It’s Playoff Time
Get up to speed with Dustin Nelson’s women’s WCHA postseason primer
Get up to speed with Dustin Nelson's women's WCHA postseason primer
The WCHA playoffs start this weekend, featuring three teams that rank in the top four nationally. It’s yet another year where a WCHA team could grab a national championship, but with more parity in the conference this year, there’s also the chance for a significant upset.
North Dakota is easily a step above the bottom four, but they’re also a step below the top three. For a short period early in the year, they ranked in the top 10 nationally. Things looked promising after they worked the Gophers to two ties in their first match-ups of the year. But those ties were followed by a split with Syracuse, a tie and a loss to Ohio State, a loss to Lindenwood, and sweeps at the hands of the Badgers, Gophers, and Bulldogs.
The second half was not kind to the Fighting Hawks. Over the course of the season, they ranked 24th in goals for with a 2.21 goals per game average. They ranked 12th in goals against with a 1.94 average. But things tumbled downhill toward the end. They averaged just two goals per game in the final 12 games and allowed 2.42 per game in that stretch.
While that sounds awfully gloomy, they have a formidable defense, led by national team player Halli Krzyzaniak and Gracen Hirschy. Freshman Ryleigh Houston has been a revelation up front, leading the team in points and assists. Additionally, senior goaltender Lexie Shaw has been a big part of their strong team defense with a .926 save percentage and a 1.68 goals-against average. North Dakota will open the playoffs with a repeat of their season-closing series against Ohio State, which the teams split.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
Amy Menke, Sr., F — After posting 40 points last year, she has just 22 this season. That’s the lowest point per game pace since her freshmen year. But, despite the box score being less impressive, Menke isn’t a changed player. She’s more than capable of leading the team to a win. No one should be surprised if she plays the hero in a game or two.