Women’s D-I wrap: March 9

Chaos returns in the second weekend of conference tournaments
After the higher seed advanced in all 14 pairings of the conference quarterfinals, results reverted to the occasional randomness seen over the season in the semis and finals. Underdogs prevailed in half of the 12 games. Minnesota was the only top-seeded team able to back up its WCHA regular-season title with a playoff crown. The semifinals were hard on the second seeds, as only one made it to the final, but that one, Boston University, took the Hockey East Championship. The third seed proved to be the most advantageous, because Cornell parlayed that route into the ECAC Hockey crown, as did RIT in the CHA. The Tigers’ tournament victory was particularly impressive, coming in just their second season as a Division-I program.

Tigers tame CHA
Ali Binnington saved all but one of the 63 shots she faced, and Lindsay Grigg scored 13:43 into the second overtime to give RIT a 2-1 victory over host Mercyhurst and its first CHA Championship. Grigg had assisted on Erin Zach’s power-play goal in the last minute of the second period for a 1-0 Tigers’ lead. Christie Cicero pulled the Lakers even during a delayed penalty early in the third stanza. Binnington’s heroics earned her recognition as the tourney’s MVP.

It was RIT’s second upset in as many days, as it took down Robert Morris, 4-1, on Friday. Melissa Bromley and Carly Payerl staked the Tigers to a 2-0 lead in the middle frame, and after Rebecca Vint cut the margin in half, Kourtney Kunichika and Cassie Clayton put the game out of reach.

Mercyhurst reached the final with a 2-1 defeat of Syracuse. Two goals by Kaleigh Chippy with helpers from Shelby Bram were enough to vanquish the Orange, who could only muster a tally from Allie LaCombe.

In an ironic twist, RIT’s season ends with a seven-game winning streak, while Mercyhurst moves on to its 10th straight NCAA tourney.

Gophers continue reign atop WCHA
Minnesota answered a power-play goal from Josefine Jakobsen with two of its own in defeating North Dakota in the WCHA final for a second straight year. Tournament Most Outstanding Player Rachel Ramsey and Hannah Brandt scored with the advantage and Dani Cameranesi iced the 3-1 win into an empty net.

North Dakota upended Wisconsin, 1-0, on Friday to keep its season alive for another day. Meghan Dufault scored an unassisted goal off of her own rebound to provide all of the offense that goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie would need for a 35-save shutout.

Minnesota-Duluth had the Gophers on the ropes in the other semifinal, but was unable to keep them there. Katerina Mrázová earned the Bulldogs a second period lead, but Kelly Terry answered six minutes later, and goals by Rachael Bona, Milica McMillen, and Cameranesi allowed Minnesota to pull away to a 4-1 triumph.

Big Red bounce back in ECAC
After losing the regular-season prize on the final weekend, Cornell had its revenge in the playoff, holding off Clarkson, 1-0, to claim its fourth championship in five years. Cassandra Poudrier, who missed the first round due to injury, scored the only goal 14:27 into the contest, and goalie Lauren Slebodnick was perfect in handling 26 chances.

Both teams displayed a lot more offense in semifinal wins.

Cornell outlasted Harvard, coming back from a two-goal deficit to win, 6-4. Jillian Saulnier and Emily Fulton contributed a pair of tallies, Jess Brown added another, and Jessica Campbell’s three points included a goal. Miye D’Oench scored twice and assisted once for the Crimson.

Shannon MacAulay led the way with two goals in Clarkson’s 6-0 demolition of Quinnipiac. Carly Mercer, Christine Lambert, Shelby Nisbet, and Erin Ambrose picked up goals and Brittany Styner had three assists. Erica Howe needed only 12 saves to turn in her 14th shutout. The win came at a cost, as Kazmaier top 10 finalist Ambrose suffered an injury.

Terriers grab Hockey East automatic bid
Boston University posted its third straight 3-2 victory to conquer the Hockey East tournament, the final coming over Boston College. Louise Warren and Maddie Elia scored third-period goals to reverse a one-goal deficit. First-frame tallies by Dana Trivigno and Taylor Wasylk sandwiched around one from Rebecca Russo had put the Eagles up by one. Kerrin Sperry made 40 saves and was named the event’s MVP for the second year. The Terriers were outside the top eight needed to secure an at-large invitation, but the automatic bid enters them into their fifth straight national tourney.

The Terriers reached the championship by holding on for a 3-2 verdict over Northeastern. Sarah Lefort, Russo, and Elia struck in the second period to give BU a 3-1 lead, bettering the goal by Kelly Wallace. The Huskies could add only a Colleen Murphy counter with under five to play.

BC advanced, 3-1, over Vermont thanks to a pure hat trick off the stick of Kate Leary.

NCAA field
Struggles late in the season dropped North Dakota and Robert Morris out of the picture, and Quinnipiac was likely the last team eliminated by the Terriers earning an automatic bid. The resulting eight-team field is very similar to that of last season, with the only change being Wisconsin returning at North Dakota’s expense.

A highlight of the quarterfinal pairings includes BU and Minnesota reprising their national final at Ridder Arena. Mercyhurst and Cornell meet in the NCAA tourney for the third time in five years, having traded upset wins. Harvard gets another shot at Wisconsin after coming up short in 2008 and in a record four-overtime tilt in 2007. BC looks to extend its string of three consecutive Frozen Four appearances as it visits Clarkson, where the Golden Knights are searching for a first win in an NCAA tournament game.