan. 27-29, Feb. 3-5, Feb. 10-12 and Feb. 17-19).
Among the highlights:
- Wisconsin begins defense of its WCHA championship on the season's opening weekend with a road series at St. Cloud State (Sept. 23-25).
- The Badgers bring their 25-game winning streak at LaBahn Arena – a venue which hosted a program-record 12 sellouts last season – into their home opener the weekend of Oct. 7-9 against Ohio State.
- Minnesota and Wisconsin, who squared off six times last season – including in the Final Face-Off championship game and a Frozen Four semifinal – renew the Border Battle in Madison, Wis. on the weekend of Dec. 2-4 and in Minneapolis on the season's final weekend, Feb. 17-19.
- Bemidji State and North Dakota will play a pair of home-and-home series on the weekends of Oct. 28-30 and Jan. 27-29.
- The Beavers and Minnesota Duluth, who have taken turns upsetting each other the last two seasons in the WCHA Quarterfinals (with the Bulldogs winning last year), play Oct. 21-23 in Duluth and Jan. 20-22 in Bemidji.
- Other 2016 WCHA quarterfinal rematches occur between Wisconsin and Minnesota State (Oct. 28-30 at MSU and Jan. 27-29 at UW), Minnesota and Ohio State (Oct. 21-23 at OSU and Jan. 20-22 at UMN), and North Dakota and St. Cloud State (Oct. 7-9 at SCSU and Dec. 9-11 at UND).
- The North Dakota vs. Minnesota rivalry begins anew the weekend of Nov. 18-20 in Grand Forks, followed by Feb. 10-12 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
- Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, two intra-state rivals on the rise, face off Oct. 21-23 in Mankato and Jan. 20-22 in St. Cloud.
- Second-year head coaches Maura Crowell (Minnesota Duluth) and Jenny Potter (Ohio State) open league play in front of their home fans on Oct. 7-9 (UMD vs. Minnesota State) and Oct. 21-23 (OSU vs. Minnesota), respectively.
2017 WCHA Playoffs and Final Face-Off
All eight teams advance to the 2017 WCHA Playoffs, seeded by finish in the final regular season standings. The tournament commences with four (4), best-of-three, quarterfinal round series hosted at the home sites of the top four seeds the weekend of Feb. 24-26. The four winners advance to the 2017 WCHA Final Face-Off, set for March 4 and 5 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
2015-16 – Another Championship Season
The WCHA won its 16th national championship in the league's illustrious 17-year history, while capturing its 15th NCAA Frozen Four title, as Minnesota capped the 2015-16 season by winning the Gophers' seventh national crown. The league also finished with an NCAA-best four teams (matching ECAC Hockey) ranked in the final opinion polls, with top-ranked Minnesota followed by No. 3 Wisconsin, North Dakota (No. 9 in the USCHO.com poll and No. 10 in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings) and Bemidji State (No. 10/9).
Among the highlights:
- Five of the WCHA's eight teams spent at least one week ranked in the top 10 of either the USCHO.com or USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
- The WCHA boasted the best nonconference winning percentage in the country at .800 (35-8-2) – including a perfect 3-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
- In addition to Minnesota, the league was also represented in the NCAA Tournament and Frozen Four by Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin returned to the top of the WCHA's regular season and postseason mountains. The Badgers earned their fifth WCHA regular season crown and program history, and first since 2011-12, with a 24-win, 74-point campaign. UW then successfully defended its Final Face-Off championship, in the process matching the league record with its sixth WCHA postseason title in program annals.
- Record-setting Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens was chosen as the National Player of the Year by USCHO.com.
- Minnesota forward Sarah Potomak was tabbed by the National Rookie of the Year by the Women's Hockey Commissioners Association and USCHO.com.
- Six players earned CCM All-America honors – First Teamers Desbiens (UW) and Hannah Brandt (UMN), and Second Teamers Courtney Burke (UW), Lee Stecklein (UMN), Dani Cameranesi (UMN) and Pankowski (UW).
- UW's Desbiens was a top-3 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. Badgers' teammate Annie Pankowski, along with UMN's Brandt and Cameranesi, and UND's Shelby Amsley-Benzie, gave the WCHA an NCAA-best five players among the top-10 finalists.
- UW's Desbiens was named to the All-USCHO.com First Team; UMN's Brandt, Cameranesi, Stecklein and Amanda Leveille, and UW's Pankowski earned Second Team honors; while UW's Burke and BSU's Ivana Bilic garnered Third Team accolades. UMN's Potomak was named to the All-Rookie Team.
- Desbiens, the WCHA Player of the Year, fashioned a season for the ages – arguably the best campaign by a netminder in NCAA history. The junior set the all-time NCAA Division I single-season records for save percentage (.960), goals-against average (0.76) and shutouts (21).
- Desbiens' scoreless run of 543:33 between Oct. 3 and Nov. 14 also set a new NCAA D-I standard (men's or women's), and was nearly 100 minutes longer than the previous record of 448:32 that Badger legend Jessie Vetter set during the 2006-07 season). Her sensational streak helped Wisconsin post an incredible nine-straight shutouts and 624 minutes, 18 seconds of scoreless hockey – also an NCAA D-I record (men's or women's). The Badgers' 10 hours, 24 minutes and 18 seconds of shutout hockey is an NCAA Division I record (men's or women's).
- One of the all-time great players in WCHA history, Brandt wrapped up her career with prominent places throughout the league and NCAA record books. She finished with 285 points, matching UND's Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson for most in WCHA history (since 1999-2000), while her 170 assists are the most in league annals and her 115 goals are tied for fourth. In NCAA history (since 2000-01), Brandt finished tied for second for points, second for assists and tied for seventh for goals.
- The WCHA continued to make its mark on international ice during the 2015-16 season.
- Thirty-two (32) current or former WCHA student-athletes, representing seven member institutions and all four competing countries, participated in the 2015 Four Nations Cup.
- Thirty-six (36) current or former WCHA student-athletes, representing seven member institutions and competing for six different countries, participated in the 2016 IIHF World Championships.
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)
The women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association has won a record 16 national championships in 17 years since its inception in 1999, while producing six Patty Kazmaier Award winners, 86 All-Americans and numerous Olympic and international team members. The eight-team Division 1 conference consists of: Bemidji State University (Beavers), the University of Minnesota (Golden Gophers), the University of Minnesota Duluth (Bulldogs), Minnesota State University (Mavericks), the University of North Dakota, Ohio State University (Buckeyes), St. Cloud State University (Huskies) and the University of Wisconsin (Badgers). For more information, visit www.wcha.com.