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WCHA Notebook: Teams look to start the new year on a positive note

The start of 2023 means that every single conference point is even more crucial in the WCHA, where the standings are tight. Teams will need all the points they can get as playoffs near closer.

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Minnesota Duluth defenseman Maggie Flaherty (29) controls the puck against Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Conference points were already important in the ultra-competitive WCHA conference, but as the 2023 playoffs near closer and closer every day those points start to become even more critical.

Touch base with each of the teams in the conference and where they are at to start the new year.

OHIO STATE (#1), 18-2-2 Overall, 13-2-1 Conference:

The Buckeyes start the new year as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. The squad only has two losses so far this season, one to Minnesota and one to Minnesota Duluth in overtime.

Ohio State had a promising end to 2022, earning sweeps over Cornell (#10) and Lindenwood to close out the year.


Makenna Webster earned WCHA Forward of the Week honors and the Howies Hockey Tape Performance of the Week after recording a natural hat-trick against the Lions. The junior forward is also the Forward of the Month. Teammate Quinn Kuntz earned the Goaltender of the Week title and freshman Sydney Morrow is Rookie of the Week.

At this point, the Buckeyes are tied for first place in the WCHA with rival Minnesota. Both teams have 41 points each.

Since OSU is essentially a lock for the national tournament, they will look to earn as many conference points as possible in the coming weeks to try and edge out the Gophers to win the conference title.

The Buckeyes won't start the new year until next weekend, where they will play a home series against top-ranked Wisconsin. The Badgers lurk only four points behind in the conference standings, so their first series of 2023 will be a big one.

WISCONSIN (#2), 16-3-1 Overall, 12-1-1 Conference:

The Badgers are ranked second in the nation to start the new year and are also second in the WCHA standings.

Wisconsin has already started 2023 after playing a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 road series against Quinnipiac (#3/4). The Badgers won night one, 3-0, but then the tables turned in night two for a 3-0 loss.

Nicole LaMantia earned WCHA Defender of the Week honors to start the month of January after scoring the game-winning-goal against the Bobcats. Freshman Kirsten Simms earned Rookie of the Month honors for December.


Wisconsin will look to stay atop the national rankings in the new year and the squad will look to overtake Minnesota and Ohio State which are currently tied for first in the conference standings. The Badgers are only four points behind the Gophers and the Buckeyes.

This weekend Wisconsin will play a sold-out home series against Minnesota Duluth (#8). The two teams met in October and split the series by scores of 1-2 (OT) and 4-3. Puck drop is set for Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. and Jan. 8 at noon.

MINNESOTA (#4/5), 14-3-2 Overall, 13-1-2-2 Conference:

The Golden Gophers enter the new year as the No. 4/5 ranked team in the nation and tied for first place in the conference standings.

Even though Minnesota is a top-five team in the nation, they will need all the conference points they can get to try and pull away from Ohio State for the WCHA title.

Even though the team hasn't played in about a month, Skylar Vetter earned WCHA Goaltender of the Month and National Goaltender of the Month honors. Teammate Taylor Heise was also give the National Player of the Month title.

Minnesota had a long break for the holidays but will back in action this weekend for the East/Week Showcase at home in Minneapolis. The Gophers will play Merrimack on Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. and New Hampshire on Jan. 7 at 4:30 p.m.

MINNESOTA DULUTH (#8), 13-6-1 Overall, 7-6-1 Conference:


The Bulldogs are the No. 8 ranked team in the nation to start 2023 and stand at fourth place in the WCHA.

UMD has had some good wins on the season so far but will need as many conference points as possible to keep their home-ice position heading into playoffs. St. Cloud State lurks only two points behind in the WCHA and Minnesota State will also look to make a push late in the season.

To start off the new year, forward Ashton Bell netted WCHA Defender of the Month honors for December after posting over a point-per-game.

The Bulldogs will have a huge series to start the new year after being off for almost an entire month. UMD will head to Wisconsin for a sold-out two-game matchup.

The two teams met earlier this season, which resulted in a split. The conference points will be crucial for both the Badgers and the Bulldogs and it will be a series that will definitely affect the national rankings, pending the outcome.

Game times are set for Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. at Jan. 8 at noon at LaBahn Arena.

ST. CLOUD STATE (#15), 11-10 Overall, 6-10 Conference:

The Huskies have had a promising first half of the season so far but will need to stay consistent in the second half to really make an impact in the WCHA.


The team starts the new year ranked No. 15 in the nation and standing at fifth place in the WCHA standings. SCSU is only two points behind Minnesota Duluth in the standings, so one can expect the Huskies to try and make a push to usurp the Bulldogs of their current spot.

The Huskies will start 2023 with a pair of non-conference games in Minneapolis for the East/West Showcase. The squad will play Merrimack on Jan. 6 at 2:30 p.m. and New Hampshire on Jan. 7 at 1 p.m.

Those two games may not matter in the conference standings but those two games could be critical to win to stay in the national rankings.

MINNESOTA STATE (RV), 9-11 Overall, 5-11 Conference:

The Mavericks have had some ups and downs in the first half of the 2022-23 season but ended the year on a good note with a sweep of Long Island.

MSU outscored the Sharks by a 13-2 margin over the two-games on the road. The team still is receiving a vote in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, but have some work to do in the conference standings.

Minnesota State is currently sitting at sixth place in the WCHA. They seem to be pretty secure in the position as of now but could easily make a push to try and pass St. Cloud State who is only three points ahead.

The Mavericks will ease into the new year with a nonconference series against Lindenwood. Two wins against the Lions would bring the team to a .500 record and could be a big confidence booster for the squad before heading back into conference play. Puck drop is set for Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 7 at 2 p.m.


ST. THOMAS, 5-14-1 Overall, 2-13-1 Conference:

The Tommies had a positive end to 2022 by sweeping conference foe Bemidji State. These two wins bumped up UST from eighth to seventh place in the WCHA standings.

It may be hard for St. Thomas to get much higher in the conference standings, seeing that they are now eight points behind the next team up (Minnesota State), but they still have a chance to end the 2022-23 season on a positive note.

This weekend, UST will play a non-conference home-series against unranked RIT. Two wins against the Tigers could be a big confidence boost for the Tommies before heading back into a tough conference schedule the weekend after. The two wins would also drastically help improve the teams record.

Puck drop against RIT is set for 6 p.m. on both Jan. 6 and 7.

BEMIDJI STATE, 4-17-1 Overall, 1-15 Conference:

The Beavers have had a tough season so far and time is running short to try and improve on the overall record and conference standings.

Bemidji State is currently in eighth place in the WCHA, with three points, which is five points behind St. Thomas. In order to move up in the conference, the Beavers will need to claw some points from top teams in the coming weeks, which is going to be a tough — but not impossible — task.


BSU will take one more week of rest before starting up in 2023. The first series for the team will be a tough one as they will head to Duluth for a series against UMD (#8).

There is still hope for Bemidji State, but they will need to turn things around and make a push quickly.

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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