March 12, 2022

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch (2022 NCAA tournament quarterfinals)



9 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch (2022 NCAA tournament quarterfinals)

Wisconsin at Northeastern

Saturday at 1:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream available on CollegeSportsLive

This rematch of last year's national championship game, which Wisconsin won in overtime, would have already been a highly anticipated and entertaining quarterfinal. Then Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel and Wisconsin alternate captain (and national-championship-game-winning-goal-scorer) got into a bit of a verbal battle via Friday's media availability and suddenly the stakes are that much higher.

Frankel was asked about the goal that Watts scored to win the title game (Watts was behind the net and banked the puck in off a defender) and would not refer to Watts by name, saying: "That player did not mean to make that play. It was just a bounce. She might say that she did, but she didn't."

Later in the day, when asked for a reaction to that quote, Watts replied, "She can say whatever she wants. We won. She was on the wrong post. There was an opening... I'm not really concerned about what she thinks."

(Watch the video. It's so much better than the quotes convey.)

Now the the game carries some additional meaning and even more people will be tuning in to see which player puts her money where her mouth is. Both teams have underperformed – or at least not played to their full potential – at times this season, particularly as we approached March.

Six of Wisconsin's seven losses happened after January 20th. They've dealt with a short bench due to injuries, but most teams have to weather a period like that in a season. They knew they needed to get at least one and maybe two wins at the WCHA tournament to host a regional or better their positioning and couldn't muster one. They finished .0001 behind Yale in RPI to earn a 6th seed and two-game path into the Frozen Four instead of playing Colgate in the lone one-game regional.

That being said, they beat Clarkson in a game that wasn't at all their usual style. The Golden Knights attempted more shots (70-41) and put more shots on goal (31-25). With a few minutes left in the first period, it felt like the Badgers would be lucky to get to the locker room with a 0-0 scoreline. Instead, they got a quick first period goal, regrouped in the locker room, and were less timid in the second.

Timidity is unlikely to be a problem on Saturday, but their margin for error is a lot smaller. They have to be sharp from the first faceoff and they have to do their best to play their game and not get pulled into a shootout or skate-off with the Huskies. They aren't the team they were last season. They need to let Friday's war of words spark and motivate them, but not make them cocky.

Northeastern's foibles doesn't necessarily show in their record, as even when they're not playing to their full potential, they are still the best team in their league. But three of their final four games featured much closer final scores than expected and they took half the game to really gear up in the Hockey East semifinal and final. They have the advantage of having time off to rest and not having to travel.

The Huskies also have a great goaltender in Frankel, who has one of the best glove hands I've ever seen in person. Alina Müller missed time due to the Olympics, but is averaging two points a game and is the player that took control in the Hockey East title game as her team was about to go into the third down 1-0. It's mostly the same personnel on this Husky squad, but they've all improved their game and their output.

It's truly a gift to fans of women's hockey that this game is on at lunch time and is just the first in a whole day of amazing matchups.

Yale at Colgate

Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

I was going to say that no two teams know each other like these two do at this point, but the next game on this list actually has that distinction, so we'll just say that these are familiar foes. They just played for the ECAC tournament championship where Yale looked to be confidently holding on to a 1-0 lead in the third period, but Colgate tied it up and won in overtime. Those were the first two goals the Raiders scored on the Bulldogs all season.

It will be incredibly important for Yale to play a full, hardcore 60 minutes. They controlled play in the first period of the ECAC final, but didn't sustain their pressure. Colgate outshot them 21-13 in the third period and overtime. The game will feel a bit like deja vu, so the Bulldogs have to be able to wipe away last week's disappointment and go out looking for a different result.

Yale won the first two meetings between these two teams by a combined score of 7-0, but Hannah Murphy was not in net for the Raiders in those games. The freshman seems to have since taken over starting duties. She uses her big 5'10" frame to fill the space and the Elis had difficulty getting the puck past her. The Bulldogs will look to get someone set up in front of her to help create screens and possibly tip a puck in.

Colgate has the advantage of having been to the tournament before and knowing how to handle the different expectations. They won five of their last six games by a single goal, including two in overtime. They are comfortable in tight games, never count themselves out of a game, and have a fairly deep bench. Their one-two punch of Kalty Kaltounkova and Danielle Serdachny up front is the best in the conference and one of the best in the country. They also use their defense well, with Allyson Simpson, Sydney Bard, and Tanner Gates all dishing the puck well and unafraid to put shots on net.

If Yale can handle the nerves and be deliberate in their shots, I think they're the team that will prevail. They need to do their best to neutralize Colgate's top line, who are strong and gritty and often come away from battles with the puck.

But if Colgate can keep this a low-scoring game where they are moving the puck well, they're likely to advance to the Frozen Four.

Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota

Saturday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Free Stream available on BTN+.

This will be the sixth time these two teams meet this season. They split the regular season series, each taking a win and a loss at home. Then Minnesota absolutely dominated their semifinal matchup in the WCHA tournament last weekend. The Gophers played a near flawless game and UMD looked a bit surprised at the pace that Minnesota pushed. They were taking too long to make decisions and move the puck. It was uncharacteristic for the Bulldogs, but as coach Maura Crowell said in postgame, it was a good time for them to have a bad game, when they knew they'd have another to play.

And they responded resoundingly, scoring on Harvard 39 seconds into the game. Gabbie Hughes put on a masterclass in the game, scoring her first collegiate hat trick. She lit the lamp again 25 seconds in to the second and at about the midpoint of the game. Each one of her goals was set up by Élizabeth Giguère.

The Bulldogs looked like a completely different team from Saturday to Thursday and will look to carry that momentum and confidence into the quarterfinal.

Minnesota lost a tough WCHA title game in overtime to Ohio State. The Buckeyes scored twice in the third period to force the extra frame and needed just 22 seconds of overtime to win the game.

Both teams have a highly skilled top line, so this game may come down to how much the second and third lines and defense match up against each other. The Gophers aren't afraid to let loose with shots from outside as they usually have players in deep to deflect, screen and clean up rebounds. They're very good at cycling the puck and creating chances out from behind the net.

UMD needs to pick up their pace – they are capable of playing as fast if not faster than the semifinal game, but seemed a little uptight, like they were overthinking everything. I always get the feeling while watching them this season that they're able to score goals out of nowhere, from plays that don't feel dangerous. They create turnovers that quickly become scoring chances and move the puck so well. They don't just want to match Minnesota's speed and intensity, they want to exceed it to try and control more of the game. They also need to be smart on defense. Minnesota made space for themselves by pulling defenders and finding seams. UMD has to be really disciplined with their player marking and trusting each other.

Quinnipiac at Ohio State

Saturday at 5:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on BTN+.

It took the Bobcats until about halfway through the second period to score in their regional semifinal, but they pulled away from Syracuse in the second half of the game and came away with a 4-0 win. Their prize in advancing is playing the number one team in the country.

Ohio State not only has a roster that is chock full of talent, but they're peaking at the right time. Things have come together really well for OSU so that all these very individual parts are meshing and working on the same wavelength. There frankly aren't a lot of holes to poke at on this team. They're great on offense; they're great on defense; they're otherworldly on offense from their defense; and they've got two very good goalies to choose from.

That being said, Quinnipiac stuck with Wisconsin when the Badgers were playing at their best back in January and have only gotten better themselves since those games. This is an intriguing matchup to me because the Bobcats aren't unused to what they'll see from OSU and shouldn't be intimidated. They are very disciplined on defense and will do a good job at not leaving players open around the net or in the slot. They also play a quick, puck possession game and it will be an interesting battle of wills between two squads looking to execute similar game plans.

The Buckeyes are the best in the country on the power play and very good at making teams foul them as they fight for position and look to take off in transition. Quinnipiac can't give them that advantage and needs to play smart and not get pulled in. Ohio State will be looking to create space for Sophie Jaques to shoot the puck from distance or be able to cheat in towards the top of the circles – and closer. The Bobcats both need to not cede that part of the ice and look for opportunities to fast break the other direction when Ohio State is drifting in close.

Amanda Thiele seems to have earned the starting spot for OSU, playing very well in Minneapolis for the conference tournament. But Corinne Schroeder has been one of the best in the country all season and brings a massive amount of experience. There's a good chance this could be a high scoring game where the goalie has to shake off goals and refocus. The difference in their career time on ice could become a factor in that case.

Stick Taps and Snark

UMD's Gabbie Hughes – The Patty Kaz top ten finalist scored a natural hat trick on Thursday to lead her team to a 4-1 win over Harvard in their first round game.

Double booking women's hockey – US and Canada are playing a friendly that's being billed as a rematch of the Beijing gold medal game and it's being played at 4:00 PM Eastern on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The timing overlaps two different NCAA quarterfinal games. Women's hockey gets such a small opportunity to be featured nationally and I wish we didn't have to be put in a position of deciding which games to watch. I'm aware there was no malice in scheduling this game, but since the NCAA is the de facto development program for the North American national teams, not factoring the NCAA schedule into the timing of this game really stinks.

↑  Hockey Commissioners Association Award finalists – Congratulations to Northeastern's Aerin Frankel, St. Lawrence's Lucy Morgan, and Quinnipiac's Corinne Schroeder on being named finalists for Goalie of the Year; and to Cornell's Lily Delianedis, Minnesota's Peyton Hemp, BC's Abby Newhook, Saint Anselm's Tyra Turner, and Mercyhurst's Vanessa Upson on being named finalists for Rookie of the Year.

No rules for campus host sites – The expanded field for the NCAA tournament was approved in mid-December, so it was a quick turnaround to make it happen for this season. Putting on the tournament is going to be a learning experience and one thing I believe we'll see debated in the near future is the viability of host sites. There are very defined rules for hosting the Frozen Four, including seating capacity and facilities on- and off-site. There are not currently rules for hosting a quarterfinal, or regional. This year the top three seeded teams are hosting two games and that's a lot more difficult at some sites than others. The pictures Quinnipiac posted on Twitter of their looooong walk from a completely different building over to the ice in Columbus showcased that some school's facilities aren't set up to host multiple teams. We're picking on Ohio State here, but this will be an issue at other schools as well. I imagine we'll see a lot of tweaks after this first tournament in this format, but I think this has to be high on the docket. Ohio State definitely earned the right to play on home ice, but their facilities provide a disadvantage to other tournament teams and I'm not sure what the balance is of honoring the top seed and not compromising the experience of a lower seed.

(Photo: NCAA Ice Hockey Twitter)



Filed under: NCAA; NCAA postseason; Aerin Frankel; daryl watts; northeastern; minnesota; minnesota duluth; yale; Quinnipiac; ohio state; elizabeth giguere; sophie jaques; amanda thiele; kalty kaltounkova; ice hockey

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