Believe it or not, but another hockey season is rapidly approaching. The Minnesota women’s hockey team has their exhibition game against British Columbia Sunday afternoon at Ridder Arena before opening the season for real the following weekend. This week is reserved for all sorts of preseason honors and prognostication however. On Tuesday the WCHA coaches predicted that Minnesota and the Wisconsin Badgers would tie for the WCHA crown, and named several Gophers to preseason WCHA honors.
Minnesota started off its preseason honors on Monday when they were ranked #3 in the preseason USCHO.com poll. The Gophers trail just defending NCAA Champion Clarkson and the Badgers in the poll. Two other WCHA teams are ranked in the top 10 to start the season with 2017-18 Frozen Four team Ohio State ranked #7 and UMD with the return of US Olympic hero Maddie Rooney is ranked ninth.
The USCHO Women's Ice Hockey preseason poll is out and the defending champs will start right where they left off - No. 1! pic.twitter.com/GhL4ZZ4pdN— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) September 17, 2018
Tuesday the WCHA coaches poll and preseason award honorees were named. The Gophers were predicted to tie for the top spot in the conference with the Badgers. Both teams accrued 33 points in voting from the other six WCHA coaches (you can not vote for your own team).
2018-19 #WCHA Preseason Coaches' Poll revealed, featuring predictions for league standings, Preseason WCHA Player and Rookie of the Year, and Preseason All-WCHA team. #WeAreWCHA #20YearsofExcellencehttps://t.co/WUfnXstaD4 pic.twitter.com/hlPS6c1VnP— WCHA Women's Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) September 18, 2018
Wisconsin earned one more first place vote than the Gophers did in the poll, but they also received a third place vote, while the Gophers six votes were evenly split between first and second in the conference.
The Gophers garnered one of the major WCHA preseason awards when freshman forward Taylor Heise was named the preseason pick for WCHA Rookie of the Year. Heise received five votes for the award with Gopher redshirt freshman Amy Potomak receiving one and Wisconsin’s Sophie Shirley the other.
UMD Goalie Maddie Rooney was the selection for the Preseason WCHA Player of the year. Rooney returns to the Bulldogs after backstopping the US Olympic team to the gold medal in the Olympics last spring. Rooney recieved three of the possible seven votes.
Gopher senior center Kelly Pannek received two votes for preseason POY. Pannek returns to the U after playing on the US Gold Medal Olympic team as well. She led the nation in scoring in 2016-17 as a junior. The other three votes were split between Wisconsin’s Emily Clark (2) and Annie Pankowski with one.
The Gophers placed one additional player on the Preseason All-Conference team. Sarah Potomak returns to the Gophers after being centralized with the Canadian national team last season and being one of the last cuts from the Canadian Olympic roster. She along with Pannek were two of the four forwards on the team along with Wisconsin’s Clark and Pankowski. The two defenders were Ohio State’s Jincy Dunne and the Badgers Mikaela Gardner, and Rooney was the goalie.
We will have a full season preview of the Gophers before they begin their season for real on September 28th and 29th when they host Mercyhurst at Ridder Arena.