WCHA Notebook: Can Minnesota Duluth make a push for third place in the conference?
After another strong weekend, the Bulldogs are now only five points behind Wisconsin in the WCHA standings.
Ohio State may remain at the top of the national polls but Minnesota is starting to separate themselves as the No. 1 team in the WCHA standings. Wisconsin was also sitting confidently at third place in the conference for most of the season but now Minnesota Duluth might be able to give them a run for their money as they now sit only five points behind the Badgers.
As for the bottom half of the conference, St. Cloud and Minnesota State push each other back-and-forth for fifth and sixth positions while St. Thomas and Bemidji State duke it out for seventh and eighth.
Check in with each of the WCHA teams below to see how they performed this past weekend and what's to come in the future.
OHIO STATE (#1), 22-2-2 Overall, 17-2-1 Conference:
The Buckeyes had a solid weekend, picking up five of six possible conference points, but St. Cloud State was no easy sweep for the squad.
Paetyn Levis lead Ohio State with three points (2G, 1A) in the first game of the series, a 6-2 victory over the Huskies.
The next night was a much different story though as St. Cloud changed their game plan and ended up pushing things into overtime tied at 2-2. The Buckeyes found a bit of luck in the extra frame as Jennifer Gardiner scored the game-winner on the breakaway to gain the 3-2 victory.
Jenn Gardiner finding the twine!— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) January 21, 2023
After a stellar save by Thiele, Gardiner takes it down to net the overtime game-winner for @OhioStateWHKY. pic.twitter.com/JxPlP8r2LX
"It's disappointing that it's 2-2 after regulation when shots are 15 to 50," said head coach Nadine Muzerall in a video on the Buckeyes' Twitter page . "We almost gave up the game with the first 2-on-1 that the Huskies had and then we turned it around and made some right plays to get the breakaway and finish."
Ohio State would come out of the weekend with five of six points, which is good — but not enough to get back to first place in the WCHA. Minnesota currently stands two points ahead of the Buckeyes in the conference.
The squad will have a chance at six more crucial WCHA points this weekend in a home series against Minnesota State (RV). The two teams met up earlier in the season and Ohio State won the games by scores of 2-1 and 5-4. Puck drop for the series is set for 5 p.m. CT on Jan. 27 and 2 p.m. CT on Jan. 28.
MINNESOTA (#3), 20-3-2 Overall, 17-1-2-2 Conference:
The Golden Gophers had an absolutely dominant weekend against conference foe Bemidji State. Minnesota outscored the Beavers by an 11-1 margin over the two games.
Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle both had multi-point weekends. With Zumwinkle's performance, she is now in sole possession of fifth-place in program history for career goals scored and Heise is now fourth place in career shorthanded goals for the Gophers.
You saw her shorthanded goal on @SportsCenter.— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) January 23, 2023
Now Taylor Heise's five-point weekend earns her the fourth WCHA Forward of the Week title of the season, by @Sterlingtrophy!
Heise received WCHA Forward of the Honors after posting five-points over the two games. Freshman Madison Kaiser is Rookie of the Week after posting four assists.
She posted a pair of multi-point games for a career-high of four assists in @GopherWHockey's weekend sweep.— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) January 23, 2023
Madison Kaiser collects her second WCHA Rookie of the Week title of the season! pic.twitter.com/52Pk6tYZeT
Olivia King combined with Skylar Vetter both appeared in net for Minnesota over the weekend. King made her season debut in the third period of game one and stopped all four shots on goal while Vetter made a combined 30 saves over the two games.
With the sweep, Minnesota now secures a two-point lead for first place in the WCHA. The Gophers will need another big weekend to prevent Ohio State from making a push up to the top spot though.
Minnesota will match-up with Minnesota Duluth (#5) this weekend in a huge conference showdown. The Bulldogs have had some big wins lately and have been creeping up the national polls but last time the two teams met up the Gophers came out with five of six total points. Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. on Jan. 27 and 28 in Duluth.
MINNESOTA DULUTH (#6), 19-6-1 Overall, 13-6-1 Conference:
The Bulldogs pick up a pair of wins in a road sweep against St. Thomas and gain all six possible conference points. After the weekend, UMD is now only five points behind Wisconsin — could they make a push to get up to that third place position?
Minnesota Duluth earned a 3-0 shutout victory in game one. Emma Soderberg stopped all 12 shots on goal and Anneke Linser posted two goals.
Gabbie Hughes officially became the seventh Bulldog to hit the 200-career-point milestone. "It's an absolute honor to join those Bulldogs or even anyone in the NCAA that has reached that point," said Hughes to reporters after the game. "To be along with some of those names, absolute legends for women's hockey, just to be up in that category is unbelievable."
UMD came out with a 5-1 victory in game number two. Naomi Rogge netted two goals and both Ashton Bell and Nina-Jobst Smith tacked on two assists a piece. Bell earned WCHA Defender of the Week honors after her performance.
A trio of assists while helping the league's best defensive team allow just one goal on the weekend.— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) January 23, 2023
Ashton Bell's efforts on both sides of the puck bring @UMDWHockey another WCHA Defender of the Week title! pic.twitter.com/h7Im91UXby
The Bulldogs will try to make a push for third place in the WCHA standings this week as they take on Minnesota (#3) at home in Duluth. UMD was previously swept by the Gophers earlier this season but both games were close. Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. Jan. 27 and 28.
WISCONSIN (#8), 18-7-1 Overall, 14-5-1 Conference:
The Badgers snapped their five-game losing streak this weekend in a strong showing against Minnesota State.
Wisconsin played a tight match against the Mavericks in the first game of the series but goals from Britta Curl and Lacey Eden gave the squad a 2-1 victory.
The Badgers turned up the firepower the next night for a whopping 6-0 shutout win. Marianne Picard and Caroline Harvey both had team-highs of two points each over the sixty minutes.
Goaltender Cami Kronish stopped 49 of 50 shots on goal over the weekend to earn the WCHA Goaltender of the Week title.
She made 49 saves on 50 shots faced for a league-leading .980 save percentage.— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) January 23, 2023
Cami Kronish recorded her sixth shutout of the season for @BadgerWHockey to be named to her second WCHA Goaltender of the Week title! pic.twitter.com/jzzslATVjd
"I like the overall effort, I thought we competed real strong ... Whatever it was going to take to win the game is the mindset of the players after the last couple of weeks and where things have ended up," said head coach Mark Johnson on the Wisconsin athletics website.
Wisconsin remains in third place in the WCHA standings but needs to stay consistent to prevent UMD from trying to pass them up as they sit only five-points behind.
This weekend the Badgers have a chance to solidify their third-place WCHA status as they head to St. Thomas, who they previously swept back in October. Game times are set for 6 p.m. Jan. 27 and 28 in Mendota Heights, Minn.
ST. CLOUD STATE (#15), 13-14 Overall, 6-14 Conference:
The Huskies haven't had the greatest start to 2023, but they were able to squeeze a single conference point out of No. 1-ranked Ohio State this weekend.
SCSU put up a valiant effort in game one but goals coming in the second period from Emma Gentry and Dayle Ross wouldn't be enough in the 6-2 loss.
St. Cloud State really changed their mindset for the next night though as they went toe-to-toe with the top-ranked team in the country. Goals from Addi Scribner and Svenja Voigt put the team at a 2-2 tie with the Buckeyes heading into overtime.
Ohio State ended up winning the game in overtime after a breakaway chance was pushed past netminder Sanni Ahola. Ahola was a standout in net all game though, stopping 47 of 50 shots on goal. The Huskies also blocked 33 blocked shots, a season-high.
SCSU is still sitting at sixth-place in the WCHA, but are only two-points behind Minnesota State. They'll look to pass up the Mavericks in the standings this weekend as they take on Bemidji State, who only have a single conference win this season.
Puck drop is set for Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. and Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. in St. Cloud. The game on Saturday will be broadcast on Bally Sports North Extra as part of the Hockey Day Minnesota festivities.
MINNESOTA STATE (RV), 13-13 Overall, 7-13 Conference:
After a strong start to 2023, the Mavericks suffer their first two losses of the new year after a tough pair of games against top-10 Wisconsin.
Minnesota State kept things close in the first game, only falling by a final score of 2-1. Kelsey King tacked on the lone goal for MSU while goaltender Lauren Barbro stopped 29 of 31 shots faced.
Unfortunately for MSU, they would be shutout in a 6-0 loss the very next night.
The Mavericks are still holding tight to their fifth place position in the WCHA, but need a couple more points to prevent St. Cloud from passing them up as they sit only two-points back.
It'll be a tough weekend ahead as MSU is set to take on top-ranked Ohio State. The Buckeyes swept the Mavericks earlier in the season but the games were close — only decided by one goal — so this could be a big opportunity for the squad to pull off an upset.
Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. on Jan. 27 and 2 p.m. on Jan. 28 in Columbus.
ST. THOMAS, 7-18-1 Overall, 2-17-1 Conference:
The Tommies had a tough weekend, matching up against top-ranked Minnesota Duluth.
UST was shutout in game one by a score of 3-0 and scored only a single goal the next night. Anna Solheim was the lone goal-scorer while goaltender Saskia Maurer made 73 saves over the two games.
"I really like the way we are playing in and through some tough games, tough moments, and tough situations that we have faced," said head coach Joel Johnson after the game to the UST athletics website. "We are still building credibility in our league and in our program, but I love where we are at and I am excited for our future."
The Tommies sit at seventh place in the WCHA standings, five points ahead of Bemidji State and 12 behind St. Cloud State. The road ahead doesn't get any easier for the squad tough as they have Wisconsin (#8) up next. The Badgers previously swept UST by scores of 5-0 and 9-1 earlier this season. Puck drop is set for Jan. 27 and 28 at 6 p.m. in Mendota Heights.
BEMIDJI STATE, 4-21-1 Overall, 1-19 Conference:
Bemidji State's struggles within the WCHA conference continue as they are outscored 7-0 and 4-1 to No. 3 Minnesota over the weekend.
The Beavers' lone goal came from sophomore Claire Vekich, while goaltender Hannah Hogenson made 83 saves on 94 shots on goal over the two matches.
BSU currently sits in eighth place in the WCHA standings with three points, which is five behind St. Thomas. The team is also on an eight game losing streak and haven't won since the Nov. 26 game against Sacred Heart.
Bemidji State has a chance to improve their conference standing this weekend in a road series against St. Cloud State (#15). The Huskies had some big wins in 2022, and previously swept BSU earlier this season, but the squad hasn't had the strongest start to 2023. This could be a big opportunity for the Beavers to regain some confidence.
Puck drop is set for Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. and Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. in St. Cloud. The Saturday match-up will be broadcast on Bally Sports North Extra as part of the Hockey Day Minnesota festivities.