Wednesday Women: Puzzling Pairings

Kimberly Newell ( Princeton - 33). (Shelley M. Szwast)
Kimberly Newell and Princeton got sent to play Minnesota in the NCAA tournament. (Shelley M. Szwast)

Candace: Well Arlan, it’s down to eight. The conference tournament semifinals and finals, at least, brought few surprises. Boston College continued its quest to match Minnesota’s perfection of 2013 by winning the Hockey East tournament, defeating Boston University 5-0 in the final. BU was the lone upset winner of the weekend, defeating No. 6 Northeastern 4-3 in the semis. However, the Terriers looked overmatched in the final against the Eagles, and so miss the NCAA tournament. The top seeds in the other conferences all advanced to finals that played out much closer than Hockey East. Wisconsin and Quinnipiac each won 1-0 games over the No. 2 seeds, Minnesota and Clarkson, respectively, and Mercyhurst defeated Syracuse in overtime to capture that league’s automatic bid. I do have to feel for Syracuse. It’s the second year in a row the Orange have lost the CHA title game in OT, and this one came on the heels of an emotional three overtime win over Penn State in the semis.

With the conference tournaments in the books, the NCAA Selection Committee set up the tournament draw, and on the face of it, nothing makes sense. Rather than bus No. 7 Princeton to Boston College, the Tigers are flying to Minneapolis, and Northeastern gets on a bus and heads across town to face Boston College, again. That just doesn’t make sense to me, and frankly, reinforces the notion I have that there is still a lot of sexism that women face in college sports. The NCAA would never dream of doing that in men’s hockey, yet they seems to routinely give a metaphorical slap in the face to some of the top women’s teams. There’s even no consistency. Someone on the USCHO.com boards pointed out that if they’d done the same thing last year, they’d have sent Boston University across town to play Harvard and sent Quinnipiac to Madison to face Wisconsin, but instead they maintained bracket integrity and shipped BU to Madison.

The NCAA talks a lot about growing the game, but talk is cheap, and it seems to me that the NCAA cares about little except keeping things as cheap as possible. Sometimes it almost feels the NCAA wishes it didn’t have to put on a women’s national tournament, and would have preferred that Title IX never came about.

What is your opinion on the NCAA? Do you think it shows a lack of respect for women’s hockey?

Arlan: To start, I’d like to apologize to our readers. Since Friday, I’ve been in the midst of a family medical emergency, the prognosis is uncertain, and that’s likely coloring my perception of the world in general and our sport in particular. In all honesty, I feel quite disillusioned about the future of our game overall.

The NCAA is barely cognizant that women’s ice hockey exists. Once a year, some underling in its massive bureaucracy likely reaches into a pocket, grabs a handful of coins and forks it over, pocket lint and all, to someone in charge of running a National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament. I doubt it is accompanied by a pat on the head, but it may as well be. The bureaucrat checks off a box on a list of tournaments that the NCAA cares zero about. “There. That’s out of the way for another year.” Maybe this year the hand contained fewer coins and more pocket lint, so that bus from Princeton to Boston was a deal breaker.

Are the decisions made by the NCAA sexist? I don’t know. Does the organization’s hierarchy care any less about women’s cross country than it does men’s cross country? Probably not. I’d guess that zero is roughly equal to zero.

The NCAA does not care about women’s ice hockey. Period. If it cares about the men’s D-I hockey tournament, I’ve seen little indication of that over the years. It cares only to the extent that there is a television deal in place, and the thing it cares most about is money. The poor television cameramen have difficulty giving us crowd shots at the men’s hockey regionals that don’t consist largely of empty seats. The positive sign for women’s sports is that at least there are sports like women’s basketball, volleyball, and softball that are in a better place in terms of interest than they were not that long ago.

Our tournament, on the other hand, is at best going nowhere. More accurately, it is getting worse. Ten years ago, it had a television deal, and now it does not. The biggest crowds at a Frozen Four came quite a while back. I guess the positive on that front is that the crowds are surpassing 3,000 on a more consistent basis, but clearly, every change in how the brackets are populated in the last 10 years has been another step in the wrong direction.

Candace: Well, the regionals may be sparsely populated, but the Frozen Four is always electric, and it’s always packed. From my own admittedly biased viewpoint, I think you can say that there is sexism tied to money. Put it this way. I’ve covered the men’s game for 10 years now, and am the NCHC columnist for USCHO. I can guarantee that there is no way a similar bracket would have been cooked up in the men’s game, and if it did, the entire fandom would be apoplectic. Can you imagine say North Dakota being named the No. 1 seed and then having to play Minnesota-Duluth as a 15 or 16 seed, just because it’s a bus ride, and then sending, say, No. 16 Robert Morris over to play the No. 4 seed, perhaps Quinnipiac? To be clear, I’m not putting down any of those programs, but Duluth and North Dakota are both in the NCHC, and play each other four times a year.

There was more information posted on BC Interruption Monday, including clarification from Sarah Fraser. Based on her comments, I want whatever she and the rest of the Selection Committee were smoking, because it must be one hell of a hallucinogenic high. There is no way anyone can possibly state that a Princeton team, one that got knocked out in the quarterfinals by St. Lawrence, is a tougher team to play than Northeastern, with Kendall Coyne leading the charge. Northeastern played more games than the Tigers, and played Boston College four times and also CHA winner Mercyhurst twice. Princeton also played six games against NCAA tournament teams, and did fairly well in them, but also had more puzzling losses. Northeastern’s one puzzling loss was to Lindenwood, and maybe that factored into the committee’s decision, but if it did, it’s still a travesty.

So now we get a bracket that any fan of the game is going to say is absolutely horrible. It makes zero sense, and seems to truly disrespect the women’s game. That again gets back to my point: regardless of money, there is no way that the NCAA would treat the men’s teams the way it treats the women’s teams, and again makes me think that the NCAA wishes it didn’t have to put on a women’s national tournament.

Arlan: The current bracket just makes me sad. I hope selection committee chair Fraser, and members Mark Johnson, Nick Reggio, and Mike Sisti, like this bracket, because it would be hard to find anyone else who does. If they don’t like it, but there hands are forced by some constraint to which we’re not privy, then I hope that is stated clearly and emphatically in every report that they submit.

I’m glad I don’t have to attempt to market these pairings, because I’m not sure how one could. Congratulations to Northeastern on making your first NCAA tournament! Isn’t this exciting! Now go play Boston College for the fifth time. Also, congratulations to Quinnipiac on hosting a quarterfinal — yet another milestone in a historic season. To celebrate, let’s have you play the same team twice in a seven-day period and fourth time overall. Maybe someone will get to 20 shots this time. Princeton has reached its second-ever NCAA tournament and the first in 10 years. Let’s send the Tigers back to the same place they went the last time. There’s a city named Princeton in Minnesota; maybe that’s causing confusion, and the committee thinks Princeton is like North Dakota and always has to be sent to Minneapolis, no matter what. Finally we get the Mercyhurst at Wisconsin matchup that has been spaced out at four or five-year intervals, but I fear is likely to become more frequent going forward if the Lakers adapt to owning the CHA automatic bid like they have owned the CHA season.

As a fan of the game, I was looking forward to seeking Kendall Coyne play in person for the first time. Sending Northeastern to Minnesota and Princeton to Boston College seemed so obvious that I couldn’t dream of how that could get screwed up. When Northeastern popped up as the opponent for the Eagles during the selection show, I couldn’t understand what was happening. Had North Dakota or Bemidji State suddenly been resurrected? Why else could the committee be getting this so wrong? The biggest problem isn’t that some team or other is getting a much easier draw than it otherwise would have. The problem is that the whole point of this should be creating great opportunities for the student athletes, and BC is a lame destination for the Northeastern players. It feels so much less like a national tournament experience. Some lame excuse about Princeton having a supposedly tougher schedule isn’t going to change that.

To be clear, it isn’t like the yearly pattern of disappointing national tournament brackets is the sport’s only competition problem. For instance, a lot is made of poor Wisconsin and Minnesota always winding up on the same half of the bracket and having to meet before the final. Other than consistently being one of the more boring pairings of contending teams that you’ll find, I’m not sure it is all that much of an injustice.

Certainly, the coaches of the two teams have done nothing to prevent it with how they crafted their nonconference schedules. Johnson led his Badgers against teams that finished 10th in the ECAC, seventh in Hockey East, and fifth in the CHA. I suppose we could applaud the fact that none of those teams finished last. Minnesota’s Brad Frost took on the ninth team in the ECAC and the third team in the CHA. Compelling stuff, guys. You’re really helping to spark national interest in the sport.

In past years, this would work out for the WCHA because teams like Bemidji State and North Dakota would make some noise knocking off contending teams from other leagues. Now that the Beavers and Fighting Hawks have national aspirations of their own, they’ve taken to watering down their nonconference slates as well.

To be fair, this is largely a problem with the criteria currently in use. There is no incentive to schedule more difficult games out of conference. The Ratings Percentage Index is a total joke that can’t figure out what is or is not a difficult schedule and winds up totally dropping far too many games from its calculations. A week ago, it had Wisconsin rated above Minnesota based on the fact that the Gophers’ weak schedule was slightly better than the Badgers’ weaker schedule, and thus, Wisconsin got a bigger boost from its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.

While it is most glaring in the WCHA, where are the marquee nonconference matches in any of the leagues? Credit to Mercyhurst for playing Quinnipiac, Northeastern, and Princeton, who all made the tournament, twice apiece. The Lakers also scheduled an up-and-coming Colgate team. Beyond that, schedules of tournament teams were rather dismal. The defense of some may be that Harvard and BU were expected to be better than they were, but I didn’t get the sense that anyone was really looking to load up its schedule. Maybe it just doesn’t make sense to do so. It didn’t work out all that well for teams like Yale and Minnesota-Duluth that had difficult nonconference schedules. However, that’s another aspect of the game 10 or more years ago that I look back on more fondly: all the contenders wanted to play other contenders. Now, almost nobody will.

So how does any of this get fixed? I don’t think any meaningful improvement will happen unless there is a bit more funding for the tournament. By that, I don’t mean increasing the size of the tournament. That would just give us more conference retreads. Maybe they could find somebody who would sponsor the tournament and agree to an uptick in travel budgets. A couple more flights in the budget could make a huge difference in some seasons. I’d also make the top priority to avoid conference pairings in the quarterfinals. Those are throwaway games that will always be less interesting than any other option. If they are allowed, it is a sign of capitulation to the belief that nobody cares about the sport and its tournament. To eliminate those single-conference quarters, one can’t afford to have any sanctimonious coaches complaining about lack of bracket integrity. With the rankings system in place, bracket integrity is a nebulous concept. This time of year should be about champions. You want to be the best, then go play whoever shows up. You’ve spent the other five months avoiding each other.

Obviously, I’d get rid of the PairWise Rankings. Shame on anyone who has been on a selection or competition committee, or wherever such things are decided, and did not do everything possible to get rid of the Ratings Percentage Index. Seriously.

What improvements would you like to make?

Candace: I would like to see a few things. The first is that coaches like Sisti and Johnson should in no way be on the Selection Committee. If your team makes the tournament, you are out and you find coaches from programs who aren’t in the tournament. I’d like to think Sisti and Johnson wouldn’t have been biased, but given how the WCHA has been screwed over the years, I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility that there was some subconscious thought about payback.

I agree that you don’t expand the tournament, and perhaps you do get some sponsorship. The PairWise isn’t perfect, but it seems to work well enough in deciding the teams in the men’s tournament. KRACH might be better for both, but it would be a tough sell to get the NCAA to adapt it. Still, I think strength of schedule should factor into it, and perhaps that would encourage teams to play the top teams in other conferences more often. I’ve been dying to see Boston College face Minnesota the last few years, and at least they played in the NCAA tournament a couple of times, most recently in 2013, but regular season matchups between the two would be nice. BC has scheduled teams like Quinnipiac in the past, as well as Merchyhurst, but the WCHA hasn’t seemed to want to travel as much. BC did play Dululth twice at the start of the year at home.

It’d also be nice to see some of the top ECAC teams facing HE and WCHA teams. Harvard is always guaranteed to games against BC, BU, and Northeastern through the Beanpot. This was a down year for the Crimson, but they’ll be back, but it’d be nice to see Harvard play Wisconsin, or Quinnipiac face Minnesota in the regular season, and using KRACH and factoring in strength of schedule into the selection to the tournament would be a great start toward getting that to happen.

I also think it’s critical to avoid first round intraconference matchups. I don’t care about geographic proximity. Fraser, Sisti, Johnson, and Reggio can spout on and on about Princeton being a tougher team, but nobody’s buying it. No, the NCAA saw a way to cut down on travel fares and sent Northeastern across town. I’m surprised they don’t make the players take the subway to further cut down on travel.

You are right: something has to change, and it’s a shame that it played out this way, because now instead of focusing on what could be an amazing tournament, all anyone can talk about is what the hell the Selection Committee was thinking.

However, now that we’ve established that the NCAA is a misogynist organization that doesn’t give a damn about women’s hockey, let’s talk about the tournament. Do you see any upsets in the quarterfinals, or do you think the top four seeds advance to Durham?

Arlan: I like the suggestion that coaches whose teams are in contention get replaced. My understanding is that they can’t be involved in any discussion regarding their own teams. So that means that for something like populating the quarterfinal in Madison, both Johnson and Sisti would have to be excluded by rule. That leaves us with people who perhaps don’t even follow women’s hockey all that closely. In this case, the Mercyhurst to Madison was pretty much a slam dunk, but there could be years where it wouldn’t be.

Before the quarterfinals, I’d first like to talk a little about the conference tourney results. One has to commend Syracuse. On Friday, they could have gotten down when Penn State rallied in the third period to force overtime, but the Orange stuck with it and survived that marathon. In the past when a team has won a game that lasted as long as the Orange-Nittany Lions game did on Friday, it hasn’t had to come back and play the next day like they did. It would have been easy to fold their tent and go away on Saturday after Mercyhurst scored three times in two minutes to go ahead by two goals. To battle back in the final three minutes of regulation like Syracuse did says a ton about the character of that team. Kudos.

Connecticut also showed some fight in getting back to level versus BC from two goals down. Even though Elaine Chuli is graduating, I expect the Huskies to find their way back to the top four of Hockey East next year. I can see Annie Belanger filling that role down the road, even though Chuli will no doubt be missed. Although BU got the upper hand on Northeastern, it didn’t have any Hockey East tournament magic this year versus the Eagles.

In the ECAC, St. Lawrence at least was able to score on Quinnipiac for the first time this year in the semifinal. The problem was that once Hannah Miller tied the game for the Saints, they weren’t able to generate much else offensively, and Randi Marcon won it for the Bobcats with five minutes left. In the other semifinal, Colgate once more lost in a game where it had held a lead. That seemed to be the Achilles’ heel of a talented but young team. I doubt we’ve heard the last of the Raiders during a championship weekend. In the final, first goal was always going to be huge, and in this case, it proved to be the only goal. Quinnipiac is certainly a team that an opponent doesn’t want to have to come from behind against, and Clarkson wound up in that tough position.

In the WCHA Final Face-Off, all three losing teams were shut out. Defense was the theme of the season in that conference, and it held true to the end with Ann-Renée Desbiens not allowing a goal in any of her four playoff games. She didn’t have to do much in the semifinal when Minnesota-Duluth didn’t look to have a ton left in the tank, but she was called on to make 35 saves over the final 50 minutes or so against Minnesota, some of the spectacular variety.

Speaking of Desbiens, she was named a top three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. Last week you asked who I thought would be on that list. Now that it is official, what are your thoughts on the top three?

Candace: It’s hard to see any players but those three as the finalists, and I think it’s what everyone expected. Minnesota’s Hannah Brandt was a top three finalists the last two years, and a top 10 finalist her freshman year, but she was a little down this year in production, and Coyne and BC’s Alex Carpenter both had better years, which leaves Brandt going up against Desbiens and Brandt’s teammate Dani Cameranesi for representation from the WCHA. While both Brandt and Cameranesi had great years, neither was better than Carpenter or Coyne offensively, and given Desbiens setting the shutout record, I don’t see how she can get left off.

In the race as it stands now, I think you have to favor Coyne. The voting is already over, and Coyne has way more to do with Northeastern making its first NCAA tournament than Carpenter or Desbiens did for their respective teams. Desbiens has been a great goalie this year, but Wisconsin plays very good defensively as a team. Desbiens was brilliant last weekend in the WCHA tournament, not allowing goals against Duluth in the semifinals or Minnesota in the finals, but that weekend won’t factor into the voting.

In a race between Coyne and Carpenter, I give the nod to the former, especially since the voting is over. Carpenter came up big for the Eagles against BU in the Hockey East final, but she was curiously quiet in the series against Maine the weekend before, whereas Coyne was a huge presence for Northeastern in its best-of-three quarterfinal against Providence. Coyne also accounts for more of a percentage of her team’s scoring than Carpenter. I think Carpenter makes everyone on BC better, but as you pointed out to me a few weeks ago, when Carpenter was playing for the U.S. at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the Eagles still won the Hockey East regular season crown and still advanced to the NCAA tournament, going 27-3-3, while with Coyne at Sochi, Northeastern finished third and lost to Boston University in the Hockey East tournament semifinals and didn’t make the NCAA tournament, going 19-14-2. As good as forwards Denisa Krížová and Hayley Scamura are, and even with solid netminding from Brittany Bugalski, with Coyne graduating next year, I don’t see Northeastern having the same level of success next season. You can say the same for BC, which will lose Carpenter, Hayley Scarupa, and Lexi Bender, but I think BC will still be in contention for the Hockey East crown and the NCAA tournament next season.

Do you see it differently than me? Would you favor Desbiens or Carpenter over Coyne?

Arlan: No, not with when the voting took place. You asked me who I would place on top last week, in advance of the conference finals, and I agree that Coyne led the way at that point. Considerations like leadership and love of the game are a wash between Coyne and Carpenter, with both being seniors who took a season off after being sophomores for the Olympics. Desbiens, as a junior who is completing her second season as the starter, is in a slightly different point in her career. Academic considerations favor Coyne. At the time of the final vote, I think Coyne was in front.

The timing of the vote has always been a factor in the Kazmaier process. Coyne had a strong Hockey East quarterfinal series while Carpenter was comparatively quiet. That was reversed last weekend, with Coyne having one assist and being a minus-1 as her team was eliminated in its semifinal. Carpenter was also a minus one in her semifinal, but she had an assist plus the game-winning goal. In the championship game, she was a plus-3, scoring twice with an assist. Meanwhile, Desbiens likely had the most-impressive weekend with two more shutouts, including the 35-save effort over the country’s second-highest scoring offense.

There have been a number of years where players did their best work in the postseason, and naturally, it wasn’t considered in the Kazmaier voting. Several of those went on to be the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four. Some that come to mind are Kristy Zamora of Brown in 2002, Krissy Wendell of Minnesota in 2004, and Emmanuelle Blais of Minnesota-Duluth in 2010. Nobody from that trio even made the Kazmaier final three in those years, but they clearly would have, and may have even won, had the Kazmaier voting occurred later.

The only difference in how we view the Kazmaier voting is I don’t see it as Desbiens being the third choice, with Coyne and Carpenter automatically being in ahead of her.

Earlier, you asked about the possibility of upsets in the NCAA quarterfinals. I guess I’ve stalled long enough.

It isn’t a shock in any eight-team tournament that the No. 4 seed would be most at risk of an upset, and the same holds true here. There are reasons why Quinnipiac is seeded below the top three, and it has drawn the most-accomplished opponent of the four road teams. The Clarkson seniors are playing in their fourth-straight NCAA tournament, while none of the other visiting squads reached the event last year. I think it is important that the Bobcats don’t psyche themselves out and turn Saturday’s game into something more than it is. They can’t focus on it being their first NCAA game on home ice or as the favorite, and take added pressure from that. It’s still just playing a hockey game, something they’ve already done 37 times this year.

The challenge for Quinnipiac is that it is playing a very similar team. Over the course of their seasons, the Bobcats outscored opponents by 84 goals in 37 games, while the Golden Knights outscored opponents by 86 goals in 38 games. In terms of average scoring margin, that’s an edge of less than 0.01 in Quinnipiac’s favor, which is about as equal as two teams can get. Head to head, the advantage for the Bobcats has been a little more pronounced, scoring six goals in the three games to Clarkson’s two. The Golden Knights can be encouraged by the fact that the outlier in that group came in the game back in November when Taylar Cianfarano scored a hat trick. Nicole Brown’s second-chance goal on Sunday is all that separates the teams in the two games since. Both teams have key seniors. Clarkson has Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast on its blue line, and Olivia Howe and Shannon MacAulay up front. Quinnipiac has even more of a veteran look with defensemen Kristen Tamberg, Cydney Roesler, and Lindsey West, plus forwards Nicole Connery, Nicole Kosta, and Brown. The Golden Knights start sophomore Shea Tiley in net, while the Bobcats’ Sydney Rossman is a junior, but she’s in her first season as the postseason starter. That game is nearly a coin flip, but given intangibles like playing at home and a general sense that this is Quinnipiac’s year, I’d favor it slightly, say a 55 percent chance that the Bobcats win.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming quarterfinals?

Candace: I agree that Clarkson against Quinnipiac has the potential for an upset. Those two teams are very close, and while Quinnipiac has won all three games against Clarkson so far, the games haven’t been slam dunks. Rossman stopped a breakaway in the third period last weekend; otherwise, it might have gone to overtime. Rossman is I think not getting enough credit for Quinnipiac’s outstanding defense, but it’s hard to recognize it when the Bobcats limit their opponents to under 20 shots.

I think Minnesota and Wisconsin are locks to advance to the Frozen Four. Mercyhurst is playing good hockey right now, but I still see the Lakers as at a tier below the upper echelon. They’ve struggled with scoring at times this year, and going up against the best goaltender in the country won’t improve those odds. Minnesota against Princeton will come down to the Gophers’ superior offense. I expect to see Minnesota score at least three or four goals and roll to a win and another shot at Wisconsin in Durham.

That leaves Northeastern at Boston College, which to me is another potential upset. The two have played four times so far, and two of those games were extremely close. BC won the last one 5-3, with the last goal being an empty-net goal and the game-winner being a power-play goal in the waning seconds of the second period, right after Coyne had tied the game. Northeastern’s top line of Coyne, Krížová, and Scamura is capable of racking up points in a hurry, and will be amped up to be playing in the postseason for the first time. To counter that statement, BC is deeper offensively, with two lines that can score. I’d imagine coach Katie Crowley will at least start with Carpenter between Skarupa and Kenzie Kent. That line was lethal last weekend against the Terriers. Crowley has sometimes moved Carpenter and Skarupa to different lines to generate more offense, but those two are really hard to shut down, especially when they are playing well.

The key for Northeastern will be to prevent BC from scoring a couple of goals early. When the Eagles do that, they tend to get on a roll and come in waves. Last Sunday against BU, I think over 13 minutes went by at the start of the game where the Terriers could barely get it out of their zone, and didn’t register a single shot on goal. If Northeastern can keep it from getting away from them early, as happened in the Beanpot game, it will be a dogfight of a game that might come down to a bounce or two.

Do you see any hope for Mercyhurst or Princeton against the WCHA’s terrible twosome, and do you agree that Northeastern against BC is going to be a rough out?

Arlan: According to WCHODR, the chances for any of those three being upset are fairly close. All are nearly three-goal favorites. Wisconsin is the biggest favorite, then BC, then Minnesota, but all three are within about a tenth of a goal.

For each, there are reasons to like the underdog. Mercyhurst’s seniors have gone on the road and won an NCAA quarterfinal a couple of different times in their careers. Those were more highly regarded teams — they got in as an at-large team, not through an auto-bid — but I do think there are some mitigating factors for this year’s Lakers. Sisti said they’ve had to deal with an abnormal quantity of injuries this year, but they’re healthier now. Players like Emily Janiga and Jenna Dingeldein were quiet earlier in the season, but they showed up in a big way when needed this weekend. The power-play percentage was anemic, but the power play carried the day in the win over Robert Morris and scored a couple times against Syracuse. Goaltending, which was inconsistent early, has been strong of late. With Sisti’s experience in the tournament, the Lakers aren’t a team to be so easily discarded.

The problem, of course, is that if Wisconsin isn’t the best team in the country, it is close. The Badgers feature one of the best defenses ever, allowing 0.68 goals per game. Desbiens is playing at such a high level that the best case for an opponent might be scoring two goals. The Badgers have a top-four offense, so two goals might still not be enough.

Princeton has better balance than we give it credit for, ranking eighth in offense and sixth in scoring defense. A great senior goaltender like Kimberly Newell is always a good place to start. The Tigers have more pop on offense than they had a year ago, and some of that is attributable to Karlie Lund, one of four players who are Minnesota natives. Princeton played the Gophers a year ago and played in Minneapolis two years ago, and that familiarity is bound to help the underdog.

The challenge for Princeton is that Minnesota is going to be very focused after being shut out by Wisconsin on Sunday. I don’t know if Kelsey Koelzer will be able to play for the Tigers after being injured in the deciding game versus St. Lawrence. That leaves a big hole on their blue line if she can’t go. The Gophers’ senior class has accomplished so much in their careers that it would be surprising to see them lose their final game on home ice, after losing only three times at home over four years.

I don’t share your concern that BC could be upset by Northeastern. I expect that we’ll see something like the Eagles’ 5-0 win over BU. When Minnesota had to defeat North Dakota for a sixth time three years ago to reach the Frozen Four, that was a far different visiting team, with three Olympic veterans on the roster. Coyne is terrific, no doubt, but if the Eagles can stop her, and they’ve proven that they can, there really isn’t a Plan B for Northeastern. Beyond that, I have seen no evidence that the Huskies can shut down the BC’s lethal offense. Boston is the last place I’d look for an upset.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah it was pretty bad. The good news is that the game is still flourishing in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but hopefully some of the enthusiasm catches in the Northeast. The frozen four next weekend should still be decently attended, especially if Boston College makes it through to the title game.

  2. “I can guarantee that there is no way a similar bracket would have been cooked up in the men’s game, and if it did, the entire fandom would be apoplectic.”

    Maybe USCHO should print weekly Bracketology updates for the women’s side to better inform the fandom. It’s a little ironic for two USCHO columnists to complain about unequal treatment of women’s hockey from the NCAA.

    • I’ve been watching the woman’s pairwise for a while now and it really does not change much at all by week, unfortunately

  3. I was really looking forward to Coyne v Kessel as well, and interested to see how Koelzer defended against the Eagles. I feel cheated out of two very interesting games.

  4. Unfortunately no one here talks about attendance in the woman’s game. BC has this awesome year and their attendance is a joke. Until an undefeated team can average at least 1000 per game, the NCAA is not going to take them seriously. Minnesota and Wisconsin do relatively well, but most teams have just friends and family showing up. TV doesn’t want to show arenas with 3/4 of the seats empty without loud crowds. The regionals in the men’s game have weak attendance figures too, but the women’s game has a much bigger problem all year long. Until they can fill out bigger venues, maybe the women’s games are better suited to 1500 seat rinks on a regular basis.

    • Agreed – not sure quite what they can do with it. One of the big hopes I have is that the NWHL is starting to make headway with both female and male fans. Little boys and girls will hopefully want to go to more hockey games and these NCAA schools can be helped out as a result

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