WCHA forms new

Jim Schortemeyer

The second women’s hockey conference in the nation has been founded, and Minnesota will be a part of it.
The WCHA established a new women’s conference Thursday at its annual meeting in Marco Island, Fla. The new league will include Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State and Minnesota as charter members.
“It does everything we hoped it would two years ago when we looked for an appropriate place for our team,” women’s athletics director Chris Voelz said. “And we’ll be able to build some rivalries in the Midwest.”
The Gophers were predictably pleased with the formation of the conference.
“It gives us some structure,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “We’ve been an independent and have to get a schedule every year, so this gives us a number of games a year.”
The Gophers have never lost to any of the teams in the new conference. Both coach and players say they expect to roll to next year’s championship, but that the competition will eventually get tougher.
“There are three new programs, (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth) but they’re going to be good,” Halldorson said. “Believe me, it won’t take long. I have no doubt.”
“(The new teams) are in the process of becoming varsity,” sophomore Nadine Muzerall said. “I think next year, and especially in the coming years, it will be tougher competition.”
The Gophers hope the new league will put them on-par with East Coast teams such as New Hampshire and Brown, which have long dominated women’s hockey.
But it will take a while to reach those heights, and Minnesota downplayed the fact that its new conference will consist of lower-quality teams.
“The East Coast teams have to play teams like that too,” Muzerall said. “We’ll have to respect them in our own league, but we’ll still play those East Coast teams.”
Locally, the Gophers are just happy to have a conference to play in.
“It’s good for us. It’s a step for women’s hockey in the Midwest,” Muzerall said. “It’s extremely good for the kids in high school and even younger. It gives them something to look forward to.”