The Frozen Four semifinals kick off at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minnesota on Friday.
Northeastern vs. Ohio State
Friday at 3:30 PM Eastern
Ohio State are the defending national champions and enter the weekend as the top seed. They returned nearly the same roster from last season while getting Olympic gold medalist Emma Maltais back and adding former Badger standout Makenna Webster.
Northeastern is in their third-straight Frozen Four, but they've been unable to make the final step, losing to Wisconsin in the title game in 2021 and bowing out in the semifinals in 2022. The Huskies also return a huge portion of last year's roster and they've only gotten better this season. They cruised to their sixth-straight conference title and lost just two games all season. The Huskies have been on a major roll and surprised some people by beating Yale in their NCAA quarterfinal.
NU is lead by a stellar top line of Alina Müller, Chloé Aurard and Maureen Murphy. These three provide the bulk of the team's offense, but that hasn't slowed Northeastern down. They have the stingiest defense in the nation, have been stellar on the penalty kill and are a threat to score as often short-handed as they do on the power play. These players are incredibly in sync with one another, move the puck well and defend strongly.
Ohio State's bench is deeper than the Huskies and they're going to use that along with their speed to try and run Northeastern ragged and tire them out before the end of the game. Expect OSU to use their size and strength to body NU off the puck and make them work even harder for position.
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Friday at 7:00 PM Eastern
These familiar foes face off for the sixth time this season on Friday night. Minnesota took their last meeting en route to winning the WCHA tournament title. But Wisconsin has the Gophers' number just a few weeks earlier in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season.
With two long-time coaches who've faced off in this rivalary for years, there are basically no surprises in a game between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The players know each other both from their meetings, but also because they played together for national teams and in high school. There is a grudging respect and a not insignificant amount of distaste for the other side. The level of loathing and hatred has been a bit lower in the past few years, but there is no love lost here.
Gopher coach Brad Frost said the outcome in any game between these two squads is a coin flip at any point, but particularly in the final weekend of the season. The teams have played each other eight times in the NCAA tournament and have each won four games. Wisconsin took the last two wins - a 4-0 defeat in the 2018 quarterfinals and 2-0 victory in the 2019 title game that gave the Badgers their fifth National Championship.
While Minnesota has two of the most potent forward lines in the country, Wisconsin has used their all-around depth to strike back. Eleven different Badgers have scored goals against Minnesota this season.
Both teams seem to be hitting their peak as the season winds down. The Gophers hope to keep up the focus and pace that allowed them to shut down OSU and cruise through the rest of the postseason. Wisconsin needs timely scoring and solid goaltending. And they have to hope their recent 6-for-18 success on the power play keep carrying through.
Stick Taps and Snark
↑ Penn State's Tessa Janecke – The freshman was named Hockey Commissioners Association Rookie of the year.
↓ Duluth weather – High winds, snow, rain and ice made traveling to Duluth difficult for folks from around the country.
↓ National semifinals not on TV – In 2021, the evening semifinal was televised on ESPNU, while the afternoon game was on ESPN+. This year and last, both semifinals have been relegated to the network's paid streaming site.
↑ All-Americans – Congratulations to Taylor Heise, Alina Müller, Danielle Serdachny, Sophie Jaques, Ashton Bell and Gwyn Phillips on being named first-team All-Americans and to Jenn Gardiner, Elle Hartje, Grace Zumwinkle, Ema Seitz, KK Harvey and Pia Dukarich on being named second-team All-Americans.