The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team is ranked #4 in the nation in the USA Today/USA Hockey preseason poll that was released on Tuesday. Minnesota is one of four WCHA teams ranked in the poll with the Wisconsin Badgers ranked #1 the Ohio State Buckeyes ranked #5, and Minnesota-Duluth ranked #8.
As for when the season will actually start? Well the WCHA hopes to have some news on that yet this week. WCHA Commissioner Jennifer Flowers gave an interview to Randy Johnson of the Star Tribune in an article released Tuesday where she says they hope to have news on a schedule by the end of this week. Flowers also says that they hope that the WCHA will be able to begin play yet in November in the attempt to get a full conference schedule in.
The schedule may look significantly different as well. Just like the men in the Big Ten it’s sounding like non-conference games may be hard to configure. But even in conference action things may get complicated. You have three Big Ten schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State, and four Division II schools in the rest of the Minnesota schools (UMD, St. Cloud, Minnesota State and Bemidji State). Flowers says that there is still a discussion going on on the testing requirements for all of the conference teams. Johnson makes those differences clear in the article:
In its return-to-play protocols that started with football and extended to winter sports such as men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s hockey, the Big Ten requires daily antigen testing. Teams from the NSIC, an NCAA Division II conference that doesn’t have the resources of the Big Ten, face challenges in meeting the NCAA’s recommendations proposed in September that athletes be tested three times a week during the season.
“That certainly got the attention of athletic directors at our level because most of us are still trying to figure out how we’re going to do one-time-a-week testing in terms of how to execute it and how to afford it,” Minnesota State Mankato athletic director Kevin Buisman told the Star Tribune in October.
What that may mean is that in the early portion of the schedule you may see the three Big Ten schools playing one another and the four NSIC schools may play each other until a testing equilibrium can be achieved.
Hopefully we will get at least a partial schedule this week so we can start talking about season previews and not season questions.