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Weekend Picks: March 17

Well, I did well again last week in my postseason picks, going 4-0. In the postseason, I’ve gone 31-12, and on the year, I am 417-104-56.

We’ve got three games left. Let’s see how I do. I’ll pick the semis today, and post my picks for the finals Saturday morning.

Friday, March 18

Clarkson versus Boston College
This is arguably the toughest team that BC will have played to day. Clarkson can play stifling defense, as seen last week, though Quinnipiac doesn’t have quite the same caliber of relentless offense that BC does. I’m picking the Eagles in a close one. Boston College 3-1

Minnesota versus Wisconsin
They’ve played five times, with Wisconsin winning three, including the WCHA championship game a couple of weeks ago by a 1-0 score. This game comes down to goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. She’s riding a streak of five straight shutouts. I don’t think she’ll blank Minnesota again, but if she keeps the Gophers under two, the Badgers win. Something tells me though that Kessel inspires the Gophers to come out on top. Minnesota 3-2

Weekend Wrap: March 13

A veteran quartet
We’re down to four teams, and those four are an accomplished bunch. A week from now, these senior classes will have concluded their careers by collectively playing in 12 Frozen Fours. These programs have also combined to win the last five NCAA Championships. Yes, this will be all new for the freshmen, but even they get a boost by looking around the locker room and seeing all the teammates that know exactly what this stage means.

Boston College two notches from history
While all four squads are playing to earn a national title, BC can add the cachet of being the second club to place that NCAA crown atop a perfect season. If the selection committee did the Eagles a disservice by serving them a fifth game versus Northeastern, that wasn’t in evidence on Saturday as they breezed to a 5-1 victory, their 39th straight. Alex Carpenter got her team off to a flying start with just 50 seconds gone and added a late empty-netter, Tori Sullivan also scored twice, and Haley Skarupa was all over the score sheet with a goal and three assists. Katie Burt made 21 saves, surrendering only a late consolation goal to Kendall Coyne.

That gave Coyne 50 goals on the season and 141 in her career, fourth in NCAA history. She becomes just the second player to reach 50 in an NCAA campaign; Harvard’s Nicole Corriero had 59 in 2004-05.

Clarkson gets scoring out of the way early
Senior defenseman Renata Fast scored the quickest goal to open an NCAA tournament game, needing just 10 seconds to record the only goal in Clarkson’s 1-0 defeat of host Quinnipiac. The Golden Knights got revenge on the Bobcats after falling to them by a reversed 1-0 score six days earlier in the title game of the ECAC Hockey tourney. Fast’s unassisted tally was the only one of Clarkson’s 29 shots to elude Quinnipiac goaltender Sydney Rossman, while Shea Tiley stopped all 14 shots she faced.

Clarkson will meet Boston College in the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. The two teams traded 3-1 quarterfinal decisions the last two years, with the Eagles winning 12 months ago.

Minnesota advances despite early scare
Princeton’s Jaimie McDonell continued the trend of first-minute goals, gaining the Tigers a lead with just 29 seconds played, but Amanda Kessel scored a hat trick as the Gophers rallied for a 6-2 win. Minnesota’s power play clicked on both of its opportunities, its penalty kill added a short-handed goal to give the Gophers a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and three even-strength goals in the middle stanza put the game away. Amanda Leveille made 25 saves to record the 96th win of her career, six of which came in the NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin blanks another victim
Ann-Renée Desbiens registered her fifth-straight shutout of Wisconsin’s postseason, giving her 21 on the season, as the Badgers dispatched Mercyhurst, 6-0. Desbiens denied all 22 shots from the Lakers, while six different Badgers were hitting the twine, two in each period. Sarah Nurse had one of the goals and assisted twice. Sydney McKibbon scored the eighth short-handed goal for the nation’s best penalty kill.

Wisconsin advances to face a familiar opponent in WCHA foe Minnesota. The Badgers own a 3-2 advantage in the five games played this year, after the Gophers dumped them in Frozen Four semifinals in each of the last two seasons.

What to Watch: Super Saturday

Less than 23 percent of the teams that we’ve followed all season remain, and that sparse herd gets thinned even further on Saturday, perhaps the most dramatic day of the schedule. It can be such a crushing defeat. All year it has been everyone’s dream to play in Durham in a week, and four teams will come so agonizingly close but still be left home.

The quarterfinal round has served up some absolute classics. Marathon games that looked like they might never end have asked the participants to give everything and still demanded more. The best quarterfinal round ever played out nine years ago with three overtime games, and the only host team to advance needed four overtimes to do so.

Where to watch? NCAA.com is a good starting point, and if that proves too laborious to navigate, then go to the schedule page on the host team’s website and look for a video link.

Here are some things to note on Saturday when you do watch.

Kazmaier trio
All three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award will be in action on Saturday, two on the same ice at Boston College.

The day also offers a very rare opportunity to watch winners of three Kazmaiers participating in the NCAA tournament on the same day. Amanda Kessel already owns one; Alex Carpenter does as well. A week from Saturday, either Carpenter will add a second, or Kendall Coyne or Ann-Renée Desbiens will be joining the Kazmaier club.

Whose house is this?
Boston College has won both previous times it played Northeastern at Conte Forum. Obviously — it has won every time it played anyone anywhere. However, both of those wins were one-goal games until a late empty-netter. The Eagles defeated Northeastern in the two games played elsewhere by a 13-1 composite score.

The first five minutes or so have given a good indication of which script the game will follow. When BC has dominated, it took the lead quickly. In the two close games, the Huskies were the squad with the early tally.

Not much thrill for the visitors in this chase
In another game matching two teams with quite a bit of history this season, Clarkson has spent much of the first three games versus Quinnipiac playing from behind, and the Golden Knights have never led. The most one-sided of the three games is the one that stayed scoreless the longest.

Back in November, nobody tallied for the first 36 minutes and change. Once Taylar Cianfarano did score, she doubled the lead 97 seconds later and completed her hat trick just over 11 minutes after that. In the game that ended in a 2-2 tie, the Bobcats led for more than 52 minutes. On Sunday, after 18 minutes of scoreless hockey, Nicole Brown put Quinnipiac back in the driver’s seat.

Undoubtedly, the Golden Knights would like their chances if they could be the team in front for once.

Second-period barometer
Offensively, the second period has been the best period for Minnesota. The Gophers have scored 74 of their goals in the middle stanza, and that’s when they often put opponents away. They’re 28-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes. However, they’ve not won a second period in any of the five games that they failed to win. The scoreless tie had a scoreless second period, obviously. In the overtime loss at Wisconsin, each team scored twice in the second frame. In the other three losses, Minnesota was outscored by a total of 5-0 in the second periods.

How about Princeton? The Tigers don’t much seem to care. They outscore opponents by roughly two to one no matter the period. However, they are winless (0-3-2) when trailing at the second intermission.

More of the same
Such trends are even more pronounced for Wisconsin. The Badgers have won all 24 games where they’ve led after 20 minutes, and all 33 times that they’ve taken a lead into the second intermission. On the other hand, they are winless at 0-3 when trailing at either intermission. Because Wisconsin so rarely allows a goal — they have 22 shutouts in 38 games — games tend to be over once it scores.

That’s not a good sign for Mercyhurst. It has been shut out in three of its last four losses.

Saturday’s game probably comes down to who scores first. The Badgers are 32-0 when they get the first goal, but they have a losing record if they don’t. The Lakers are 14-3-1 when scoring first, and also have a losing mark if the opponent strikes first.

Weekend Picks: March 11

I did pretty well last weekend in my picks, going 7-1 (.895). Evidently I forgot to pick the championship games though; woe is me. In the postseason, I am 27-12 (.692), and for the full year, I am 413-104-56 (.769_.

Let’s see how I can do in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

Saturday, March 12

Clarkson at Quinnipiac
I have to pick one upset, and this one is as likely as any. Clarkson 2-1

Northeastern at Boston College
They’ve played four times, with two blowouts and two squeakers. What will this one be, and more importantly, will the result be any different? Something tells me no. Boston College 3-2

Princeton at Minnesota
Maybe the week off helps the Tigers heal and get ready, but it won’t be enough. Minnesota 4-2

Mercyhurst at Wisconsin
Can Ann-Renée Desbiens continue her shutout streak? Wisconsin 3-0

Weekend Wrap: March 6

Mercyhurst returns to the top of College Hockey America
Mercyhurst received a scare from Syracuse, the longest-working team in the country this weekend, but ultimately, the Lakers backed up their CHA season title with the conference’s playoff title.

Jenna Dingeldein scored her second goal of the game at 15:06 of overtime, with assists from Emily Janiga and Rachael Smith, to earn a 4-3 win for Mercyhurst. The Orange had rallied to force overtime with goals by Allie Munroe and Alysha Burriss in the final three minutes, the latter an extra-attacker tally. Stephanie Grossi had struck first for Syracuse in the second period, but Mercyhurst rallied quickly with three goals in two minutes spanning the second intermission. Dingeldein and Sarah Hine scored on power plays before the break, and Smith pushed the score to 3-1 with 46 seconds gone in the third frame. Sarah McDonnell’s 34 saves proved to be one more than Jenn Gilligan’s total for Syracuse. The Orange lost in overtime in the final for the second-straight season.

Syracuse reached the final by winning the longest game in CHA history, surviving Penn State, 3-2, on Grossi’s goal at 16:10 of the third overtime. Burriss and Emily Costales had the assists. Megan Quinn and Munroe put the Orange ahead, 2-0, in the second period, but Bella Sutton and Laura Bowman tied it up for the Nittany Lions early in the third period. From that point, the goalies prevailed until Grossi’s wrist shot hit the twine. Celine Whitlinger made her final game for Penn State memorable with 61 saves, and Gilligan needed 40 stops to get the win.

Mercyhurst advanced with a 4-2 semifinal victory over Robert Morris, scoring three times on the power play and sealing the win into an empty net. Brooke Hartwick broke a 1-1 tie in the second period, and Dingeldein provided an insurance goal. Ashley Vesci pulled the Colonials back within one with a power-play goal of their own before Hannah Bale scored with 10 seconds left. Janiga opened the scoring, and Amanda Panataleo tied the game at 1-1. McDonnell made 18 saves to get the win, and RMU’s Lauren Bailey stopped 39 of the 42 shots she faced.

Boston College earns second Hockey East Championship in program history
The top line of Boston College exploded for 10 points as the Eagles thumped Boston University, 5-0. Haley Skarupa topped the point parade with a goal and three assists, and her linemates each had three points, with Alex Carpenter tallying twice and Kenzie Kent once. Kristyn Capizzano completed the scoring. Katie Burt stopped all 25 shots, as BC got revenge for last year’s final defeat at the hands of the Terriers.

BC had a closer contest in its 4-2 semifinal win over Connecticut. Carpenter and Capizzano scored on third-period power plays after Theresa Knutson and Justine Fredette had dug Connecticut out of an 0-2 hole. Haley Skarupa and Meghan Grieves also scored for the Eagles.

BU survived Northeastern, 4-3, in the other semifinal. Kayla Tutino put the Terriers ahead to stay  with five minutes left in the second period, and a short-handed goal by Alexis Crossley midway through the final stanza proved to be the game-winner. Shelby Herrington made it interesting with an extra-attacker, power-play goal with 65 ticks left, her second tally of the game. Rebecca Leslie and Victoria Bach had the other BU goals, and Ainsley MacMillan opened the scoring for Northeastern.

Quinnipiac backs up first ECAC Hockey season title with first playoff trophy
Senior Nicole Brown’s goal 18:20 into the title game stood up and gave the Bobcats a 1-0 triumph over Clarkson. Classmates Nicole Connery and Cydney Roesler assisted, and 16 saves by Sydney Rossman assured that it would be enough in the defensive tilt.

Randi Marcon’s fourth goal of the year with five minutes left pushed Quinnipiac above St. Lawrence, 2-1, in the semifinal. Emma Greco had opened the scoring, and Hannah Miller answered for the Saints. Rossman made 20 saves to earn the win.

Clarkson scored the game’s final four goals to rally for a 5-2 win over Colgate. Shannon MacAulay scored twice, Erin Ambrose had a goal and two assists, and Cayley Mercer added three helpers.

Wisconsin repeats as WCHA Champion
Ann-Renée Desbiens didn’t allow a goal in the entire tournament, culminating with Wisconsin’s 1-0 defeat of Minnesota in the final. She stopped 35 shots in the title game, and Sydney McKibbon buried the rebound of a Rachel Jones shot in the second period. Amanda Leveille made 23 saves for the Gophers.

Wisconsin dominated Minnesota-Duluth territorially in a 5-0 semifinal win, outshooting the Bulldogs 43-17. Mikaela Gardner’s goal 7:34 into the contest was all the offense Desbiens would need, but the Badgers piled on four more goals in the next stanza.

Amanda Kessel had a goal and an assist on Sydney Baldwin’s goal as the Gophers slipped past North Dakota, 2-0. Leveille turned in the 21-save shutout.

NCAA Field
Because the top seeds won all four tournaments, Princeton lives to play another day despite being eliminated from the ECAC playoffs in the quarterfinals. Minnesota, Clarkson, and Northeastern also received at-large bids. They will join the four conference tourney winners who receive automatic bids.

The bracket created by the NCAA Selection Committee pairs the teams as follows:

Northeastern at No. 1 Boston College
Clarkson at No. 4 Quinnipiac
Mercyhurst at No. 2 Wisconsin
Princeton at No. 3 Minnesota

What to Watch: March 4

Conference championships
What to watch is pretty obvious from here on out. This week, we’ll go for a little bit of why to watch and what you may see once you do, as well as where to watch it. Every league has some form of drama all its own.

College Hockey America
The purest tournament in terms of feeding into the national tourney — win and you’re in; the other three go home. Two-time defending champion RIT is out, so only Mercyhurst’s seniors have a CHA Championship on their resumes. Robert Morris has also won the playoff title, but that was four years ago.

Streaming is available for purchase through EverSport.tv, either per game or as a package. Single games are $10.99, and the tournament package is $35.00. Hopefully, the package includes the ability to view archived games or some other benefit, or the ability to multiply numbers that include decimals is in serious decline in our society.

Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for students (includes both semifinals)
Site: HarborCenter, Buffalo, N.Y.

Semifinals
No. 1 Mercyhurst (17-10-5, 14-3-3 CHA) versus No. 4 Robert Morris (17-15-5, 7-9-4 CHA), Friday, 12 p.m. EST
The two squads’ last postseason tilt came in a 2013 semifinal, where the Lakers got some revenge for dropping the final to Robert Morris the year before. The Colonials had only one tie to show for their four meetings with Mercyhurst during this season.

No. 2 Syracuse (18-13-3, 14-4-2 CHA) versus No. 3 Penn State (12-18-6, 6-8-6 CHA), Friday, 3:30 p.m. EST
The Orange came ever so close to claiming their first championship and NCAA berth last season, falling in double overtime in the final. Penn State is making its second-straight trip to the final weekend. The teams met in a semifinal last year, and Syracuse got a couple of special-teams goals for a 2-0 victory. During their season series, each team won once and there were two ties.

Final: Semifinal winners, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST

Hockey East
The spotlight will be on Boston College, which is only five wins away from completing its perfect season. It can cross off two of them this weekend, as the same four teams that comprised the field a year ago in Hyannis move to a new neutral site. Northeastern is likely to join the Eagles in the national tourney even if it doesn’t earn the league’s automatic bid, but a couple of upset winners could bump the Huskies out of what would be their first NCAA tournament. Connecticut and Boston University need to win to continue playing. Connecticut is looking for its first national tournament appearance as well, and four-time defending champ BU is trying to reach its seventh straight.

Sunday’s championship game will be streamed live for free on AmericanSportsNet.com, and shown on a tape delay at 5 p.m. on NESN. Streaming of the semifinal games can be purchased from Pack Network for $14.95 for both semifinals.

Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for youth and groups (includes both semifinals)
Site: Lawler Rink, Merrimack College, North Andover, Mass.

Semifinals
No. 1 Boston College (36-0-0, 24-0-0 Hockey East) versus No. 4 Connecticut (17-14-5, 11-10-3 Hockey East), Saturday, 1:30 p.m. EST
BC added an empty-netter to win 3-1 when the teams met in a semifinal last year. The Eagles took all three meetings in this campaign, the last being a one-goal margin.

No. 2 Northeastern (28-7-1, 20-4-0 Hockey East) versus No. 3 Boston University (22-13-2, 17-5-2 Hockey East), Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST
The Terriers have ended Northeastern’s season each of the last three years. However, the Huskies won three of the four contests matching the two in 2015-16.

Final: Semifinal winners, Sunday, 1:30 p.m. EDT

WCHA
The only national stake for Wisconsin and Minnesota is who will be seeded second and who will be third. North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth need the automatic bid to continue playing.

Sunday’s championship will be televised on Fox Sports North and streamed on FOXSportsGO.com. Both semifinals will be streamed free of charge and can be accessed via WCHA.com or Gophersports.com.

Single-session tickets: $15-20 for adults; $12 for students/youth/standing-room and $10 groups (includes both semifinals)
Site: Ridder Arena, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

Semifinals
No. 1 Wisconsin (32-3-1, 24-3-1-1 WCHA) versus No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth (15-20-1, 10-17-1-0 WCHA), Saturday, 2:07 p.m. CST
Defending champion Wisconsin takes on Minnesota-Duluth, looking for its first title since 2010. The two squads last squared off in the postseason in 2012, when the Bulldogs upset the top-seeded Badgers in a semifinal. The Badgers swept the season series, all by multiple goals.

No. 3 North Dakota (18-11-5, 13-10-5-3 WCHA) at No. 2 Minnesota (31-3-1, 24-3-1-0 WCHA), Saturday, 5:07 p.m. CST
Both teams lost in semifinals last year, after clashing in five postseason games over the previous three seasons, all won by Minnesota. North Dakota is looking for its first championship; the Gophers last won two years ago. They took the season series, two games to one with one tie.

Final: Semifinal winners, Sunday, 2:07 p.m. CDT.

ECAC Hockey
The ECAC provides the novelty of still having five teams alive for the national tournament as the league’s final four square off. Princeton can advance as the final at-large team if the automatic bids for Hockey East, ECAC Hockey, and the WCHA are all won by teams seeded first or second. So by the end of Saturday, the Tigers could be assured of being in, or they could be mathematically eliminated. Quinnipiac will be moving on regardless, but the Bobcats are still trying to clinch a host spot for an NCAA quarterfinal. Clarkson can be knocked out only by having all three of those conferences won by lower seeds, but the Golden Knights can wrest the host spot away from Quinnipiac if they win the conference tourney. St. Lawrence and Colgate are just trying to squeeze their way into the field with a crown.

Both the semifinals and the final will be streamed live on ESPN3, and TSN Go (final only), with the call coming from Quinnipiac student media members. Canadian viewers can purchase each semifinal game from BoxCast for $9.95 (US) directly from ECAC Hockey.

Tickets: $5 adults, $3 for children and seniors, all students with a valid ID will get free access to all games.
Site: TD Bank Sports Center, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn.

There’s a little more information on the ECAC than there is on the other leagues, in part because its the most intriguing, and also because it held a media teleconference.

Semifinals
No. 4 St. Lawrence (17-14-6, 9-8-5 ECAC) at No. 1 Quinnipiac (28-2-5, 16-2-4 ECAC), Saturday, 1 p.m. EST
St. Lawrence is the only team in the field with a previous league championship, that coming four years ago during the freshman season of redshirt-senior captain Amanda Boulier.

“If you would have seen her play this past weekend, it’s probably the best performance she’s had in a Saints uniform for a weekend over her career,” coach Chris Wells said. “She put the team on her back. She had some goals at some very key times this weekend. She [is the St. Lawrence] all-time leading goal-scorer as a defenseman, all-time leading point getter as a defenseman, and just a fantastic leader. A lot of the younger kids and some of the other kids have really looked up to her and leaned on her for these experiences.”

Versus Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence sure could use some timely goals.

“We haven’t scored on them this year,” Wells said. “We’ve got to try to figure out a way to score. If we don’t, I guess we’re going to have to figure out how to stop them from scoring. If that happens, I guess we’ll just play until the street lights come on and we’ll all go home, a 0-0 game.”

As Wells points out, everybody has had trouble scoring on the Bobcats, who have the country’s second-ranked defense, allowing less than a goal per game.

“They play so well structurally, and what’s impressive about Quinnipiac is they’re not a sit-back team,” Wells said. “I don’t think you would classify them as a team that’s a trapping team. They play a very aggressive style in all areas of the ice. Their stick positions are fantastic. Just when you beat somebody, you look up, and you’re staring at somebody else. It’s something that we’re certainly happy we have a week to prepare for to play them on Saturday.”

It might take an unconventional approach.

“We’re probably bringing in some payloaders to put out on the ice to get some practice to get through them getting up and down the ice,” Wells said.

To be sure, getting up and down the ice is what the Saints would prefer to do.

“St. Lawrence is a team that likes to play a lot of offense,” Quinnipiac coach Cassandra Turner said. “They like to play the game on an edge, and I think for us, we’ve been really adaptable all year against different types of teams. We feel really confident in how we can defend and are excited about that. We had a great practice [Monday] and just really worked on some things that we think are going to be really important leading into the weekend, and I could tell our kids were kind of excited to have to defend a little bit.”

In their quarterfinal against Rensselaer, the Bobcats were on the attack most of the time, outshooting the Engineers 128-19 through two come-from-behind wins in overtime.

“RPI played so hard,” Turner said. “They had great goaltending and really good sticks — one of the best teams we’ve played all year in terms of how they used their sticks and denied second shots. To be in tight contests like that, and for us, we haven’t been in the position where we’ve been behind much this year.”

That’s often true of a team that seldom allows a goal. Still, they welcome the very different challenge that St. Lawrence presents.

“For us, I think that makes the game a little bit more wide open and creates some more chances in transition for our team,” Turner said. “That should open us up a little bit more offensively as well.”

However the weekend plays out, she and her team can take comfort in the knowledge that it won’t mark an end.

“This is clearly a pretty exciting year for our team,” Turner said. “A lot of firsts in our program and some milestones — individual milestones and some team milestones. It’s been a really neat year to be a part of. We have a good group of young women who are very driven, super positive, and every day come to the rink just ready to play hockey and have some fun. I think that attitude and that approach has really brought great results for our team.”

Those results allowed the Bobcats to have the event played on their ice for the first time.

“Quinnipiac is really excited to host this,” Turner said. “There’s been a lot of buzz around our rink, just in terms of the preparation. Given how well I thought the school did in hosting the Frozen Four, I’m really excited to see some of the details and the little things that get put into place for our banquet and for the event this weekend. So it should be a great tournament.”

No. 2 Clarkson (28-3-5, 14-3-5 ECAC) versus No. 3 Colgate (22-8-7, 12-5-5 ECAC), Saturday, 4 p.m. EST
While Clarkson won an NCAA title two years ago, it’s still searching for its first ECAC Championship.

“Maybe some of the older kids, it’s maybe in the back of their minds, it’s probably the one thing that they haven’t been able to accomplish,” coach Matt Desrosiers said. “But at the same time, they understand that we’ve got to take things one game at a time, and just going out there and winning our tournament is not necessarily going to make our season. We have loftier goals than that.”

He has reason to look beyond this weekend.

“I’m really happy with the way the team is playing right now,” Desrosiers said. “We’re seeing a lot of contributions from a lot of different players. I think one big thing that’s really helping us out a lot this year is our depth. We’re not relying on one or two players; it’s a total team effort. Everyone has bought into that. I think everyone sees that that’s a major part of our success.”

The Golden Knights have 13 players who’ve reached double digits in points, led by Cayley Mercer with 46. Another half dozen players have at least four points.

Oddly, that depth may have factored into a bit of a slow start in conference play.

“The beginning of the year, you’re really trying to put your team together and figure out the pieces and where they fit,” Desrosiers said. “This year, we had quite a few freshmen coming in, and obviously, they have made an immediate impact. That’s probably one area as freshmen coming in, it takes a little bit more time to adjust to the college level, I think, is on the defensive side. They’re not quite aware of just how difficult and just how much effort and a complete game you need to have in order to play the type of defense that we want to play. I think at the beginning of the year, it was a little bit of a feeling-out process for them, and having our upperclassmen kind of lead the way and show the younger players exactly how it needs to be, it’s just part of the process.”

That process is key to the program’s achievements, such as the national title.

“That’s one thing that we always focus on,” Desrosiers said. “We’re not looking at the end results, necessarily, we’re just focused on the process, and that’s part of it. You’ve got to be playing your best hockey come the end of the year. At the beginning of the year, you’re going to take your lumps in certain areas, but as long as you learn from those and grow from those, I think you’re going in the right direction, and I think that’s what we’ve got this year.”

Clarkson is unbeaten in its last 17 games. Now it looks to its first-ever postseason meeting with Colgate.

“We had two close games with them,” Desrosiers said. “They’re a young, exciting team. They haven’t been in this position very much, but you know that with how young they are, they’re going to be excited to go in there and kind of make a statement, and hopefully build off that for years to come at the tournament this weekend. They have a lot of talented, young, exciting players that we definitely have to be aware of out there. Going into this, we’ve got to use our experience and that, but at the same time, we’ve got to be aware that anything can happen at any time with them that’s pretty dangerous, especially on the offensive side of things.”

This is new territory for the Raiders, who last reached the league semifinals in 2007.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to play another week and be in this final-four championship setting,” Colgate coach Greg Fargo said. “It’s a great experience for our young team. We had a great series against Harvard, a really tough team. Obviously, that one came right down to the wire, but to be heading into this weekend, we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity ahead of us. We’re really trying to just soak up every moment, but at the same time, we feel really good about our game right now.”

Considering the talent coming into his program and the fact that Clarkson has established itself as a perennial power, postseason games between the two squads might become quite common.

“I think we match up well against them, two very similar teams in my opinion,” Fargo said. “They have a lot of scoring depth. They probably get a little more offense from their back end than we do. They have some really good D.”

His Raiders have eight players with 20 or more points, all freshmen or sophomores.

“We’ve been getting a lot of great contributions from up and down our lineup,” Fargo said. “Our goaltending has been really good for the playoffs.”

In net, Colgate looks to a veteran in senior Ashlynne Rando. Her numbers have improved over the year as her team has become more consistent in front of her.

“I think it was a time where we were learning a lot about ourselves,” Fargo said. “We had to really learn how to turn those ties or some of those obstacles we faced in those games into wins. I think part of it was just belief in the group. You could see it early on in the year where we’d get down a goal or two and body language would kind of go down and we’d slump a little bit and not really believe that we could find our way back.”

The Raiders also had difficulty at times playing with a lead, including the last time they faced the Golden Knights.

“We got up 2-0 early on them and played really well right from the start,” Fargo said. “That was one of those games where we learned a lot from it. Looking back, it was easy to say we got the two-goal lead, we kind of let our foot off the gas a little bit, let a good team like that back into the game. That’s where I felt like as a group, we really had to understand against a team like Clarkson, you get up 2-0, that next goal was going to be really critical. Just to be able to keep moving ahead, put the nail in the coffin, and make sure you take advantage of that next opportunity when it came. I thought we started to sit back a little bit after being up 2-0, and we let a good team back in the game, and we can’t do that. I think since then, we’ve done a better job of holding that lead. I think Friday against Harvard was a good example of that.”

The Raiders closed out the Crimson on Sunday with an overtime victory, and are now on the brink of greater things, either now or in the near future.

“We feel strong about our game,” Fargo said. “Clarkson is a really tough opponent, one that we’ve split with earlier this year, so we feel good about the matchup. Like we’ve done all year, we’re just going to try and do our best to prepare and let our young team go and play on Saturday afternoon. It should be fun.”

Final: Semifinal winners, Sunday, 1:30 p.m. EDT.

Weekend Picks: March 4

Playoffs are always harder to pick than the regular season, especially the first week when it’s a best of three. Last week, I went 20-11, one of my worst showings on the week. My combined regular season and postseason record is still a respectable 406-103-56. Hopefully I can do better this week.

Friday, March 4

Robert Morris versus Mercyhurst
I have to go with the Lakers here, just based on the regular season results between the two. Mercyhurst 3-1

Penn State versus Syracuse
Expect the Orange to pull away and set up a 1-2 showdown. Syracuse 4-1

Saturday, March 5

Colgate at Clarkson
Call this my (minor) upset special. Colgate 3-2

St. Lawrence at Quinnipiac
All year, the Saints have beaten who they should and lost to who she should. That won’t change. Quinnipiac 2-1

Connecticut versus Boston College
Look for the Eagles to go to the championship. Boston College 4-2

Boston University versus Northeastern
Perhaps a change to a neutral venue helps the Terriers. Boston University 3-2

North Dakota at Minnesota
The Gophers stay hot in this one. Minnesota 4-1

Minnesota-Duluth versus Wisconsin
Duluth was a surprise last week, but Wisconsin is an order of magnitude more difficult. Wisconsin 4-2

Weekend Wrap: Feb. 28

ECAC Hockey
A wild season in ECAC Hockey was backed up by a competitive quarterfinal round. Two series went to overtime in the decisive third game, and even the top seed needed overtime both days to advance.

Quinnipiac swept its series from Rensselaer, 3-2 and 2-1, although not without struggles. Jaimie Grigsby and Josefine Hansen scored 89 seconds apart to put the Engineers up heading into the second intermission of the opener. The Bobcats rallied, and goals by Emma Woods and Nicole Connery had the scored tied before the third period was eight minutes old. Woods won it with a goal 2:04 into overtime. Connery’s assist on the play was her 100th point for Quinnipiac. Game two was more of the same, as Grigsby gave RPI a lead with just 25 seconds gone, but Taylar Cianfarano pulled Quinnipiac even. From there, it was a matter of the Bobcats trying to figure out how to get another puck past Lovisa Selander. The Engineers’ freshman goaltender made 57 saves Friday and bounced back with another 66 on Saturday. Finally at 13:24 of the second overtime, Nicole Brown got her own rebound and slid it under Selander to propel Quinnipiac to the next round.

The Bobcats will next take on St. Lawrence.

Justine Reyes scored 5:37 into overtime on Sunday to earn the Saints a 4-3 win over Princeton in the deciding game. Molly Contini’s second goal of the game on a power play with an extra attacker on the ice and 15 seconds remaining in regulation had tied the game for the Tigers and necessitated the extra session. St. Lawrence got two goals and an assist from Brooke Webster, and a goal and a helper by Amanda Boulier. Cassidy Tucker also found the net for Princeton. The Saints other win came in the opener, when Kirsten Padalis scored midway through the final frame and Grace Harrison pitched a 29-save, 1-0 shutout. Kimberly Newell kept the Tigers in the contest with 45 stops. Princeton forced a third game with a 4-3 win on Saturday when Karlie Lund fired in the winning goal with under two minutes left. That capped a Tigers rally from two down that included goals by Stephanie Sucharda, Kelsey Koelzer, and Keiko DeClerk, and a total of three points by Sucharda. Boulier scored a pair for SLU, and Reyes also tallied.

Although out of the ECAC tournament, Princeton’s season may not be over. The Tigers retain the seventh spot in the PairWise Rankings, and if the winners of the ECAC, Hockey East, and WCHA tournaments come from teams in the top six in those rankings, then Princeton would be the final at-large team included in the NCAA field.

Clarkson swept Cornell, 2-0 and 5-2. The Golden Knights were the only victor in the league that didn’t need overtime, but they did have to rally from a two-goal deficit on Saturday. Kelly Mariani scored the game-winning goal with less than six minutes left, and Rhyen McGill and Renata Fast added insurance tallies. Cayley Mercer and Olivia Howe pulled Clarkson back to even after the Big Red broke on top with goals from Jess Brown and Christian Higham. Erin Ambrose had four assists. In the opener, Geneviève Bannon scored the deciding goal in the first period and Mercer hit an empty net late, as Shea Tiley stopped all 15 shots.

The Golden Knights will face Colgate next.

The Raiders advanced when Shae Labbe scored at 14:45 of overtime in the third game to give them a 3-2 win. Megan Sullivan’s second goal of the day at 2:36 of the third period tied the score at 2-2, after Harvard had rallied to take a first-period lead on goals by Lexie Laing and Grace Zarzecki. Ashlynne Rando made 40 saves for the victors. The teams traded 4-1 wins prior to Sunday. Sullivan scored twice in the opener and added an assist. Sydney Daniels had two goals and an assist for the Crimson as they bounced back to take the middle game.

Hockey East
Outside of Vermont giving Boston University a scare, and New Hampshire extending Connecticut to a third overtime, Hockey East’s quarterfinals followed the script.

Boston College continued its march toward perfection, having minimal difficulty in dropping Maine, 5-2 and 5-1. The Black Bears were able to trade with the Eagles in the early going, but behind a two-goal-one-assist effort from Makenna Newkirk and a goal and a three-point game by Dana Trivigno, the Eagles pulled away in the opener. While short-handed, Brooklyn Lanlgois’ first tally of the season gave Maine its only lead of the series, but despite 61 saves from Meghann Treacy, Lexi Bender had three primary assists to spur BC’s triumph.

Next for the Eagles is Connecticut, after the Huskies took two one-goal decisions from UNH. Brittany Berisoff scored twice, and Leah Buress had a goal and two assists as UConn breezed to a 3-0 lead in the opener. Ultimately, it needed every one of Elaine Chuli’s 44 saves after Julia Fedeski and Kate Haslett rallied the Wildcats. Buress’ second goal of the day at 3:17 of the third OT finally finished off UNH on Saturday. Leah Lum had a goal and assisted twice, and Chuli came up with 69 stops. Taylor Wenczkowski had a pair of markers for the Wildcats.

The other Huskies also advanced, with Northeastern downing Providence, 5-2 and 6-2. On Friday, Kendall Coyne had two goals and an assist, and Sarah Foss made 33 saves. In the series-clinching win, Coyne completed a hat trick with a couple of empty-net goals, giving her four points. Heather Mottau and Denisa Krížová had three-point games, with the latter netting a goal. Northeastern faces BU in the semifinals.

In a deciding third game, Boston University jumped out quickly and cruised to a 6-1 win over Vermont. Erin O’Neil made 32 saves, Rebecca Leslie scored twice, and Maddie Elia had a goal and two assists. O’Neil had a 25-save shutout in the opener, a 3-0 win for the Terriers. Lillian Ribeirinha-Braga, Sammy Davis, and Kayla Tutino supplied the goals. Madison Litchfield made 38 saves the next day as the Catamounts rallied to extend the series with a 4-2 win. Taylor Willard and Rachael Ade scored for UVM, Saana Valkama did so twice, and the Terriers’ rally attempt with back-to-back short-handed goals from Rebecca Leslie and Victoria Bach came up short.

WCHA
The only league without any series needing a third game, the WCHA did have one upset and one overtime game, both coming in Bemidji, where Minnesota-Duluth got revenge for last season.

Wisconsin’s Ann-Renée Desbiens posted a pair of shutouts over Minnesota State to tie and then surpass the NCAA record for shutouts in a season, now at 18. The junior made 13 stops in blanking the Mavericks, 4-0, on Friday. Brianna Quade made 52 saves for MSU, but Emily Clark’s goal late in the first period put Wisconsin ahead to stay. Mellissa Channell matched Clark with a goal and an assist, and Sarah Nurse and Sam Cogan also tallied. The Badgers finished off the Mavericks’ season by a 6-0 score, with Annie Pankowski leading the assault with a goal and two helpers.

Top-seeded Wisconsin will face UMD in the semifinals.

The Bulldogs’ top line had a big weekend, but in Friday’s 5-1 win, Katherine McGovern got UMD off and running with the first of her two goals. Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Michela Cava, and Lara Stalder took it from there, each getting a goal and an assist, with Stalder adding an extra helper. Meanwhile, Kayla Black made 33 saves to subdue the Bemidji State offense, which managed only an Alexis Joyce goal. Kristin Huber struck first on Saturday for the Beavers, but Black stopped their other 46 shots. Brykaliuk tied the game in the second period, her 100th point at UMD. Stalder, who assisted the tying goal, gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 victory at 11:10 of overtime.

North Dakota also got a huge series from its top line in thumping St. Cloud State twice by 6-1 scores. On Friday, Meghan Dufault scored twice with two assists, and her wings, Amy Menke and Becca Kohler, each had a goal and two helpers. Kohler got the offense started 70 seconds into Saturday’s game, and she and Menke finished with two goals and an assist, while Dufault had one of each. Shelby Amsley-Benzie stopped 37 of 39 shots she faced on the weekend.

The Fighting Hawks get a semifinal date with Minnesota.

The Gophers swept Ohio State, 5-2 and 5-0. After Claudia Kepler scored a third-period goal to tie Friday’s game at 2-2, Minnesota outscored the visitors 8-0 over the rest of the series. Dani Cameranesi had six points in the series, including a hat trick on Saturday. Amanda Kessel had two goals on Friday, Kate Schipper scored in both games, and Amanda Leveille earned the shutout with 25 saves Saturday.

College Hockey America
Lindenwood took the opener on Friday, but the other four games in the league went the way of the hosts.

With its season in the balance, Robert Morris rallied to 3-1 and 5-1 wins after the Lions sprang a 4-3 upset. Lauren Bailey came on in relief for the Colonials after Lindenwood had raced to a 4-0 lead on Friday and stopped 67 of 69 shots over the rest of the weekend. Brittany Howard and Mackenzie Johnston had a goal and an assist apiece on Saturday. Ashley Vesci included two goals in her four-point game on Sunday. Shara Jasper’s goal and two assists fueled the Lions’ uprising in the opener.

Robert Morris gets a meeting with Mercyhurst in the semifinals, with Penn State advancing to take on Syracuse.

Celine Whitlinger turned in a 20-save shutout of RIT in the opener with the Nittany Lions winning, 2-0. Laura Bowman scored in the final minute before the first intermission, and Hanna Bramm doubled the lead six minutes out of the break. Bowman and Amy Petersen each had a goal and an assist when PSU lead 3-0 after two periods on Saturday. The Tigers rallied behind Caitlin Wallace and Darcy Henderson goals, but came up short in a 3-2 victory for Penn State.

What to Watch: Feb. 26

The playoffs begin
Welcome to one of the best weekends of the season. There will be more compelling matchups in the weeks ahead, but at this point, we still have 28 teams in action, and that volume of games ensures that some of them will deliver drama.

The postseason is the enticement that drives the players through the drudgery of off-ice workouts and endless skating drills. Once it begins, the passes are crisper, the forechecks more intense, and the celebrations burst with spontaneous joy.

At the other end of the happiness spectrum, 14 teams will lose series by Sunday, and in almost every case, that means an end to the season. For roughly a quarter of the players, that marks the final chapter of their NCAA careers, and it will hurt to remove that jersey for the last time.

No game will end in a tie, and better yet, there won’t be any overtime gimmicks used to break ties. Best-of-three series hosted by the higher seed reduce the number of underdogs advancing, but if one does, like St. Lawrence in 2012 or RIT in 2015, it indicates that it is no fluke.

College Hockey America
With byes into the semifinals, Mercyhurst and Syracuse are the only teams in the country that know for a certainty that they’ll be playing next weekend. In theory, the Lakers and Orange can sit back and relax while their future opponents get worn down in a grueling series. In practice, neither of the last two CHA tournaments was won by a team that opened with a bye.

RIT at Penn State: Friday, 6:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, 2:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, 2:00 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The Tigers were undaunted by being the league’s lowest seed a season ago in winning a second-straight championship, and they’ll attempt to repeat that trick once more. Penn State swept Lindenwood in the first round in 2015, the program’s first postseason victory. The Nittany Lions took three of the four head-to-head meetings this season, including back-to-back shutouts on home ice at the end of January.

Lindenwood at Robert Morris: Friday, 7 p.m. EST, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, Sunday, 3 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The Lions are the only CHA team that hasn’t yet advanced beyond the first round. The Colonials won the CHA tournament back in 2012. Robert Morris took seven of the eight points during the season, concluding with a sweep at home.

ECAC Hockey
Because the bottom third of the conference has already been eliminated, the ECAC typically offers the most competitive quarterfinal round. Teams aren’t as familiar with each other as in some other circuits, as they only face each other twice in conference play, rather than three or four times. Harvard was the tournament champ a year ago, but the Crimson start their title defense on the road.

Rensselaer at Quinnipiac: Friday, 2 p.m. EST, Saturday, 2 p.m. EST, Sunday, 2 p.m. EST (if necessary)
Fresh off garnering the program’s first championship, the Bobcats look to parlay the top seed into another. The Engineers are looking for their first goal of the year against Quinnipiac. They did earn a point when the teams played to a 0-0 tie in the first meeting. RPI is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Cornell at Clarkson: Friday, 3 p.m. EST, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, Sunday, 2 p.m. EST (if necessary)
Cornell eliminated the Golden Knights from the league tourney the last two seasons, but their losses came in a semifinal and final. Although they’ve won season and NCAA titles, the Golden Knights are still searching for their first ECAC tournament crown. The Big Red closed with four wins this year to gain entry into the field. Clarkson earned three of the four points during the season, including a win in Potsdam in December.

St. Lawrence at Princeton: Friday, 3 p.m. EST, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, Sunday, 2 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The Tigers play at home in the postseason for the first time since being swept by Quinnipiac in 2011, as they seek to reach their first semifinal since 2006. The Saints have played in a semifinal as recently as 2013. The teams split during the season, each winning a one-goal game at home.

Harvard at Colgate: Friday, 3 p.m. EST, Saturday, 7 p.m. EST, Sunday, 4 p.m. EST (if necessary)
This series’ start times aren’t the only things that go against the grain. Defending champion Harvard meets a team making its first trip to the playoffs since 2013, who it defeated twice during the season, but the Raiders are the hosts. The Crimson, however, are the favorites, as they clash with Colgate in the postseason for the first time.

Hockey East
One of the most surprising facts in Hockey East is that Boston College has only claimed one tournament title. The Eagles will look to get half of the wins needed to double that total this weekend, while running their perfect start to 36-0-0. The two other Boston teams are clear favorites, so most of the intrigue focuses on Storrs.

Maine at Boston College: Friday, 2 p.m. EST, Saturday, 7 p.m. EST, Sunday, 2 p.m. EST (if necessary)
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” I’ve never watched “Dumb and Dumber,” but yes, it’s kind of like that. The Eagles only outscored the Black Bears 16-2 in the three games between the two, so maybe it’s not quite as lopsided as that, but it’s close.

Providence at Northeastern: Friday, 2 p.m. EST, Saturday, 2 p.m. EST, Sunday, 2 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The Huskies are searching for their first Hockey East championship, having last reached the final in 2013. Providence last won the conference tourney in 2005, the first season it brought an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Northeastern won all three games this season.

Vermont at Boston University: Friday, 7 p.m. EST, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, Sunday, 3 p.m. EST (if necessary)
Vermont couldn’t win at Merrimack to close the season, so now the Catamounts get to try their luck against the Terriers. The best UVM could do was one tie with the Terriers in the three meetings. BU has won the event in each of the last four seasons.

New Hampshire at Connecticut: Friday, 7 p.m. EST, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, Sunday, 3 p.m. EST (if necessary)
New Hampshire hasn’t reached a semifinal since 2010, when that’s where its postseason began. The Huskies did so last year by sweeping a road quarterfinal. The Wildcats took two of three during the season, including the only game played in Connecticut.

WCHA
Wisconsin is the current holder of both the WCHA season and playoff titles, after winning the latter last year in Grand Forks. Bemidji State reached the final for the first time a year ago, something St. Cloud State and Minnesota State have never done.

Minnesota State at Wisconsin: Friday, 7:07 p.m. CST, Saturday, 4:07 p.m. CST, Sunday, 2:07 p.m. CST (if necessary)
The two teams played as recently as the 14th of this month in Madison, an 8-1 win for the Badgers. The good news for the Mavericks is that was their first goal this year against Wisconsin after three straight shutout losses.

Ohio State at Minnesota: Friday, 7:07 p.m. CST, Saturday, 4:07 p.m. CST, Sunday, 2:07 p.m. CST (if necessary)
The last time these two squared off in the playoffs was a conference semifinal in 2013. The Buckeyes own one postseason win over Minnesota, back in 2001 in another semi. The Gophers won four times this year, although one of the games in Minneapolis was close.

Minnesota-Duluth at Bemidji State: Friday, 2:07 p.m. CST, Saturday, 2:07 p.m. CST, Sunday, 2:07 p.m. CST (if necessary)
Bemidji State hosts its first quarterfinal. The Sanford Center was the site of the WCHA Final Face-Off two years ago, but the Beavers did not advance to be a participating host. Minnesota-Duluth looks to avenge a quarterfinal loss to BSU last year in Duluth. The Bulldogs dropped all four season meetings by a total of six goals, with the margin of defeat never being more than two.

St. Cloud State at North Dakota: Friday, 2:37 p.m. CST, Saturday, 2:37 p.m. CST, Sunday, 2:37 p.m. CST (if necessary)
The Huskies enjoyed their best regular season since 2009-10. After advancing past the quarterfinal round for the first time in 2011, North Dakota has now done so five straight years. The two programs meet in the postseason for the first time. The Fighting Hawks had a 2-1-1 edge in the season series over St. Cloud State.

Weekend Picks: Feb. 26

I had another absolutely stellar picks weekend last week, going 27-3-4 (.852). I think that’s the best back-to-back performance for me ever. I finished the regular season at 386-102-56 (.761).

For the postseason, I start over, but I’ll also include a season summary in addition to postseason summary each week. Postseason gets harder, so can I stay on top of things?

CHA

RIT at Penn State
I think this might actually be a sweep for the Nittany Lions, though OT wouldn’t surprise me. Penn State 3-2, 3-1

Lindenwood at Robert Morris
The Colonials haven’t been a model of consistency, so three games seem likely. Robert Morris 3-2, Lindenwood 3-2, Robert Morris 2-1

ECAC

Cornell at Clarkson
Cornell showed signs of better hockey last weekend, but they haven’t been consistent. Clarkson 3-1, 3-2

Harvard at Colgate
The Raiders have yet to beat Harvard this year. It should happen at least once this weekend. Colgate 3-2, Harvard 2-1, 3-1

St. Lawrence at Princeton
Another three-game series. Princeton 3-2, St. Lawrence 3-2, Princeton 3-1

Rensselaer at Quinnipiac
As close to a sure thing as there is in the ECAC. Quinnipiac 4-1, 4-2

Hockey East

Maine at Boston College
How many goals will BC get this weekend? What’s the over/under? Boston College 5-1, 6-1

Vermont at Boston University
The Catamounts were one of the few games I picked wrong last week. I don’t see them getting a win. Boston University 4-2, 3-1

Providence at Northeastern
Kendall Coyne might retake the national scoring lead. Northeastern 5-1, 6-1

New Hampshire at Connecticut
How many overtimes in this weekend? Connecticut 2-1, New Hampshire 2-1, Connecticut 2-1

WCHA

Minnesota-Duluth at Bemidji State
The Beavers should emerge with a tough sweep. Bemidji State 3-2, 3-1

Ohio State at Minnesota
A seemingly better and better Amanda Kessel should scare the rest of the country. Minnesota 4-1, 5-1

St. Cloud State at North Dakota
It goes three, but the home team moves on. North Dakota 3-2, St. Cloud 3-2, North Dakota 2-1

Minnesota State at Wisconsin
The Badgers don’t run up the score, but sweep. Wisconsin 4-1, 4-1

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