WCHA announces 2013-14 women's schedule
Thursday, September 5, 2013
WCHA announces 2013-14 women's schedule

MADISON, Wis. – After marveling at the University of Minnesota’s perfect season last campaign which resulted in the Gophers’ second straight national championship, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association opens its 15th season of women’s hockey with the anticipation of a competitive battle for the league championship.

For the first time, the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF playoff championship will be held in March at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn. It is the spotlight event that highlights the 2013-14 women’s composite schedule announced by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association today.

With a record 14 consecutive national championships under its collective belt, including last season’s NCAA Women’s Frozen Four title earned by Minnesota, the WCHA will look to continue that record streak in what should be an exciting and wide-open league race.

Teams open play with exhibition games against a touring Japanese national team which is preparing to compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Wisconsin will play Team Japan Sept. 23 in Madison, Wis. in the exhibition opener and St. Cloud hosts Team Japan Sept. 25. On Sept. 26, the Japanese team takes on Minnesota at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis and then heads to Minnesota Duluth Sept. 28.

The first non-conference series of the season will be Sept. 27-28 when Minnesota State hosts Mercyhurst and Bemidji State travels to Lindenwood. That same weekend North Dakota hosts an exhibition game against the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy and Minnesota hosts British Columbia Sept. 27 in an exhibition game. On Sept. 28, Ohio State faces the Toronto Aeros in an exhibition game in Columbus while British Columbia visits St. Cloud State. Minnesota State hosts an exhibition game against British Columbia Sept. 30.

The 112-game conference slate, comprised of 28 games per each of the WCHA’s eight-member teams (four games – two home and two away – against each of other seven members), gets underway during the weekend of Oct. 4-5 when Minnesota State visits Wisconsin. Three other league teams will host non-conference series Oct. 4-5 with Minnesota Duluth facing the University of Connecticut, North Dakota facing Lindenwood University and St. Cloud playing Quinnipiac University while Minnesota opens defense of its national title at Colgate University. Ohio State plays its season opener at Mercyhurst Oct. 5.

League play begins in earnest Oct. 11-12 when Wisconsin plays at Minnesota and St. Cloud State visits Ohio State while North Dakota hosts Minnesota Duluth Oct 12-13. Bemidji State plays its first WCHA series Oct. 25-26 at home against Minnesota.

One of the regular season WCHA highlights will come Jan. 17 when Minnesota hosts its first-ever outdoor game against Minnesota State at 4:30 pm at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in the first half of a double-header which has Minnesota’s men’s team vs. Ohio State at 8 pm.

“The Association looks forward to putting another highly-competitive product on the ice in 2013-14,” said WCHA Associate Commissioner Sara R. Martin, the leader of the women’s league since its founding in 1999. “We have come to expect action-packed play and this season should be no different. We are proud of the fact that 13 of the 25 players trying out for the U.S. Olympic team are from the WCHA and that we also will have past, current and future players on the Canadian and European teams at Sochi. This reflects the  commitment to fielding top-quality programs and the dedication to success that our member institutions have displayed over the past 14 seasons. We know that will continue in the future.

“I have no doubt this coming season’s league race will be one of the most intriguing yet. In an Olympic year, we anticipate our teams will be balanced, star players will emerge in new roles and the league race may be more unpredictable than ever. We also look forward to a tremendous post-season in March when our WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF is showcased for the first time in northern Minnesota at the beautiful Sanford Center in Bemidji.”

The 2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF is set for March 7 and March 8. There will be two semi-final match ups at the Sanford Center on Friday at 4:07 pm CT and 7:07 pm CT, with the playoff championship game slated for Saturday at 7:07 pm CT. The winner of the WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF receives an automatic bid to the national tournament. This will mark the first time that Bemidji and the Sanford Center has served as the host of the league playoff championship round.

The NCAA Regionals will be held the weekend of March 14-16 with the winners advancing to the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four in Hamden, Conn. March 21-23.

There will be a total of eight weekends this coming season that feature all eight teams engaged in league action. Those occur on Nov. 1-3, Jan. 10-12, Jan. 17-19, Jan. 24-26, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, Feb. 8-19, Feb. 14-16 and Feb. 21-22, which marks the final regular season games.

The pursuit of the annual WCHA playoff championship will get underway the weekend of Friday, February 28 thru Sunday, March 2 with four first round, best-of-three, playoff series. The top four ranked teams in the final regular season standings will host the bottom four in the first round, with the No. 8 playoff seed at the No. 1 playoff seed, No. 7 playing at No. 2, No. 6 at No. 3 and the No. 5 seed at the No. 4 seed. The four first-round conference playoff winners will then advance to the 2014 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF on March 7-8 at Bemidji.

In addition to the exhibition tuneups in September against Team Japan, three WCHA teams will face Team Russia in November. Minnesota Duluth hosts the Russians Nov. 26 and Dec. 2, Bemidji entertains Team Russia Nov. 27 and North Dakota will play two games against Russia Nov. 29-30 in Grand Forks.

WCHA-member teams will also engage in a number of non-conference pairings this season, including Wisconsin and St. Cloud State’s participation in the first ever Vail Tournament in Vail, Colo. Nov. 14-15. By team, here is a look at the non-conference opponents:

Bemidji State: Sept. 27-28 @ Lindenwood; Oct 11-12 vs Robert Morris; Oct. 18-19 vs Lindenwood.

Minnesota: Oct. 4-5 @ Colgate; Nov. 23-24 @ Yale; Nov. 30-Dec. 1 vs Princeton.

Minnesota Duluth: Oct. 4-5 vs Connecticut; Dec. 6-7 @ Boston University.

Minnesota State: Sept. 27-28 vs Mercyhurst; Oct. 11-12 @ Lindenwood; Dec. 31-Jan. 1 vs Lindenwood.

North Dakota: Oct. 4-5 Lindenwood; Dec. 6-7 @ Clarkson.

Ohio State: Oct. 5 @ Mercyhurst; Nov. 26 vs Robert Morris; Nov. 30-Dec. 1 @ New Hampshire; Jan. 3-4 vs Penn State.

St. Cloud State: Oct. 4-5 vs Quinnipiac; Nov. 15 vs Boston University in Vail (CO) Tournament; Nov. 16 vs Northeastern in Vail (CO) Tournament; Nov. 29-30 vs Rennselaer (RPI).

Wisconsin: Oct. 25-26 vs Lindenwood; Nov. 15 vs Northeastern in Vail (CO) Tournament; Nov. 16 vs Boston University in Vail (CO Tournament.

The WCHA will welcome back many outstanding student-athletes for the 2013-14 campaign, including All-American Second Team selection in goaltender Alex Rigsby of Wisconsin, the league’s goaltending champion in 2011-12, and last year’s rookie of the year Hannah Brandt, an All-WCHA First Team selection at forward.

Returning All-WCHA honorees include second teamers in Rigsby (G) of Wisconsin, Jenna McParland (F) of Minnesota Duluth and Michelle Karvinen (F) of North Dakota and third teamers in Josefine Jakobsen (F) of North Dakota, Kelly Terry (F) of Minnesota, Rachel Ramsey (D) of Minnesota and Kayla Black (G) of Minnesota Duluth.

Members of the All-WCHA Rookie Team a season ago were Black and Brandt, Maryanne Menefee (F) of Minnesota, Meghan Dufault (F) of North Dakota, Courtney Burke (D) of Wisconsin and Milica McMillen (D) of Minnesota.

In highlights last season, Minnesota outscored their opponents 216 to 36 and became the first women’s college hockey team to ever post an unbeaten season, going 41-0-0. They have 49 straight victories dating back to a 2-1 (ot) loss to North Dakota on Feb. 17, 2012. The 49 straight wins is better than twice as many as the 22 previous record holder Harvard had.

Other noteworthy highlights from the 2012-13 season were:

•WCHA teams compiled a 32-8-4 non-conference record and a .772 winning percentage against other Division 1 opponents. WCHA teams went 8-4-4 vs. the Hockey East Association, 6-2-0 vs. ECAC Hockey and 18-2-0 vs. College Hockey America.

•Three WCHA member teams ranked among the nation’s top 10 in the final two weekly national polls for 2012-13. In the final USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women's Division 1 College Hockey Poll issued on March 26, Minnesota was a unanimous No. 1, North Dakota was No. 5 and Wisconsin was No. 10. And in the season’s last USCHO.com Women’s Division 1 College Hockey Poll released on March 25, Minnesota was No. 1, North Dakota was No. 6 and Wisconsin was No. 9.

•The WCHA also had the top four teams in attendance for women’s college hockey in 2012-13. Minnesota drew 39,448 fans this season, for an average of 1,878 fans at Ridder Arena. Wisconsin was second with 32,590 and an average of 1,811 per game at its new LaBahn Arena. Minnesota Duluth (1,300 per game) was third in attendance and North Dakota (1,223 per game) was fourth nationally.