February 25, 2022

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 22



7 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 22

Schedules have been in flux due to COVID, with a number of series getting canceled, called off, and rescheduled. All information here is current as of the time of publish, but is subject to change.

(10) Clarkson at (9) Quinnipiac (ECAC Quarterfinal)

Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if needed) at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

As both teams sit on the NCAA tournament bubble, this series is incredibly important. If all the tournaments go by seeds, without upsets, both teams may squeak in. But if there are any big upsets or a surprise tournament winner, it's likely one of them, and possibly both, could be on the outside looking in.

The teams split their two games during the season, with Clarkson taking a 3-2 win in January and Quinnipiac taking a 2-1 overtime win in February. It's been a tumultuous second half for the Bobcats and they had an uncharacteristic loss to Brown to close out the regular season. This series will show if that was a blip in their game plan or a symptom of something bigger.

Clarkson probably has the best player on the ice in Caitrin Lonergan, but Quinnipiac has shown impressive depth this season. I expect this to be a close series and we'll likely see one, if not a few, overtime periods played. Experience might be a difference-maker in the series and I give the edge to Clarkson there. The Bobcats have been navigating having a young, talented corps all season and this is going to test how much they've learned.

One place the Bobcats have an experience advantage is in net. They have gotten a great season from grad transfer Corinne Schroeder alongside some starts from senior Logan Angers. Clarkson has counted on sophomore Michelle Pasiechnyk, who has given them a great base to build their attack out from, but has not played through a full season and playoffs.

The two teams are virtually indistinguishable when it comes to team stats at full strength and on special teams. Coaches like to say every shift matters, and that truly could be how this plays out. One bad bounce, one errant pass or one turnover could be the different between moving on and playing in the NCAA tournament and a season being over. This should be a highly entertaining series to watch.

Providence vs. Vermont (Hockey East Quarterfinal)

Friday at 12:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on College Sports Live.

If Clarkson and Quinnipiac's NCAA hopes are precarious, Vermont's are hanging halfway over the edge. They sit 11th in the Pairwise and would be the first team out, as the CHA auto bid winner will likely take the 11th spot in the tournament.

It would be a shame to see the Catamounts historic season end before then, but they've got their work cut out for them. Hockey East switched to a single-elimination tournament for this postseason, so there is no chance to gain momentum in the first round and win two of three. There's also less opportunity to gain any ground in the rankings. On the other hand,  Vermont has played very well in close games and seem to be thriving in these types of situations.

That being said, I think Providence might be the team most likely to be able to pull off an upset as the lower seed in this bracket's quarterfinals. They won one of the three games they played against the Catamounts this season and have shown they can play with higher ranked teams and eke out close games. They have an experienced top line of scorers that know how to pick and choose their opportunities and then lock down on defense.

Both teams have goalies can be literal game changers. If either Sandra Arbstreiter or Jessie MacPherson is particularly on their game, it will make goals very difficult to come by. The team that doesn't get flustered or frustrated is going to be the most successful here. I think Vermont has the more complete team from top to bottom and could handle if the game comes down to one big play - I think they'll stay steady and look for spots to take advantage.

Vermont is much better on both the penalty kill and power play while also averaging half the number of penalty minutes a game than Providence. The Friars have to play smart and not give the Catamounts any additional advantages.

Bemidji State vs. (4) Wisconsin (WCHA Quarterfinal)

Friday at 7:00 PM, Saturday at 3:00 PM and Sunday at 2:00 PM (if needed)

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

After spending much of the first four or so months of the season sitting atop the polls, Wisconsin has had trouble playing consistently. They dressed just 15 skaters for Saturday's regular season finale in Columbus, which certainly didn't help, but it was more than just a short bench keeping them on their toes against the Buckeyes. With a number of players having been centralized for the Olympics and a few more lost to injuries, it's difficult to tell if this was the inevitable conclusion to Wisconsin's season that just took a long time to get here or if this is a team that can pull it together and bounce back.

Wisconsin won three of the four games these teams played this season, but Bemidji held the Badgers to a scoreless tie back in November. UW responded to that game with a big 8-1 win and in a best of three series, it's unlikely that the Beavers could do the same thing two or three times in a row. But Wisconsin hasn't shown a lot of fight in the past few weeks. It seemed like a number of losses or ties would or could serve as a catalyst to hype them up and break them out of their funk, but none have. So a Beavers' win in the game of the series might be enough to get in the Badgers' heads and knock them for a loop.

Kerigan Dowhy put up a massive 51-save game in a win against Ohio State two weeks ago. Wisconsin has always been prone to games where they struggle to put the puck on net with purpose, piling up dozens of shots with little to show for it, and that tendency has reared its ugly head a few times late this season. It certainly seems like the situation is primed for Bemidji to give the Badgers a very tough time, especially when they are in a precarious position in the Pairwise.

Bemidji's strength is in their defense. They stymie and frustrate teams, keeping the puck to the perimeter, shutting down passing lanes and preventing smooth transition through the neutral zone. Wisconsin's biggest lineup hole has been on defense this season and even normally strong and steady players like captain Grace Bowlby looked shaky last weekend. While the Beavers will undoubtedly do a great job of slowing down Wisconsin's offense, to win a game they still have to score goals of their own and that's not been their strong suit. BSU's best chance in this game will be to force turnovers and work quickly in transition to catch Wisconsin's blue liners off balance. That part shouldn't be incredibly difficult for the Beavers, but they need to take quality shots and try to hold possession, both things they haven't excelled at.

But BSU knows they can beat a top team in the country and they know they can hold off the Badgers. Definitely don't underestimate what they are capable of.

Mercyhurst vs. Penn State (CHA Semifinal)

Friday at 4:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on Stretch Internet

The Nittany Lions have won three of four meetings between these two teams so far this season.

Penn State hosts this year's Frozen Four and are a team that were just on the outside looking in during last year's NCAA tournament, so have an extra incentive to take this postseason title and the conference's auto bid into the field.

Mercyhurst CHA scoring champion and Rookie of the Year Vanessa Upson is a multi-talented scoring threat that has only gotten better as the season progressed. She leads all freshman in the country in scoring. Penn State has Josie Bothun, who leads the conference in goals against average (1.61). They also have CHA Player of the Year Natalie Heising, who set program records in single season goals (20) and points (40). She is also the program's all-time career goal scorer.

The winner of this game will head on to face the winner of RIT vs. Syracuse for the CHA title.

Also worth a look:

  • Franklin Pierce at Sacred Heart – Friday at 4:00 PM an Saturday at 2:30 PM Eastern
  • Connecticut vs. Boston University (Hockey East Quarterfinal) – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • Cornell at (8) Colgate (ECAC Quarterfinal) – Friday at 6:00 PM, Saturday at 3:00 PM and Sunday at 3:00 PM Eastern (if necessary)

Stick Taps and Snark

Penn State's Natalie Heising – The grad student was named CHA Player of the Year.

Wisconsin – The Badgers went 5-5-1 over their final 11 games and have dropped to a tie for fourth in the Pairwise. They are in danger of not hosting an NCAA quarterfinal. The Badgers have made 14 NCAA tournament appearances. They've only ever had to travel in the first round twice – in 2005 and 2008.

↑  Vermont's Theresa Schafzahl – Set single-season program records for goals (23) and points (43).

Yale – The Bulldogs dropped a game to Quinnipiac in the final weekend and Harvard won out, giving the Crimson the conference title. It would have been Yale's first-ever ECAC title.

Regular season conference champions – Congratulations to CHA Champion Syracuse, ECAC Champion Harvard, Hockey East Champion Northeastern, and WCHA Champion Minnesota.

Quinnipiac – The Bobcats went 4-3 over their final seven games, including a loss to Brown in the final game of the regular season. They are on the bubble and on the verge of not receiving an NCAA bid after looking primed to host a quarterfinal just a few weeks ago.

(Photo: Minnesota Women's Hockey Twitter)



Filed under: NCAA; NCAA postseason; clarkson; Quinnipiac; Natalie Heising; yale; wisconsin; bemidji state; providence; vermont; mercyhurst; penn state; ice hockey; Theresa Schafzahl

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