College women's hockey: UMD hosts No. 1 Wisconsin tonight
The most successful coaches in the 11-year history of NCAA-sponsored Division I women's hockey will be on opposite benches today at Amsoil Arena. Shannon Miller, 48, has five NCAA titles and a 316-88-34 record in 13 years at Minnesota Duluth. Mar...
The most successful coaches in the 11-year history of NCAA-sponsored Division I women's hockey will be on opposite benches today at Amsoil Arena.
Shannon Miller, 48, has five NCAA titles and a 316-88-34 record in 13 years at Minnesota Duluth.
Mark Johnson, 54, has four NCAA titles and a 252-42-24 record in 10 years at Wisconsin.
Their programs have combined to win the last six Division I championships -- four for Wisconsin, two for UMD. And in two of those years, the schools met in the final.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association members play for the first time this season at 7:07 p.m. In their last meeting, Wisconsin beat UMD 2-1 on March 12 in the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals in Madison.
"Getting to an elite level is one thing. Then you find out how difficult it is to remain focused and stay there," Miller said this week. "We have good rivalries with a few schools, but I'd say the best one is against Wisconsin. We respect their talent, playmaking and mental toughness."
The first game in UMD history was an 8-0 victory over Wisconsin on Oct. 8, 1999 in Madison. And when Division I women's hockey came under the NCAA banner the next season, the Bulldogs claimed the first three titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
The Badgers have gained considerable ground recently with championships in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011. The defending NCAA champions had a 32-game unbeaten streak broken last weekend in a 3-2 home loss to Minnesota.
Wisconsin (5-1) is ranked No. 1 and UMD (3-1) is No. 6. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 26-22-10.
"If you look at each program, it's a matter of developing talented players, good chemistry and making a commitment," said Johnson, who interviewed for the Penn State men's coaching job in April. "If you talk to fans who come to watch our league, they'll say, 'Wow, I didn't realize the game is that fast or that the players are so good.' They're impressed by how well players move the puck."
Miller is the only coach in UMD women's hockey history. She came here after serving as the Canadian women's coach in the 1998 Winter Olympics, earning a silver medal.
Johnson, a 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medalist as a player and former Wisconsin star forward, was head coach of the 2010 U.S. Olympic women's team, earning a silver medal.
Miller has built her teams with a strong European presence, while Johnson has had a more domestic product, although he said the Wisconsin administration is now open to recruiting outside the United States. There are six Canadians on the 2011-12 Wisconsin roster. UMD has 14 players from Canada and Europe.
"Having the most talent doesn't always mean having the best team, but over the past four or five years, Wisconsin has had probably the best talent in women's hockey," said Miller. "Cornell has been strong and Boston University, and right in our conference are Minnesota and now North Dakota.
"We have our work cut out for us, but playing in the WCHA is going to prepare every team for the postseason."
WCHA members have won every NCAA title since the inaugural tournament. Minnesota won championships in 2004 and 2005.