This week in women’s D-III: Conference tournament previews

Kelly O'Sullivan of Adrian (Adrian Athletics)
Kelly O’Sullivan of Adrian (Adrian Athletics)

The postseason starts in earnest in Division III hockey this weekend. By Sunday evening, we’ll have a much clearer picture of who might earn an autobid, which teams vying for an at-large bid still have a shot, and who is primed to pull a big upset.

Here’s how each conference’s quarterfinal matches break down.

Morrisville and Endicott received byes into the semifinals next weekend.

Canton will host Becker. The two teams split their regular season series, with Becker winning game one, 1-0, and Canton taking game two, 4-1. They also met in the conference quarterfinal game last season, with Canton winning, 2-1. Becker averages just 0.84 goals scored per game, while Canton is averaging 2.56. The Hawks will be looking for a big game from goalie Madison Rigsby to try and upset the Roos.

Nichols will host Johnson and Wales. This is the first season of CHC play for Nichols, and this will the first time in program history that the Bison will host a postseason game. This game will see a number of rookies who have made an impact early in their career. Nichols will be hoping Mel McAleer can keep up her scoring ways, while Johnson and Wales will be looking to freshmen Drea Westgaard and Hannah Tracey for some offense. All three are tied for second in conference play with eight points.

This tournament will start on Thursday, with a play-in game of sorts between fourth seed Concordia (Minn.) and Bethel. Bethel ended the season on three-game win streak and had the better of the Cobbers during the regular season, earning a win and a tie. The Royals did not make the postseason last year, but had made it for seven consecutive seasons before that. The Cobbers earned the four seed in part because of a pair of ties with Augsburg during the final regular season weekend.

The winner of that game will go on to play Gustavus Adolphus on Saturday, no easy task. The Gusties finished the season on an 11-game unbeaten streak — they last lost a game on January 13. Goalie Amanda DiNella allowed just two goals in her past seven appearances between the pipes for Gustavus.

The other semifinal features Augsburg at Hamline. Hamline is 11-2-2 since the winter break. They have the two top scorers in the country in Sarah Bobrowski and Bre Simon. Teammate Darby Dobbs is fourth in the nation in scoring. Goalie Sam Walther is third in the country and is allowing just a goal per game. The Pipers’ 18 wins this season is a program record.

Augsburg is on a seven-game unbeaten streak. When the two teams met earlier in the season, Hamline won the first game, 1-0, but they tied 4-4 in the second as Augsburg showed they had the offense to match the explosive output of Hamline.

Teams will play a two-game series this coming weekend. If each team wins a game, a 20-minute mini-game is played to determine the series winner. While both game one and game two are played as normal — with five-minute overtimes, if necessary — the mini-game goes a full 20 minutes and any overtime is played until a goal is scored.

Top seed Adrian hosts Marian. Adrian finished the season on a 10-game win streak. They last lost on January 15. These two teams faced off over the final regular season weekend, and Adrian took a pair of one-goal wins. The Bulldogs have one of the best goalies in the nation in freshman Kate Turner. She’s sitting fourth in the country with a 1.02 goals-against average.

Lake Forest earned the No. 2 seed and will host St. Norbert. The Foresters ended the season on an eight-game win streak, including a pair of wins over the Green Knights. St. Norbert did not make the playoffs last season, but they advanced to the Slaats Cup final in 2015-16, defeating Lake Forest in the semifinals.

Olivia Spellmire has been having a stellar season for Lake Forest. Her 41 points are good for seventh in the country. Lexi Pykkonen has been especially good on the power play for St. Norbert.

St. Scholastica hosts Concordia (Wis.). The Saints lost their final two regular season games to Lake Forest, but before that had gone 9-1 since mid-January. St. Scholastica won the regular season series against the Falcons. Concordia did not make the postseason last season, while St. Scholastica lost to Adrian in a dramatic double-overtime mini-game.

The two lowest remaining seeds will play each other in a semifinal, with the winner advancing to play the highest remaining seed for the championship.

These teams started their postseason last weekend with quarterfinal games that saw all the top seeds advance. This weekend’s semifinals will feature No. 4 Plymouth State at No. 1 Norwich, and No. 3 Castleton at No. 2 Massachusetts-Boston.

Plymouth State needed overtime to skate past the University of New England. They lost both games they played against Norwich this season, though their meeting later in the season was a much closer 2-0 loss. Norwich won their quarterfinal meeting last season as well. The Cadets are the most prolific offensive team in the country, averaging 5.69 goals per game.

Castleton will be looking to NEHC Rookie of the Year Ali Stevens to help lead them past UMass-Boston. The Beacons needed a late rally to beat Salve Regina, but they took both regular season meetings between these two teams. UMass-Boston has advanced to the conference semifinals for a program-record six-straight years. The last time Castleton advanced to the semifinals was 2016, when it lost, 2-1, to UMass-Boston.

Middlebury hosts Wesleyan. The Panthers won both their regular season meetings this year. The two teams met in the quarterfinals last season, with Middlebury taking it, 4-1. This is Middlebury’s eighth straight season securing the top seed, and the Panthers will be looking for their 10th conference tournament. They are the two-time defending NESCAC champions.

Colby plays at Connecticut College, which will host its fourth-straight conference quarterfinal. The Camels had a pair of wins over Colby to start February, but struggled a bit to close out the season with two ties and two losses.

Williams heads to Amherst. The Mammoths swept the Ephs in the regular season meetings. Amherst is looking to make the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. They have a 21-13 all-time record in the conference tournament.

Hamilton hosts Bowdoin. During the regular season, Hamilton won a game, and the two teams tied. Hamilton will be counting on goalie Sam Walther, who leads the NESCAC in goals-against average (1.00), save percentage (.963), and shutouts. Bowdoin was 3-2-2 over the course of February and looking to build on that momentum.

The highest remaining seed following the quarterfinal round will host both semifinals and the final from March 3-4. The NESCAC champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Buffalo State will host Oswego and Plattsburgh State will host Potsdam. The highest remaining seed will host the championships game on March 3. This is the Inaugural season of the NEWHL, so history is being written.

Buffalo State won three of four regular season matches against Oswego this season. The Bengals are one of the most penalized teams in the country. Oswego will look to improve on the power play numbers to take advantage of those opportunities.

Plattsburgh State enters the postseason as the no. 2 team in the country on a 17-game unbeaten streak. They had four wins over Potsdam this season. They are the best defensive team in the country, allowing just 0.92 goals per game. They’ve split time in net with two goalies, and those goalies currently sit no. 1 and no. 2 in the country. Potsdam has one of the top penalty kills in the country and will be hoping they can use that special teams advantage as a boost.

Top-seed Elmira and No. 2 seed William Smith College earned byes into the semifinals next weekend. Elmira did not lose a conference game this season. They will host the semifinal and championship games next weekend.

Stevenson hosts Manhattanville. They will meet for the third straight game, as these two closed out the regular season against each other. They tied the first game and Stevenson won the second game, 3-1. The Mustangs averaged more than three goals a game this season, but Manhattanville was not far behind, scoring 2.76 goals a game.

Utica, which is in its 16th postseason in 17th years, will host Neumann, which hasn’t made a postseason since 2013. Utica is on an eight-game unbeaten streak. Neumann was winless over its final five games, but is well-matched with Utica in both team defense and team offense.

The WIAC semifinals will be a best-of-two series with a mini-game if necessary. Wisconsin-Stevens Point will play at Wisconsin-River Falls, which earned the top overall seed. The Falcons have a potent offense — their 4.80 goals per game is good for fourth in the country. They’re led by senior Carly Moran and freshman Callie Hoff. Wis.-River Falls won two of the regular season meetings, and the teams played a scoreless tie. The Falcons are looking to improve their national standing and chances for the postseason and will need to win this tournament to give themselves a chance.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host Wisconsin-Superior. The BluGolds have one of the best defenses in the country, allowing just 1.52 goals per game. Much of that can be attributed to Erin Connolly, who has been one of the top goalies in the nation all season. The Stingers actually had the better of Wisconsin-Eau Claire during the regular season, winning 3-2 and 2-1 while also tying once.