Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth at Top of Race but Middle of WCHA Pack Tightens; Latest National Polls have Minnesota at No. 2, UMD at No. 5, UW at No. 7/9 ... OSU, BSU Receive Votes; Tickets Continue on Sale for 2010 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF
MADISON, Wis. - Defending regular season champion and No. 2-ranked Minnesota and No. 5-ranked Minnesota Duluth may have turned the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association into a two-team race after both clubs posted four-point weekends January 15-17, but the four teams behind them in the standings are now separated by just four points.
All four of those clubs, No. 7/9-ranked Wisconsin, Bemidji State, Ohio State and St. Cloud State, which are in a battle for home ice for the first round of the playoffs, will collide in key league series over the coming weekend of Friday and Saturdday, Jan. 22-23. The teams that finish in the top four of the final regular season standings will host a first round, on-campus, best-of-three WCHA playoff series. The winners of those series advance to the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF, set for March 6-7 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
This weekend, St. Cloud State visits third place Wisconsin for a pair of 2:07 pm CT matinees on Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center while Ohio State hosts Bemidji State at the OSU Ice rink on Friday evening at 7:07 pm ET and Saturday afternoon at 2:07 pm ET. The Beavers are currently tied for third place with the Badgers. The OSU series will be the last of the regular season for Bemidji State's talented goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova, who will leave next Sunday to join the Slovakian Olympic team.
Elsewhere in conference action, the league-leading Minnesota Golden Gophers, who have never lost to North Dakota, host the eighth place Fighting Sioux at Ridder Arena on Friday at 7:07 pm CT and Saturday at 4:07 pm CT while second place Minnesota Duluth travels to Minnesota State and All Seasons Arena for 7:07 pm CT Friday evening and 3:07 pm CT Saturday afternoon face-offs.
With 10 games left in the 2009-10 regular season, Minnesota (17-3-4, 13-2-3-3 WCHA) is in first place with 32 points and Minnesota Duluth (15-7-2, 11-5-2-1 WCHA) is second with 25 points. Wisconsin (13-8-3, 10-7-1 WCHA) and Bemidji State (7-11-6, 6-6-6-4 WCHA) are tied for third place with 21 points apiece, followed by Ohio State (11-9-4, 8-8-2 WCHA) in fifth with 18, St. Cloud State (9-10-5, 6-9-3-2 WCHA) in sixth with 17 points, Minnesota State (4-13-5, 2-11-5-3 WCHA) in seventh with 12 points, and North Dakota (5-13-4, 4-12-2 WCHA) in the eighth spot with 10 points.
Last weekend, Minnesota played to two consecutive 1-1 overtime ties with Bemidji State and won shootouts in each game to gain a four point weekend. The host Beavers got a game-tying goal from left winger Emily Erickson with :16 seconds remaining in regulation forge a 1-1 overtime tie Friday, but Minnesota claimed a 2-1 shootout victory on a goal by Emily West. On Saturday, Bemidji jumped to a lead on a first period goal by Erin Cody, but Megan Bozek tied in the second period. BSU's Tomcikova had 44 saves and Noora Räty had 24 in the tie. The Gophers' Brittany Francis broke up the goalie show and gained the shootout point with a goal in the sixth round.
In Duluth, the Bulldogs moved into second place by beating defending national champion Wisconsin twice, 5-3 and 2-1, and ran its unbeaten streak to five games. Jessica Wong had two goals and goalie Jennifer Harss made 39 saves in Saturday's series opener. Katie Wilson and Saara Tuominen had goals for the Bulldogs Sunday. Geena Prough had the lone goal for the Badgers, who were swept for the first time since Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2007.
At Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks St. Cloud State too a 2-1 victory over North Dakota on Friday as Felicia Nelson scored her nation's best 19th goal of the season and freshman defenseman Lisa Martinson scored the game-winning goal on a power-play at 14:37 of the second period. The teams skated to a 1-1 Saturday. Caitlin Hogan gave the Huskies the shootout point with a goal in round four.
And at All Seasons Arena in Mankato, Ohio State ran its record to 5-2-1 in the last eight games with by sweeping the Mavericks 6-0 and 3-2. Buckeyes freshman winger Minttu Tuominen scored the three-goal hat trick and Chelsea Knapp turned in a 26-save shutout in game one while OSU got two goals from freshman Hokey Langan, including the third period game-winner, to take a comeback win in the series finale. Langan is only the sixth OSU freshman to score over 30 points in her rookie season.
In this week's (Jan. 18) USCHO.com Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll Minnesota is again ranked No. 2, Minnesota Duluth is up to No. 5 and Wisconsin is at No. 7. Also receiving votes was Ohio State.
In the latest (Jan. 19) USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll, Minnesota is No. 2, Minnesota Duluth is No. 5 and Wisconsin is tied for No. 9. Both Ohio State and Bemidji State also received votes.
In non-conference play so far this season, WCHA-member teams are a collective 21-14-9 (.580) overall.
This Week in the WCHA
Games for Friday, January 22: St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at Ohio State (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; North Dakota at Minnesota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT.
Games for Saturday, January 23: St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 2:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at Ohio State (WCHA), 2:07 pm ET; Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota State (WCHA), 3:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Minnesota (WCHA), 4:07 pm CT.