The Gopher Women’s Hockey team hosts their arch rival the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend as Minnesota will honor its six seniors. While Wisconsin has the WCHA Regular Season Championship and the #1 Overall NCAA seed already locked up, the Gophers have a lot to play for this weekend besides just pride. Minnesota needs at least one point to lock up the #2 seed in the WCHA playoffs, and a win over the Badgers would go a long way to locking up home ice for the NCAA Quarterfinals.
The Gophers and Badgers have had a stories rivalry over the years. Minnesota holds a 49-30-9 all time advantage over Wisconsin, with that lead getting inflated over the last five seasons. Minnesota has defeated Wisconsin in the NCAA semi-finals the last two seasons, so you know Wisconsin would love to return the favor and put a bit of a shadow on the Gophers season. The Badgers clinched the WCHA Regular Season Championship for the second year in a row last weekend, and already have the #1 NCAA seed locked up as well. For Wisconsin this weekend is all about pride.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has some work to do. The Gophers are currently second in the WCHA with a six point lead on UMD. Minnesota needs just one point this weekend— a shootout loss would do it— to clinch the #2 seed. However, if Wisconsin would sweep the Gophers, and UMD sweeps St. Cloud State, based on the third tiebreaker which is WCHA losses, UMD would be the #2 seed and the Gophers the #3. In either case, the Gophers will not need to leave Ridder Arena in the WCHA Playoffs as after hosting a first round series, the WCHA Final Faceoff will also occur at Ridder in March.
Minnesota also will look to try and lock up a top-4 spot in the Pairwise. The Gophers are currently #3 behind Wisconsin and UMD with St. Lawrence and BC close behind. The top four teams will get to host an NCAA Quarterfinal at home against an eastern team, while if the Gophers would slip to fifth or lower it would most likely mean a trip to UMD thanks to the quirky NCAA pairings guidelines. A win over the badgers would go a long way to clinching one of those top seeds, but a Badger sweep will put the Gophers firmly on the bubble.
The Gophers and Badgers split a series in Madison in December. Minnesota won the first game 2-0 before Wisconsin struck back with a vengeance in winning 8-3 Saturday—their biggest win ever over Minnesota. The Gophers surely remember that day, and on senior weekend do not want to repeat their mistakes. But Wisconsin will not be easy to get past. They are currently on a 14-game winning streak with their last loss being the 2-0 defeat by the Gophers. Junior forward Annie Pankowski leads the team with 42 points and 20 goals. Senior Sarah Nurse adds and additional 38 points for UW. But Wisconsin’s star is goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens. The NCAA all-time leader in shutouts with 50 and leads the NCAA this season with a 0.76 goals against average, .957 save percentage. Desbiens only has a 1-5-1 career record against Minnesota however.
Minnesota continues to be anchored by junior Kelly Pannek. She still leads the nation in 56 points (17g-39a), 1.81 points per game, 39 assists, and 1.26 assists per game. But this weekend will be all about honoring the Gophers six seniors.
The Gopher senior class of Dani Camaranesi, Kelsey Cline, Paige Haley, Kate Schipper, Lee Stecklein and Megan Wolfe have combined for a career record of 130-14-9. They have won two WCHA regular-season titles (2014, 2015), one WCHA Final Face-off title (2014), two NCAA national titles (2015, 2016), and have one NCAA national runner-up finish (2015). Not including what may still be to come this spring as well.
Dani Camaranesi has played 140 games for the Gophers tallying 201 points and 93 goals in her career. Despite missing half of her senior season, she still ranks seventh in program history in career points, goals, and assists. A two-time WCHA All-Academic Team and Academic All-Big Ten honoree, She has been sorely missed down the stretch for the Gophers this season.
Defenseman Kelsey Cline has played 153 games for the Gophers with 29 career points including five goals. Cline has been a huge role player for the Gophers playing both forward and defense as needed. She is two-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete, two-time WCHA All-Academic honoree, two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, and a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.
Paige Haley has played in 128 games for the Gophers at both forward ans defense. She has 10 career points, with just one collegiate goal. She is a two-time WCHA All-Academic and Academic All-Big Ten Honoree.
Forward Kate Schipper has played in 149 games for the Gophers scoring 119 career points including 40 career goals. Schipper ranks in the Top-30 all-time in Gopher scoring and became the 33rd Gopher to reach 100 career points when she scored both goals in the team’s 2-0 win at Wisconsin in December. She is a three-time WCHA Scholar Athlete and a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Academic All-Big Ten honoree, and WCHA All-Academic Team honoree.
Captain Lee Stecklein is the only 5-year senior on the squad. She missed the 2013-14 season playing for the US Olympic Team in Sochi. Stecklein is the only member remaining of the Gophers perfect 41-0-0 season on the way to the 2013 NCAA crown. Stecklein has played in 149 career games and ranks seventh in scoring among all-time Gophers defensemen with 91 career points including 19 carer goals. Stecklein was named a 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-American and is also a three-time WCHA Scholar Athlete
Megan Wolfe has spent most of her Gophers career playing defense. She is tied for eighth in scoring among all-time Gophers defensemen with 85 career points including 17 career goals in 150 games. Wolfe’s most memorable Gopher moment was scoring the first goal of the game in the 2015 NCAA national championship game. Wolfe is also a 2016 WCHA All-Academic and Academic All-Big Ten honoree
Minnesota will honor the six seniors with a pregame ceremony before Sunday’s game. That game will also be broadcast on BTN.
How To Watch:
#1 Wisconsin Badgers at #4 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, MN
When: 3:00 Saturday/Sunday
TV: BTN (Sunday)
Audio: Free Stream