No big surprises in No. 1 Harvard’s 5-1 NCAA women’s quarterfinal win over Dartmouth. Harvard proves once again why it was the best in the ECAC this season. The attendance of 1497 was solid, but I was hoping for a little better. It was up from Harvard’s 2005 NCAA quarterfinal, the triple overtime win over Mercyhurst which was seen by 1,013.
One characteristic of this Harvard team is that it handles pressure well. This Harvard team has been much more loose, relaxed, and joyous than past Crimson No. 1 teams. Such attitude should be an asset for the Crimson going forward.
One downside for Harvard is this year’s edition is the first since the WCHA’s existence not to play a WCHA team during the regular season. Now in the NCAA semifinals, Harvard will be assured of facing a WCHA opponent. Harvard lost its only game against a non-ECAC NCAA team this season by a 4-1 margin to UNH, so this Crimson team still has plenty to prove at the national level.
More thoughts on intraconference play in the NCAA tournament — it is fair to allow for it in cases in which the No. 1 team and the No. 8 team are from the same conferences, and there is a big gap in the selection criteria between No. 1 and 2 and No. 7 and 8. That was the surely case this season. This debate was also relevant in 2006, when it looked as if No. 1 UNH would have a tough quarterfinal against No. 7 Mercyhurst against a much weaker No. 8 BC, but Harvard pulled off a surprising ECAC tourney win and made that debate irrelevant. Protecting the No. 1 seed in a tournament is a noble goal, although it sure makes for a less interesting quarterfinal matchup.