NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - 2023 NCAA tournament quarterfinals
- 7 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - 2023 NCAA tournament quarterfinals

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch - 2023 NCAA tournament quarterfinals by Nicole Haase

Wisconsin at Colgate

Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on ESPN+.

These two teams have played each other just once before – in the national semifinal in 2018, with Colgate taking a 4-3 win in 2OT. That game should be instructional to the Badgers on how to prepare for this game and what adjustments they need to make from their normal style, as they were definitely put on their heels by the Raiders back then. Statwise, the two teams are pretty much perfectly matched – at least at even strength. Wisconsin scores 4.24 goals per game to Colgate's 4.15. The Badgers allow 1.66 goals per game, to the Raiders' 1.67.

However, Colgate has the third-best power play in the country and has scored nearly twice as many extra-attacker goals as the Badgers, who'll have to be way more disciplined than they've been in recent weeks (particularly Sophie Shirley, Kirsten Simms, and Britta Curl) to not let this game get away from them.

The Badgers cruised to a 9-1 win against LIU in their regional semifinal, putting them in a very good position to take the ice for their second game of the weekend against a rested team. All four of their lines saw ice time and eight different players scored. Wisconsin's depth is going to be key if they're going to get a win and advance to the Frozen Four.

Colgate brings in the single most impactful forward in NCAA this year in Danielle Serdachny, not just because she leads the country in points but because of her importance to her team. The Raiders also essentially returned their entire team intact from last season, where they were an overtime loss away from the Frozen Four. Where Wisconsin has spent the whole season trying to make things come together, the Raiders started that way and had the whole season to build and gel and work on the details because everything else was already solid.

The focus while be on Wisconsin's freshmen, but don't let Colgate's Elyssa Biederman get lost among their numbers. She set a new rookie record for the program and brings a different dynamic to the offense than Serdachny or Kalty Kaltounkova.

The Raiders were absolutely ruthless in their ECAC Championship win over Clarkson last weekend. If they play that way on Saturday, the game may be out of hand before Wisconsin gets their bearings. However, the Badgers will counter with their depth, using matchups to try and exploit the defense. We know Colgate's top line can challenge them for speed and possession, but the game might be won or lost between the second and third lines.

Northeastern at Yale

Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Until they lost the ECAC semifinal last weekend, it seemed the only team that had figured out how to break down the Bulldogs was Colgate. Yale had just two regular season losses and looked like inevitable favorites in the conference. An uncharacteristically poor performance from their Goalie of the Year finalist, sophomore Pia Dukarich, added to last weekend's foibles.

The Huskies won their sixth straight Hockey East championship with a squad that looks much like it did last year and features a very high-powered top offensive line. Where Northeastern has struggled in the past two Frozen Fours is adjusting to a matchup where they aren't just able to enforce their will on the opponent and play their game. That's not to say the Huskies can't or won't win, just that I have no idea how they will fare tomorrow. We have no data to help us understand how the Huskies will handle a top-ranked opponent in a game like this.

They've played just one of this year's tournament teams this season – NEWHA champion LIU, who lost 9-1 to Wisconsin on Thursday. They have basically no experience in changing their game plan, playing from behind, or adjusting mid-game. Two years ago, it was the pure strength of their talent, helped out by a referee call, that allowed them to escape UMD and advance to the title game. As talented as Alina Müller is, I don't see them being able to do that against this Yale team. Opponents have averaged 20 shots on goal per game against the Huskies. The Bulldogs average 35.9.

Yale has to be thankful their wakeup call came before the win-or-go-home portion of the season. They had a stinker, but can put that behind them and lean on last year's postseason experience. With the exception of Dukarich in goal, they also returned most of their squad and have been able to spend the season building without a need to prepare the foundation first. Their forwards have far less name recognition than pretty much any other top line in the quarterfinals, but Yale skates a balanced roster.

For their part, I'm not sure Yale has faced anyone with the ability to turn the puck around and head the other direction the way Northeastern can. I don't think the lanes will be near as open as the Huskies are used to, but the Bulldogs cannot lose track of those opportunities, particularly on their own power play.  If this turns into a three-period track meet, I think that favors Northeastern, so Yale has to focus on winning faceoffs, keeping possession and not playing loose with the Huskies.

I'm sincerely unsure what to expect from this game, but that should make it incredible to watch.

Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota

Saturday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Free stream on BTN+.

Familiar foes face off again in Minneapolis. Last season, the Gophers eliminated UMD in the WCHA semifinals in embarrassing fashion before the Bulldogs got their revenge with a 2-1 NCAA Tournament win to end Minnesota's season.

The Gophers have had the advantage this season, taking all four of the team's meetings. One big thing Minnesota Duluth did dominate in was special teams, scoring five times with the player advantage in four regular season games. They are bound to get opportunities to push that total even higher this weekend and if they are going to move on, they have to make them count.

I said it in UMD's regional semifinal preview and I'll say it again, since senior defender Taylor Stewart doubled her season goal total on Thursday, scoring both of her team's tallies in their 2-0 win over Clarkson. Gabbie Hughes, Ashton Bell, and Anneke Linser have the bulk of the team's goals, but on the Bulldogs, unlikely players have a knack for stepping up in the biggest moments. Hughes et al. will be impactful, but it seems that if UMD is going to win this game, the star will be from lower on the depth chart. Minnesota cannot spend their time focusing on the top line at the expense of the others – I don't expect them to, but the game is going to be won or lost in the details.

For Minnesota, the key might revolve around Abbey Murphy. The forward has been on a tear, scoring in each of the last eight games. But she's also prone to reactionary penalties. She's at her best when she finds the right balance and gets her revenge by lighting the lamp. She doesn't need the rest – she's second in the nation in goals scored, just one behind teammate Taylor Heise – so it can be frustrating to see her get distracted and pulled out of her game.

The Gophers played like they had found a cheat mode in the WCHA title game. Time will tell if it was facing the Buckeyes that brought it out of them or if they can continue the forechecking and connecting on home run plays that gave them so many opportunities and kept Ohio State from doing much at all.

That's a lot of "keys" but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out what a game-changer Minnesota Duluth goalie Emma Söderberg is. In four career NCAA Regional/Quarterfinal games,  she has allowed just one goal – to Minnesota last season in the Regional Final.

Normally it's win or go home, but since Duluth is hosting this year's Frozen Four, the Bulldogs are hoping to both win AND go home.

Quinnipiac at Ohio State

Saturday at 5:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on BTN+.

Last season's quarterfinal between these two ended two minutes into the second overtime. Quinnipiac decided to triple down on Thursday and play well into a third overtime period in their regional semifinal against Penn State. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, that means they go into their rematch with the Buckeyes with heavy legs in what was already going to be a more difficult game than last year's.

Ohio State are the defending national champions, playing at home and coming off what they would themselves call a lackluster showing in the WCHA title game. They have the most on the line here are in prime position to take advantage of Quinnipiac after their marathon against the Nittany Lions. Prior to last weekend, their biggest question mark was with Amanda Thiele in net, but she stepped up her game and was giving up far fewer rebounds than she had been in the closing weeks of the regular season.

The Buckeyes will be looking to rebound and reset after a game in which they could get little going offensively and were on their heels defensively. Under normal circumstances, the Bobcats would want to push the pace and run at OSU like Minnesota did. But it's unlikely they'll have the energy to keep that up through 60 minutes (or more), and the problem with pursuing that path is that once you run out of steam, you're basically standing still. Expect Quinnipiac to make some changes to their gameplan to try and keep the Buckeyes from pushing play up and down the ice and also keep them from long possessions in the zone.

We may see a change in net for the Bobcats. Catie Boudiette has been very good in the handful of games she's played. Logan Angers was superb on Thursday, making more than 50 saves. Their game went late, but they do have the onus of being the only quarterfinal played in the evening. I wonder if they'll start Angers to see how she feels, but have Boudiette prepped to take over. It's an impossible decision to make for Cass Turner after Angers left so much on the ice on Thursday.

Stick Taps and Snark

Patty Kazmaier Award Top-Three Finalists – Congratulations to Ohio State's Sophie Jaques, Colgate's Danielle Serdachny, and Northeastern's Alina Müller.

Scheduling – Why are three of these games being played at the exact same time?

↑  Goalie of the Year Finalists – Congratulations to Yale's Pia Duckarich, Northeastern's Gwyn Philips, and Minnesota Duluth's Emma Söderberg.

(Photo: NCAA Ice Hockey Twitter)