The NCAA women’s hockey season begins just nine days from now, and on Wednesday, the WCHA held their annual preseason teleconference, and announced their preseason coaches poll.
In no surprise, Wisconsin and Minnesota are the class of the league again. Wisconsin leads off the poll, getting first place votes from six of the seven other coaches in the league, with Minnesota getting the other two first place votes.
Here’s how the coaches see the league shaking out:
In addition, Wisconsin goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens was named preseason player of the year, receiving five votes, while Minnesota’s Dani Cameranesi, Wisconsin’s Annie Pankowski, and Minnesota Duluth Ashleigh Brykaliuk each received a single vote.
Minnesota’s Lindsay Agnew and Wisconsin’s Presley Norby and Abby Roque each received two votes as preseason newcomer of the year, while North Dakota’s Ryleigh Houston and Ohio State redshirt freshman Jincy Dunne each received one vote.
Seven of the league head coaches spoke at today’s teleconference, with newly-hired assistant Jess Koizumi filling in for Nadine Muzerall at Ohio State in the midst of what has been a very hectic week.
A few quick notes I jotted down on what I learned for each team from the conference call:
Bemidji State- The Beavers lost a lot to graduation last year that will need to be replaced. Jim Scanlan said they’ve got a nice freshmen class with some really high skill coming in, but it’s a tough league for freshmen. They’ll need to play a defensive style and have a little puck luck to be successful.
Minnesota-Brad Frost was really complimentary of his senior class led by Dani Cameranesi, Kate Schipper, and Lee Stecklein. He loves their leadership and chemistry. It’s going to be a team effort to pick up the slack of all the scoring they lost from last year’s graduating class. They’ve got a strong recruiting class coming in led by Patti Marshall, Lindsay Agnew, and Alex Woken
After the teleconference, Minnesota announced that Bethany Brausen was hired as an assistant coach, filling the void left when Nadine Muzerall took the head job at Ohio State.
Minnesota Duluth- Sophomore goalie Maddie Rooney will be the starter for the Bulldogs. Maura Crowell thought the stability of her being the #1 rather than splitting time like she did last year should be beneficial to Rooney.
Minnesota State- The Mavericks were a very young team last season with only one senior and 21 underclassmen. That forced head coach John Harrington into playing a lot of players in positions they probably weren’t quite ready for. But they showed some signs of improvement at the end of last year and the hope is that that experience will start to pay off this year as they try to turn their program around.
North Dakota-North Dakota, like Bemidji State, will be young after losing a big senior class. The toughest to replace will be goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie. Senior Lexie Shaw will be pushed by redshirt freshman Kristen Campbell for playing time in net.
St. Cloud State-Eric Rud is starting his third year as head coach of the Huskies and feels like things are headed in the right direction. They felt like they were competitive in some games last season that they weren’t the previous season, and they’re excited to build off that. To do so, they’ll have to find a replacement for Katie Fitzgerald in net, and at this point, the job is wide open. They also have to replace last year’s top scorer Molly Illikainen. Rud hoped they could get an extra two or three goals from a bunch of players to make up that gap.
Wisconsin-The Badgers bring in a big freshman class, but it’s an extremely talented on, and Mark Johnson seemed happy with how they were fitting into the team and with the Badgers overall chemistry. Having an incredible goalie in Ann-Renee Desbiens helps too.
Ohio State- Jess Koizumi really brought home the crazy, last-minute nature of Ohio State’s coaching change. She left two jobs and a home on the east coast to move to Columbus for this job. In addition to all the work of moving, she has to meet her team, prepare for Ohio State’s first game in 16 games, and start recruiting, which she admitted they’re likely already behind the pack on. But she felt the time was right and her and Nadine Muzerall were all in and ready to go.
Koizumi offered no comment on the status of star defenseman Jincy Dunne, who missed all of last season with what were suspected to be concussion issues. Getting Dunne back in the line-up would be huge in helping ease the late coaching transition.