The WCHA Final Face-off
Site: Sanford Center in Bemidji
4 p.m.: Wisconsin vs. North Dakota; 7 p.m.: Gophers vs. Minnesota Duluth
Championship: 7 p.m.
The WCHA playoff champion receives an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. The eight-team NCAA field will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday, and win or lose this weekend, the Gophers are expected to host an NCAA quarterfinal Saturday, March 15 at 4 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the Women’s Frozen Four, March 21-23 in Hamden, Conn.
The top-seeded Gophers (34-1-1) have built a 22-game unbeaten streak since their record 62-game winning streak ended Nov. 17 against North Dakota. The Gophers have 10 players with at least 20 points, led by Patty Kazmaier finalist Hannah Brandt with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists). Sophomore goalie Amanda Leveille has 13 shutouts this season, tied for the most in the nation. The Gophers have won this event the past two years.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (15-14-6) have two defensemen back from the Olympics in Lara Stalder (Switzerland) and Tea Villila (Finland). Jenna McParland leads UMD with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 35 games. Sophomore goaltender Kayla Black has a 2.26 goals- against average and five shutouts. UMD needed three games to knock out No. 5-seeded Ohio State in the first round.
In the latest USCHO.com poll, the Badgers (27-6-2) rank second in the nation, behind the Gophers. Wisconsin also holds the No. 2 seed in this tournament, but the Badgers needed three games to get past No. 7-seeded Minnesota State Mankato in the first round. Badgers goaltender Alex Rigsby has seven shutouts this season and now has 99 career wins.
North Dakota (19-11-4) ranks ninth in the latest USCHO.com poll and probably needs a WCHA title to advance to NCAA tourney. Third-seeded North Dakota has three players back from the Olympics in forward Michelle Karvinen (Finland), Susanna Tapani (Finland) and defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid (Germany). Karvinen was voted the best forward at the Sochi Games.