Women’s DI College Hockey: Conference quarterfinals have a history of overtime drama

 (Tim Brule)
Ohio State’s Natalie Spooner was one of the overtime hereos of the last 10 years. 

This week’s Wednesday Women column does a great job of breaking down and looking ahead to this weekend’s conference quarterfinal matches, but I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at some of the most interesting, chaotic and fun results in the last ten years of conference quarterfinal matchups.

With many teams’ seasons on the line, the quarterfinals are some of the toughest series played. These aren’t about one-and-done and prevailing for 60 minutes. They’re the marathon, not the sprint. Quarterfinals series mean teams can make a mistake or have an off day, but still recover. The longer series tends to favor the top seeds, but still leave plenty of room for upsets.

Some of the most interesting series of the past decade have come down to multiple overtimes. In the ECAC, it’s rare to find a tournament in which Quinnipiac isn’t involved in bonus hockey. The Bobcats seem to have a knack for drama and they’ve given plenty of opponents as much as they could handle.

In 2010, RPI was the five seed, playing at fourth seed Quinnipiac. The Bobcats won the first game thanks to a breakaway goal midway through the second overtime by Chelsea Illchuk. Rensselaer responded with a relatively simple 1-0 win on Saturday to force game three. The deciding game went into 5 OT and is still the third longest game in women’s college history. (Saint Anselm and Franklin Pierce from last week is now the longest, with a 1996 game between New Hampshire and Providence sitting second). The teams combined for 108 shots on goal, but it was Laura Gersten’s last one that ended the game and gave RIT a 2-1 and series win.

Though there wasn’t much intrigue in 2011, it should be noted for those who are newer to women’s college how quickly things change. One of the quarterfinals that year featured third seed Dartmouth defeating sixth seed Clarkson. The Golden Knights would climb to the third seed the next year, but still were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

The 2013 tournament opening round featured in overtime games in three of the four matchups. Once again it was the 4/5 pairing that again brought the drama. Quinnipiac was hosting St. Lawrence, but the lower-ranked Saints took the first game thanks to a goal in the first overtime from Kayla Raniwsky. In game two, the Bobcats had a 2-0 lead and likely thought they were comfortably heading to Sunday with the series tied before St. Lawrence scored twice in the final 32 seconds to send it to overtime. Rylee Smith scored both goals while the Saints played 6-on-5. Quinnipiac’s Amanda Colin scored a highlight-reel goal in the third overtime to beat the goalie five-hole and force game three. The Saints got revenge on Sunday with a 2-0 win and series victory.

Harvard and Yale played one of the most memorable stretches of ECAC hockey in recent memory. In the final weekend of the regular season, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie. In the tournament, it was two seed Harvard hosting seventh seeded Yale. The Bulldogs were in their first post-season since 2008 and pulled off a shocker when they took down the Crimson 3-2 in double overtime in the first game, thanks in part to 55 saves from goalie Jaimie Leonoff. In the second game, Phoebe Staenz scored twice for Yale and Miye D’Oench scored twice for Harvard, including the game winner in the second overtime. After two very tough and long games, Yale seemed to run out of gas and the Crimson took game three 4-0.

Ever dramatic, Quinnipiac swept RPI in 2016, but needed nine periods to get those two wins. The next year, the Bobcats took Princeton to three overtimes in the first game of the series before the Tigers won games two and three.

Hockey East used to play single-game elimination quarterfinals, consolidating the drama into one game. In 2014, Vermont was the fourth seed, their highest ever. They played Maine in the longest-ever Hockey East game. Brittany Zuback scored near the end of the third overtime, 117:12 into the game, to give Vermont their first ever berth into the conference semifinals. The Catamounts have only advanced out of the quarterfinals one other time in program history.

In 2016, Connecticut and New Hampshire were about as close as two teams could be. They played the final regular season series against each other, with each team winning a game 2-1 – UConn’s win came in overtime. The following weekend, the Huskies hosted the quarterfinal series. Elaine Chuli made 44 saves and Brittany Berisoff scored twice to lead UConn to a 3-2 win. In game two, Chuli made 69 saves over the course of 101 minutes as the game went to triple overtime. Leah Burress scored with 41 seconds left in regulation as UConn played 6-on-5, to send the game to extras. It was Burress again in the third OT that would end the game and win the series for the Huskies.

The WCHA has had its fair share of thrilling wins and heartbreaking losses. In 2010, fourth seeded Wisconsin had a 2-0 lead over fifth seeded Ohio State before Natalie Spooner tallied a hat trick – including the game-winner in overtime – to give the Buckeyes a 3-2 win. In the second game, Badger Kyla Sanders sent the game to overtime with a late goal, but Ohio State again ended it in overtime to earn a 4-3 win. It was sweet revenge for the Buckeyes, who saw their season end at the hands of Wisconsin in the WCHA quarterfinals the year before.

North Dakota needed three overtimes to take down Ohio State in the quarterfinals in 2015. In the 4/5 matchup, Minnesota Duluth hosted Bemidji State. The Beavers won game one 3-2, the first victory by BSU in the first game of a postseason series in program history. Ashleigh Brykaliuk scored twice in the third period to give UMD a 2-0 win in game two. On Sunday, Hanna Moher tied the game for Bemidji with just about 30 seconds left in the game and then Kaitlyn Tougas scored in overtime to give the Beavers a 2-1 win and series victory. It was the end of the Shannon Miller era in Duluth, where she won five national titles.

In what we didn’t know was their last hurrah as a program, North Dakota defeated Ohio State in the 2017 quarterfinal. Under first-year head coach Nadine Muzerall, the Buckeyes won game one despite being outshot 33-14. Blue liner Lauren Boyle scored just her sixth goal of the season in overtime to give OSU the win. In game two, Ohio State’s Kassidy Sauve set the program’s single season saves record, but three third-period goals from North Dakota gave them a 4-1 win. On Sunday, Ohio State built as the game progressed and seemed to dominate the third period, when they tied the game at one. But Emma Nuutinen scored in overtime to send UND to their final Final Faceoff, where they’d lose to Wisconsin in the semifinal and not take the ice again.