NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, 2024 ECAC and WCHA Semifinals
- 5 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, 2024 ECAC and WCHA Semifinals

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, 2024 ECAC and WCHA Semifinals by Nicole Haase

It's conference playoff season in the NCAA. Here's a look at what's on deck in the ECAC and WCHA.


(8) Minnesota Duluth vs.(1) Ohio State

Friday at 1:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Per my podcast with chair of the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Committee Jeremy Gibson, there is no doubt that UMD is in the NCAA Tournament. They're the 8th team in the Pairwise. But I think everyone with the Bulldogs would tell you they'd much rather just win this game (and a few after, for that matter) to secure their position. That is going to be easier said than done in facing the top-ranked Buckeyes, who swept the season series with Minnesota Duluth, winning 5-2, 2-0, 3-0 and 1-0.

Ohio State easily handled Bemidji State in the opening round of the WCHA tournament last weekend while the Bulldogs swept St. Cloud State. It bodes well for Minnesota Duluth both that they were able to hang seven on the Huskies and that they were able to hold the Buckeyes to four total goals in mid-January. I definitely think the gap between these two teams is as close as its been all season, but UMD just does not have the offensive firepower to match up against OSU.

The Bulldogs will be looking to their stellar young goaltending duo to do a lot of heavy lifting while hoping to get more offensive contributions from their second and third line.

Ohio State is a team on a mission. They aren't thinking about last weekend, they've still got a bad taste in their mouth after losing to Wisconsin in the final weekend of the regular season and I can guarantee that has been fueling extra workouts and a push for their second national championship. They lost three games all season and yet they're going to be even more difficult to beat now. Minnesota Duluth is going to try and frustrate them, clog up passing lanes and slow down their quick transition, but I'm not sure there's much that can impede them at this point.

(5) Minnesota vs. (2) Wisconsin

Friday at 4:30 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

There was only one best-of-three series last weekend that went to three games – Minnesota vs. Minnesota State. The Mavericks really seemed to have the Gophers figured out in game one, but Minnesota showed a lot of resolve in their emphatic response, getting the win in games two and three. Importantly for them, players other than Abbey Murphy had a massive impact on the scoresheet, including an Ella Huber hat trick in the Game 1 loss.

The Gophers have the bonus of hosting the semifinals and not having had to travel, but they did have one less rest day to face their border rivals in Wisconsin. The two teams played each other in Madison the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, with Wisconsin taking a 5-4 OT win in the first game and a 4-0 win in the second. That last win was as complete a game as the Badgers have played against Minnesota in several years. Where the two teams usually match up so well that the game is a toss up, this time Wisconsin was able to hold possession for long stretches and exert their style of play on the game pretty much from start to finish. They'll be hoping they can pull that off again in this semifinal.

The Badgers (and in particular, their coach Mark Johnson) have a reputation for being a different team in March. Johnson is skilled at ramping his team up to be their very best at the most crucial moments and they showed that they were well on their way there over the final two weekends with the sweep of the Gophers and a split with Ohio State.

Minnesota needs contributions from more than their top line and for Murphy to stay focused. Wisconsin needs a strong showing in net and to not get baited by Murphy and her teammates.

We (think we) know which teams will receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, but their positioning is incredibly up for grabs right now and there is a massive difference in your path to the title if you're sitting second or third than if you're sitting fifth or sixth. That's what these teams are playing for.


(6) Cornell at (4) Colgate

Friday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Cornell has built little by little as the season progressed and looks much stronger in March than they did to start the year. Senior captain Izzy Daniel said she felt like her team underperformed last season (and I agree) but that the pieces seem to be fitting together more cleanly this season. I'm not sure the talent of this team is significantly different this year versus last, but they are certainly performing at a higher level.

Daniel is the breakout star, but Cornell is where they are because they have three lines that can generate offense, have the same stout defense we've come to expect from them, and they have Annelies Bergmann in net. After entering college early, Bergmann took a little time acclimating, but has really settled in and become one of the best goalies in the country at this point. She's huge in the net, but moves well and she's the anchor that they build out from.

Colgate returned much of a talented and experienced roster from last season and just sort of quietly went about putting together another solid season where they won the conference regular season title. They defeated Ohio State to start the season and were rolling along until February. Things hit a bit of a snag and they suffered three of their six losses over the last month, but I think those came at a good time to give the team a bit of a wakeup call before the postseason.

That being said, those were the last ranked games the Raiders played and they didn't go well. I'm not sure how well they'll be served by those relatively easy games and time off they've had over the past few weeks. Cornell has ramped up in that time while Colgate has kind of passively gone along, so I'd imagine the first 10 minutes after puck drop are both going to set the tone and prove really crucial in figuring out who advances from this game.

(7) St. Lawrence at (3) Clarkson

Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

The Saints are on an eight-game win streak with their last loss coming at the hands of Clarkson in late January. Clarkson split that series with SLU and then lost to Cornell the following weekend, but have currently won six straight.

The Golden Knights have been unpredictable in that sometimes they win by all the goals and sometimes they eke out wins in overtime and I've not been able to figure out the rhyme or reason to which team hits the ice. Both those scenarios end with a Clarkson win, so in many ways I'm not sure it matters. They've got Goalie of the Year top-three finalist and ECAC Goalie of the Year Michelle Pasiechnyk, which helps tremendously and means they have a chance to win every time they hit the ice.

They're allowing 1.1 goals per game as a team defense and they have six players with at least 30 points. They have balance and depth, but I think crucial for Clarkson to make a deep tournament run and possibly return to the Frozen Four is seeing who steps up in the biggest moments to make the plays that shut a game down. Nicole Gosling is the team's highest scorer, but I actually think they need a spark from one of the more quiet and subdued players to really help push them to their goals.

Of the teams left playing at this point, St. Lawrence might have come the farthest since September. Six of their nine losses came before the winter break. They opened January with losses to Cornell and Colgate, but went on a tear from there. Abby Hustler has been one of the best players of the second half and SLU went from being a bubble team to solidly in line for an NCAA berth.

(Photo: Cornell Women's Hockey/Twitter)