The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
We've made it to the end! It's the Frozen Four. Two games to a National Championship.
All games will stream online for free, per NCAA rules.
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(1) Boston College vs Clarkson, 4 PM EST
Clarkson is the lone unseeded team in the Frozen Four. They got some revenge on Quinnipiac with a 1-0 win in the quarterfinal after losing 1-0 in the ECAC tournament final.
The Knights have their work cut out for them, and they'll need a stellar game from goalie Shea Tiley. Clarkson is the lone team outside the WCHA to have won a national championship, though there are just eight players left on this roster from that team.
During the holiday break, Boston College coach Katie King-Crowley said that aside from their on-ice talent, the best thing the Eagles had going for them was that they made a Frozen Four run last season. Nothing that they've faced in the post-season is new to them, and Crowley was hoping that familiarity would mean that the players could focus on the game and not the external distractions.
Anything less than a national championship will be considered a disappointment for the Eagles, who've been ruthless as they've worked their way through an undefeated season.
(2) Wisconsin vs (3) Minnesota, 7 PM EST
When two teams are as similar and closely matched as Minnesota and Wisconsin, it’s impossible to predict just how any meeting between the two will go. Both teams had the advantage on their home ice on the regular season and Wisconsin eked out a 1-0 win during the WCHA Tournament. In some ways, it would be incredibly fitting for Minnesota to take this one, evening out the season series at three games apiece.
Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson talks a lot about how the puck bounces -- that intangible “puck luck.” Until their series in December, Minnesota had dominated the recent meetings between these two teams and it felt like every stray puck bounced their way. Now that the Badgers have ended their long winless streak and quieted any chatter about being unable to fell their biggest foe, they’ll be hoping that a few more of the bounces go in their direction.
At the WCHA tournament a few weeks ago, Minnesota coach Brad Frost said these two teams were mirror images of each other. They’ve both got potent top lines, depth and scoring prowess on their second and third lines, and a strong defense. Though Minnesota has more size on defense, Wisconsin has the edge in goal.
Minnesota will win because getting Amanda Kessel back has provided a boost to the Gophers, both in skill and confidence. They’re the two-time defending champions. After holding the advantage over Wisconsin for so many years, losing to them three times this season will not sit well with the Gophers. There’s nothing better than rolling over your rival on the way to the national championship.
Wisconsin will win because Ann-Renée Desbiens and the Badger defense are having a historic season. Wisconsin is really ahead of schedule, if such a thing isn’t ludicrous to say about a team who was in the Frozen Four last season. The Badgers’ top talent aren’t yet seniors and next year’s incoming class will only bolster them. Both Minnesota and Boston College will lose more talent to graduation this off-season.
If the game were played on paper, the pundits would have said that 2017 is Wisconsin’s year, and this year is just another step along the way. The fact that they’ve sailed through the current season speaks to their talent. But in a lot of ways, there’s no pressure on the Badgers this season. They’ve exceeded expectations -- though at a program like Wisconsin’s, the Frozen Four and a national championship are perpetual expectations.
Filed under: NCAA postseason; frozen four; clarkson; wisconsin; Boston college; minnesota; ice hockey; college hockey
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