MINNEAPOLIS – The Western Collegiate Hockey Association released the 2014-15 composite schedule for women's hockey Tuesday. The league opens its 16th season of women's hockey with two new coaches, a new commissioner, the return of a couple of former Olympians and the usual anticipation of a competitive battle for the league championship.
"On behalf of the WCHA, and in my new role as the women's commissioner, I'm thrilled to announce the release of the 2014-15 women's hockey schedule," said WCHA women's commissioner Aaron Kemp. "The women's WCHA is comprised of eight member institutions who are all committed to achieving the highest level of competitive excellence. As we look forward to an exciting new season, it's important to recognize and celebrate our association's rich history of success. Winning 14 national championships in the last 15 years, the WCHA has identified itself as the premier women's hockey conference."
The WCHA will look for an exciting and wide-open league race with new head coaches at Bemidji State in Jim Scanlan and at St. Cloud State in Eric Rud and the return of two players from the U.S. Olympic team in forward Amanda Kessel, the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, and defenseman Lee Stecklein at defending league champion Minnesota. For the second time, the WCHA Final Face-off playoff championship will be held in Grand Forks, N.D.
"The strength of our schedule is unmatched as is evidenced in this year's line-up," Kemp said. "In inter-conference play, the schedule boasts outstanding match-ups featuring intense rivalries wherein the nation's top teams battle it out for conference supremacy. As the WCHA looks to showcase its dominance across the national scene, the non-conference portion of the schedule features some very respectable adversaries."
This season, the WCHA will welcome back many outstanding student-athletes for the 2014-15 season, including two first team All-Americans – Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt, the WCHA Player of the Year and scoring champion last season, and Minnesota defenseman Rachael Ramsey, the WCHA Defensive Player of the year in 2013-14. In addition, North Dakota returns forward Susanna Tapani, a 2014 Olympian who played for Team Finland and defensemen Tanja Eisenschmid and Susanne Fellner, who played for Team Germany in the Sochi Olympics while Minnesota Duluth will be bolstered by the return of former all-WCHA second team defenseman Brigette Lacquette, who played for the Canadian National team last season, and the presence of Finnish Olympian Tea Villila and Lara Stalder, who won a bronze medal at Sochi with Team Switzerland.
Returning All-WCHA honorees include second team all-American defenseman Milica McMillen of Minnesota and goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens of Wisconsin, who had the best goals-against average in the league last season as a freshman. Minnesota also returns forward Dani Cameranesi, who was the WCHA Rookie of the Year last season.
Teams open play with three non-conference series Sept. 26-27 when Minnesota Duluth visits Connecticut, Bemidji State travels to Robert Morris and Wisconsin plays at Lindenwood. That same weekend St. Cloud States hosts an exhibition game against the Toronto Junior Aeros Sept. 26 and North Dakota faces the Toronto Junior Aeros Sept. 27 in Grand Forks. On Sept. 28, Ohio State faces Western Ontario in Columbus, Ohio in an exhibition game. The 112-game conference slate, comprised of 28 games per each of the WCHA's eight-member teams (four games – two home and two away – against each of other seven members), gets underway during the weekend of October 3-4 when Wisconsin visits Minnesota Duluth.
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