March 5, 2021

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, CHA and ECAC Semifinals



5 min readby Nicole Haase

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, CHA and ECAC Semifinals

The tournaments are all spread out over the weekend, so check back for previews of the different games happening each day. Friday starts with semifinal action in the CHA and ECAC.

CHA Tournament

Syracuse vs. (7) Penn State - Friday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Robert Morris vs. Mercyhurst - Friday at 7:30 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream available on Stretch Internet. $9.99 for one day, $25 for the whole tournament.

The Nittany Lions have had a massive season and won their first-ever regular season title. They may be the team that everyone else around the country is most interested in this weekend. The belief is that this is the tournament that is most likely to have an upset winner – meaning someone other than Penn State takes the conference's auto-bid. If that happens, Penn State joins the bubble teams and makes their odds even slimmer.

Penn State has played a nearly perfect season, but they're in uncharted territory in this post-season while the other three teams left have each taken the tournament crown at least once in the past four years. There's no substitute for that experience when it comes to this pressure situation and playing from the front. The Nittany Lions have been playing far beyond their experience all season, so there's no reason to doubt them now, but we can't know how they'll react until the puck drops.

Syracuse took a decisive 6-0 win from Lindenwood in the quarterfinals. PSU has two losses and two ties this year and one of each of them came at the hands of the Orange. Syracuse has to find a way to slow down Kiara Zanon - something no one has really mastered this year. But a win won't be as easy as keeping Penn State's offense somewhat under wraps. The Orange finished out the season on a seven game winning streak where they averaged more than four goals a game, but they weren't facing Josie Bothun.

Mercyhurst and Robert Morris played about as close a season series as possible this season. RMU has the advantage, going 2-1-1 over the five games. Each team scored ten goals. They last played the first week in February, with each team taking a win. It's an absolute toss-up which one of them will come out ahead.

The Colonials played five more games than the Lakers and scored nearly 20 more goals than they did. Mercyhurst is a little shakier on defense and in net this year than we're used to from that team and that may be the difference-maker.

Our very own Melissa Burgess is covering the tournament (remotely).

ECAC Tournament

Clarkson vs. St. Lawrence - Friday at 5:00 PM Eastern
(10) Quinnipiac vs. (6) Colgate - Friday at 5:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream available via ESPN+.

St. Lawrence had won two games in their very short season before facing off in a three-game series against Clarkson to close out the regular season. They swept the Golden Knights and clinched the two seed in this tournament. Their 5-1 win on Monday was the Saints' largest margin of victory over Clarkson in 15 years.

One of the big tournament questions this year is whether a second ECAC team will receive an NCAA bid. If someone other than Colgate wins the auto-bid, there's a good chance Colgate gets an at-large. But if Colgate does win, the other three teams are hoping to make their case as bubble teams.

I would have never said St. Lawrence would sweep a three-game set with Clarkson – no dig on the Saints, I'm not sure I'd pick many (any?) teams to pull that off. So, it seems flimsy to say that I can't imagine Clarkson losing a fourth in a row. It's hard to refer to any of the normal calculations that the NCAA committee uses this year, but still, it's what we have and those numbers say Clarkson is still a bubble team, even after those losses. The Golden Knights will have a mighty motivation to avenge themselves and prove they deserve to remain in the conversation for an at-large bid. They also haven't finished with a sub-.500 record since the 2010-11 season.

Quinnipiac has improved quite a bit as the season has gone on, including take a win from Colgate in the final game of the regular season. Their season has had a lot of fits and starts and they have a younger roster, so it hasn't been easy for them to build momentum, but nothing gives you confidence like taking down a top-five team the last time you played them.

On the other hand, Colgate is playing for their life. After one of their best seasons ever, they're also on the bubble, though theirs is a lot smaller than some of the other teams. I don't think you can say anyone other than the top three teams in the polls are a lock this year, but I think Colgate is as close as you can be without being sure. That being said, no one wants to leave that up to fate and the Raiders will be wanting to win this tournament to ensure their future. Their style of play is difficult to prepare for and it's clear their young players in particular settled in, improved, and built up a lot of confidence.

These should be two very good games that come down to a shift or two that makes the difference.

Stick Taps and Snark

CHA Conference Award Winners – Congratulations Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, Penn State's Kiara Zanon; Goalie of the Year, Penn State's Josie Bothun; Best Defender, Syracuse's Jessica DiGirolamo; Coach of the Year, Penn State's Jeff Kampersal; Best Defensive Forward, Syracuse's Abby Moloughney; and the Individual Sportsmanship Award winner, Penn State's Natalie Heising.

Clarkson – After losing three straight to St. Lawerence, the Golden Knights dropped out of the top ten poll for the first time since October 1, 2012.

ECAC Conference Award Winners – Congratulations to Best Forward, Colgate's Danielle Serdachny, and Best Defender, Colgate's Tanner Gates. St. Lawrence's Julia Gosling, Serdachny, and Clarkson's Caitrin Lonergan were named finalists for Player of the Year. St. Lawrence's Lucy Morgan, Colgate's Kayle Osborn, and Clarkson's Michelle Pasiechnyk were named finalists for Goalie of the Year. Osborn and teammate Kalty Kaltounkova and Clarkson's Nicole Gosling are finalists for Rookie of the Year.  

Wisconsin – The Badgers dropped out of the top spot in the polls after splitting their final regular season series with Minnesota Duluth.

Hockey East Conference Award Winners – Congratulations to Northeastern's Alina Mueller and Aerin Frankel, who were named co-Players of the Year. NU's Dave Flint was named Coach of the Year and Vermont's Jessie McPherson was named Rookie of the Year.

WCHA Conference Award Winners – Congratulations to Player of the Year, Wisconsin's Daryl Watts; Defender of the Year, UMD's Ashton Bell; Goalie of the Year, UMD's Emma Soderberg; Rookie of the Year, Minnesota State's Jamie Nelson; and Coach of the Year, Wisconsin's Mark Johnson.

(Photo: St. Lawrence Women's Hockey Twitter)



Filed under: NCAA; NCAA postseason; syracuse; penn state; kiara zanon; Robert Morris; mercyhurst; clarkson; colgate; st. lawrence; Quinnipiac; alina mueller; Aerin Frankel; daryl watts; northeastern; wisconsin; Caitrin Lonergan; Ashton Bell; Emma Soderberg; Josie Bothun; Natalie Heising

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