NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, 2024 NCAA Quarterfinals
- 6 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, 2024 NCAA Quarterfinals

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, 2024 NCAA Quarterfinals by Nicole Haase

Winners advance to the NCAA Frozen Four next weekend. NCAA Tournament games on BTN+ are free.

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

Saturday at 4:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on BTN+.

There will be no surprises for either coach in this game as the teams have played five times so far this season. Oho State has taken all five wins, starting with two in the second weekend of the season and defeating the Bulldogs 5-0 in the WCHA semifinals a week ago.

UMD coach Maura Crowell said she thought her team could grow from that playoff loss, but that late in the season it can be difficult to adjust. In addition, the Bulldogs played into a second overtime on Thursday in order to advance to this game. They're starting at a big disadvantage in a situation where they'll need to come with their very best against the top-ranked team in the country. On the plus side, Ohio State has showed themselves to be fallible over the past couple of weeks and you can trust that Maura Crowell and her staff have been studying those tapes. Honestly, the biggest concern for UMD is that they could not put the puck in the net on Thursday and overall, they are just 26th in the country on in team offense. They only scored twice on the Buckeyes in five games and they were in the very first game they played together.

For Ohio State, they'll rely on Goalie of the Year finalist Raygan Kirk to continue their shutout ways and they'll be looking to put so many goals on the board that it doesn't matter if UMD scores a couple. The Buckeyes are second in the country with 5.19 goals per game. They are a deep, fast team that already uses their speed to wear down opponents and are absolutely going to do that, but on steroids, to put a tired Bulldog team to the test.

Ohio State has lost just four games all season and two of those came in the last three weeks. Only one loss was at home. They are deep, they have a grudge after losing last year's national championship and they will be looking to prove they're better than they looked in the WCHA title game. Interestingly, these two teams have only played once in the NCAA Tournament – Ohio State beat UMD in the national championship game in 2022 to earn their first-ever title.

(7) St. Lawrence vs. (2) Wisconsin

Saturday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

St. Lawrence outlasted Penn State on Thursday, winning in overtime on a long-distance shot from Kristina Bahl. That earned them their first NCAA bid since 2017. For their troubles, they've earned the right to play Wisconsin at home. St. Lawrence will be dealing with a loud, combative environment the Badgers build energy and momentum from. Wisconsin is 11-0 at home in NCAA quarterfinal, with six of the wins coming at LaBahn Arena. This game sold out four minutes after going on sale to the general public.

The two teams met each other twice in the national semifinal back in 2006 and 2007 with Wisconsin winning both (and going on to win the title both years). Overall, the Badgers are 3-1-0 against the Saints.

Wisconsin is the most prolific offensive team in the country, averaging 5.21 goals scored per game. But Emma-Sofie Nordström was absolutely stellar in net against Penn State to keep a clean sheet and give her team a chance to win. The sophomore was calm, flashing her glove quite a bit. She is going to be crucial if St. Lawrence is going to be able to pull an upset. The defense also has to be stronger on the puck, more decisive and cleaner. There was a lot of self-created chaos in their regional semifinal and instances where they didn't win the puck or did something dangerous right in front of the net. Wisconsin is going to make them pay for those mistakes before they can even blink. They simply have to be more aggressive and take care of the puck.

On the other end of the ice, the Saints have to put the puck in the net themselves. One goal is simply not going to cut it. Wisconsin is going to push the pace, particularly in transition. They are incredibly skilled at winning the puck and heading the other direction while the forward is still finishing their follow through. The Badgers are going to score, but it's about limiting their opportunities, not letting them get second- or third-chances and not letting them set up shot in the zone.

(6) Cornell vs. (3) Colgate

Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Another matchup of familiar foes, these two played three times this season. Cornell took two wins, 6-3 and 3-0, back in January and then took a 5-0 win in the ECAC semifinal last weekend. The Big Red kept the last game close until the third period, where the Raiders broke it all open.

Izzy Daniel is a Patty Kazmaier Top Three Finalist and is the driver for Cornell. She assists in or scores many of their goals. Colgate has more offensive depth and I think that's what has carried them through these wins over the Big Red, who just doesn't have it in them to go toe-to-toe for three full periods with a team as talented as Colgate. Cornell does have Annelies Bergmann in net and she can be a game changer. The big, mobile goaltender needs her defense to support her and not give up so many chances, but she can be a game changer and if Cornell is going to get the upset, it will be because she puts in a solid effort.

The Raiders are getting contributions across several lines, which makes them a tough out. Danielle Serdachny has transitioned into a different role this year, serving more as director and point person and the way she gets the puck to her teammates in the right position has been gorgeous to watch. Particularly over the last month, players like Emma Pais, Michelle Palumbo, and Allyson Simpson have joined Serdachny, Kalty Kaltounkova, Elyssa Biederman, and Dara Greig in scoring, making them a really formidable opponent.

Cornell is the only team that didn't have to play bonus hockey on Thursday and they have a lot to prove in this rematch. They'll need to have players on the second and third line step up to give Colgate pressure and keep them from getting too comfortable.

(5) Minnesota vs. (4) Clarkson

Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

These two teams don't play each other often, but when they do, there's a lot on the line. They've met three times in the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers took a 3-2 OT win in the quarterfinals in 2010. In 2014, Clarkson won their first National Championship by defeating Minnesota and in 2017, they took down the Gophers in the semifinal en route to their second National Championship.

Clarkson's two leading scorers are defenders – Nicole Gosling and Haley Winn – but they have six scorers with more than 3o points. They use the whole offensive zone, stretching defenses and getting creative in the space. They are also stout defenders, often keeping their opponents from even exiting the zone. They use their defense to kickstart the offense, but it isn't necessarily the speedy transition play that you see from Ohio State, Wisconsin, or Colgate.

They're going to lift sticks, block shots and generally be menaces on defense which could really expose Minnesota. Ella Huber and Josefin Bouveng have picked up their game as the season has wound down, giving the Gophers more options on offense, but there is a pretty significant drop in scoring when the first line is not on the ice.

I expect that Clarkson is going to to use their size to take away time and space from Abbey Murphy and it's how she adjusts that will determine the outcome of the game. She isn't going to be able to cycle the zone and dangle the puck through traffic at will. Will she be able to find other ways around the defense or will she get frustrated and pulled into extracurriculars that cause her team to play shorthanded? On top of all of that Michelle Pasiechnyk is probably the best goalie in the country this year.

Minnesota is going to be gritty and try to be chaotic on defense, looking to keep Clarkson from getting into a flow on offense. Clarkson needs to make quick decisions and keep the puck moving. They also need to take advantage of the shots they have from the blue line and look to deflect the puck through traffic

These two teams have distinct and different styles and the push/pull of how and where they match up with each other is going to make this game fascinating.

(Photo: Ohio State Women's Hockey/Twitter)