WCHA Week 2: Now The Fun Really Begins
Busy non-conference weekend includes St. Cloud State hosting Connecticut

Opening Faceoff

- Now the Fun Really Starts: While the 2017-18 campaign is officially underway, this coming weekend is the first full weekend of regular season competition for the Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). All seven member schools will be in action this weekend for nonconference competition.

- Polling Place: The WCHA is well-represented in the preseason USCHO.com and the second USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine opinion polls, with No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Minnesota and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth holding the same spot in both. Ohio State is also receiving votes in both ledgers.

- Nonconference Success: The WCHA has enjoyed tremendous success against teams from other leagues throughout its storied history, posting a 564-250-82 (.675) all-time mark in nonconference games, including postseason play.

  • League teams were just 11-24-2 (.324) during the WCHA's inaugural 1999-2000 campaign, but since then have played at least .556 hockey in out-of-conference contests each season. In fact, the WCHA has posted at least a .600 nonconference winning percentage for 16-straight seasons, including nine above .700.

- A New, Old Look for the WCHA: For the first time since the 2003-04 campaign, the WCHA's seven founding members will play a 24-game league schedule in 2017-18.

  • In addition to the 84-game gauntlet of the WCHA league schedule, member institutions will play a handful of nonconference games against each other. Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth will face off in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game (Nov. 6 in Cambridge, Minn.), Minnesota will host St. Cloud State (Jan. 9), while the Huskies will welcome Bemidji State (Nov. 22) and Minnesota Duluth (Jan. 20 on Hockey Day Minnesota 2018).

- Postseason Tournament Changes: As a reward for winning college hockey's premier conference, the WCHA regular season champion will earn a quarterfinal-round bye and advance directly to the 2018 WCHA Final Faceoff, March 3 and 4 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The other six teams will play in the best-of-three quarterfinals.

- Happy 20th, Beavers, Mavericks and Huskies!: The 2017-18 season marks the 20th campaign for Bemidji State, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, as each of the three programs began play for the 1998-99 season.

  • Minnesota's first season came in 1997-98, while Minnesota Duluth, Ohio State and Wisconsin began their programs in tandem with the inaugural WCHA campaign of 1999-2000.

By the Numbers

- 10: Freshmen on Minnesota Duluth's roster, the second-biggest rookie class in program history. Only the inaugural freshman class of 1999-2000 had more freshmen in its lineup, with 15.

- 874: Combined coaching wins that will be behind the benches this weekend in Madison, when No. 2 Wisconsin hosts Mercyhurst. The Lakers' Michael Sisti ranks second in NCAA Division I women's hockey history with 444 victories during his 19 years at Mercyhurst, while Badgers bench boss Mark Johnson ranks third with 430 triumphs in his 15 years with Wisconsin.

The Week Ahead

- Syracuse at Bemidji State: The Beavers open their regular season by hosting the Orange from College Hockey America (CHA). In the lone previous meeting, Bemidji State swept a road series in New York to begin the 2016-17 campaign.

- Merrimack at No. 3 Minnesota: The third-ranked Gophers get the regular season going this Friday and Sunday with their first-ever series against the Warriors. Merrimack joined Hockey East in 2015-16 for its inaugural NCAA season.

- Penn State at No. 5 Minnesota Duluth: The fifth-ranked Bulldogs and Nittany Lions meet for the first time in program history, as UMD opens its regular season against a CHA opponent.

- Minnesota State at Lindenwood: The lone WCHA team to not play a preseason exhibition game, the Mavericks hit the road for a season-opening series against the Lions.

- Rensselaer at Ohio State: Following an exhibition game on Tuesday of this week, the Buckeyes drop the puck on the regular season by hosting the Engineers from the ECAC.

- Connecticut at St. Cloud State: The first all-Huskies matchup since 2001 starts the regular season for St. Cloud State, with SCSU hosting the Hockey East foe. The teams split that series 16 years ago.

- Mercyhurst at No. 2 Wisconsin: After a season-opening sweep of visiting Lindenwood last weekend, the second-ranked Badgers host the Lakers for another WCHA-CHA clash this Thursday and Friday. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 9-0-0, including four wins in the NCAA tournament -- most memorably a 5-0 triumph in the 2009 national championship game.