- Let's Get it Started: After St. Cloud State and Wisconsin broke the ice on the 2016-17 campaign with a WCHA series last weekend, the remaining six league teams get their seasons underway with nonconference action this weekend.
- Polling Place: Five (5) of the WCHA's eight teams earned recognition in the preseason polls, including three teams ranked in the top-10. Wisconsin is the nation's preseason No. 1 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine polls, as the reigning WCHA regular season and playoff champions return six of their top seven scorers and record-setting goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens.
- Two-time defending NCAA champion Minnesota is No. 2, while perennial top-10 fixture North Dakota opens at No. 6.
- Bemidji State, coming off a program-record 22 win campaign, and Minnesota Duluth, which upset the Beavers in the 2016 WCHA Quarterfinals, are receiving votes in both polls.
- Nonconference Success: WCHA teams will play 14 nonconference games this weekend against teams from College Hockey America (at Mercyhurst, at Syracuse, vs. RIT, vs. Lindenwood), ECAC Hockey (at Rensselaer) and Hockey East (vs. Merrimack, vs. Boston College).
- The WCHA boasted the best nonconference winning percentage in the country in 2015-16 at .800 (35-8-2) – including a perfect 3-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament. All eight WCHA teams were at .500-or-above against nonconference opponents a year ago.
- Muzerall Set for Debut: Ohio State bench boss Nadine Muzerall will make her D-I head coaching debut when the Buckeyes open their season at Rensselaer. A two-time All-American during her stellar playing career at Minnesota, Muzerall spent the past five years as the Gophers' assistant coach, helping her alma mater reach five-consecutive national championship games (winning four).
By the Numbers
- 4: Returning WCHA All-Americans, of the six the league had in 2015-16: First Team members Desbiens, and Second Team selections Dani Cameranesi (Sr., F, Minnesota), Annie Pankowski (Jr., F, Wisconsin) and Lee Stecklein (Sr., D, Minnesota). A fifth player, Bemidji State senior goaltender Brittni Mowat, was a First Team All-American in 2014-15.
- 5: Straight seasons that WCHA teams have ranked 1-4 nationally in attendance. Last season, Minnesota drew 42,501 (2,125 per game) to Ridder Arena, Wisconsin welcomed 42,398 (2,019) to LaBahn Arena (including a program-record 12 sellouts), Minnesota Duluth greeted 21,293 fans (1,331) at AMSOIL Arena and North Dakota hosted 16,143 (1,009) at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
- 8: Of the 10 WCHA players who ranked in the top-25 nationally for scoring in 2015-16 return in 2016-17: Cameranesi (fifth at 1.70 points per game), Pankowski (seventh at 1.45), Minnesota sophomore (and 2016 National Rookie of the Year) Sarah Potomak (eighth at 1.42), Minnesota Duluth senior Ashleigh Brykaliuk (10th at 1.27), UMN junior Kelly Pannek (15th at 1.23), UMD senior Lara Stalder (16th at 1.21), Wisconsin junior Emily Clark (18th at 1.18) and North Dakota senior Amy Menke (22nd at 1.14).
- 11: 2016 National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) Draft picks on WCHA rosters in 2016-17 - more than half of the 20 overall selections: Stecklein (BUF), Cameranesi (CON), Desbiens (BOS), Wisconsin's Sarah Nurse (BOS), UW's Jenny Ryan (NYR), UW's Mellissa Channell (CON), Brykaliuk (BOS), UW's Sydney McKibbon (NYR), North Dakota's Halli Krzyzaniak (BOS), Menke and Stalder.
- 52: Saves made, on 55 shots, by St. Cloud State goaltender Taylor Crosby on Saturday night - the sixth-highest single-game total in SCSU history. The sophomore's terrific effort came in just her second career start (third game), and helped the Huskies hold a 2-1, third-period lead over top-ranked Wisconsin (the Badgers eventually rallied for the 4-2 win).
- 397: Career wins for Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson, third all-time among Division I women's coaches. Only two others have reached the 400-win plateau at the D-I level (Harvard's Katey Stone with 446 and Mercyhurst's Michael Sisti with 429).
The Week Ahead
- Lindenwood at No. 3 Minnesota: The two-time defending Frozen Four champion Gophers will raise their latest national championship banner prior to Friday night's series opener at Ridder Arena. The series marks Minnesota's first-ever meeting with Lindenwood.
- No. 6 North Dakota at Mercyhurst: The sixth-ranked Fighting Hawks open against a Mercyhurst team that is receiving votes in both polls. This weekend's series marks the first-ever meeting between the schools.
- Bemidji State at Syracuse: The Beavers, who set a program record with 22 wins last season, open the campaign at CHA preseason favorite Syracuse. Both teams are receiving votes in the preseason polls.
- No. 3 Boston College at Minnesota Duluth: A key East-West matchup to start the season, as the Bulldogs - who played 23 of 37 games last year against ranked opponents - hosts No. 3 Boston College at AMSOIL Arena.
- RIT at Minnesota State: John Harrington begins his second season at the helm as the Mavericks welcome RIT to the Verizon Wireless Center for the first time. Minnesota State split a two-game series in New York last season.
- Ohio State at Rensselaer: Nadine Muzerall's D-I head coaching debut comes on the road, as the youthful Buckeyes (14 underclassmen) travel to Rensselaer.
- Merrimack at St. Cloud State: The Huskies remain home for the second straight week, hosting Merrimack. SCSU earned a road sweep over the Warriors to open the 2015-16 season.