Wisconsin Tabbed As Preaseason Favorite By WCHA Coaches
Badgers, Minnesota, North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth picked to finish atop conference; Wisconsin's Ann-Renée Desbiens, along with Minnesota's Lindsay Agnew and UW's Presley Norby and Abby Roque named preseason award favorites
Wisconsin's Ann-Renée Desbiens was selected as WCHA Preseason Player of the Year

EDINA, Minn. – Sept. 14, 2016 – Defending league regular season and back-to-back playoff champion Wisconsin is the preseason pick of conference coaches to finish atop the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) standings in 2016-17. The Badgers edged out defending national champion Minnesota in the poll of the eight WCHA head coaches.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) Points
1 Wisconsin (6) 48
2 Minnesota (2) 44
3 North Dakota 36
4 Minnesota Duluth 30
5 Bemidji State 27
6 St. Cloud State 18
7 Ohio State 13
8 Minnesota State 10
(note: coaches could not vote for their own teams in the poll and points were awarded on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system)

WCHA Preseason Player of the Year (votes)

Ann-Renée Desbiens, Sr., G, Wisconsin (5); Dani Cameranesi, Sr., F, Minnesota (1); Annie Pankowski, Jr., F, Wisconsin (1); Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Sr., F, Minnesota Duluth (1)

WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year (votes)

Lindsay Agnew, Fr., F, Minnesota (2); Presley Norby, Fr., F, Wisconsin (2), Abby Roque, Fr., F, Wisconsin (2); Ryleigh Houston, Fr., F, North Dakota (1); Jincy Dunne, Fr., D, Ohio State (1)

Wisconsin ended Minnesota's three-year reign atop the WCHA standings last season with the fifth regular season crown in program history, and league coaches believe Mark Johnson's team will repeat in 2016-17. The Badgers, who advanced to the Frozen Four last year and won 35 games – the fourth-most in school annals – collected six first-place votes and 48 points overall.

Minnesota is coming off a campaign which saw the Golden Gophers win their fourth national championship in five seasons, the seventh in school history and the 16th in 17 seasons for the WCHA. The Gophers placed second in the coaches' poll with 44 points and two first-place votes.

A pair of 2016 Final Face-Off participants, North Dakota (36 points) and Minnesota Duluth (30) finished third and fourth, respectively.

Bemidji State, which set a program record with 22 wins last year, was selected to finish in fifth place with 27 points. St. Cloud State (16 points), coming off its best campaign since 2009-10, was tabbed for sixth. Ohio State and Minnesota State rounded out the poll.

Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who broke NCAA single-season records in 2015-16 for shutouts (21), save percentage (.960) and goals-against average (0.76), was the coaches' preseason choice for WCHA Player of the Year. Her Badgers teammate, junior forward Annie Pankowski, along with senior forwards Dani Cameranesi (Minnesota) and Minnesota Duluth (Ashleigh Brykaliuk), also received votes.

Three players received two votes apiece and tied as the choice for preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Minnesota forward Lindsay Agnew, along with Wisconsin forwards Presley Norby and Abby Roque. Ohio State defenseman Jincy Dunne and North Dakota forward Ryleigh Houston each received a vote.

The league's 2016-17 campaign opens the weekend of Sept. 23-24, when Wisconsin visits St. Cloud State. The remaining six teams drop the puck with nonconference contests the weekend of Sept. 30-Oct. 1, while the first full weekend of league series is slated for Oct. 7-8.