College Hockey:
Women’s D-I wrap: March 5

RMU womens hockey v Merceyhurst in CHA Finals. Photo by Jason Cohn (JASON COHN/RMU ASSIGNED)

Robert Morris celebrates its CHA tournament title


A more equal parity
Our sport has long been hungry for parity. Every time a team has knocked off an opponent ranked a few spots above them in a mid-January game, someone has been quick to herald its arrival.

This past weekend, however, was different. These were games that mattered greatly to both teams. In my memory, only the NCAA quarterfinals in 2007 rivaled this weekend for lack of success by the higher-seeded teams in the postseason.

Four conference tournaments were down to four teams, and the top seed didn’t win even one. While that alone might suggest parity, analysis suggests that none of these upsets were entirely shocking, and that serves to reinforce to a greater extent that the base of power is expanding.

CHA tournament
There are three certainties in this world. Death. Taxes. Mercyhurst claiming every CHA title being contested. I guess we’re now down to just death and taxes.

The semifinals unfolded true to form, with the top-seeded Lakers defeating Syracuse, 4-3, while Robert Morris edged Niagara, 3-2.

Mercyhurst has the country’s most effective power play, converting 28.3 percent of the time. To have any chance in the championship, the Colonials figured to have to stay out of the box. In that regard, they failed miserably. RMU paraded to the box 15 times for 30 minutes, giving that potent power play a dozen opportunities. In fact, the Colonials committed as many penalties as they produced shots on goal, as they could only muster 15 of those as well. Somehow, that proved to be enough.

Katelyn Scott, Thea Imbrogno, and Brianna Delaney scored goals in the trenches, and by the time Bailey Bram converted the Lakers’ second power-play goal of the game with seven seconds remaining, it was only changing the final score, not the fact that the Colonials would win, 3-2, and claim the first championship in program history. Junior Kristen DiCiocco turned away 45 shots and was named tournament MVP.

ECAC Hockey championship
St. Lawrence has accomplished a lot of things over the years, but until Saturday, winning the ECAC tournament had not been one of them. Entering the day, the Saints were 17-0-1 since Thanksgiving against everyone other than Cornell, and 0-2 versus the Big Red. Apparently, SLU has now figured out Cornell as well.

Regular season champion Cornell posted a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the semifinal, scoring twice in the last 100 seconds of the middle period to break a 1-1 tie. League Player of the Year Rebecca Johnston scored her team’s first two goals and assisted on the next three.

Meanwhile, fifth-seeded St. Lawrence needed to go to overtime for the second weekend in a row to get by No. 2 seed Harvard, 2-1. Kelly Sabatine was the hero once more, scoring her second of the game at 3:14 of OT. Carmen MacDonald made 29 saves to record the 20th win of her rookie campaign.

In the final, the Saints tweaked the script only slightly. Sabatine scored her third game winner in four games, but struck with 1:50 remaining in regulation this time. Alley Bero scored into an empty net 29 seconds later for the final verdict, 3-1. MacDonald turned away another 33 shots and took the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player designation.

WCHA Final Face-Off
One of the few times fans of the nation’s No. 1 team, Wisconsin, had reason to cheer was when the scoreboard displayed a photo of reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner Meghan Duggan. The Badgers spent much of their semifinal versus host Minnesota-Duluth looking like a team that suddenly missed its former captain. Newly-crowned conference Player of the Year Brianna Decker did her part, scoring a goal on an electric rush that drew oohs, but that proved insufficient, as the Bulldogs countered with three highlights-reel goals of their own. Jennifer Harss stopped 32 shots in bouncing UW from the bracket.

In North Dakota’s first foray into the league semifinals a year ago, they were shut out, 3-0, by Wisconsin. Its second appearance didn’t go any better. Minnesota’s Sarah Davis celebrated a hat trick, linemate Emily West scored twice, and Noora Räty recorded a 6-0 shutout.

UMD needed one more win to claim the league’s automatic bid and keep alive the dream of reaching the Frozen Four in Duluth. The dream faded as West scored on a power play, Räty completed a perfect weekend by earning tournament MVP recognition, and with a 2-0 win, Minnesota notched its first tournament title since the days when Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell were college players, not high school coaches.

Hockey East Championship
Coming into its semifinal with Providence, top-seed Northeastern was likely haunted by the memory of a game two weeks earlier when the Huskies were unable to solve the Friars’ Genevieve Lacasse in a scoreless tie. Northeastern had the same problem on Saturday, and when PC’s Haley Frade scored 12 seconds into a power play at the end of the second period, the Huskies were in trouble. Not even nine minutes of penalties on the Friars in the third period, including a full two minutes with a five-on-three Northeastern advantage, were enough to best Lacasse and extend the career of Florence Schelling. Ashley Cottrell added an empty-net goal, and Lacasse negated all 41 shots in a 2-0 PC victory.

In semifinal two, Boston College fell victim to a pattern that has plagued it periodically throughout the season: outshoot the opponent, limit shots allowed, but lose handily. Marie-Philip Poulin had two goals and an assist as Boston University scored five times on 26 shots, Kerrin Sperry turned aside 33 of 35 shots on the other end, and the Eagles were sent to the sidelines with a 5-2 defeat.

The final proved that hockey can be a game of inches, a game of seconds, and even both. Midway through the first period, Laura Veharanta exploited a BU fumble into a 1-0 Providence lead that looked increasingly likely to hold up as the game progressed. Lacasse stopped the first 32 Terriers’ shots and was poised to be the fourth goalie on the weekend to be named a tournament’s premier player, but with each team having a player in the penalty box and Sperry pulled for an extra attacker, Poulin got the puck to the front of the net and Jenn Wakefield maneuvered it through Lacasse at 19:52 of the third period. In the second overtime session, Providence hit a crossbar, and as play transitioned to the other end, Wakefield’s shot hit a Providence player’s skate and went into the net at 2:15. Wakefield was awarded MVP, and BU wore the crown.

The NCAA Bracket
So what were the national implications of the weekend tournament action? Providence and Minnesota-Duluth, two teams that needed to win auto-bids to have any hope, fell just short. BU and St. Lawrence, tasked with the same mission, achieved it. Harvard and Northeastern, teams that were inside the field going into the weekend, couldn’t survive the combination of semifinal losses and the wrong teams earning automatic bids. Boston College came out smelling like the proverbial rose when all the teams around it floundered. North Dakota fell short of the opportunity to host that it desired, but apparently would have been denied by NCAA sanctions in any case; UND was at least invited to its first dance. Mercyhurst went from potential host to the Madison blues, whether by merit or voodoo economics is difficult to surmise.

The combination of the PairWise rankings and selection-committee discretion produced a bracket of:

Mercyhurst at No. 1 Wisconsin
St. Lawrence at No. 4 Boston College
North Dakota at No. 2 Minnesota
Boston University at No. 3 Cornell

How much any team profited or was wronged is always open to debate. For comparison, here is how the bracket would have looked seeded strictly by auto-bids and KRACH:

Boston University at No. 1 Wisconsin
Minnesota-Duluth at No. 4 North Dakota
St. Lawrence at No. 2 Minnesota
Boston College at No. 3 Cornell

Those pairing may serve to put in perspective any indignation fans that Lakers’ fans may be feeling. I have no such comforting thoughts to offer to the UMD faithful.

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  • http://twitter.com/Butterz07 Aaron G.

    Sioux Yeah Yeah!!!!!!!!

    • Hank

      Maybe UND should change their nickname to the Fighting Canadians…

      • Fan Man

        Wouldnt matter….   The NCAA would still call us hostile and abusive!

    • http://www.collegehockeypulse.com/ mrjakep

      Typical!  Beat Clarkson they are all excited!

      • Fan Man

        Nope, excited about being 7-1-1 in the last nine games and still not getting any respect in the poles…  That will change after this weekend though!  Bring on the Rodents

        • Phoenixfyre1313

          Yup line forms to left about not getting any respect.   You guys have basked in it,  this year is it a little harder to come by.

        • hahahahaha

          You guys tied Harvard.  Harvard.

  • Guest

    Zucker isn’t DU’s captain.  He was the US U-20′s captain.  Drew Shore/Dustin Jackson are DU’s co-captains, and John Lee wears an A.  

    • Guest

      I wasn’t going to go after the ‘lazy’ journalism comment, but now there’s support for the argument.  Your entire argument was a diatribe on Zucker’s captaincy, which he doesn’t even possess.  Pretty lazy not to look up the team’s roster to confirm who the captains are before launching into that diatribe.  Secondly, when you corrected your article, you use the identical argument, replacing ‘captain’ with a grammatical wreck of “when your one of your leaders”.  

      No disrespect to UAH, but DU’s talent on the ice Friday night was enough to win.  Their focus was not good enough.  UAH took advantage, to their credit.  There’s no amount of Zucker shaking a pom-pom from the press box that would have changed that.  They won’t point at this one game if they miss the tournament (playoffs?); they will have a bevy of work to evaluate and be somewhat disappointed with.  It simply hasn’t been a good year so far, and singling out Zucker for this is more than a little preposterous.

  • JimmyT

    You couldn’t be bothered to break down UAH vs. Denver even though UAH beat UNO before Xmas. Now you say that maybe UAH might match up in goaltending. That’s not what you said in your lame “breakdown”. It was indeed stupid and lazy journalism and you look even worse trying to defend it.

    • wchaguest

      What exactly did you want them to breakdown? UAH had lost every game since UNO with a combined score of something like 36-9. While some of their journalism may be lazy the fact is there wasn’t anything to break down. Denver should have swept the series.

      • EvanS

        You’re right – UAH’s four wins over WCHA teams during the last year or so shouldn’t count. Because they are big underdogs there is absolutely no way they can win and there is no sense in even considering the possibilities.

        • wchaguest

          Yes. They have won 6 times in the last season and a half. They have proven that they can win games… they just usually don’t. If I were a coach I certainly wouldn’t take them for granted but do you really expect anyone to pick them to win?  I will ask again… what exactly did you want Tyler and Brian to break down about that series?

          • EvanS

            You’re right. They should not have broken down the series.

          • wchaguest

            You still haven’t told me what they should have said. You don’t like what they have to say. Do you have a better idea or do you just like to complain. I don’t know much about UAH… seems they don’t get much coverage from any conferency reporters. Do you have any ideas for them??? Seeing as how there are upcoming UAH vs WCHA games maybe you can help them research a little.
            With that said… thanks for finally giving the Dogs a little respect Tyler and Brian. But honestly… what do they have to do for you to write a real story on them not just talk about how they are exceeding your expectations?

      • Beany

        What the reporters say after the series:”Going into the series, the tale of the tape spelled two Pioneers victories with all advantages going Denver’s way, with the possible exception of goaltending”What the reporters said before the series:”The Pioneers have every advantage in this series from up front to the defense to the goaltending”.

        The reporters also mentioned Zucker’s absence before the series started and made no mention of it as being an issue. Had Denver won both games, it never would have been written about..

    • Phoenixfyre1313

      it wasn’t the journalism that was lazy.  If you were in their shoes you would have picked UAH??????  If say you would have your lying to yourself and the rest of us.  The only thing that was lazy was Denver’s play on Friday night!

      • JerryN

        Of course nobody would have picked UAH. That does not change the fact that the writers were too lazy to offer a decent preview of the series. Just because teams are huge underdogs doesn’t mean that reporters can’t offer a sentence or two.

  • flopper

    how’s our knowledge base these days….. captaincy ?
    uah vs denver ?
    doesn.t match up from goaltender out ?

  • Hank

    Tyler and Brian – Have you even seen Duluth play since the Gophers series?  Every week it seems like you try to justify why they shouldn’t be as good as they are.  The “question marks” you continually mention have clearly been answered.  Yes they lost a lot of talented individuals from last year, but it takes a team to win.  The entire team clearly understands and believes in their system, and it shows on the ice.  It would be really nice if you tuned into see the defending national champions play once in a while, especially since you are supposed to be the WCHA experts.  Relying on box scores and pre-season predictions is not cutting it.

    • Anonymous

      I know that I’m biased being a die-hard Western Michigan fan, but I believe that they are legitimate top-10 team at this point.  They been able to skate with every opponent so far this season (and they have played some very good teams), but UMD proved to be a different animal.  I thought that WMU actually played extremely well this weekend, and even outplayed the Bulldogs during stretches of each game, but in the end they just simply couldn’t hang with them for a full 60 minutes. If my beloved Broncos are in the NCAA field again, and I think they will be, I just hope we find ourselves in a different bracket than Duluth.  

  • http://www.collegehockeypulse.com/ mrjakep

    You have to come down to reality a bit with UMD!  Granted they have had a
    nice run but look at the opponents played in this streak!  

    This last weekend was
    the first real challenge in my opinion since the Gophers!  They tied with Wisconsin (who is have a
    terrible season), Tied Denver who just lost to Alabama-Huntsville because of
    goaltending issues, Tied Providence, (need I say More), let us not forget
    stealing one at home away from Bemidji State on a Saturday night only because
    UMD was on the power play for almost half of the third period!

    I would think the jury is still out on this team!  Let’s see how they do against UNO and Alabama-Huntsville!  You never now!  I mean look at Bowling Green!

    • Guest

      The jury isn’t out on UMD.  If it were you would have to say the jury is out on every team which it is to some degree because the season is on over.  No team is ever going to be unblemished in a season and the fact is that all other teams have more blemishes than UMD.  If you’ve watched UMD you would know this team is the real deal.  Althougth they had more individual talent last year, they are a better team this year.  Any win in the WCHA is a good win and especially those on the road.  Even in their 3 losses (Dame and UMn) they outplayed those teams over the full 60 minutes but you are never going to win all games in hockey.  They’ve been on the road since November 19th and don’t return to Duluth until January 20th.  They were off for 26 days before playing Western Michigan and had to play them on the road after WM had a tune up the week before.  They answered the bell extremely well this year. This team has faced adversity and deserves all the credit it gets.

    • wchaguest

      KRACH puts their SOS at 12th. Not incredibly hard, I’ll admit but not terrible either. The Gophers lost to that same Wisconsin team. Denver is still a ranked team despite losing to UAH in a game they should have won. And they shutout Bemidji in that games you said they “stole”. Last time I checked you can’t win games without scoring any goals. With that said… it seems to me the writers agree with you… the rest of UMD’s schedule is relatively easy… but you never know what can happen. 

    • Bulldog Fan

      They were on the power play because BSU couldn’t keep up with UMD’s speed and had to take penalties to keep up.  When they beat BSU 1-0 they didn’t play their best game and still won.  That’s what elite teams are able to do. 

  • TechFan

    Everyone north of Hinckley knew UMD was for real many weeks ago. Even those in the Cities are coming on board.  Glad you have caught up. 

    Regarding SOS, the last place team in the WCHA almost always has the toughest schedule in college hockey (Tech fan here).  Likewise, the top teams all look like they are playing easier schedules. They are playing a full WCHA schedule, so it all evens out in the end.  You need to look harder at how the WCHA is doing as a whole, to really provide thoughtful analysis. 

  • Anonymous

    How is there not a word on the CC-CU series here in this column beyond Jaden Schwartz not playing Friday. Two top 15 teams play and theres not a word to be said… huh… Also congrats to UAH

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