NCAA Women's Hockey: Regular Season Finale What to Watch, February 17-19
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NCAA Women's Hockey: Regular Season Finale What to Watch, February 17-19

NCAA Women's Hockey: Regular Season Finale What to Watch, February 17-19 by Nicole Haase

Come back each week for a preview of interesting NCAA games coming up and some thoughts on what happened in the previous week's action.

(1) Ohio State at (6) Wisconsin

Saturday at 3:00 PM and Sunday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+

Ohio State needs four points out of this series to secure the WCHA regular season crown outright. They currently sit three points clear of the Gophers and lucky for them, they're the only game on Sunday, so they'll know exactly where they stand before the puck drops on their final regular season match. The likelihood is Minnesota will get six points this weekend (sorry, St. Thomas), so Ohio State will be looking to get points from each of their two games against the Badgers.

The Buckeyes had an easy sweep of the Tommies last weekend, while Wisconsin took five of six points from the Gophers with a win and a tie with shootout win in Minneapolis last weekend. It was an impressive showing from a Badger team that has struggled to reach their potential so far this season. UW has struggled to light the lamp, particularly in the second half, but put seven on the board on Saturday.

Wisconsin fans hope that win is what their team needed to shake off their issues and springboard them into the postseason. This weekend's series has just as much potential to sow doubt. The Buckeyes have won 12 of their last 13, dating back to mid-December – the lone loss was to Minnesota.

The only team that has been able to slow down Ohio State this year is Minnesota and you can bet Wisconsin has been studying those tapes. The Badgers will take confidence in knowing they were able to put the Gophers off their game and take control and will look to do the same against the Buckeyes. Wisconsin will feed off their crowd and comfort in their home rink to try and settle into their game and direct the tempo. OSU did a good job of stepping up to intercept passes, bump player off the puck and generally disrupt the Badgers when the teams played in Columbus. Wisconsin has to figure out how to handle that and not let it throw them off. On offense, OSU will use their strength on the perimeter to get pucks to the net.

Look for a lot of tactical maneuvering from the coaches on matching lines, line changes during stoppages, and personnel on special teams.

(7) Quinnipiac at (9) Clarkson

Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+

The Bobcats are looking to keep building momentum after a pair of losses at the end of January slowed down what had been up until that point a pretty impressive run this season. They've reeled off three straight wins since then against teams at the bottom of the conference standings and now need to close the season out strong. The ECAC regular season title is still up for grabs. Quinnipiac is 1.5 points behind Yale for the top spot and .5 points back of Colgate.

On the other side of the ice, Clarkson is playing less for conference positioning and more to keep their NCAA tournament dreams alive. They are a bubble team whose tournament resume would be bolstered by a win here. They lost two of their last five (to Yale and Colgate) and need to continue their win streak to prove they are a solid at-large pick for the tournament.

Both teams are led by strong top lines that are a threat from each position. It's rare for one single player to stand out – the strength is in the chemistry of the line and how well they move and play together. I like the depth of the Bobcats offense more, but Clarkson goalie Michelle Pasiechynk has the edge on Logan Angers in net. The Golden Knights need to slow down Quinnipiac, particularly in transition and keep the game at a pace more to their liking if they're going to get a win. They can't let the Bobcats take control and play their game. If they can step up in the neutral zone and break up Quinnipiac's rhythm, I like Clarkson's chances here.

Minnesota State at (12) St. Cloud State

Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+

These two teams each have 30 points and face off against each other on the final regular season weekend. While St. Cloud State has had some high-profile wins, they lost both their games against the Mavericks in January, so MSU has the tiebreaker. The Huskies need four points from the weekend to wrap up the fifth spot.

Both teams have been in and out of the rankings this season and both will hope to make waves in the WCHA tournament and try to unseat one of the perpetual top four. It's most likely these two teams will faceoff against either Wisconsin or UMD in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. UMD is set as the fourth seed and UW will probably end up third.

St. Cloud has had a massive turnaround under new coach Brian Idalski this season. The team has bought in and are carrying themselves with a swagger that we hadn't seen from them before. It's been a super interesting case from finding the right coach for a group of players. This talent has always been there, but Idalski has helped them bring it out.

What SCSU accomplished this year is something Mankato has been building towards for a few years. The Mavericks put a ton of pressure on Ohio State, Wisconsin and UMD this year, but they weren't able to pull off the upsets.

One win this weekend would tie a program high in wins in a season for Minnesota State and two would set a new record. The last time Mankato won 16 games was the 2003-2004 season. To put that in perspective, 2004 is the year many of their freshman were born.

Also worth a look:

  • (11) Vermont at New Hampshire – Friday and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
  • Boston College at (13) Providence – Friday and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
  • LIU at Franklin Pierce – Friday at 2:00 PM Saturday at 12:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

Televised women's college hockey – The Minnesota vs Wisconsin game was in prime time on Big Ten plus last Saturday and the game did not disappoint. Hockey East's tournament final is scheduled to air on ESPNU.

UMD's Gabbie Hughes and RPI's Hannah Price – These amazing women are finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. Both women are two-time finalists.

(Photo: NCAA Ice Hockey/Twitter)