WCHA Week 14: Time To Drop The Puck On 2018!
Season's second half gets underway with two nonconference matchups (Bemidji State vs. Mercyhurst and No. 7/6 Ohio State vs. Penn State), one league series (Minnesota State at St. Cloud State) and four nonconference games
Bemidji State opens 2018 with a rare Tuesday night-Wednesday afternoon series against Mercyhurst

Opening Faceoff

- Happy New Year!: The Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) rings in 2018 and opens the second half of the season with four nonconference games, one league series and four exhibition contests.

- Presence in the Polls: In the last USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls, which came out Dec. 11 and 12, the WCHA had three teams ranked, along with a fourth receiving votes.

  • Wisconsin, which leads the country with 21 wins and a .955 winning percentage (21-1-0), is the unanimous No. 1 entering 2018. Minnesota is sixth and Ohio State is seventh in the USCHO.com poll, while the Buckeyes are No. 6 and the Gophers are No. 7 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings. Bemidji State received a vote in both polls.

- Looking to "Three-Peat," Wisconsin Leads at the Break: Two-time defending WCHA regular season champion Wisconsin is again atop the standings heading into January. A third-consecutive title would, for the first time, give the Badgers a quarterfinal-round bye in the league postseason tournament and an automatic berth in the 2018 WCHA Final Faceoff.

  • UW is a perfect 12-0-0 in WCHA play and, with 36 points, has a four-point lead over second-place Minnesota (and four games in-hand on the Gophers). Minnesota (32 points) and third-place Ohio State (31) have opened some distance in the race for the three quarterfinal-round home-ice slots. The last home-ice spot currently belongs to Bemidji State (20 points), which vaulted three points ahead of Minnesota Duluth thanks to a 3-1-0 WCHA record in December.

- Youth Movement: The WCHA has not had a freshman as its scoring champion (defined as the most points in league play) since Ohio State's Hokey Langan had 43 points (21g-22a) during the 2009-10 season. But, rookies have two of the top-three spots entering January: Minnesota's Grace Zumwinkle leads with 20 points (8g-12a) in 16 WCHA games, while OSU's Emma Maltais is third with 16 points (6g-10a) in 14 contests.

  • Overall (including nonconference games), Zumwinkle (11g-14a) and Maltais (8g-17a) are tied with Wisconsin sophomore Abby Roque (8g-17a) with a WCHA-best 25 points.
  • Nationally, five of the top-20 D-I rookie scorers are from the WCHA: Maltais is third with 1.25 points per game, Zumwinkle is fourth at 1.14, OSU's Tatum Skaggs (12g-6a=18pts) is tied for sixth at 1.00, Minnesota Duluth's Naomi Rogge (10g-6a=16pts) is 14th at 0.76 and St. Cloud State's Laura Kluge (4g-8a=12pts) is 15th at 0.75.

- First-Half Notables: A look at some of the top WCHA trends, by team, from the first half of the 2017-18 season:

  • Bemidji State opens 2018 having matched a school record with five-straight wins. After dropping an overtime decision Dec. 1 at Minnesota, the Beavers closed December by defeating the Gophers, then posting home sweeps over RIT and Minnesota State. BSU last won five-straight games to close a 22-win 2015-16 regular season.
  • Minnesota is a perfect 10-0-0 on the road this season, posting sweeps at BSU, UMD, MSU, Mercyhurst and Lindenwood.
  • Sixteen (16) different Minnesota State skaters have lit the lamp, led by junior forward Jordan McLaughlin's six goals.
  • Minnesota Duluth is the least-penalized women's team in college hockey, averaging just 4.95 penalty minutes per game.
  • Under second-year head coach Nadine Muzerall, Ohio State has its best record through 20 games (12-4-4) since the 2012-13 squad began 14-5-1. At 8-2-4-3 in league play, the Buckeyes already have their most conference wins since 2014-15 and had eight victories before Jan. 1 for the first time since 2012-13 (9-4-1-1).
  • SCSU's goaltending tandem of sophomore Janine Alder (.931 save percentage) and freshman Emma Polusny (.929) rank second and third in the WCHA and seventh and tied for 10th in D-I, respectively.
  • Wisconsin has put together the best 22-game start in the illustrious history of Badger hockey, going 21-1-0. The typically stellar UW defensive effort leads NCAA Division I programs by allowing just 1.00 goals per game, while the Badgers are fifth by lighting the lamp 3.45 times per contest. Sophomore goaltender Kristen Campbell ranks first among NCAA Division I goaltenders for wins (21), goals-against average (1.00) and save percentage (.948), while she is second with a WCHA-best six shutouts.

- 2018 Olympians: Twenty-three WCHA-affiliated players have been named to the 2018 Olympic rosters for the United States (14) and Canada (9). The group, representing five schools, includes three current student-athletes and 11 first-time Olympians.

The Week Ahead

- Mercyhurst at Bemidji State: The Beavers open 2018 with a rare Tuesday night-Wednesday afternoon series against the Lakers of College Hockey America (CHA). Mercyhurst returns to the Sanford Center for the first time since Jan. 2-3, 2010.

- Penn State at No. 7/6 Ohio State: The other WCHA vs. CHA nonconference series has the Buckeyes welcoming the rival Nittany Lions to Columbus. OSU outscored PSU, 11-0, en route to a road sweep last season (Jan. 6-7, 2017).

- Minnesota State at St. Cloud State: The lone WCHA league match-up of the weekend, as the Huskies and Mavericks close their 2017-18 regular season series. SCSU leads the all-time series 37-31-11, including a split in Mankato earlier this season.

- Exhibitions: The Korean National Team continues its pre-Olympic tune-up with games Tuesday at Minnesota State and Friday at Minnesota Duluth, which marks a homecoming for Korea head coach and UMD alumna Sarah Murray. The WCHA-laden Minnesota Whitecaps skate against the Gophers on Friday night and at Minnesota Duluth on Saturday.