EDINA, Minn. – April 6, 2017 – The final month of the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) featured a thrilling Final Face-Off championship and saw three teams compete in the NCAA Tournament, while two advanced to the Frozen Four and one played for the national championship. Today, the WCHA honors three of its top individual performances with monthly accolades for March 2017: Wisconsin senior forward Sarah Nurse has been named Offensive Player of the Month, Minnesota Duluth sophomore goaltender Maddie Rooney has garnered Defensive Player of the Month honors and Wisconsin freshman defenseman Mekenzie Steffen is the league's Rookie of the Month.
Sarah Nurse, Sr., F
Wisconsin (Hamilton, Ontario)
Nurse, the Badgers' alternate captain, was instrumental in helping Wisconsin win its seventh WCHA Final Face-Off title and advance to the 2017 NCAA championship game. The senior from Hamilton, Ontario led the league in March scoring with seven points (two goals and a WCHA-high five assists), while also posting a WCHA-best plus-6 rating. Among all NCAA skaters, she was second for assist and tied for third in points.
Factoring in four of UW's six goals during the tournament, Nurse was the playmaking force behind the Badgers' third-straight WCHA Final Face-Off crown. She picked up the primary assist on Emily Clark's tie-breaking, game-winning goal with 2:43 remaining in regulation of the semifinals, lifting Wisconsin to a 2-1 victory over North Dakota. With the Badgers and Minnesota Duluth tied, 1-1, entering the third period of the Final Face-Off championship game, Nurse tallied a goal and two helpers as UW erupted for a three-goal final stanza and 4-1 victory.
Nurse continued the impressive run with another three-point effort in the NCAA quarterfinals, again contributing a goal and two assists to a 7-0 UW triumph over Robert Morris. She logged nine shots on goal at the Frozen Four, while she was on the ice for the Badgers' dramatic, game-winning goal in the final 20 seconds of a 1-0, semifinal victory against Boston College.
This is the second-consecutive (and career) WCHA monthly award for Nurse, who finished her senior season tied for second nationally with 25 goals and tied for seventh with 53 points.
Honorable Mention: Sarah Potomak, So., F, Minnesota (before departing to make her Women's World Championships debut with Canada, she tallied a point in all three of the Gophers' March games, highlighted by an assist on the game-winner in the NCAA quarterfinals and a tying goal in the Frozen Four semifinals); Lara Stalder, Sr., F, Minnesota Duluth (a top-three Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award finalist and a member of Switzerland's team competing at the Worlds, her three-point effort was highlighted by the double-overtime game-winner against Minnesota in the Final Face-Off semifinals).
Maddie Rooney, So., G
Minnesota Duluth (Andover, Minn.)
Despite playing in just three games in March, Rooney led the NCAA with 140 saves. The sophomore from Andover, Minn., who is currently with Team USA at the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championships, stood on her head during Minnesota Duluth's run to the Final Face-Off championship game and NCAA quarterfinal round.
The first WCHA playoff championship Most Outstanding Player from a losing team, Rooney set the Final Face-Off record with 112 saves during the tournament's two games. She posted a career-high 62 stops in UMD's epic 2-1, double-overtime victory over Minnesota in the semifinals, before making 50 saves in a championship-game loss to Wisconsin. In that contest, which came just 19 hours after the victory over the Gophers, Rooney stopped 42-of-43 shots through the first two periods as the Bulldogs played the top-ranked Badgers to a 1-1 draw entering the final stanza.
Making her NCAA tournament debut a week later, Rooney stopped 28-of-29 shots in an impressive performance against Minnesota; however, the Bulldogs dropped a 1-0 decision. For the month, she ranked fifth nationally with a .959 save percentage and seventh with a 1.71 goals-against average.
This is Rooney's second WCHA monthly award of the 2016-17 season and her career. She finished her sophomore campaign ranked among the national leaders for saves (1,013 – second), save percentage (.942 – fourth), wins (25 – tied for fourth), winning percentage (.743 at 25-7-5 – seventh), shutouts (six – tied for seventh) and goals-against average (1.65 – 10th).
Honorable Mention: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Sr., G, Wisconsin (the 2017 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner backstopped the Badgers to the NCAA title game, leading the WCHA and ranking second nationally with a 0.81 goals-against average, a .962 save percentage, four wins – three against ranked opponents – and two shutouts).
Mekenzie Steffen, Fr., D
Wisconsin (Centerville, Minn.)
Steffen tallied a WCHA-rookie best three points in March, all thanks to a career outing in Wisconsin's 7-0 victory over Robert Morris in the NCAA quarterfinal round. Just 1:48 into her NCAA tournament debut, the blue-liner opened the scoring with her second career game-winning goal. Steffen later added a pair of assists in the rout, while contributing defensively to the first of two-consecutive NCAA shutouts for the Badgers.
The Centerville, Minn. native was not on the ice for a single even-strength goal allowed by UW in five games, while her plus-3 rating was the best among WCHA rookies and tied for the top mark among all NCAA freshmen in March.
This is the first career WCHA monthly award for Steffen, who tied for the league lead among freshmen defensemen (tied for seventh among all rookie skaters) with 14 points (4g-10a) this season.
Honorable Mention: Patti Marshall, Fr., D, Minnesota (broke a scoreless tie with 12:06 remaining in an NCAA quarterfinal game at Minnesota Duluth, netting the game-winner to send the Gophers to the Frozen Four with a 1-0 victory).