It’ll be Wisconsin vs. Harvard and UNH vs. UMD in Duluth on Thursday. Harvard will play at 5 p.m. CT followed by UMD at 8 p.m.
It was a familiar result for the Badgers, who won in overtime in the quarterfinals en route to each of their NCAA titles in the last two years. The matchup was unfortunate for the Gophers, who might have had a better shot had the NCAA spent the money to send St. Lawrence to Ridder. Four of the Gophers’ 7 losses this season — including the only three since mid-November — came at the hands of the Badgers. It was a tough ending for five Gopher seniors, who will graduate with three NCAA appearances, two Frozen Fours, and one NCAA title.
Here are some quick stats on attendance from the NCAA quarterfinals.
2008: UNH 1607, Harvard 1497, Minnesota 1458, UMD 925
2007: Wisconsin 5125, Dartmouth 2344, Mercyhurst 1350 (sellout), UNH 1215
2006: UNH 2061, Wisconsin 1333, St. Lawrence 816, Minnesota 703
2005: Dartmouth 1619, Minnesota 1194, Harvard 1013, UMD 906
In terms of total attendance, 2008 was the second-best year. There really wasn’t any one game that drew a spectacular crowd this season, however. In contrast, 2007 had three extraordinary crowds at Wisconsin, Dartmouth, and Mercyhurst, who also saw extraordinary overtime games. The success of the 2007 quarterfinal round will be tough to match. The 2007 quarterfinals led to a somewhat anticlimactic Frozen Four, however, since Wisconsin so thoroughly dominated the field, though UMD-BC was still a superb semifinal.
This year’s Frozen Four, which features the top four teams in the year-end USCHO poll, looks to be tougher to predict. Harvard has the nation’s best record at 32-1, but is 0-1 against the rest of the field. UNH is a sterling 3-0 against the rest of the field, but none of those games took place this calender year. Wisconsin went 1-4 against UMD and 0-2 against UNH. Yet four of those games were in the fall, and the Badgers are the two-time defending champions, with the same No. 1 goal-scorer and same No. 1 goalie as in the previous two editions. Recent history suggests the WCHA tournament teams will benefit from their conference competition, and meet again in the NCAA final — this has happened the last two years — but UNH and Harvard have both had impressive seasons, having held the top two spots in the polls all winter. This dynamic will make for an interesting weekend.