Women’s D-III playoff preview

Adelle Murphy of Norwich (Norwich Athletics)

Teams head into the first round of conference tournaments this weekend. As each conference has a different format, here’s a breakdown of each conference and how their first-round matchups shake out.

No. 1 seed Endicott (21-3-1, 11-1-0) and No. 2 seed Morrisville State (18-6-1, 8-4-0) earn byes to the semifinals, which will be held March 4 at Endicott. The lowest remaining seed will play Endicott. The second-lowest will play Morrisville State. The winners of those games advance to the championship game on March 5. Endicott’s only conference loss was to Morrisville State.

No. 3 SUNY Canton (13-10-2, 7-4-1) hosts No. 6 Becker (8-15-2, 2-10-0). The Roos finished the season tied with Stevenson, but won the head-to-head tiebreaker. This is a rematch of a quarterfinal from last season where Becker won 1-0 on the back of a 43-save shutout from Madison Rigsby. Canton sophomore Tess Adams is eighth in the country with 20 goals in 25 games played. Both teams spend a lot of time in the penalty box, so special teams could be the key to this game.

No. 4 Stevenson (13-10-1, 7-4-1) will host No. 5 Johnson & Wales (9-15-1, 4-8-0). These two played three close games this season, with Stevenson eking out the lead with a 1-0 overtime win. Stevenson junior Chelsea Blackburn is fifth in the country with 23 goals. The team is averaging nearly three goals a game. Johnson & Wales freshman goalie Julie Aberg is third in the country with a .955 save percentage.

Plattsburgh(23-1-1, 16-1-1) is the one seed and Elmira (17-4-4, 14-2-2) is the two seed and they both receive byes into the semifinal round of the tournament. Unlike in years past, where the top overall seed hosted all semifinal games, Elmira will host the second-lowest remaining seed.

Opening round games are Thursday, Feb. 23. Semifinals are tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26, and finals are tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 4. The highest remaining seed(s) will always host.

No. 3 Buffalo State will host No. 6 SUNY Potsdam. Buffalo State secured the third spot when they tied Plattsburgh on the final day of the regular season. Potsdam last made the postseason in 2014.

The two teams split their series in November, though that may not be a great indicator. The Bengals were spectacular in the second half, going on an 11-3-2 run. Potsdam was on a bit of a skid to close out the regular season, winning just one of their final seven games.

In the other opening round match, No. 4 Utica College (16-8-1, 11-6-1) hosts No. 5 Oswego State (16-7-2, 10-6-2). Utica won seven straight to close out the regular season while Oswego continued their up and down season. The Lakers have a very young team that whose players are still figuring out how to work together and stay consistent. These teams are incredibly close-matched, posting nearly identical team defense and team offense numbers. They have experienced goaltending and spread out their scoring, though Oswego’s top line is one of the better scoring trios in the country. The Lakers and Pioneers each won on home ice in a home-and-home series in January.

Looking to possible semifinal matchups, Buffalo State and Oswego are the only two teams to put a damper on Plattsburgh’s season. Oswego served them their only loss and Buffalo State gave them their sole tie. Both Utica and Oswego had ties against Elmira.

Gustavus Adolphus (17-5-3, 13-2-3), Augsburg (18-7, 14-4), and Concordia (Minn.) (14-8-3, 11-5-2) are the top three seeds, in order, and receive a bye into the semifinals, which are to be played Saturday at 2 p.m. Augsburg hosts Concordia and Gustavus Adolphus will host the winner of the quarterfinal that will be played Friday.

The quarterfinal pits No. 4 St. Thomas (11-10-4, 9-5-4) against No. 5 Hamline (12-12-1, 9-8-0) on Friday evening. It’s Hamline’s first postseason appearance in nine years. St. Thomas finished the regular season on a four-game unbeaten streak. Hamline won just one of its final six games. The two split a regular-season series. Hamline’s win back in December was their first over St. Thomas in nine years. They came back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2.

In the semifinals, Augsburg hosts Concordia. It is the best conference finish for Augsburg since the 1999-2000 season. Their goalie, Rebecca Sonnek, has more wins than any other MIAC goalie and is ranked ninth nationally. The two teams split their series when they met earlier in the year, with Augsburg winning 5-3 and Concordia winning 4-1. Concordia is averaging three goals per game while Augsburg is allowing just 1.40 goals per game. They also have one of the best power plays in the country, converting nearly 24 percent of their extra-attacker opportunities.

Gustavus Adolphus has the best goalie in the country in Amanda DiNella and subsequently is sixth in team defense, allowing just 1.32 goals per game. They’ll be a tough matchup for whomever they face.

The top four teams qualify for the tournament in the NCHA. They play a two-game series. If they split, a 20 minute mini-game is played to determine a winner. If the mini-game is tied after 20 minutes, sudden-death overtime will determine the winner.

The semifinals will take place on Friday and Saturday.

No. 1 seed Adrian (23-2, 18-0) will host No. 4 seed Marian (10-14-1, 7-11-0). Adrian was undefeated in conference play this year, setting a conference record. They are actually unbeaten in 35 conference games dating back to last season. They are a force to be reckoned with and have three of the top four scorers in the country. Adrian outscored the Sabres 19-7 in their three meetings this year. Their first meeting this season had the teams set what is believed to be a NCAA Division III record with 10 total power-play goals, nine of which were in a row.

No. 2 Lake Forest (20-4-1, 14-3-1) host No. 3 St. Scholastica (13-10-2, 10-6-2). The teams played four times this season. Lake Forest won three of the meetings and the fourth ended in a tie. The Saints have dropped five straight postseason games, with their last win coming at Lake Forest in 2013. Lake Forest lost their final two regular-season games to Adrian, but before that had been on a 16-game unbeaten streak dating back to their loss to Adrian in November.

The conference final will be a single-elimination game hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday, March 4.

Eight teams makes the NEHC quarterfinal round to be played on Saturday.

No.1 Norwich (19-5-1, 15-2-0) will host No. 8 Plymouth State (8-15-2,4-12-1). It is the seventh straight season the Cadets have earned the tournament’s top seed. Plymouth State finished the season losing six of their final seven games, including a 6-1 defeat by Norwich in their last game of the regular season. The Cadets won the first meeting between the two, 4-2. Norwich has the fourth-best scoring offense in the country.

No. 2 Manhattanville (15-8-2, 12-4-1) hosts No. 7 Southern Maine (6-18-1, 4-12-1). Manhattanville has made the postseason tournament in 17 of their 18 seasons as a program. Historically, Manhattanville owns this matchup. They are 24-1-2 all-time against Southern Maine, winning six straight dating back to 2012, and are unbeaten at home against them. The only time the teams met this season, Manhattanville won 2-1. Southern Maine earned their seed in a tiebreaker with Plymouth State, posting a better win percentage against the top eight teams in the conference.

No. 3 UMass Boston (18-7-0, 12-5-0) will host No. 6 Salve Regina (6-18-1, 5-11-1). The Beacons earned their first NCAA tournament berth last season and are looking to repeat that achievement. Salve Regina won two of their last three to get the sixth seed. Senior defender Amanda Cronin is averaging a point per game from the blue line. UMass Boston has 10 players scoring double digits this season. They won both the regular-season meetings, outscoring Salve Regina 7-2.

No. 4 Castleton (8-13-4, 7-8-2) hosts No. 5 University of New England (10-13-2, 7-9-1). This is the fourth straight season Castleton has secured home ice for the conference tournament. The Spartans won four of their final five games to end the regular season. These two teams split their regular-season series, with each team winning at home.

The semifinal round and championship game will be held on the campus of the highest advancing seed on Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4, in a final four style format.

The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the tournament. Quarterfinal games are being played on Saturday, Feb. 25, and the semifinal and championship games well be on Saturday, March 4 and Sunday, March 5.

No. 8 Wesleyan (7-11-5, 4-9-3) travels to No. 1 Middlebury (16-6-2, 11-4-1). Middlebury earned the top seed in the tournament for the seventh consecutive season. They won seven of their final eight games. Wesleyan, on the other hand, was winless in their final eight games of the regular season. Middlebury won the two meetings between these two this season, 4-2 and 1-0. They’ve never met in the postseason before.

No. 2 Connecticut College (14-7-3, 10-5-1) will host No. 7 Williams (10-12-2, 7-7-2). This is the highest seed for Connecticut College. It’s the ninth straight year that Williams qualified for the conference postseason. The Camels swept the regular season matchups this season, but Williams won their lone postseason meeting in the semifinals in 2014. Connecticut College has a stellar blue line and will be looking to advance to their second-straight semifinals.

No. 6 Bowdoin (12-8-4, 7-6-3) heads to No. 3 Hamilton (14-7-3, 9-5-2). This is the highest seed in Hamilton’s program history. They have not earned home ice since 2007. They were unbeaten in seven of their final nine regular season games. Bowdoin is making its 16th-straight appearance in the championship and is aiming for its seventh semifinal appearance in eight seasons. These two played a pair of close games during the regular season. They each won a game by a single goal.

No. 4 Trinity (9-12-3, 8-6-2) will host No. 5 Amherst (12-7-5, 6-5-5). These teams met three times this season and Amherst came away with a 2-0-1 record. Amherst finished the regular season on a four-game win streak. They’re a stingy team on defense, allowing just 1.42 goals a game and owning the fifth-best penalty kill in the country. That’s bad news for Trinity, which has one of the worst power plays in the nation. Amherst finished tied with Bowdoin in win percentage, but won the head-to-head comparison to earn the five seed. Both teams feature a successful tandem of goalkeepers.

The four teams will play two-game semifinal series this weekend, with the winners meeting March 4 for the conference tournament championship.

No.1 Wisconsin-River Falls (23-2, 7-2) will host No. 4 Wisconsin-Superior (12-13, 2-7). The Falcons won their fourth-straight WIAC regular-season title and seventh straight conference title. Wis.-River Falls outscored Wis.-Superior 8-1 in their two meetings this season. Senior Dani Sibley is the second-highest scoring player in the country and junior Carly Moran is fifth. Junior goalie Angie Hall is the fourth-ranked goalie in the nation.

No. 2 Wisconsin-Eau Claire (16-8-1, 5-4-0) will host No. 3 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (13-10-2, 4-5-0). Wis.-Stevens Point actually owned this season series, taking two of three games against Wis.-Eau Claire and outscoring them 8-5. Wis.-Eau Claire set a program record for wins this season with 16. They have the second-best power play unit in the country and have been finding success in front of freshman goalie Erin Connolly. Wis.-Stevens Point sophomore Cara Lemirande is averaging a point a game.

The conference final will be a single-elimination game hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday, March 4.