March 6, 2021

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, WCHA Semifinals, CHA and Hockey East finals



6 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, WCHA Semifinals, CHA and Hockey East finals

The tournaments are all spread out over the weekend, so check back for previews of the different games happening each day. Saturday features the finals for CHA and Hockey East, while the WCHA has two semifinal games.

CHA Tournament

Syracuse vs. Robert Morris - Saturday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream available on Stretch Internet. $9.99 for one day,

Just as we all predicted.

The CHA seems to be leading the charge for Team Chaos this weekend. The two top seeds  are out of the tournament and the semifinal loss may have pushed Penn State out of the NCAA's, as well.

This game has an NCAA auto-bid on the line. Syracuse and Robert Morris each have a single NCAA tournament appearance to their name. RMU lost to Wisconsin in the 2017 quarterfinals and the Badgers took down the Orange in the 2019 quarterfinals.

Both teams played tough, close, overtime games yesterday and are on their third game in as many times. Fitness and fatigue are going to play major factors in today's matchup. Which team has more legs, but also which one prevents the most mental lapses, as well.

These teams split their season series two games apiece. Robert Morris took two single-goal wins in late January while Syracuse swept the Colonials in the final weekend of the regular series.

The Orange have shown consistent growth over the course of the season and seem to be hitting their peak at the right time. They average half a goal per game more on offense than RMU but also allows more goals on defense. Their power play numbers are nearly identical, but Syracuse is much better on the penalty kill. Their goalies also have very similar numbers.

Hockey East Tournament

(9) Providence vs. (1) Northeastern - Friday at 5:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Televised on NESN. Free stream available via College Sports Live for those outside the Northeast.

Providence has eked out a pair of one-goal wins thus far in the Hockey East tournament. They played a scoreless sixty minutes against Maine on Wednesday before Hunter Barnett lit the lamp in overtime to advance the Friars to the conference title game.

Northeastern took down UNH in the quarterfinal, but needed some late-game heroics to take down UConn in the semifinal. Chloe Aurard scored a short-handed goal with fewer than five minutes on the clock to help Northeastern advance.

The Huskies handled Providence with ease during the regular season, winning all three meetings and out-scoring the Friars 13-1. Providence has shown potential throughout the season, but they're going to have to put it all together to pull out an upset here.

Northeastern is strong in every aspect of the game, though they did finally look a bit fallible in that UConn game. Providence's best bet is getting Aerin Frankel to have to move around in the crease. It's in the Friars' best interest to keep the game at even-strength. Sandra Arbstreiter has been so solid for them in net and they need her to have as cool, calm and collected a game as she's ever played before.

The Huskies have some of the most creative offensive players in the country and while Alina Mueller and Aurard get much of the attention, this team is deceptively deep and can keep the pressure up even as they switch lines. Northeastern is pretty relentless and opponents have to be patient, wear them down and take advantage of the spots that come up.

WCHA Tournament

(4) Minnesota vs. (2) Wisconsin - Saturday at 1:00 PM Central
(3) Ohio State vs. (5) Minnesota Duluth - Saturday at 5:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream available from FloHockey. $30 will get you a month's subscription and you can watch all three games.

Wisconsin seemed to have Minnesota's number this year. The Gophers had one of the worst games in years against the Badgers in Madison in mid-January, though their games to start February were closer.

The only real consistent thing we've seen from the Badgers is winning. Sometimes they win big, but it feels like just as often they rely on a third-period or overtime comeback to get the W. Daryl Watts can produce magic and they are deep up front, but the defense is still their biggest liability.

Wisconsin has relied on their very good offense to bail them out of some holes this season, but one of these times that situation isn't going to continue to be tenable. The hole is going to be too big and the opponent is going to be too good. That being said, when the pressure has been on, the Badgers have performed at their best. There's no pressure bigger than the post-season, so it'll be interesting if we see the intensity they've been bringing to the third period and overtime a bit earlier in the game.

Minnesota feels like a bubble team, even though they are ranked fourth. But the Gophers seem to respond well when they're in a win or you're not in situation - they forced their way into the 2018 NCAA Tournament with their WCHA Final Faceoff run.

If they're going to win here, they have to get contributions from someone other than Grace Zumwinkle. She has twice as many goals as anyone else on the team. She has 103 shots. The rest of the team is averaging 25 shots apiece. In the Gophers second two, closer games with the Badgers, they got goals from Madeline Wethington, Crystalyn Henger and Abigail Boreen in addition to Zumwinkle.

It has been three weeks since the Buckeyes played a game. They finished on a strong note, taking three of four games from Minnesota, but that's a long time to be idle and as we saw in the CHA tournament, time off can be more negative than positive.

Minnesota Duluth is coming off a heart-breaking series with Wisconsin where a share of the conference regular season title was in their grasp until Watts scored in overtime. The Bulldogs are also playing for their life. They sit on the bubble with a weaker strength of schedule than their bubble-mates. There has never been an NCAA tournament with four WCHA teams. Theirs is an uphill battle unless they procure the auto-bid and they've got a very recent chip on their shoulder. Those are very powerful motivators.

These two only played twice this regular season and they split the pair of games, so we don't have a ton of information to work with. I think the opening half of the first period will be crucial in this one. Ohio State has to avoid coming out flat, which won't be an easy task after so much time off. Not starting strong has been a problem for the Buckeyes at times in the past and I'm sure they've talked about it and worked on it as much as possible, but there's no substitute for game action.

Both goaltenders in this game can play well above their overall numbers. OSU's Andrea Braendli stonewalled Wisconsin multiple times to close out last season, including in the WCHA Championship game the Buckeyes won last year. She steps up to the moment incredibly well. Meanwhile, Soderberg has only gotten better as the season as progressed and she has emerged as one of the best goalies in the country. She has a stellar crew in front of her that block shots, but she has also made a number of one-on-one stops against some of the best forwards in the league.

Ohio State will need to be smart and choosy on offense. They have fewer goals than their offensive talent is capable of. Whatever it is that has them snake-bitten in terms of lighting the lamp, they've managed to deal with it all year. But Soderberg is probably the best goalie they've faced all season and won't give them many opportunities.

Stick Taps and Snark

St. Lawrence's Aly McLeod – The freshman scored her first career goal in overtime to give the Saints the win.

The refs in the Clarkson St. Lawrence game – The Saints scored in overtime shortly after a puck seemed to leave the playing area and hit a speaker. The play was not called dead and St. Lawrence scored not long after.

Robert Morris' Maggy Burbridge – The sophomore scored the overtime game-winner for the Colonials to send them to their fifth straight CHA title game.

Byes? – Both teams that had a bye to open the CHA tournament lost in the semifinals.

St. Lawrence – The Saints' season has lasted just 45 days at this point. They opened with an 8-0 loss to Clarkson and now they're playing in their first ECAC championships game since the 2011-12 season thanks to four straight wins over the Golden Knights. It's been a heck of a run for them so far.

Charging high prices for post-season streams – It's $25 to watch the CHA tournament and $30 to be able to see the finals three WCHA games of the season. The WCHA charge is particularly galling for Minnesota and Wisconsin fans, who had to pay a different streaming service for regular season games.

Colgate's Sammy Smigliani and Noemi Neubauerova – The sophomore scored the Raiders' game-winner on a breakaway goal after a steal and great pass from Neubauerova.

Syracuse's Emma Polsaski – The senior's wrister on the break proved to be the game-winner for the Orange.  

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



Filed under: NCAA; NCAA postseason; wcha; ecac; cha; hockey east; st. lawrence; clarkson; Robert Morris; syracuse; wisconsin; minnesota; ohio state; minnesota duluth; colgate

We are entirely reader supported. Consider supporting this work with a SUBSCRIPTION or making a secure, one-time donation via PAYPAL.