WCHA Week 13: Light Final Weekend Before Holiday Break
No. 10 North Dakota And Minnesota State Play Nonconference Road Sets; Thirty-Three Current, Former Or Incoming WCHA Players In National Team Camps
No. 10 North Dakota skates against CHA opponent Lindenwood

Opening Face-Off

- Leading at the Polls: The final national opinion polls of the 2016 calendar year feature four women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) programs, tied with ECAC Hockey for the most of any conference.

  • Wisconsin remains No. 1 in the USCHO.com (unanimous) and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine rankings, followed by No. 2 Minnesota, No. 5 Minnesota Duluth and No. 10 North Dakota.
  • A fifth WCHA team, Ohio State, is receiving votes in the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine poll.

- Pairing Up: With just four games across D-I remaining before the holiday break, three WCHA teams are in the top-eight of the national PairWise rankings: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth.

- Every Game, Every Rink: Between a challenging nonconference slate and the gauntlet of arguably the nation's premier conference, WCHA teams are playing D-I's toughest schedules, according to the RPI Strength-of-Schedule ledger.

  • Five of the NCAA's top-10 toughest schedules and eight-of-20 belong to WCHA teams, the highest representation for any single league.
  • Wisconsin has placed D-I's second-toughest schedule, Minnesota Duluth ranks fourth, St. Cloud State is fifth, Ohio State is eighth, Minnesota is 10th, North Dakota is 12th, Bemidji State is 14th and Minnesota State is 17th.

- Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, half of WCHA membership (four teams) are at .500 or better and 75 percent (six-of-eight) are at least .400, both just behind Hockey East (55.6 percent, five-of-nine; and, 77.8 percent, seven-of-nine) for tops nationally.

  • Wisconsin ranks second nationally with an .875 winning percentage (17-2-1). Minnesota is fifth at .800 (15-3-2), Minnesota Duluth is tied for eighth at .725 (13-4-3), North Dakota is 15th at .575 (9-6-5), Ohio State is tied for 18th at .450 (8-10-2) and Bemidji State is tied for 19th at .425 (8-11-1).

- Nonconference Success: The WCHA continues to have the nation's best nonconference winning percentage at .766 (26-6-3). WCHA teams are 12-3-2 (.765) against College Hockey America opponents, 8-0-0 (1.000) against ECAC Hockey and 3-3-1 (.500) against Hockey East.

- U.S. - Canada December Series: Thirty-three (33) current, former or incoming WCHA players are participating in national team camps this week with either USA Hockey or Hockey Canada (full list available on page two of this release). The countries will play a two-game series Dec. 17 (Plymouth, Mich.) and Dec. 19 (Sarnia, Ontario).

- Horns Up: With five wins overall and three in WCHA play, Minnesota State has already surpassed its victory total from the entire 2015-16 season (3-29-4), has almost matched its total from the previous two seasons combined (6-61-5) and has its most league triumphs since the 2013-14 campaign (7-20-1).

  • Under second-year head coach John Harrington, the Mavericks have won three of their last five WCHA games and are 3-3-1 in their last seven contests overall.
  • With a 2-1 victory over then-No. 3 Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 10, Minnesota State posted its first win over a ranked opponent since March 1, 2014 (a 3-0 triumph over No. 2 Wisconsin in game two of a WCHA Quarterfinal series). It was also the Mavericks' first win over a ranked opponent on home ice since a 4-2 win over No. 7 Mercyhurst on Sept. 27, 2013.

- Pannek Sets the Pace: Minnesota junior Kelly Pannek enters the holiday break on a 16-game point streak in which she has at least one assist in each contest and 35 points total (9g-26a).

  • Pannek leads the NCAA in: assists (31) and assists-per-game (1.55); points (40) and points-per-game (2.00); and, power-play assists (10) and power-play points (14). She is also second with a +25 rating.

- We Are WCHA: Once again, the top-four teams in NCAA D-I women's hockey for average and total attendance are WCHA schools.

  • Wisconsin leads the country with an average of 2,194 fans per game at LaBahn Arena; Minnesota is second by welcoming 1,563 each night to Ridder Arena; Minnesota Duluth ranks third by hosting 1,041 per contest at AMSOIL Arena; and, North Dakota is fourth with an average of 902 per game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

By the Numbers

- 1: In addition to being at the top of both national polls, Wisconsin also ranks first in the NCAA for scoring offense (3.90 goals per game) and scoring defense (1.00 goals allowed per game).

- 5: Categories in which Wisconsin senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens ranks either first or second nationally: goals-against average (1st - 0.75), winning percentage (1st - .906, 14-1-1), shutouts (1st - 8), save percentage (2nd - .957) and wins (2nd - 14).

- 11: St. Cloud State skaters that have already either equaled or surpassed their previous career-high goal, assist and/or point totals.

- 14: Straight games in which Ohio State has not allowed a power-play goal (beginning Oct. 21), the NCAA's longest active streak. The Buckeyes' penalty-kill is 27-for-27 in that span. The Buckeyes now rank second in the WCHA and fifth nationally with a 91.5 penalty-kill efficiency (54-for-59).

- 44: Points by North Dakota's freshman class (21g-23a), tops in the WCHA and tied for third nationally.

- 51: Wins for third-year Bemidji State head coach Jim Scanlan (51-39-5, .563), who topped the 50-win plateau last weekend.

The Week Ahead

- Pair of Nonconference Series: Just two WCHA teams are in action this weekend, with both on the road for nonconference matchups. No. 10 North Dakota skates against CHA opponent Lindenwood, while Minnesota State plays at ECAC Hockey foe Union.

- Happy Holidays: Following this weekend, the WCHA is off for the holiday break. Play resumes with nonconference and exhibition games the weekend of Jan. 6-8, 2017, while the second half of the league schedule begins with a full slate the weekend of Jan. 13-14.

The Week in Review

- Top-ranked Wisconsin ended the first half in style, earning a pair of shutout wins to a sweep a road series at Ohio State.

- Minnesota Duluth opened a road series with a 3-0 win Friday, but host Minnesota State came back to upset the third-ranked Bulldogs with a 2-1 triumph Saturday.

- No. 10 North Dakota created some separation in the WCHA standings, holding visiting St. Cloud State to two goals en route to a sweep.

- Bemidji State ended the first half on a winning note, sweeping a nonconference road series at RIT.

- No. 2 Minnesota scored 10 goals on the weekend to come away with a split in a nonconference series at Boston University.

- Full recaps and box scores are available at wcha.com.

No. 1 Wisconsin 7, at Ohio State 0
No. 1 Wisconsin 5, at Ohio State 0
(Dec. 9 and 10 at OSU Ice Rink; Madison, Wis.)

Top-ranked Wisconsin ended the first half in style, earning a pair of shutout wins to a sweep a road series at Ohio State.

After registering their highest scoring output of the season Dec. 4, the visiting Badgers continued right where they left off by tallying seven goals in a series-opening victory. Jenny Ryan and Annie Pankowski each scored two goals apiece, while Emily Clark enjoyed a career-high five-point game (1g-4a). UW goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens finished with 14 saves in the shutout.

The series finale saw more of the same, as the Badgers snapped a scoreless tie with a four-goal, second-period outburst en route to a 5-0 victory. Alexis Mauermann got the scoring started for UW, while Pankowski, Baylee Wellhausen and Presley Norby all netted goals in the second period. Mikayla Johnson added a third-period strike, while Desbiens turned aside all 11 shots she faced for a second-straight shutout and NCAA-leading eighth on the year.

No. 3 Minnesota Duluth 3, at Minnesota State 0
at Minnesota State 2, No. 3 Minnesota Duluth 1
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minn.)

Minnesota Duluth opened a road series with a 3-0 win Friday, but host Minnesota State came back to upset the third-ranked Bulldogs with a 2-1 triumph Saturday.

The visiting Bulldogs kept the puck on their offensive end for most of the game in Friday's series opener, out-shooting the Mavericks 36-14 en route to a 3-0 win. Brianna Quade made 33 saves for Minnesota State, but Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Sidney Morin and Brooklyn Schugel all scored for UMD. Maddie Rooney turned in a 14-save shutout for the Bulldogs.

Saturday was a momentous day for the host Mavericks, with the team picking up the program's first win over a ranked opponent since March 1, 2014. With her team trailing 1-0 entering the third period, sophomore defenseman Megan Hinze scored a pair of power-play goals to lift Minnesota State to the 2-1 victory. Hinze's tying goal came 3:47 into the final period, while the tie-breaking, game-winner was scored at the 14:48 mark. Quade made 39 saves for the Mavericks, including 16 stops in the third period alone.

at No. 10 North Dakota 3, St. Cloud State 2
at No. 10 North Dakota 4, St. Cloud State 0
(Dec. 10 and 11 at Ralph Engelstad Arena; Grand Forks, N.D.)

No. 10 North Dakota created some separation in the WCHA standings, holding visiting St. Cloud State to two goals en route to a sweep.

Saturday, the host Fighting Hawks used a pair of second period goals to snap a 1-1 tie and propel them to a 3-2 victory. Freshman Alyssa MacMillian scored her first collegiate goal just 36 seconds into the game to put UND up early. But the Huskies would respond near the midway point of the period off the stick of Alyssa Erickson to tie the game up heading into the break. Amy Menke and Sarah Lecavalier scored in the middle frame, which proved to be the difference. Julia Tylke scored a third-period goal for SCSU, but UND held on behind goaltender Lexie Shaw (13 saves).

North Dakota got goals from three different skaters, including a two-goal effort from Kayla Gardner, for a 4-0 win in Sunday's series finale. Ryleigh Houston opened up the scoring 32 seconds into the game, fellow freshman Hallie Theodosopoulos added a second-period goal and Gardner scored twice in the third. Shaw made 11 stops for her fifth shutout of the season.

Bemidji State 3, at RIT 1
Bemidji State 5, at RIT 1
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Frank Ritter Memorial Ice Arena; Rochester, N.Y.)

Bemidji State ended the first half on a winning note, sweeping a nonconference road series at RIT.

After the home team took a 1-0 lead early in Friday's series opener, Bemidji State scored the game's final three goals for a 3-1 victory. Emily Bergland knotted things up at the 14:47 mark of the first period, before the Beavers struck twice in the second stanza. Melissa Hunt and Emma Terres both scored in the middle frame, and Brittni Mowat shut the door with 27 saves to preserve the win.

It was another all-around effort, sparked by underclassmen, that earned the Beavers the sweep with a 5-1 win in Saturday's series finale. Freshman Haley Mack opened the scoring with her first collegiate goal, fellow rookie Abby Halluska had a career-best three-point effort (1g-2a), sophomore Lisa Laiti had three assists, freshman Jacqueline Kassa netted the game-winner and Bergland (a sophomore) also scored. Mowat turned aside 23-of-24 shots for the win.

No. 2 Minnesota 5, at Boston University 1
at Boston University 6, No. 2 Minnesota 5 - OT
(Dec. 9 and 10 at Walter Brown Arena; Boston, Mass.)

No. 2 Minnesota scored 10 goals on the weekend to come away with a split in a nonconference series at Boston University.

The Gophers opened the series with an impressive offensive output, scoring five goals and taking 50 shots during a 5-1 victory. Megan Wolfe opened up the scoring just 1:48 in, which started what would become a three-goal first period thanks to Kate Schipper and Sarah Potomak. Cara Piazza and Lee Stecklein added goals later in the contest, while Sidney Peters made 14 saves in the win.

Saturday's contest was a wild, back-and-forth affair that saw Minnesota erase a two-goal deficit in the final five minutes, only to have BU win, 6-5, with a goal 1:40 into overtime. After the host Terriers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, Potomak and Schipper scored within 28 seconds of each other to tie things up midway through the first period. BU scored three more times in the second to give them a 5-3 lead heading to intermission. It looked like things would stay that way deep into the third, until Kelly Pannek (at 14:52) and Stecklein (at 18:22) flashed some late-game heroics to send the game to overtime.

2016 U.S. – Canada December Series

Thirty-three (33) current, former or incoming WCHA players are at national team camps this week for USA Hockey or Hockey Canada. Twenty-one players on the 37-player USA Hockey Women's Winter Training Camp roster have WCHA ties, while 11 were selected for the 22-player roster for the Canadian National Women's Senior Team.

The U.S. and Canada will play a two-game, home-and-home series, skating Dec. 17 in Plymouth, Mich. and Dec. 19 in Sarnia, Ontario.

The full breakdown of WCHA players participating in camps:

United States

- Current (6): Jincy Dunne, D, Ohio State; Annie Pankowski, F, Wisconsin; Kelly Pannek, F, Minnesota; Maddie Rooney, G, Minnesota Duluth; Jenny Ryan, D, Wisconsin; Lee Stecklein, D, Minnesota

- Alumnae (14): Shelby Amsley-Benzie, G, North Dakota; Stephanie Anderson, F, Bemidji State; Megan Bozek, D, Minnesota; Hannah Brandt, D, Minnesota; Brianna Decker, F, Wisconsin; Meghan Duggan, F, Wisconsin; Zoe Hickel, F, Minnesota Duluth; Amanda Kessel, F, Minnesota; Hilary Knight, F, Wisconsin; Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, F, North Dakota; Monique Lamoureux-Morando, D, North Dakota; Gigi Marvin, D, Minnesota; Alex Rigsby, G, Wisconsin; Anne Schleper, D, Minnesota

- School Commits (1): Grace Zumwinkle, F, Minnesota


- Current (4): Emily Clark, F, Wisconsin; Ann-Renée Desbiens, G, Wisconsin; Halli Krzyzaniak, D, North Dakota; Sarah Potomak, F, Minnesota

- Alumnae (5): Haley Irwin, F, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne Larocque, D, Minnesota Duluth; Meaghan Mikkelson, D, Wisconsin; Natalie Spooner, F, Ohio State; Blayre Turnbull, F, Wisconsin

- School Commits (2): Amy Potomak, F, Minnesota; Sophie Shirley, F, Wisconsin

* Current Minnesota forward Dani Cameranesi was named to the original Team USA roster, but was replaced due to injury.