Wisconsin women's hockey team closed the 2011-12 season ranked 10th in the nation in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll behind WCHA conference members Minnesota and North Dakota.
It's to be expected that the 2013 season is opening in a similar fashion. Voters have little idea how the teams will actually shape up beyond projections.
Minnesota and North Dakota both graduated major goal-producers and will be looking to freshman to fill those gaps. Wisconsin failed to produce much offense, especially compared to the juggernaut that was Minnesota (the Gophers are returning more goal production than UW had on their squad last year). All three teams have major gaps to fill in order to be successful in the coming season.
Complicating things even further, it's an Olympic year and top talent is missing from many of these ranked teams. It becomes even more difficult to know exactly how they will all compensate and shake out.
In the meantime, Brian Elliot Schlossman pointed out on Twitter that this is the first time ever that North Dakota has entered a season ranked higher than Wisconsin. That's a bit of a milestone in the grand scheme of women's collegiate hockey.
Practice officially opens for Wisconsin's women this Saturday with the first game Monday against the Japan National Team. Expect the USCHO.com poll to follow this one some time this week.