NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - Conference Tournament Championships
- 5 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - Conference Tournament Championships

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - Conference Tournament Championships by Nicole Haase

Mercyhurst vs. Penn State (CHA Final)

Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on

Penn State set out with a singular goal this season and has spent six months aggressively pursuing it. This game is the culmination of that pursuit. They opened the season with a win over Wisconsin and have worked to be a top 10 team ever since. They want this autobid and to not leave anything else to chance. They don't want to be at the whims of the selection committee.

In a lot of ways, it feels like a given that the Nittany Lions will win this game. But I also know that writing Mercyhurst off – particularly in big games – is never a good idea. I expect the Lakers to give PSU everything they can handle and not let them win this title without a fight. They'll need another big game from Ena Nystrøm in net and they need their high-impact players to really step up.

Some of the Nittany Lions' best players are underclassmen and the team hasn't been in this position before. The single-minded focus on this moment is going to be a massive mental load here and they have to manage the expectations and the nerves.

Clarkson vs. Colgate (ECAC Final)

Saturday at 4:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Colgate was as dominant as we've seen them be all season in their semifinal win over Quinnipiac on Friday. That game was never really in doubt and they look to be as locked in and focused as anyone in the country right now. They won both their games against Clarkson this season, 2-1 and 2-0. But Clarkson has a lot of confidence and momentum and, most importantly, their back is against the wall.

They played Yale like they weren't the #2 team in the country on Friday. They weren't intimidated and they bought none of the hype. The Golden Knight played that game like they were the favorites and it showed in how smoothly they worked together. They were connecting on passes, seeing the puck and the ice well and generally just feeling themselves.

We don't know what will happen in any of the other tournaments, so in practicality, they have to play like they only advance if they win the autobid. Being able to play like you've got nothing to lose is a privilege in the right hands and I think really benefits Clarkson in terms of how they match up with Colgate. They'll be a little more unpredictable and a little freer and I think that will serve them well in breaking up the Raiders attempts at puck possession.

Providence vs. Northeastern (Hockey East Final)

Saturday at 12:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Televised on ESPNU. Paid stream on ESPN+.

The most interesting thing in this game might be who ends up in net for Providence. Sandra Abstreiter has been one of the best goalies in the college game her entire career, but Hope Walinski is the one who earned a shutout against Vermont in the semifinal. It's been an interesting change for the Friars and might be something coach Matt Kelly sticks with for the final.

Northeastern has two losses and a tie so far this season and Providence is responsible for one of the losses and the tie. They're the only Hockey East team that has seemed capable of figuring NU out in any meaningful way. Abstreiter was the goalie in those games, but one way to throw the Huskies off might be a total change in the net. Where Abstreiter is 5'11" and an imposining presence in the crease, Walinski is 5'5" and necessarily more mobile to cover all the necessary ground. She also played with the Boston Junior Eagles program before joining Providence and is familiar with quite a few Husky players from playing with or against them.

Northeastern is looking for their sixth straight Hockey East title. Providence won four titles in the early 2000's, but haven't lifted the trophy since then.

Saint Anselm vs. LIU (NEWHA Final)

Saturday at 7:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

These two have been very close all season and this should be one of the closest games we see played on Saturday. LIU took the season series 2-1-1.

Saint Anselm lost the first game of their quarterfinal series, but responded with a statement 8-0 win before defeating St. Michael's in overtime. They are a late-game team and came from behind to defeat Stonehill and put the game away in the third. They have a gritty approach and they don't give up. Do not be surprised if this game isn't decided until the final minutes or needs overtime.

LIU is more well-rested. They received a bye and didn't have to play a quarterfinal series. They're simply much fresher than the Hawks right now and that could be the biggest difference maker. The Sharks have been setting records and basically completely rejecting what a brand new team is supposed to be able to do in their first few years. Their inaugural squad are seniors now and bring a wealth of poise and experience. They want to be the ones to say they earned the first-ever NEWHA autobid.

Minnesota vs. Ohio State (WCHA Final)

Saturday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Neither of these teams was as dominant as we know they are capable of being in their semifinal wins on Friday. Part of that is down to the quality of opponent and familiarity with each other. But they are both able to be much more dominant.

Ohio State did some of what they do best in pressuring the defense deep in the zone and forcing turnovers, then making the opponent pay. All the little things they do in not giving their opponent any space or time mean that they have a lot of puck luck in terms of having loose pucks fall to their sticks and find the right players at the right time. Some of the bounces are lucky, but they also really make their own luck.

Minnesota was scrappy and never backed down when the Badgers came from behind twice. They also really capitalized on loose pucks and that's something OSU goalie Amanda Thiele has struggled with. Thiele was better in the semifinal that she'd been over the final few weekends of the season, but it's something to watch out for. Two of the Gophers three goals came off multi-chance opportunities that Wisconsin failed to clear. Ohio State gets a lot of attention for their offense, but their defense is incredibly good – that's why we're never talking about them. They do their job and do it well so the offense can shine. They'll have a tough task today, but if they can pull it off and Thiele can control rebounds better, they'll be in a good spot.

Yale's loss in the ECAC semifinal means Ohio State is in line for the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, but where Minnesota ends up depends on the outcome of this game and the ECAC final.

(Photo: Jim Meagher/Clarkson Athletics)