It’s tournament time for the six women’s Division III conferences and one other tournament for ECAC teams that don’t qualify for their tournament.
The ECAC East, ECAC West, MIAC, NCHA, NESCAC, and WIAC all play one-and-done formats, with some games getting underway Thursday night. Games continue through the weekend, with championships being decided a week from now.
In the ECAC East, top-seeded Norwich looks to be the favorite going away and with a spotless record in league play this season (15-0-2), the Cadets have all the confidence right now.
That said, Salve Regina finished 13-4-0 in conference play and could pose a threat to Norwich winning out.
None of the other six teams in the field won more than eight games in conference play this season.
Over in the ECAC West, the top two teams in the conference and in the nation (No. 1 Elmira, No. 2 Plattsburgh) earned first-round byes into the semifinals next weekend.
This conference is really a two-horse race with Elmira and Plattsburgh, and there is no denying that. It’s a fact. The winner of Cortland and Oswego gets Plattsburgh and then the Utica-Buffalo State winner draws Elmira. Yeah, the old “out of the frying pan into the fire” adage bodes well here.
Still, get Elmira and Plattsburgh on opposite ends of the ice and it’s anyone’s game. Literally. Then again, throw Ashley Ryan and Ashton Hogan on the ice for Elmira and it could be lights out, Plattsburgh.
The MIAC has the makings for an upset.
Gustavus Adolphus is the top seed and plays the winner of the Bethel-St. Mary’s quarterfinal, while Concordia (Minn.) and St. Thomas get at it in the other semifinal.
GAC finished the regular season 15-2-1 and St. Thomas right behind at 11-3-4. These two should wind up in the finals, but after that, it’s a roll of the dice as to who comes out of the MIAC.
Adrian ruled the roost in the NCHA this year and enters that conference’s tournament as the top seed. Goaltender Jade Walsh is a solid Laura Hurd candidate and only lost once in regulation this season, which was also the number of times the Bulldogs lost in regulation all year (20-1-4).
Lake Forest could give Adrian a run for its money in the tournament final, but odds are the Bulldogs will be the ones cashing in. Adrian seems like a team on a mission.
Both Adrian and Lake Forest get byes into the semifinals.
In the NESCAC, eight teams make the field, headlined by No. 3 Middlebury, the favorite and regular-season champs.
Second-seeded Amherst has shown an affinity to win big games this season, too, so that squad should not be counted out at all.
The brackets show we could be in for a Middlebury-Amherst final, and that would surprise no one.
The WIAC quartet is probably between Wisconsin-River Falls and Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Wis.-River Falls gets Wisconsin-Eau Claire to open up things and the Pointers, who handed Adrian its lone loss this year, draw Wisconsin-Superior.
All four teams played tough nonconference schedules this season, and that level of competition matters now.
At the end of the day, though, it should be River Falls and Stevens Point battling it out for bragging rights in the state of Wisconsin.
The ECAC Open pits Holy Cross against St. Anselm and Franklin Pierce taking on St. Michael’s. All four are not Division III schools and as such, do not play in the ECAC East tournament.
The Holy Cross-St. Anselm game has the potential to be a barn-burner, though Franklin Pierce may have an edge over St. Michael’s. The winner of the tournament will be who has the momentum after the Holy Cross and St. Anselm game.
Check back to USCHO.com as Candace and Matt pick this weekend’s contests.