Men's WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson knew the challenges would be substantial in trying to play a hockey season while the coronavirus pandemic raged on.
"We know we will need to navigate an ever-changing path," Robertson said Nov. 10 during the league's preseason video conference. "… I don't think any of us expects our schedule to come off without a hitch."
That's exactly what has been playing out over the past eight days.
Defending WCHA champion Minnesota State Mankato on Tuesday announced that it is pausing all team-related activities and is postponing its home conference series against Bemidji State on Friday and Saturday because of positive COVID-19 tests results. This came a day after the Mavericks postponed their second game of their nonconference series in Bemidji because of a positive test within their program. The teams were able to play their season opener, a 5-0 MSU Mankato win on Sunday, because there were no positive tests before the game. No makeup dates for the three postponed Mavericks-Beavers games have been announced.
Following contact tracing, MSU Mankato officials on Tuesday determined that players and members of the coaching staff and support staff would need to be quarantined or isolated.
"It's an unfortunate turn of events, as I know how excited our coaches and players were to get back on the ice. The team looked very impressive in that season-opening game against Bemidji State," Minnesota State Mankato athletic director Kevin Buisman said in a statement. "It's important, however, that we maintain safety as our top priority."
The Mavericks aren't the only WCHA team that has had to postpone or cancel games because of COVID-19. On Monday, Northern Michigan announced that it is canceling five nonconference games, including a Dec. 4-5 series against Bemidji State, and postponing one WCHA contest.
The only games remaining on the schedule for the upcoming weekend are a home-and-home series between Ferris State and Lake Superior State on Friday and Sunday.
Two U women honored
Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle and goalie Lauren Bench earned weekly honors from the women's WCHA for their performances in Minnesota's split with Ohio State over the weekend.
Zumwinkle, a senior, was named forward of the week after scoring two goals in the Gophers' 4-0 victory over Ohio State on Saturday and notching one in the 2-1 loss on Sunday. Bench, a graduate transfer from Bemidji State, earned goalie of the week honors after posting a 36-save shutout in her Gophers debut and 33 saves in the loss.
NCHC preseason team
Led by 2020 Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist Jordan Kawaguchi, North Dakota landed three of the six players on the NCHC preseason all-conference team announced Tuesday.
Kawaguchi, a senior forward from Abbotsford, British Columbia, received 27 of 28 votes by media members. Joining him on the first team are two Fighting Hawks defensemen: senior Matt Kiersted and junior Jacob Bernard-Docker. Minnesota Duluth landed two forward on the team: juniors Noah Cates and Cole Koepke. The other member is Denver sophomore goaltender Magnus Chrona.