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WCHA notebook: Ohio State, Minnesota battle it out for first place in the conference

The Buckeyes and the Gophers will play a series of games this weekend in Minneapolis that could likely determine the winner of the WCHA conference for the 2022-23 season.

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Minnesota Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle looks for a teammate while Ohio State goalie Andrea Braendli guarded the goalmouth on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
John Autey / The Rink Live

Ohio State and Minnesota have been top teams in the nation all year. While the Buckeyes reign No. 1 in the national polls, the Gophers stand in first place in the WCHA standings. This weekend, the two teams will face-off in a huge series in Minneapolis that may determine the winner of the conference.

Along with that series, there is plenty of other action happening around the WCHA this weekend with critical conference points on the line.

OHIO STATE (#1), 24-2-2 Overall, 19-2-1 Conference:

The Buckeyes continue to stay atop the national polls after a solid sweep of Minnesota State. The squad outscored the Mavericks by a margin of 10-4 over the two-game home stand in Columbus.

Jenn Gardiner and Paetyn Levis each notched two goals in the opening game, while Madison Bizal netted a team-high of three points. Bizal's three assists over the weekend earned her WCHA Defender of the Week honors. Senior goaltender Quinn Kuntz stopped 15 of 17 shots on goal in the 6-2 victory.


Multiple Buckeyes tacked on points the next night in the 4-2 win to earn the sweep of the Mavericks. Ohio State received a 5-minute powerplay late in the game for a penalty on MSU for contact-to-the-head which helped the squad secure the victory. Junior goaltender Amanda Thiele saved 22 of 24 shots on goal.

The battle for the WCHA is up next though for the Buckeyes as they'll travel to Minneapolis to take on the Golden Gophers. Minnesota currently stands at first place in the conference standings, but only by two points, so the Buckeyes will have a chance to try and pass them up in this weekend's series. Last time the two teams played, back in October, OSU lost the first game and came out with a shootout win the next night.

Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. on Feb. 3 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 4 (CT).

No extra motivation is needed when Ohio State and Minnesota meet at Ridder Arena this weekend. The Buckeyes are top-ranked and have not lost in regulation since October, at the hands of the Gophers.

MINNESOTA (#3), 22-3-2 Overall, 19-1-2-2 Conference:

The Gophers came out with all six points this past weekend in a top-10 matchup against Minnesota Duluth.

Abbey Murphy netted a pair of goals in game one alongside one from teammate Catie Skaja for the 3-1 victory. The next night, Peyton Hemp scored two goals, while Abigail Boreen and freshman Josefin Bouveng combined for the other two goals in the 4-3 win.

"We did a good job on both the penalty kill and the power play," said head coach Brad Frost on the Minnesota Athletics website . "It was a very physical game and both teams wanted it very badly."

Over the two games, Grace Zumwinkle moved into 10th place in program history in total points scored. Zumwinkle was named WCHA Forward of the Month after netting eight goals and eight assists over eight games.


Sophomore Skylar Vetter earned WCHA Goaltender of the Week ( and of the month ) honors after posting a combined 55 saves over the weekend. Josefin Bouveng earned WCHA Rookie of the Week

The Gophers have their biggest test yet this weekend in a home series against No. 1 Ohio State. Minnesota stands in first place in the WCHA by two points, so they'll need to earn a majority of points this weekend to prevent the Buckeyes from passing them up in the standings. Last time the two teams met, the Gophers came out with a win and a shootout loss.

Puck drop for the top-five matchup is set for Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. and Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. at Ridder Arena.

MINNESOTA DULUTH (#7), 19-8-1 Overall, 13-8-1 Conference:

The Bulldogs had a chance to make a push for third place in the WCHA conference this weekend, but ended up being swept by Minnesota and having those third-place dreams crushed.

In game one, senior Taylor Stewart tied things up at 1-1 early in the third period, but the Bulldogs were unable to find the back of the net after that and would fall 3-1.

Multiple Bulldogs found the scoresheet the next night, with goals from Taylor Anderson , Mannon McMahon , and Gabby Krause , but again UMD would fall; this time by a score of 4-3.

"I'd like to see us all show up together on the same day, you know, and we have everybody, because I think we're a really good team but we have to be able to piece it together if we want to beat teams like that," said head coach Maura Crowell to reporters after the game.


A positive though after the weekend, Ashton Bell is now tied for 10th place in program history for assists by a defenseman. Maggie Flaherty moved up to sixth place in the same category, according to the UMD athletics website. Naomi Rogge is also now tied for second place in career games played at Minnesota Duluth with 157.

Defender Nina Jobst-Smith also snagged the WCHA Defender of the Month title for posting a goal and eight assists in January.

Even though the Bulldogs were swept, they still sit very solidly in fourth place in the WCHA, 13 points ahead of St. Cloud State. They'll have a chance to regain their footage this weekend in a pair of games on the road against Minnesota State (RV). Game times are set for 3 p.m. on Feb. 3 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 4.

WISCONSIN (#8), 20-7-1 Overall, 16-5-1 Conference:

The Badgers solidified their spot as the third place team in the WCHA after earning all six conference points in a sweep over St. Thomas.

The Tommies struck first in game one, but the Badgers then subsequently exploded for six unanswered goals. Five different players netted the six goals, and junior Casey O'Brien posted a team-high four points with two goals and two assists.

The next game was much closer but Wisconsin still earned a 3-0 shutout victory. Jane Gervais stopped all 16 shots on goal.

"I think we played well. Overall three good periods, all 60 minutes." said Gervais to reporters after the game. "The word of the day was to start fast, finish strong, and I think we did all of that today."


O'Brien earned WCHA Forward of the Week honors after reaching 100 career points over the weekend. Freshman and Minnesota native Vivian Jungels earned the Howies Hockey Tape Performance of the Week title after posting two assists in the sweep.

Wisconsin sits seven points behind Ohio State in the WCHA standings, so it would take quite a bit for the Badgers to pass up the Buckeyes, but it's certainly not impossible.

The Badgers will play at home this weekend in a pair of games against St. Cloud State (#14). Last time the two teams faced-off, Wisconsin came up big in night one but was forced into overtime the very next game. Puck drop is set for Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. at LaBahn Arena.

ST. CLOUD STATE (#14), 15-14 Overall, 8-14 Conference:

After a tough pair of games against No. 1 Ohio State, St. Cloud was able to bounce back in a sweep over Bemidji State, winning by final scores of 2-0 and 2-1.

The Huskies netted two power-play goals in the first game to give them the victory. Jenniina Nylund and Addi Scribner were credited with the tallies.

The Beavers put themselves on the scoreboard first in the second game, but SCSU scored twice in the third to erase their lead and earn the come-from-behind win. Scribner added another goal in the game while teammate Courtney Hall scored the game-winner.

JoJo Chobak earned a 32-save shutout the first night, while Sanni Ahola stopped 25 of 26 the next night.


The Huskies currently sit in fifth place in the WCHA standings, with Minnesota State lurking only four points behind.

Grace Delmonico took her time with the college recruiting process but cancelled her visits to other Division I programs after touring St. Cloud State

SCSU will have a tough task ahead as they travel to Madison for a pair of games against Wisconsin (#8). Last time the two teams played each other the Huskies lost 5-0 the first game but then lost in overtime the very next night. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on Feb 3. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 4.

MINNESOTA STATE (RV), 13-15 Overall, 7-15 Conference:

The Mavericks are still receiving votes in the national polls after coming off of a pair of losses to No. 1 Ohio State.

MSU lost 6-2 in the first game of the series, but the match was much closer than the statistics may suggest as the game was 3-2 at one point early in the third period. Junior Madison Mashuga and senior Kelsey King netted the points for the Mavericks.

Minnesota State didn't have the best start in the second game, going down 3-0 after the first period, but they ended up losing by only a final score of 4-2. Charlotte Akervik and Claire Butorac netted the goals for MSU.

Lauren Barbro stopped 42 of 48 shots in game one while Alexa Berg stopped 45 of 49 the next night.

Some good news though for MSU as freshman Taylor Otremba was named WCHA Rookie of the Month after posting two goals and seven assists in January.


Minnesota State currently sits in sixth-place in the WCHA, only four points behind St. Cloud State. This weekend the Mavericks will have another tough match-up as they will take on No. 7 Minnesota Duluth at home. UMD previously won 2-0 and 2-1 (OT) over the Mavericks earlier this season, so the games could be close. Puck drop is set for Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 4 at 2 p.m.

ST. THOMAS, 7-20-1 Overall, 2-19-1 Conference:

The Tommies have had an extremely tough couple of weeks, matching up with Minnesota (#3), Minnesota Duluth (#7), and Wisconsin (#8), so no one can really blame them for losing their last six games.

St. Thomas actually struck first in the first game against Wisconsin. Sophomore Maddy Clough pushed one pashed the Badger netminder early in the first period, but unfortunately that would be the only goal UST would score all weekend.

Alexa Dobchuk stopped 50 of 56 shots on goal in game one in a 6-1 loss, while freshman Maggie Malecha stopped 36 of 39 the next night in a 3-0 loss.

The Tommies sit in seventh place in the WCHA standings and will have a big match-up this weekend against Bemidji State, who sits in eighth place in the conference. UST currently has eight points, while BSU has three, so the six points on the line this weekend mean a lot to both squads. The Tommies previously swept Bemidji State 3-1 and 5-2 earlier in the season.

Puck drop is set for Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. in Bemidji.

BEMIDJI STATE, 4-23-1 Overall, 1-21 Conference:

The Beavers have had a tough start to 2023. The squad is currently on a 10-game losing streak after being swept by St. Cloud State this past weekend. The team hasn't won a game since Nov. 26.

The Beavers were shutout in a 2-0 loss to the Huskies in game one. Hannah Hogenson saved 25 of 27 shots on goal.

BSU struck first the next night, but was unable to hold their lead and would fall, 2-1. Claire Vekich scored the goal for the Beavers on the power play while Hogenson again made 25 saves.

In the second game, Bemidji State sophomore Taylor Larson had a medical emergency on the Beavers bench, but it has since been reported that she is out of the hospital and recovering.

The Beavers have their best shot to regain their footing this weekend in a series against St. Thomas. UST and BSU both sit at the bottom of the WCHA and both squads are in desperate search of conference points. Bemidji State was previously swept by St. Thomas earlier this season by scores of 3-1 and 5-2.

Puck drop is set for Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. in Bemidji.

Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth and high school hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies.
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