So what did you think of the tourney selections? Any of the eight teams selected by the NCAA to vie for the Fro4 title cause any head scratching?
In fact the only the thing surprising about this yearâ€™s tourney field is that there are no surprises.
Seven schools return from last seasonâ€™s field, with Boston College falling out, replaced by Harvard, which was only the nationâ€™s top-ranked team for the final month of the season.
Each conference had a hopeful with a realistic shot at a tournament bid.
And at least one was certainly on the table for the grabbing.
But not one did. Not Providence, nor Clarkson, nor Wayne State, nor St. Cloud.
Each of those made a case for inclusion with a strong, late season push. But as it turns out, there was nothinâ€™ doinâ€™ … the new guard is in reality the old guard.
So with that, if there is to be a major surprise this time around, it come dressed up as a national championship for a non-WCHA squad.
Of course, there are three of those: Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Between them they have taken seven NCAA titles, with Wisconsin having won the last two.
Whoâ€™s to say that the â€œBig Dubâ€ (as in WCHA) wonâ€™t produce the tourney champion one more time? There are five schools who think it wonâ€™t.
Should be fun to watch, eh?
(All of which take place Saturday)
No. 1 Harvard v. No. 8 Dartmouth, Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge
Why Dartmouth could win: Does close count? Not many teams gave Harvard much of a game this year, but the Big Green did back on Nov. 27, holding the Crimson to just 23 shots in what played out as a 2-1 Harvard win. Harvard had an easier time of it in the rematch, a 4-0 blanking. Since the stingy Harvard defense has allowed just under a goal per game, (0.91 to be exact), Dartmouth canâ€™t afford to get involved in a track meet with the Crimson. Whether the Green can avoid that is another matter.
No. 2 Minnesota Duluth v. No. 7 Mercyhurst, the DECC, Duluth, Minn.
Why Mercyhurst could win: It could come down to a showdown in overtime between two Kazmaier finalists, high-scoring Laker forward Meghan Agosta (39 goals, tops in the Nation) and Minnesota Duluth netminder Kim Martin (.949 save pct., second in the country). Then again Mercyhurst also received game-winning goals from 10 scorers other than Agosta (who potted nine herself). The teams met twice early in the season, UMD winning one (3-1) and the other winding up as a 1-1 deadlock. Unlike previous years, the Lakers did not breeze through the CHA — either in the regular season or in the tournament — but that testing could prove beneficial.
No. 3 New Hampshire v. No. 6 St. Lawrence, Whittemore Center, Durham N.H.
Why St. Lawrence could win: The Saints did it once already. New Hampshire were beaten just three times all season. One of those losses were handed them by the Saints, although that was way back in the first weekend of the season, long before Wildcat freshman Jenn Wakefield emerged as a primo point producer. In St. Lawrenceâ€™s favor, the Saints do possess truly balanced scoring (seven players with 25 points or better) and net minder Meaghan Guckian is capable of stealing a game against anybody. As we said, she did it once before.
No. 4 Minnesota v. No. 5 Wisconsin, Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.
Why either team could win: Of course, this is the hardest game to assess, and not just because of their 4/5 seedings, or the fact that between them, they own the last five NCAA titles (the last two going to Wisconsin). Rather, the teams see each other so often that there are simply no secrets kept. After all, they have played six times this year, the last coming a week ago for the WCHA tourney title. Wisconsin won that one (4-3) as it has 10 of the past 13 cross border clashes, but even that can be discounted just as the fact that the host Gophers lost just once at Ridder all year (to guess who?).
Just let â€˜em play.