March 10, 2022

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch (2022 NCAA tournament, first round)



6 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch (2022 NCAA tournament, first round)

Quinnipiac vs. Syracuse in Columbus, Ohio  (The Ohio State University Ice Rink)

Thursday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on NCAA.com

Syracuse earned their second-ever trip to the NCAA tournament with a 3-2 overtime win against Mercyhurst in the CHA tournament. The Orange also won their first-ever regular season title this year.

Quinnipiac lost their ECAC semifinal to eventual conference tournament champions Colgate. The Bobcats finished fourth in the conference and were ranked as high as fourth in the country at the turn of the calendar year, but went 8-7-1 in the second half.

These two teams have met each other eight times over the years, with Quinnipiac holding a 5-3 advantage, but the last time they met was a decade ago.

Syracuse has had a week off since the CHA tournament ended on February 26. That will have given them time for rest and recovery, something every team needs this time of year. But there are plenty of players and coaches who will tell you they don't want time away from the ice this time of year. The Orange are going to need to be at their sharpest to have a chance at advancing out of this round and can't afford a slow start. They are a veteran team – seven members of this squad played in their first NCAA appearance, a 4-0 loss to Wisconsin in 2019. Being able to keep perspective and not get swallowed by the emotions of the NCAAs is not easy, but having those players around will help keep everyone calm.

One of the Orange's assistant coaches this year is Claudia Kepler, who played three years at Ohio State. Her knowledge of the rink should be an added bonus for this team.

Quinnipiac has long been known as a defense-first team, but they have become a well-rounded threat on both ends of the ice and they use their strong defense as the first line of offense. They want to possess the puck and can be very quick in transition. They are one of the best teams in the country at the faceoff dot, which helps them ensure they have the puck and can control play.

They also have grad student Corinne Schroeder in net, who for my money has been the best goalie in the country. She's allowing just 1.42 goals against and has a .950 save percentage against a very tough set of conference opponents. I expect the Bobcats to force Syracuse outside with the puck, but they need to get bodies in the middle to try and screen Schroeder.

Generally, I find the CHA is officiated tougher than the other conferences – their teams regularly lead the country in penalty minutes. Syracuse's time in the box is pretty low by CHA standards, but is still twice that of Quinnipiac's. The Orange need to get a read on how the game will be called early on and be conscious of it.

I believe this is Quinnipiac's game to lose. They have a pace to their play that will wear the Orange down and I think their offensive weapons outpace Syracuse's ability to match up with them.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Harvard in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Ridder Arena)

Thursday at 6:00 PM Central

Watch: Free stream on NCAA.com

Minnesota Duluth received an at large bid having finished eighth in the Pairwise. They lost their WCHA semifinal 5-1 to Minnesota and finished fourth in league standings. Harvard were the ECAC regular season champions, but were ousted from the conference tournament in the quarterfinals, losing two of three to eighth seeded Princeton.

Bulldogs head coach Maura Crowell took over the helm in Duluth after spending five years as the an assistant and associate head coach under Katey Stone at Harvard. These two teams played a New Year's series, as UMD traveled to Cambridge and took home a pair of wins, defeating the Crimson 5-2 and 4-3.

Over the weekend, I told a colleague that I thought Harvard might be the team I'd least like to play in the opening round. Though not by choice, Harvard has had a week off to stew over their early exit, practice, watch tape, and recover. In pulling this matchup against UMD, they had specific games to watch and break down.

The Crimson rely on a very strong top line to do the majority of their scoring and will likely need the second and third lines to step up and make bigger contributions to get a win on Thursday. The Bulldogs tend to score in groups, so the defense has to keep their wits about themselves. In the second game of the series at the new year, Harvard scored first and capitalized twice on the power play, but let UMD score three times in the span of about ten minutes, including two goals just 76 seconds apart. They have to bounce back more quickly after giving up a goal and not let the Bulldogs pile on.

Minnesota Duluth did not play anywhere near their potential against Minnesota at the WCHA Final Faceoff and they knew it. Crowell said in postgame that she thought it might turn out to be a boon for her team to falter a bit at a time when they still had games to play. The Bulldogs just barely missed out on advancing to the National Championship last season and know they have the ability to play with any team in the country. They have wins over Minnesota, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, plus the sweep of Harvard. They just need the confidence and drive to play the way they are capable of playing. They were pretty nonplussed by the pressure Minnesota put on them, so I'm guessing the Crimson will try to recreate that to some extent.

The Bulldogs are a scrappy team that will win pucks behind the net and along the boards and quickly turn nothing into something. They have a number of talented scorers, plus Élizabeth Giguère, who is talented at everything.

This is a difficult game to pick, as I think mindset and attitude will be the deciding factor. The team that is most pissed off and determined to prove they are better than their last game is the one that's going to advance.

Wisconsin vs. Clarkson in Boston, Massachusetts (Matthews Arena)

Thursday at 7:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on CollegeSportsLive

The Badgers were ranked #1 in the country into mid-January, but closed out the regular season 5-5-1 and find themselves on the road for the opening round of the NCAA tournament for just the third time in their 16 appearances in the tournament. They lost a close 2-1 game to eventual WCHA champions and top seed Ohio State in the conference semifinals but earned an at-large bid as the 6th place team in the Pairwise.

Clarkson is one of two teams in this year's tournament that lost their conference tournament quarterfinal, but still made the NCAA field. They were dispatched by Quinnipiac 5-1 and 4-0, but wound up 10th in the Pairwise and received an at-large bid. The Bobcats also had a tough second half, going .500 in January and February, registering seven of their 11 losses over that time.

The history between these two teams is both recent and eventful. The Badgers had three wins and a tie through their first four meetings – all of which came during the regular season. But Clarkson won the next game, and it was a big one: the Golden Knights earned the 2017 National Championship with a 3-0 win over the top-ranked Badgers. Wisconsin got some revenge in 2019, dispatching Clarkson 5-0 in the national semifinal en route to their own title. The teams were scheduled to play an NCAA quarterfinal in Madison in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Wisconsin has a deeper lineup, even with their somewhat thin roster. I expect that Clarkson will play matchups and try their best to keep Wisconsin's top line in check. That group can be very prolific, but has struggled at times to find the back of the net with their many shots. The difficulty for Clarkson comes in the players' creativity. The Badgers also have some very dangerous shooters on their other lines. Even if Clarkson neutralizes that top line with their best defenders, they'll have to keep up with Brette Pettet, Sarah Wozniewicz, Sophie Shirley, and Caitlin Schneider. That is a tough task.

The Badgers have been struggling with turnovers and mistakes, particularly on defense. Clarkson's Caitrin Lonergan is one of the fastest players in the country and will be looking to take advantage of one of those mistakes. She'll be down the ice and in Kennedy Blair's face before the Badgers can react. Wisconsin has to protect the puck and have a plan for what happens when Lonergan goes streaking up the boards. And they have to be disciplined enough not to take a penalty. They've played a bit reckless and overly physical lately and that could really bite them here. Yes, the Badgers have allowed just four power play goals, but Clarkson is one of the more successful teams on the player advantage. Sloppy play could give the Golden Knights a lead that Wisconsin isn't able to claw back against.

(Photo: NCAAIceHockey Twitter)



Filed under: NCAA; NCAA postseason; syracuse; Quinnipiac; wisconsin; clarkson; minnesota duluth; harvard; katey stone; maura crowell; Caitrin Lonergan; ice hockey

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