Sept. 12, 2017
MINNEAPOLIS - The Golden Gopher women's hockey team has been named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's preseason favorite heading into the 2017-18 season. The Gophers collected four first-place votes and 34 points in the annual preseason poll of the league's seven head coaches, the WCHA announced Tuesday.
Minnesota edged back-to-back defending WCHA champion Wisconsin by one point in the league's preseason poll as the Badgers posted 33 points with three first-place votes. Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State tied for third in the poll with 23 points each while Bemidji State (14 points), St. Cloud State (11 points), and Minnesota State (9 points) rounded out the poll.
Freshman forward Grace Zumwinkle (Excelsior, Minn.) was named the league's preseason rookie of the year, collecting four votes. Ohio State forward Emma Maltais, Bemidji State forward Clair DeGeorge, and Minnesota Duluth forward Ashton Bell each received one vote.
A right-handed forward out of Excelsior, Minn., Zumwinkle had a decorated high school hockey career. She competed for Breck High School, where she posted 58 points (42g-16a) in 23 games during her senior season. Following her senior season, she was named the 2017 All-USA Girls Hockey Player of the Year and 2017 Minnesota Ms. Hockey award recipient. Zumwinkle has also had national team experience as she has suited up for the Red, White, and Blue during the IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championships, earning gold at the 2016 and 2017 tournaments.
The WCHA also awarded preseason player of the year honors to Ohio State junior goaltender Kassidy Sauve, a second team All-American last season. She received six votes and Wisconsin sophomore forward Abby Roque received one vote.
Minnesota begins the 2017-18 season after advancing to its sixth-straight NCAA Frozen Four last season. The 26-8-5 Gophers fell in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal after going 19-4-5 in WCHA play. Minnesota finished as WCHA regular season runner-up for the second-straight year and tied for third at the WCHA Final Faceoff.
The 2017-18 Gophers will be led by senior co-captains Sydney Baldwin and Cara Piazza, and head coach Brad Frost is back for his 11th season at the helm of the program. Along with Zumwinkle, Minnesota welcomes fellow incoming freshmen Emily Brown (Blaine, Minn.), Alex Gulstene (Vancouver, B.C.), Olivia Knowles (Campbell River, B.C.), and Taylor Wente (Maple Grove, Minn.). Junior transfer Jackie Pieper (Edina, Minn.) rounds out next season's newcomers.
The WCHA's 19th regular season gets underway Friday, Sept. 22 when Wisconsin hosts Lindenwood. During the first full weekend of competition, Minnesota hosts Merrimack at Ridder Arena on Friday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Oct. 1. The WCHA slate begins with the Gophers hosting Ohio State Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7.
2017-18 WCHA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Minnesota (4), 34 points
2. Wisconsin (3), 33 points
T-3. Minnesota Duluth, 23 points
T-3. Ohio State, 23 points
5. Bemidji State, 14 points
6. St. Cloud State, 11 points
7. Minnesota State, 9 points
Note: Coaches could not vote for their own teams in the poll, and points were awarded on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 system.
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