Last season’s WCHA runner-up Wisconsin has been selected as the 2005-06 favorite in the league’s coaches poll. Sara Bauer, Wisconsin’s leading scorer for the last two seasons, was named the 2005-06 WCHA Preseason Player of the Year.
The Badgers received the maximum number of first place votes, since coaches could not vote their own teams, for a total of 70 points. Two-time defending WCHA and NCAA Champion, Minnesota, was picked second with the other first place vote and 63 points. Three-time NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth was tabbed third with 59 points.
Wisconsin was 28-9-1 overall and finished third in the regular season standings with a 20-7-1 WCHA record. The Badgers advanced to the 2005 WCHA Championship game, falling to Minnesota 3-2 in overtime. The Badgers also made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship but were defeated by Dartmouth, 4-3, in the opening round.
Minnesota captured the WCHA regular-season and Playoff tournament titles en route to winning a second-straight NCAA Women’s Frozen Four Championship. The Golden Gophers posted a 36-2-2 overall record while going 25-1-2 in the WCHA. Minnesota Duluth was the regular-season runner up a year ago with a 22-4-2 record and went 26-6-2 overall.
Bauer, a second-team All-WCHA peformer last season, tied for seventh in the league scoring race with 37 points on 19 goals and 18 assists. In 36 overall games, she ranked sixth with 55 points (26-29). Bauer was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year following the 2003-04 season.
St. Cloud State travels to Ohio State for the first league game of the year on Friday. In Friday’s nonconference action, Minnesota State opens the season at Mercyhurst, Bemidji State hosts Wayne State and defending NCAA and WCHA Champion, Minnesota, faces Connecticut in the Easton Shootout in Minneapolis. Saturday, league play continues with Wisconsin hosting Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State and Ohio State wrapping up their series. Minnesota State plays at Mercyhurst and Bemidji State hosts Wayne State. Minnesota meets St. Lawrence to close out the Easton Classic. Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin conclude their two-game conference series on Sunday.
For the first time in the league’s seven year history, the WCHA tournament will be played over the course of two weeks. The league tournament will open the weekend of March 3-5 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if necessary) with a first round, best-of-three series format at top four seed’s campus sites. The first round winners will advance to the 2006 WCHA Playoff Championship at Ridder Arena on Saturday and Sunday, March 11-12. The two semi-final games will be played at 1:07 p.m. CT and 4:07 p.m. CT Saturday, with the championship game set for Sunday at 1:07 pm CT.