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WCHA 2015-16 Women’s Season Preview

Eight talented teams prepare to drop the puck on a new season

(MHM Photo / Brent Cizek)
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Wisconsin sophomore forward Annie Pankowski (MHM Photo / Brent Cizek)

Wisconsin sophomore forward Annie Pankowski (MHM Photo / Brent Cizek)

WISCONSIN

Coach: Mark Johnson, 12th season

Last season:  29-7-4, qualified for NCAA Frozen Four, was WCHA Final Face-Off playoff champion and second place during regular season (19-6-3-1, 61 pts)

Key losses:  A quartet of double-digit goal scorers all graduated in first-team All-WCHA forward Blayre Turnbull (15g-21a=36pts), Hockey Humanitarian Award Winner and second-team all-league performer Brittany Ammerman (13g-24a=37pts), third-team All-WCHA forward Karley Sylvester (13g-25a=38pts) and Katy Josephs (10g-15a=25pts).

Key returnees:  Forward Annie Pankowski (21g-22a=43pts) was the national Rookie of the Year and played with Team USA at the 2015 World Championships. She now heads a deep group of forwards, which includes Final Face-Off Most Outstanding Player Sarah Nurse (15g-10a=25pts), All-Rookie honoree Emily Clark (12g-15a=27pts) – both of whom have logged time with the Canadian National Team – and Sydney McKibbon (10g-16a=26pts). Ann Renée Desbiens, herself a Team Canada veteran from the 2015 Worlds, is the latest in a line of elite Badger goalies. Inaugural NWHL draft selection Courtney Burke is the Badgers’ captain and a veteran defenseman for a team that allowed the fewest goals per game in the country last season.

Top newcomers:  Wisconsin has only three freshmen, but defenseman Mikaela Gardner and forward Sophia Shaver each got votes from coaches as possible Preseason Rookie of the Year.

Outlook: Ranked No. 3 in the preseason USCHO.com poll and also received two first place votes in the WCHA coaches’ poll, which placed them as runners-up to preseason league pick Minnesota. The results of this year’s Border Battle may once again determine the league champion, while the Badgers’ potentially explosive offense and stingy defense has them eyeing a return trip to the Frozen Four.

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