March 5, 2022

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch (WCHA semifinals, ECAC and NEWHA finals)



6 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch (WCHA semifinals, ECAC and NEWHA finals)

The CHA completed their tournament last weekend. Hockey East played their semifinals on Wednesday.

Colgate vs. Yale (ECAC Final)

Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Yale advanced to their first-ever ECAC championship game with a 3-1 win over Princeton on Friday. Colgate defeated Quinnipiac 3-2 to advance to the title game. Both teams came from behind to earn the win. That resiliency will serve them well in this game and should mean that neither team can be counted out until the final horn.

Colgate has some of the highest-scoring players in the country on a team that's as deep as any they've had in recent memory. The Raiders bring a balanced squad that's good on both ends of the ice.  They have more program experience with pushing through these final few games and I wonder if that won't be a factor here. They are a bigger, more physical team and could cause issues for their opponent, particularly in the neutral zone. Yale can't be afraid to get into it along the boards and fight for pucks in the corners. If they give the Raiders too much space, they will make the Bulldogs pay for the mistake.

Yale has shown itself to be a team that cannot be discounted. They don't have the experience of having been in this kind of postseason game before, but proved in the semifinal that they have a lot of heart and fight. Emma Seitz, Claire Dalton, and Elle Hartje are the exact players I would expect to make the Bulldogs' score sheet. Opposing teams know they are a threat and they still manage to perform. Seitz, particularly, has been key the past few weeks, scoring five of her fourteen goals in the past three games.

Both teams will make it into the NCAA tournament regardless of the outcome of the game, but Yale is playing for their first-ever ECAC championship of any kind and both teams have a chance at the fourth seed and the opportunity to host a quarterfinal, so don't expect either squad to relax.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota (WCHA semifinal)

Saturday at 1:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

These two split their season series, with each taking a win and a loss at home. A total of five goals separated them over those four games – Minnesota's win back in October was by two goals and each of the other three games were decided by a single tally.

The Gophers have been slowly building this season. Back in early December, coach Brad Frost told me he thought his team was still trying to find its identity. I think it's safe to say that's not the case anymore. Taylor Heise doesn't have the flash of some other top scorers in Minnesota's past, but that hasn't kept her from being incredibly prolific and arguably it makes her that much more deadly. She's quick with the puck and has a great shot.

Audrey Wethington has been a great rookie addition as she's also decisive when she has the puck on her stick. The Gophers' ability to see the ice, think ahead, and make crisp passes or take sharp shots is why they're the top team in the country. Wethington has 9 goals and 20 assists and she's only taken 71 shots on goal. She's dishing the puck to the upperclass players right now and will only get better when she starts really letting the puck fly herself.

Minnesota Duluth has an offensive depth that is hard to match up with. They'd be one of the most difficult opponents based purely on Élizabeth Giguère alone, but then they also have Gabbie Hughes, Anna Klein, and Naomi Rogge who can put the puck away when Giguère is covered.

I know UMD needed three games to beat Minnesota State, but I truly find it difficult to pick against a team with a player who can do something like this in overtime of game three.

And just a gentle reminder that she did this. As a freshman. To win the National Championship for Clarkson in 2018.

Anyway, the point is Minnesota is very good. But it's actually a crime against women's hockey to count out any team with Élizabeth Giguère on it. I don't make the rules.

Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (WCHA semifinal)

Saturday at 4:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Ohio State looks like the scariest team in the country right now. If they have flaws, they're well hidden behind the top offense and best power play unit in the country, goaltending that did not miss a beat when losing the starter to the Olympics, and a roster where half the players have scored in double digit points. They are relentless on the ice, putting pressure on in all zones. They don't give opponents time or space, often causing mistakes, and they capitalize on those turnovers. Nadine Muzerall already had a Frozen Four team, but it's been fortified on top of that. They're going to be hard to beat.

That doesn't mean the Buckeyes are infallible, but it does mean teams are going to have to play their very best against them to earn a win. Wisconsin learned that the hard way two weeks ago in the final weekend of the regular season, when they looked far from what they've shown themselves to be capable of, and the Buckeyes skated all over them. If avenging that showing isn't enough to motivate the Badgers, maybe the knowledge that they won't host an NCAA quarterfinal and could fall as far as seventh or eighth in the Pairwise will be enough. The Badgers have made 14 NCAA tournament appearances. They've only ever had to travel in the first round twice – in 2005 and 2008.

In order to win this game, Wisconsin has to be cleaner with the puck. They have to move it well and make quick decisions. They've been too in their head too often this season and need to remember the basics of their great passing. Their offensive lines have been good together and have done well with seeing the ice and knowing where the other players are. They need to fall back on that and stop trying to do too much. When they transition quickly, move the puck tape to tape and crash the net, they are one of the best in the country. They've had a lot of gut check moments in the past few weeks and none of those seem to have helped them snap out of it, which makes you wonder if there's anything that can.

Saint Anselm vs. Franklin Pierce (NEWHA Final)

Saturday at 7:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on Stretch Internet

I don't think I'm the only one who was a bit surprised by Saint Anselm's dominance in their semifinal win over LIU. They scored once in each period and Allie Kelley had 44 saves in their 3-1 win. In the other semifinal, things got awful chippy in the third, but Franklin Pierce came away with a 2-0 win over Sacred Heart. These two teams played in the championship game in 2019, with Saint Anselm coming out the winner. The Hawks have played in every NEWHA title game since the conference's inception.

Franklin Pierce holds the advantage over Saint Anselm this season, winning three of their four meetings. But they've been close games, with just a single goal deciding three of the matches. The Ravens have generally out-shot the Hawks throughout the season, but Saint Anselm has been able to withstand the barrage and keep games close.

The Ravens are at their best when they can stay calm and show patience with the puck. In Saint Anselm's lone win over FPU, they held them off the board on the player advantage, stymieing the Ravens four times. That's going to be a huge key to success for the Hawks in this title game. Not only do they need to play disciplined hockey and stay out of the box, but they have to keep Franklin Pierce from scoring on the power play. If they can play a clean game and not make it any easier for the regular season champs, they have a good chance of beating them at even strength.

The Hockey East Final, Northeastern vs. UConn, will also be played at 7:00 PM Eastern with a free stream available on College Sports Live.

Stick Taps and Snark

Conference Players of the Year – Congratulations to Vermont's Theresa Schafzahl, Minnesota's Taylor Heise, Sacred Heart's Anna Klein, Cornell's Gillis Frechette, and Penn State's Natalie Heising.

Minnesota Duluth – The Bulldogs dropped to eighth in the polls this week after a close three-game series against Minnesota State. UMD eked out two one-goal wins (one in overtime) and lost a game to the Mavericks, taking a hit in the polls and Pairwise.

↑  Other conference honors – Congratulations to OSU's Nadine Muzerall, Yale's Mark Bolding, Vermont's Jim Plumer, Syracuse's Paul Flanagan, and Franklin Pierce's Dave Stockdale on being named Coach of the Year. Congratulations to Mercyhurst's Vanessa Upson, Saint Anselm's Tyra Turner, Cornell's Lily Delianedis, Boston College's Abby Newhook, and Minnesota's Peyton Hemp on being named Rookie of the Year. Congratulations to St. Cloud State's Emma Polusny, Franklin Pierce's Suzette Faucher, and Syracuse's Arielle DeSmet on being named Goalie of the Year. Northeastern's Aerin Frankel and St. Lawrence's Lucy Morgan were first-team goaltenders in their respective conferences.

Harvard – The regular season ECAC Champs were ousted from the conference tournament by 8th seed Princeton and dropped to 9th in the Pairwise.

(Photo: Courtesy Princeton Athletics)



Filed under: ice hockey; NCAA; NCAA postseason; colgate; yale; minnesota duluth; minnesota; wisconsin; ohio state; saint anselm; franklin pierce

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