The WCHA (formally, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association) has proven itself to be the conference to beat, with 15 national championships. Though it's been home to some traditional powerhouses, the WCHA featured five different 20-win teams for the first time in its history last season.
WCHA players represent the best of the best, internationally. Forty players with WCHA ties, representing seven member institutions and competing for six different countries, participated in the 2015 IIHF World Championships.
There are three new coaches this year, who will join three more second-year coaches. There's been a major shift in the WCHA, and it's going to be exciting to see where the league can go from here.
WCHA Tournament Champions
Bemidji State University
Rink: Sanford Center, capacity 4,700
Coach: Jim Scanlan (2nd season)
2014-2015 Record: 21-17-1
Watch Beaver games online here. It's $7.95 for a single game or $79.95 for the year.
Beaver game audio is available through the Beaver Radio Network.
Player(s) to watch: Junior goalie Brittni Mowat has been under the radar, but she was a top-10 goalie nationally last season. She was stellar with less support in front of her, and a better team will allow her to shine. Senior Stephanie Anderson is the first BSU player to represent the USA -- she was on the 2015 WWC gold medal-winning squad.
Two seasons ago, BSU was 11-21-4. Last season, they upset Minnesota in the WCHA tourney and tallied wins against several ranked teams.
University of Minnesota
Rink: Ridder Arena, capacity 3,400
Coach: Brad Frost (9th season)
2014-2015 Record: 34-3-4
NCAA National Championships: 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, 2015
Frozen Four Appearances: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
BTN2GO streams Minnesota hockey games. You can buy subscriptions by school or for the conference. As they also stream Wisconsin and Ohio State, the conference pass is a good bet. It's $14.95 per month or $119.95 for a year.
Audio for Gopher women's hockey games can be found for free here.
Player(s) to watch: Where to start? Olympian Lee Stecklein is an unsung hero on defense, providing a layer of protection before the net. Junior Dani Cameranesi and senior Hannah Brandt are the deadliest offensive pair in the country, while freshman Sarah Potomak was named WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year.Minnesota Women's Hockey on Instagram
University of Minnesota - Duluth
Rink: AMSOIL Arena, capacity 6,800
Coach: Maura Crowell (1st season)
2014-2015 Record: 20-12-5
NCAA National Championships: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010
Frozen Four Appearances: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
The UMD Schedule says video will be available, but the link doesn't show their games. We'll have to wait and see. If available, it looks like it'll be $7.95 per game, $79.95 for the year.
Player(s) to watch: Senior goalie Kayla Black has kept the Bulldogs in many a game. She's stellar between the pipes. Junior Ashleigh Brykaliuk was named team captain. She led the Bulldogs with 30 points last season. Senior Lara Stalder, a Swiss national, was right behind with 29 points.
Minnesota State - Mankato
Rink: Verizon Center, capacity 5,280
Coach: John Harrington (1st season)
2014-2015 Record: 3-32-1
Mavericks online streams are available here. It's $7.95 for a single game or $79.95 for the year.
Player(s) to watch: Sophomore Hannah Davidson was second on the team in scoring last season and already has a goal and four assists this season.
The Mavericks won just three games last season and have already started 2-1-1 this season. New coach John Harrington was a teammate of Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson on the 1980 Miracle on Ice team.
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Rink: Ralph Englestad Arena, Capacity 11,643
Coach: Brian Idalski (9th season)
2014-2015 Record: 22-12-3
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2012, 2013
NoDak has video available on their website. It's $9.95 a month or $49.95 for a year.
NoDak also has FREE audio available on their website.
Player(s) to watch: North Dakota graduated a lot of talent, so look for juniors Gracen Hirschy and Halli Krzyzaniak to step up with more responsibility and ice time. Senior and German national Tanja Eisenschmid had 14 points last season and should benefit from more ice time.
North Dakota is the only team I know on Tumblr and it's hilarious. They've also had their backup goalie live-tweet from the bench. If you're into social media and want to connect with a team, NoDak makes it rather endearing that way.
Ohio State University
Rink: OSU Ice Rink, capacity 1,415
Coach: Jenny Potter (1st season)
2014-2015 Record: 17-16-3
BTN2GO streams Ohio State hockey games. You can buy subscriptions by school or for the conference. As they also stream Wisconsin and Minnesota, the conference pass is a good bet. It's $14.95 per month or $119.95 for the year.
Player(s) to watch: Perhaps the most anticipated player this season is Buckeye freshman Jincy Dunne. Dunne was part of the pre-Sochi pool of players at just 16. Her extensive international experience at such a young age will be a dynamic addition to the Buckeyes.
New coach Jenny Potter is a storied name in US hockey history, with six gold medals in international competitions.
Junior Katie Matheny is the daughter of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Rink: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, capacity 5,763
Coach: Eric Rud (2nd season)
2014-2015 Record: 8-28-1
Huskies streaming video is available here. It's $7.95 for one game or $44.95 for a women's hockey season pass.
Player(s) to watch: Senior Molly Illikainen transferred from Providence before last season. She led the Huskies in points last year, and they'll need her to power the offense.
Former Badger and US National Team player Jinelle Siergiej is an assistant coach.
University of Wisconsin
Rink: LaBahn Arena, capacity 2,273
Coach: Mark Johnson (13th season)
2014-2015 Record: 29-7-4
NCAA National Championships: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2001
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015
BTN2GO streams Badger hockey games. You can buy subscriptions by school or for the conference. As they also stream Minnesota and Ohio State, the conference pass is a good bet. It's $14.95 per month or $119.95 for the year.
Women's hockey game audio is available through The Mic 92.1 on IHeartRadio.
Player(s) to watch: Sophomore Annie Pankowski is the reigning national Rookie of the Year. She was one of the last players cut before Sochi at age 19,and her slap-shot is deadly. She scored a hat trick in the first weekend of the season, two of which were short-handed goals. Senior Courtney Burke was selected fourth overall in the inaugural NWHL draft by the Buffalo Beauts.
Badger coach Mark Johnson coached the US Women in the Vancouver Olympics and is a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice squad.
Wisconsin hasn't been able to beat Minnesota in the past 16 meetings, so until the Badgers can break through, Minnesota are the presumptive title holders. The Gophers have two world-class lines of talent who are returning to lead their offense. Wisconsin lost one-third of their scoring to graduation, but have a strong, young core to rely on to step up.
Bemdiji State shook everyone up last season and it will be awesome to see if they can continue to add parity to the conference. North Dakota needs someone to step up and be dynamic to help them break through.
Ohio State had some flashes of brilliance last season...and then would lose to lesser teams. However, they're on their way up and the addition of Jincy Dunne could be just the push they need.
3. Bemidji State
4. North Dakota
5. Ohio State
7. St. Cloud State
8. Minnesota State-Mankato
Check out all of Nicole's 2015-16 NCAA previews: