NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - WCHA  and ECAC semifinals
- 6 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - WCHA and ECAC semifinals

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - WCHA and ECAC semifinals by Nicole Haase

The CHA completed their semifinals last weekend. Hockey East and NEWHA played their semifinals on Wednesday. Come back tomorrow for a preview of all league championship games.

Clarkson at Yale (ECAC Semifinal)

Friday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Yale is looking to advance to their second ECAC championship game in as many years. Clarkson is looking for its first trip back to the title game since 2019.  

The Bulldogs took both of the regular season wins over Clarkson this season, 3-0 and 3-1. They've been the more dominant team. While Michelle Pasiechnyk is one of the few goalies that has come close to matching what Pia Dukarič has been doing for the Elis, Yale has the more dynamic offense and has been much more consistent all season long. Clarkson has shown signs of growth all season and seem to have all the pieces coming together at the right time, but I'm not sure that will be enough.

At the moment, the Golden Knights sit ninth in the Pairwise and are likely to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, that's by no means guaranteed. An upset in the CHA or Hockey East championships would not bode well for them. The math says Clarkson should be in a good place, but the selection committee doesn't always follow the calculations exactly and the rules give them the leeway to make other calls. All of that is to say that Clarkson would like to secure their future and a win here would go a long way to doing so. They don't want to leave things to chance or hinging on how other teams do or do not perform. That makes them the most dangerous team Yale has faced all year.

Clarkson will need to strike a balance in being aggressive for goals and keeping their normally very solid defense focused on the Bulldogs. It can be hard to do both of those things, particularly in a game that feels do or die. How well they handle the zone entries and passing of Yale while also taking advantage of rush oppotunities the other way will go a long way in deciding a winner here.                                                  

Quinnipiac at Colgate (ECAC Semifinal)

Friday at 6:30 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Colgate is looking to win their third straight ECAC Tournament championship, but have to get through Quinnipiac first. The Bobcats have seemed a bit on tilt since a loss to Yale on January 21. They had just three losses before that game, but have dropped four since then. Quinnipiac looked to be a near unbeatable team to start the new year and it's all gone a little sideways in the meantime.

The good new for them is that they took both games over Colgate this season – the only team to do so – and can rely a bit on their instincts and muscle memory to settle into the game. The Bobcats have to discover a way to find their equilibrium and remember how good they are. In addition to putting up a number of big wins and great showing this season, they're also the team that pushed Ohio State to two overtimes in the NCAA quarterfinals last season. They are fighters, they are gritty, and their early success this season put them in a spot where their final month can be something of a blip. They'll have a slightly tougher road, but they're still in the NCAA tournament and still capable of beating everyone else in the tournament field.

That makes this game against Colgate a really good place to reset themselves.

After mostly cruising through the second half, firing on all cylinders, the Raiders had to come from behind in a super-tight ECAC quarterfinal series where each game was decided by a single goal. But they escaped Princeton and live to fight another day and I'd imagine they spent the week talking about that wakeup call. In retrospect, I'm guessing the Raiders would say it was good for them to face adversity and be tested and that they learned a lot about themselves. They won't have that kind of margin this weekend and will really need to have learned those lessons, remembered that they're one of the best offensive teams in the country and have ECAC Player of the Year and the nation's leading scorer in Danielle Serdachny.

It feels like we'll know pretty early on if Quinnipiac has been able to shake themselves up a bit or if Colgate is going to be able to skate right over them.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Ohio State (WCHA semifinal)

Friday at 1:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

The WCHA seeds worked out to give us two explosive semifinal matchups. This is a rematch of last year's national championship game and the two teams couldn't have been much closer when they played each other this season. Every game was decided by a single goal and two needed overtime to find a winner. Ohio State took three of the four wins.

Ohio State got a wakeup call in Madison during the final regular season weekend and responded well to that adversity. The Buckeyes are relentless and never out of a game, which makes them near impossible to beat. Their biggest weakness right now is likely in net. Amanda Thiele has not played up to the precedent she set for herself to close out last season and that leaves this OSU team more vulnerable than last year's. They have the offensive firepower to overcome most every hole they find themselves in. They have the ability to make up for mistakes, but they're also going to keep facing their three conference foes that best known how to exploit them.

The Bulldogs are a team I can't quite pin down. They have star players as well as those down the line sheet that continue to come up big in the biggest spots. They have a top-three finalist for Goalie of the Year in Emma Söderberg. They have wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State, but couldn't take down Minnesota. They have statement wins and headscratching ties. Their only eight losses are at the hands of OSU, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. I know they're going to get results most weekends, but I'm never quite sure what kind of game it will be.

These are two of the least penalized teams in the country, so it should be a wide open, flowing game. That likely favors Ohio State, but with Söderberg in net, I like Minnesota Duluth's chances here.

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota (WCHA semifinal)

Friday at 5:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

These two played one of the most entertaining series of hockey in years three weeks ago, with Wisconsin taking a shootout win after a 2-2 in the first game and a 7-5 win in the second. They challenge each other and they dislike each other on the ice. Between them, there are seven players who skated for the US at the Olympics or World Championships in the last two years, not to mention Nelli Laitenen with Finland and Josefin Bouveng with Sweden.

Wisconsin are trying to fight their way up the Pairwise rankings and out of a regional semifinal game in the NCAA tournament, and they need a win in this game to even have a chance. The Gophers would love to play any kind of spoiler and have the bonus of being tournament hosts. At their last series, both games were sold out and it was raucous in Ridder Arena. Minnesota will be hoping to recreate that kind of advantage for themselves.

The Gophers have been more steady throughout the season than Wisconsin, but the Badgers have shown big improvements over the past few weeks and are getting contributions up and down their lineup. In the 7-5 game, five of their goals were scored by freshmen. It's a big if, but if Wisconsin can get all the parts of their game to come together at once, they'll be tough to knock out. So far they've shown it all in fits and starts and almost-theres, but they've also stepped up in critical situations, so it will be interesting to see what they show up with this weekend.

Minnesota has two of the most dynamic goal scorers in the country in Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle, and they're on different lines. They bring different approaches to the game, forcing defenses to respond in new ways and they both do things with the puck that few people in the world can match. Wisconsin will need to figure out how to defend effectively against two lines with game-changing players.

Stick Taps and Snark

Conference Players of the Year – Congratulations to Northeastern's Alina Müller, Minnesota's Taylor Heise, Saint Anselm's Kelly Golini, Colgate's Danielle Serdachny, and Penn State's Kiara Zanon.

Vermont – The Catamounts likely lost their chance at an NCAA at-large bid with a semifinal lost to Providence on Wednesday. Vermont is at 11th in the Pairwise.

↑  Other conference honors – Congratulations to OSU's Nadine Muzerall, St. Cloud State's Brian Idalski, Northeastern's Dave Flint, Yale's Mark Bolding, Penn State's Jeff Kampersal and Stonehill's Tara Watchorn on being named Coaches of the Year in their conferences. Congratulations to Penn State's Tessa Janecke, Wisconsin's KK Harvey, Stonehill's Alexis Petford, Vermont's Lara Beecher, Yale's Jordan Ray, and Brown's Jade Iginla on being named Rookies of the Year. Congratulations to Minnesota Duluth's Emma Söderberg, LIU's Tindra Holm, Yale's Pia Dukarič, and Mercyhurst's Ena Nystrøm on being named Goalies of the Year. Northeastern's Gwyneth Phillips was first-team goaltender in Hockey East.

(Photo: NCAAIceHockey/Twitter)