Thursday, March 02, 2017

UMD Women's Hockey Cleans Up as WCHA Awards are Announced; Stalder a Patty Kaz Finalist

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- I'll be back later with a UMD-Western Michigan preview, but first some big news from the UMD women's program as we traveled east.

First, UMD senior Lara Stalder was named a top three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the top player in women's college hockey.

From UMD:
The No. 2 Bulldogs leading scorer with 53 points (22g, 31a) in 32 games, the Luzern, Switzerland native also ranks second in the WCHA in scoring and goals and third in assists.  In the NCAA, Stalder is second in points per game (1.66), third in goals per game, and fourth in assists. as well as tied for first with seven game-winning goals.  Stalder, currently in the midst of a 27 point, 13-game scoring streak, has had 16 multiple point games for the Bulldogs, including seven outings with three or more points.  In 12 games against top-10 opponents, Stalder had seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points.
The fact Stalder hasn't let up against top opponents is a huge point. Also, keep in mind her season numbers were hampered by missing time playing for Switzerland in the Olympic qualifying tournament overseas. Despite that absence (she posted 12 points over three games to help the Swiss secure a spot in the Games next winter), Stalder still is among the most productive players in the nation.

(The other finalists are Wisconsin puck-stopping machine Ann-Renee Desbiens and Clarkson senior forward Cayley Mercer. The objective part of me thinks Desbiens -- who has more wins (25) than goals allowed (21) this season -- has to win this thing, but I also have to think Stalder is right there.)

In addition to that, UMD cleaned up in WCHA postseason awards. Stalder was named the Player of the Year and Student Athlete of the Year.

You know about her credentials, but the WCHA mentions what she does away from hockey, which is just as impressive.

Away from AMSOIL Arena, Stalder has maintained a 3.80 grade-point average in the University of Minnesota Duluth’s prestigious Labovitz School of Business and Economics. A two-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award recipient, she is one of a select number in the school’s ReMAP project that is engaged in analyses of various business in the Duluth area.

We're not done. Senior assistant captain Sidney Morin was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year:
One of the Bulldogs’ co-captains, Morin is the defensive backbone and veteran leader for a Minnesota Duluth team that has won 24 games entering the 2017 WCHA Final Face-Off. The senior from Minnetonka, Minn. has excelled on both ends of the ice, tying for the NCAA lead among defensemen with a plus-37 rating and tying for sixth with 23 points (WCHA-best seven goals and 16 assists). She compiled a league defenseman-high 96 shots on goal in 28 WCHA games, while tying for third with a plus-26 rating and ranking fifth with 14 points (6g-8a). Morin has also helped the Bulldogs hold opponents to just 1.65 goals-per-game, good for second in the WCHA and sixth nationally.
Oh, and second-year bench boss Maura Crowell takes home WCHA Coach of the Year.
In her second season behind the Bulldog bench, Crowell has engineered Minnesota Duluth’s best campaign since the early part of the decade. After guiding UMD to a surprise trip to the WCHA Final Face-Off in 2016, she brings the Bulldogs back to the league playoff championships in 2017 as the nation’s second-ranked team – the program’s highest perch since the 2010-11 season. Minnesota Duluth posted a third-place finish in the WCHA regular season standings with a 19-5-4-1 record, marking the Bulldogs’ highest finish since 2010-11 and most league wins since 2009-10. While playing the nation’s third-toughest schedule to date, UMD enters the Final Face-Off at 24-5-5 overall – the Bulldogs’ most victories since the 2009-10 national champions finished 31-8-2.
Somehow, Morin was only on the All-WCHA second team, while Stalder made the first team. Also, senior captain Ashleigh Brykaliuk made the second team. Senior forward Katie McGovern and sophomore goalie Maddie Rooney are on the third team, while forward Sydney Brodt -- the WCHA Rookie of the Month for February -- is on the All-Rookie team.

UMD faces Minnesota Saturday at 5pm in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals. Looking ahead, I have yet to find a scenario where UMD does not make the NCAA Tournament. The possibilities vary wildly, largely based off what happens in the ECAC (St. Lawrence and Clarkson appear in, but Princeton and Cornell remain in the tournament and can crash the party by stealing the autobid) and Hockey East (only Boston College is in the field as of now, not a mortal lock to get in but should, and anyone else winning that league steals an at-large bid). UMD could enter the tournament as a No. 2 seed, even with a loss Saturday, while Minnesota could miss altogether, even with a win Saturday. It's all up in the air. But the Bulldogs are in solid position to host an NCAA game for the first time since 2009. Stalder, Morin, Crowell, and company are a huge part of how this turnaround happened so fast.

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