Just Like Last Year
This year’s NCAA field and match-ups — Minnesota vs. Dartmouth and Harvard vs. St. Lawrence in the semifinals — were the exact same as the 2004 tournament. Moreover, the outcomes of all four games followed the same script as the year before — Minnesota defeated Dartmouth and Harvard downed St. Lawrence to advance, and Minnesota won the national championship while St. Lawrence took third place.
At least the scores were different this year.
In Division III hockey this season, Middlebury won both the men’s and women’s ice hockey championships, and now the University of Minnesota has a chance to equal that feat. While the women Gophers were winning 4-3 in Durham in the title game, the Minnesota men’s hockey team won a 2-1 overtime game against Cornell in Minneapolis to advance to the Frozen Four, to be held in two weeks at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
The score of the Middlebury women, who topped Elmira for the crown, was 4-3 — the same as Minnesota’s score over Harvard. The Middlebury men defeated St. Thomas 5-0 in the title game, so be on the lookout for a 5-0 blowout in the Division I men’s title game.
Study For The Finals
In the five year history of the NCAA women’s hockey tournament, games on the second day — the finals and the third place game — historically tend to be much more evenly contested games than the semifinals. On average, the semis have had a 2.8 score differential, while the title game has been 1.8 and the third-place game has been 1.6.
This year was a perfect example of this trend, as Minnesota rode a five goal differential into the championship game, while Harvard outscored St. Lawrence by three goals. Yet the championship was a one goal affair, with the winning goal scored with just over a minute remaining in the game.
“Hopefully, you have the top two teams in the country competing in title game, and the players will be going hard. ” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson. “So I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
The most closely contested championship came in 2003 in Duluth, when host school Minnesota-Duluth needed four minutes and nineteen seconds of double overtime to win over Harvard.
In fact, Harvard has lost in the championship game in three straight years. “I’m getting tired of this,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone to lead off the postgame press conference.
Plenty of people from the hockey world were seen around Durham this weekend. Former Dartmouth coach Judy Parish-Oberting was in today’s crowd, as was last year’s all-everything defenseman Kelli Halcisak from Providence College. Former coach for the Wisconsin men’s team Jeff Sauer was in attendance as well, and next year’s Boston University women’s hockey coach Brian Durocher was spotted. Harvard stand-out A.J. Mleczko was calling the games with Brian Schulz for USCHO.com’s Game of the Week, and was on hand when Natalie Darwitz tied her single-season women’s point scoring record at 114.
Current coaches Shannon Miller of Minnesota-Duluth, UMD forward Caroline Oullette, and Brown coach Digit Murphy were in attendance. Jackie Barto, coach of Ohio State and member of the women’s ice hockey selection committee was omnipresent.
USA Hockey’s media relations director and former Sports Information Director Dave Fischer opened the Patty Kazmaier banquet, and as usual, he will be on hand and run the post-game press conferences at the men’s Frozen Four in two weeks.
Former Patty Kazmaier winner Ali Brewer from Brown was in attendance at the Kazmaier banquet when Krissy Wendell won the award. Today Wendell became the first Kazmaier winner to also capture the NCAA title.
…And Plenty Of Them, Too
Both Friday and Sunday games were well attended, as the announced attendance was 2204 for the semifinal contests and 2056 for the title game. While the announced crowds were actually smaller than the listed paid attendance the last time the Frozen Four was held here in New Hampshire in 2002 (4885 combined as the tournament conflicted with Good Friday and Easter), the number of people actually attending seemed to be larger. The crowds were quite loud and spirited, and Minnesota’s pep band made the trip from Minneapolis to play for the crowd. The roar of the crowd was deafening when either team scored.
“Crowds for both teams were tremendous,” said Harvard senior forward Nicole Corriero. “It’s great to see women’s hockey getting so much support.”
The actual financial figures for this year’s tournament haven’t been compiled or released by the NCAA yet, but the added expense of flying four teams for the first round of NCAA tournament games will surely impact the bottom line. Attendance at the regional campus sites was solid: 1194 in Minneapolis, 906 in Duluth, 1013 in Cambridge, and 1619 in Hanover.
F Krissy Wendell, Minnesota
F Natalie Darwitz, Minnesota
F Sarah Vaillancourt, Harvard
D Lyndsay Wall, Minnesota
D Caitlin Cahow, Harvard
G Ali Boe, Harvard