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WCHA Notebook: Seasoned players return for league, national champs but there's plenty of new faces too

All WCHA teams except Ohio State will be in action this week to kick off the 2022-23 season.

UST MSU hockey
St. Thomas' Luci Bianchi lines up her shot as Minnesota State's Lyndsey Howard tries to cut her off during a game Friday, Jan. 21, 2022 in Mendota Heights, Minn.
Shannon Stieg / Special to The Rink Live

The 2022-23 season is finally upon us as every team in the WCHA, except for Ohio State, prepares to take the ice for the very first time this week.

Matchups are previewed below along with notes of the incoming freshman class and transfers coming in or out of the program.

MINNESOTA:

The Golden Gophers finished up the 2021-22 season in first place in the WCHA with an overall record of 29-9-1 and a conference record of 21-6-1.

Minnesota retains fifth-year senior and 2022 Patty Kazmaier winner Taylor Heise who was the leading scorer on the team and was recently named the 2022 Women's World Championship Tournament MVP.

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The Gophers also keep Abigail Boreen and Catie Skaja on the roster, along with Olympians Grace Zumwinkle and Abbey Murphy who will help to round out the squad.

Freshman Madison Kaiser (Ham Lake, Minn. / Holy Family) will join the team after competing with Team USA in the U18 Women's World Championships this summer. The team also picked up UMD defender Lizi Norton from the transfer portal.

Minnesota will hit the ice on Saturday, Sept. 24, in an exhibition match against the University of Manitoba at Ridder Arena with puck drop at 2 p.m.

OHIO STATE:

The reigning national champions are the only WCHA team not in action this week. They will open their season Sept. 30 against Minnesota State.

The Buckeyes import a talented freshman class including Emma Peschel (Benilde-St. Margaret's / U18 Team USA), Sydney Morrow (Shattuck-St. Mary's / U18 Team USA), and Sloane Matthews (Wayzata, Minn.), among others.

The squad will see the likes of leading scorer Sophie Jaques along with Paetyn Levis returning, and offense will be bolstered by the addition of Wisconsin's Makenna Webster from the transfer portal.

Amanda Thiele will return in goal for Ohio State and the Buckeyes.

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MINNESOTA DULUTH:

After finishing up the 2021-22 season with a bang and reaching the national championship game, but falling to Ohio State, the Bulldogs will be excited to get another crack at things in 2022-23.

Only four freshman will make an appearance for UMD, which include Team USA U18 captain Dani Burgen (Lindstrom, Minn. / Chisago Lakes), Team Canada U18 members Tova Henderson and Hailey MacLeod , and Chisago Lakes forward Danielle Brunette .

The Bulldogs used the transfer portal to grab another goaltender in Blanka Skodova (Czechia / Vermont), as JoJo Chobak left for St. Cloud State.

Key returners for UMD include Swedish goaltender Emma Soderberg , along with Naomi Rogge and Gabbie Hughes .

Minnesota Duluth will open its season this weekend with a pair of games at Long Island. Puck drop against the Sharks will be at 6:45 p.m. CT on Sept. 24-25 in Brooklyn, New York.

WISCONSIN:

The Badgers will start the 2022-23 season off loaded with freshman talent that includes Team USA U18 players Kirsten Simms , Claire Enright , and Laila Edwards , along with Ms. Hockey Winner Vivian Jungels .

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Leading scorers Casey O'Brien and Nicole LaMantia return for the Badgers.

Wisconsin will start the season off with a pair of games at Penn State Sept. 22-23 with puck drops at 6 p.m. CT in University Park.

MINNESOTA STATE:

The Mavericks bring in five freshman this year, four of which are from Minnesota.

Mankato also returns three of their five leading scorers in Kelsey King , Kennedy Bobyck and Charlotte Akervik .

The Mavericks finished up the 2021-22 season with a 15-9-1 overall record and 10-7-1 in the WCHA.

MSU will start the season off with an exhibition match against the University of Manitoba at home on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.

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BEMIDJI STATE:

The Beavers wrapped up last year with an 11-20-3 overall record, and was 8-18-2 in the conference.

BSU brings in four freshman, all from out of state, along with a transfer in Warroad native Genevieve Hendrickson , who played last season with Franklin Pierce.

Bemidji State will return leading scorer Reece Hunt , along with Claire Vekich and Taylor Nelson who were both top five in scoring on the team last year.

BSU will open the season with a pair of games against Lindenwood at home on Sept. 23-24 with puck drop at 6:01 p.m. and 3:01 p.m. respectively.

ST. CLOUD STATE:

The Huskies have gone through a lot of change in the past few months. New head coach Brian Idalski has taken over and has brought in a wave of new freshman and transfers.

Five new freshman will don the Cardinal and Black, including Olympian Laura Zimmerman of Switzerland.

The Huskies lost three players to the transfer portal, but then gained three different players back. Bailey Burton (Bloomington, Minn. / Providence College), Avery Myers (Fargo / New Hampshire), and goaltender JoJo Chobak (Chicago / Minnesota-Duluth) will make the jump over to the Huskies for the upcoming year.

The Huskies will return all of their top-five leading scorers in Taylor Lind , Emma Gentry , Jenniina Nylund , Olivia Cvar and Courtney Hall .

SCSU will play two exhibition games to start off the season. The team will travel to St. Thomas on Sept. 24 at noon and then will play at home the next day to take on the Durham West Jr. Lightning at 3 p.m.

ST. THOMAS:

St. Thomas finished up their first season as a Division I program 5-27-1 overall and 3-23-1 in the conference.

The Tommies brought in seven freshman this season, six of those from Minnesota. 2022 Minn. Senior Goaltender of the Year Maggie Malecha of Northfield is among the newcomers.

UST picks up one transfer in forward Gabby Billing (Corcoran, Minn.) of Dartmouth.

St. Thomas also returns their top-five leading scorers and goaltenders Saskia Maurer (Olympian for Team Switzerland) and Alexa Dobchuk .

The Tommies will have an exhibition game at home against St. Cloud State at noon on Sept. 24, and will then have another exhibition the next day against the University of Manitoba at 2 p.m.

Related Topics: WOMEN'S HOCKEY
Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies and was a part of the University Honors Program.
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