There were no surprises in the WCHA women’s preseason poll released on Wednesday, as defending NCAA champion Wisconsin took the No. 1 spot. Wisconsin senior Sara Bauer, last season’s Patty Kazmaier winner, was named WCHA Preseason Player of the Year for the second straight season.
Traditional powers Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth took the 2nd and 3rd spots in the poll. The rest of the rankings more or less matched last season’s final standings — the only permutation being Minnesota State’s jump to fifth place, up from seventh last season.
UMD freshman goalie Kim Martin, the highly-touted Swedish goaltender, and Minnesota junior Erica McKenzie, were the two other players to receive votes for league preseason player of the year. Coaches cannot vote for their own team.
To kick off the season, Wisconsin will be unveiling its championship banner prior to tonight’s 7 p.m. CT game against Quinnipiac.
The Badgers scored a hat trick of titles in 2005-06, winning both the WCHA regular season and WCHA Playoff Championship as well as its first national title. They return 17 players including six of their top seven scorers.
The group includes Bauer (58 points last year and 56 goals and 146 points in her first three UW seasons), Jinelle Zaugg (24 goals last year), Erica Lawler (32 points) and Angie Keseley (33 points).
Slusar, a Kazmaier finalist after a 40-point year as a junior last season, heads a defense corps with junior Emily Morris and seniors Meaghan Mikkelson and Kristen Witting. That group helped allow 1.24 goals per game in a 36-victory season in 2005-06.
Jessie Vetter, the first freshman and first goaltender in NCAA tournament history to be named the Most Outstanding Player, and Christine Dufour return as a formidable goaltending tandem.
The Gophers made it to the national title game for the third straight season in 2005-06. They lost five of six games last season to Wisconsin, including the national championship game and the WCHA playoff championship.
Minnesota will look to juniors Bobbi Ross (21 goals, 22 assists, 43 points) and Erika McKenzie (27-26-53), sophomore Gigi Marvin (16-30-46) and senior Andrea Nichols (8-11-19) to provide the offensive spark and depth at forward.
Defensively, the Maroon and Gold will be without the graduated Chelsey Brodt and Ashley Albrecht, but Melanie Gagnon returns on the blue line in front of goalies Kim Hanlon and Brittony Chartier, who split time last season.
The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA tournament five times in the last six years and return an all-America goaltender and firepower from a strong senior class that includes Noemie Marin (22-17-39) and Jessica Koizumi (17-26-43). The Bulldogs’ top six scorers all come back to the Twin Ports, including sophomores Sara O’Toole (11-8-19) and Michaela Lanzl (18-11-29).
Senior goaltender Riitta Schaublin (20-9-3, 1.59 goals-against and .941 save percentage) was a Patty Kazmaier finalist a year ago and will be joined by Kim Martin, a freshman who was the goaltender for the silver medalist Swedish Olympic team in 2006.
Coach Shannon Miller says she expects to dress seven freshmen and seven seniors.
The Mavericks, picked to finish fifth by the WCHA-member head coaches in 2006-07, up two spots from their seventh place showing last winter, welcome back their top eight scorers from 2005-06, including sophomore Maggie Fischer (16-7-23), juniors Amanda Stohr (6-9-15) and Kristina Bunker (8-8-16), and add transfer Lindsay Macy, a transfer from Wisconsin, and Ashley Young to a deep group of forwards.
This year’s team features a line-up consisting of 10 freshmen and12 players who enter their junior and senior seasons.
The defensive corps includes a group of four veterans who bring 356 career games to the table in seniors Sammy Jo Miller (98gp), Megan Jedinak (93gp) and Richelle St. Croix (97gp), along with junior Andreanne Thibault (68gp). In goal, Brit Kehler returns and bring experience to the Mavericks’ defensive zone.
St. Cloud State
Coming off its strongest season in school history, when they set school records in WCHA wins (13) and qualified for the WCHA semifinals for the first time, the Huskies return 17 players including senior goalie Laurie St. Jacques, who had a breakout season in 2005-06.
St. Cloud lost 91 points between the graduated Kristy Oonincx, Ashley Stewart and Randie Jelinski so senior forwards Denelle Maguet (14-18-32) and Hailey Clarkson (17-21-38), who were second and third in team scoring last year, and junior Laura Fast will need to increase scoring responsibilities in 2006-07.
Veterans Tricia Fast and Brittni Kuyper heads the defense corps.
The Buckeyes welcome back junior Tessa Bonhomme who redshirted last season while taking part in the Canadian Centralization Program in association with the National Women’s Team. Through two seasons, the she ranks fourth all-time in defensemen scoring with 47 points and will team with seniors Amber Bowman (11-16-27 last year) and Lacey Schultz and Lisa Chesson to provide a deep defensive corps.
Senior Katey Maroney (9-7-16) and highly-touted freshman Raelynn LaRocque will try to provide scoring up front to replace graduated star Jana Harrigan.
Other key returnees for the Buckeyes include junior forward Mallory Peckels and senior goaltender Erika Vanderveer.
Coach Sertich, the brother of former Minnesota Duluth men’s coach Mike, will build around junior goaltender Emily Brookshaw, a member of the 2004 WCHA All-Rookie Team who has posted 10 victories in goal during her two years at BSU. As a sophomore a year ago, she appeared in 19 games with 15 starts, posting a 4-11-1 record. She had a 3.21 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.
Seniors Helena Tageson (11-9-20), Kelly Hart (8-22-30), Nikki Eckebrecht (13-10-23) and junior Tara Hiscock (11-5-16) are proven scorers.
Hiscock has been named captain and Mandy Bambrough and Kate Robinson have been named alternates.
After graduating the first recruited class in program history last season the Fighting Sioux will have 12 new players, 11 of which are incoming freshmen.
North Dakota’s top returning scorers are sophomores Melissa Jaques (8-8-16) and Samantha Bowers (8-4-12).
Junior Christey Allen heads a defense corps in front of two freshmen goalies, Brittany Kirkham and Jody Karnik.