The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, November 20, 2020
Time to drop the puck — State of the WCHA — must-click women's hockey links
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Time to Drop the Puck
Women’s ice hockey will return this week as the WCHA and Hockey East hit the ice. As you might have heard me mention before, the season is not without its challenges. The Ivy League is out altogether and RIT was out but is now back in.
Overall, it’s hard to get a grasp on what (or who) is guiding decisions regarding COVID. It’s akin to states’ rights. Yes, there is a national government (NCAA) but each conference can make their own decisions.
The coup de gras last winter season was the cancellation of the NCAA tournaments across all sports (arguably because the NBA decided to close shop). The NCAA has released guidelines and resources, but doesn’t seem close to making a sweeping decision regarding college sports.
The WCHA held a virtual media day this week to discuss the upcoming season. When I asked Commissioner Jennifer Flowers if any NCAA directives have or potentially could impact her season, here is what she said:
“You know, to be honest: we are really working in the day-to-day, and there obviously has been no directive to this point from the NCAA so again I think it will be one of those things that if that happens then we’ll have to take a step back and to determine what what that means for us. Right now as a league, we are committed to providing the best, most meaningful season we can for our student athletes. We are hopeful that that includes a postseason championship.”
So the WCHA is doing its best to get off the ground. But, does the change in competitors in the game change what the season means? Here is what OSU head coach Nadine Muzerall has to say:
“We’ve learned a lot and used a lot of this phrase over the past few months since March when NCAA got shut down and we were at the airport at the gate ready to fly out, is control your controllables and just understand that everything is unpredictable at this time. So our focus has to be on us. And like I said, maintaining our health, and that we’re able to play. It’s so unfortunate to hear about the Ivy’s and you know there I’ve got some really good friends coaching up there so I feel for them and their student athletes, but our girls are being blessed with the opportunity to play and they just have to have their mindset focused on them right now.”
Day-to-day is about all one can hope for as the impacts of COVID continue to be unpredictable. Just ask St. Cloud! They’ve had to shut down hockey ops due to positive tests on their team.
For now, let’s supports sports as safely as we can (my inner Xander is cringing, but my inner Willow is trying to prevail). So, with that in mind, here is the weekend WoHo schedule.
More from the WCHA in Five at The IX.
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This Week in Women’s Hockey
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Dream Gap Tour sponsored by Secret is critical ice time for Olympians.
Black Girl Hockey Club is partnering with the Erie Otters for a virtual event.
Emma Soderberg tasked with taking over in net for Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota Duluth season preview.
BC season preview by Grant Salzano.
The Ice Garden with your Hockey East preview.
Vermont delays start to winter sports season until December 18.
St Cloud State on pause after several positive tests.
Division III MASCAC cancels winter sports season.
RIT is back on again, for now.
Tweet of the Week
We see you Mercyhurst!
Five at The IX: State of the WCHA
The WCHA hops on zoom to discuss the upcoming season. Click the YouTube link above for the full conference call.
Q from Todd Milewski: I wondered for a long-term perspective, obviously there are changes happening on the men’s side with the WCHA down the road. Can you give us a window into what it looks like for the women’s league in terms of a future beyond this season? Obviously you have St Thomas coming in, there are plans happening in that but just to make a big picture perspective right now?
Commissioner Jennifer Flowers: The WCHA women’s league is the premire league in hockey and that’s what we’re going to be today, tomorrow, and into the future. That’s the outlook that we’re taking. We are, as I mentioned at the top, our membership is as committed as its ever been. We recognize that some of the things around us are going to change, but that allows us the opportunity to tighten up and be even stronger. So, we are excited to get back to the even number of eight. We’re looking forward to potentially stepping out on our own as the WCHA women’s league, and we feel very confident our future is bright.
Q from Matt Kennedy: You face the other top three teams in the WCHA from last season, including Ohio State for two series, which your team had trouble with at the end of last season. How do you like that tough schedule? And how does it prepare your team for success in postseason?
Minnesota head coach Brad Frost: Yeah, I mean, I gotta be honest, Matt, we’re hoping that we can get to a postseason. So we’re, it doesn’t matter what the schedule is, we are really excited about it. It was a tough ending last year to not be able to have any closure and so now just to be playing games is a big deal. Obviously, these are three of the best teams in the country that we’re playing. So it’s going to be a great challenge. But I know our players and our staff are very excited about that. But quite frankly, we’re more excited to be playing games regardless of who our opponents are.
Q from Todd Bell: How did you stay in touch with everybody during the spring and summer before they really got back to campus?
Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell: Yeah, we were pretty intentional about that once we sorted out how this was all going to get a look for the long haul. We started with zoom meetings for their group, probably every couple weeks in the spring and then those became more regular once we named our captains, we started meeting with them every other week and then with the team in between. So we were getting a lot of FaceTime with, with the group which I think was really important. We had a very unique and different offseason, obviously with COVID but also with all the social justice issues that were plaguing our country. So those are topics that we dove into. You know, another area that maybe in a normal year without COVID we wouldn’t have felt like we had time to do that and then it just kind of worked out. I think that’s made us all a better team, better people, and certainly me a better coach just having those conversations with our players. Getting to know them on a deeper level outside of, you know, the rank in X’s and O’s.
Q from Randy Johnson: Could you give us an update on your situation with COVID and how many players are or were positive and how many are quarantine, that situation?
St Cloud head coach Steve McDonald: Yeah, so it’s just as the release had mentioned that there was a positives that we had over that time frame and, and with the regular testing through community testing, as well as testing here at the school. So, with that comes other quarantines for possible exposures, you know, just to, again, err on the side of maintaining everybody’s health and safety during the situation so. So we some players that are in isolation due to the positive tests, we have some players that are in quarantine due to exposure, and then we have other players that are full go once we’re able were able to participate in activities.
Q from Kelly Schultz: Now that you know that you don’t have a game this or games this weekend. What do you do with your team, how do you keep them motivated for the 17 days from now?
Bemidji State head coach: Yeah, you kind of kind of go back to what I mentioned before, Kelly. You just take it a day at a time. Come to the rink, with a smile on your face and be grateful that you’re able to even get out of practice together and. And obviously as a coaching staff that’s up to us to make sure we’re going to get the most out of however long our practice is and provide the drills that are gonna keep them engaged. But yeah, that’s, I think, really, really important, just taking a day at a time, Kelly. You know we’re not gonna look past today, and that has to be our commitment to each other. Let’s make today count, and let’s get, get, whatever we can out of today and then we’ll go from there.