Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the thrilling 2016-17 WCHA Women's League season. Up next on our countdown is…
Moment 2: WCHA Makes a National Impact
Long regarded as the premier conference in college hockey, the WCHA once again displayed its impressive talent and depth in 2016-17. To wit:
Polling Place: The WCHA had an NCAA-best three of the top-five teams in the final USCHO.com and USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine polls: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth.
- Five (5) of the WCHA's eight teams (also Bemidji State and North Dakota) spent at least one week ranked in the top 10 of either the USCHO.com or USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, while a sixth school (Ohio State) received votes at various times.
Every Rink, Every Night: Between a challenging nonconference slate and the gauntlet of the 28-game league journey, WCHA teams played D-I's toughest schedules, per the RPI Strength-of-Schedule ledger.
- The country's top-five toughest schedules in 2016-17 belonged to WCHA teams, while the entire membership was in the top-16.
- NCAA runner-up Wisconsin played the nation's toughest schedule overall, while Minnesota Duluth ranked second, St. Cloud State third, Minnesota fourth, Bemidji State fifth, North Dakota ninth, Minnesota State 14th and Ohio State 16th.
Winning Hockey: Despite these tough schedules, six WCHA teams reached double-digit win totals, while half of league membership finished at .500-or-better.
- Wisconsin finished with the NCAA's best winning percentage at .875 (33-3-4), while Minnesota Duluth ranked sixth at .743 (25-7-5), Minnesota finished seventh at .731 (26-8-5) and North Dakota was tied for 16th at .500 (16-16-6).
Continued Nonconference Success: The WCHA once again boasted, far and away, the best nonconference winning percentage in the country at .733 (31-10-4).
- WCHA teams finished above .500 against all other conferences, going 17-4-2 (.783) against teams from College Hockey America, 10-3-1 (.750) vs. ECAC schools and 4-3-1 (.563) against Hockey East opponents.
- Seven (7) of eight WCHA member schools posted winning records in nonconference play, while the only that didn't was just short at 2-3-1 (and earned a win over a top-10 opponent).
Statistically Speaking: The nation's top scorer by total points (Minnesota's Kelly Pannek with 62) and points per game (Minnesota Duluth's Lara Stalder at 1.60) hailed from the WCHA, as did the NCAA's top goaltender (Wisconsin's Ann-Renée Desbiens) by save percentage (.963), goals-against average (0.71), wins (29), winning percentage (.886) and shutouts (17). The league was also home to the country's saves leader (Ohio State's Kassidy Sauve with 1,135).
From standout team efforts to sterling individual performances, there is much to be proud of as the WCHA reflects on its 2016-17 season… and, even more to look forward to in 2017-18!
"Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Season
12: Muzerall's Debut Sparks Ohio State Turnaround
11: Coaching Milestones
10: The Next Level
9: WCHA Partners with FOX Sports North
8: 'Fill the Bowl' Sets U.S. Attendance Record
7: Sauve's Sensational Season
6: National Award Winners
5: Wisconsin Repeats as WCHA Champions
4: A Fabulous Final Face-Off
3: Fifteen Short Years