Hooray, the NCAA has removed the “avoid flights” requirement from seeding the NCAA women’s tournament while confirming 11 teams for the 2021-2022 season. Per USCHO:
The women’s hockey pre-championship manual has always included a stipulation to prioritize cost reduction and fewer flights when setting up the quarterfinal matchups. “Pairings in the quarterfinal round shall be based primarily on the teams’ geographical proximity to one another, regardless of their region, in order to avoid air travel in quarterfinal-round games whenever possible.” (View the 2019 pre-championship manual here. Criteria on pages 13-14.)
As first reported by Todd Milewski in the Wisconsin State Journal, that criteria has been removed from women’s hockey championship selection criteria.
A requirement to avoid first-round intra-conference matchups is also new to women’s hockey selection criteria. This was a particular issue that went hand-in-hand with the travel stipulation and was exacerbated by the geographical limitations of where women’s hockey programs are located.
So the seedings won’t necessarily be straight chalk since the committee pivots to prioritizing new matchups and avoiding having two teams meet right after having played in their conference tournament.
And we’ve gotten lucky the past few years with minimal switching to avoid flights. But 2017-18 involved the 2 seed Wisconsin playing the 5 seed Minnesota in what was perhaps an unfair first round for multiple parties. What we should have gotten is this:
We can forecast the Clarkson – Mercyhurst outcome since, you know, they actually played each other. The rest of it though…
#2 Wisconsin vs. #7 Northeastern
These two did play each other in the regular season with the Huskies prevailing 3-2 in the DC Tournament. Shots were 41-18 for the Badgers, but as everyone reminds me when discussing my metrics, it’s the end result that matters so pencil Northeastern in as the winner there.
#3 Colgate vs. #6 Ohio State
Now we have to go to common opponents. The Raiders and Buckeyes both played UMD, St. Cloud State, Robert Morris, Mercyhurst, and RPI over the course of the season and Colgate comes out ahead in every category. While the Buckeyes had better records against UMD (2-2-0 vs. 0-1-0) and Robert Morris (3-1-0 vs. 0-0-1), the Raiders swept Mercyhurst and St. Cloud State (1-1-0 and 2-0-2 respectively for Ohio State). The games against RPI were…well…games against RPI.
The Raiders had a higher average goal margin (+1.9 to +1.6) and shots margin (+11.1 to +4.3) in addition to the superior record (6-1-1 to 10-4-2).
#4 BC vs. #5 Minnesota
Once again we go to common opponents, UMD, Merrimack, and Vermont, and once again the WCHA team comes up short in almost all areas. (We ignore BC – Ohio State, which never happened in this universe.) This seems unfair to Minnesota, who had to play UMD two additional times, and Merrimack and Vermont one and three less times respectively, but the Gophers two losses were to the Warriors and Catamounts. They went 3-0-1 against the Bulldogs giving BC a better record against all common opponents.
The Eagles had the better average goal margin at 2.4 to 1.8, but a worse average shot margin at +9.4 to +11.8. Goaltending was an issue for Minnesota this season as they gave up 4 goals on 19 shots to Merrimack early in the year and 4 goals on 11 shots (no empty netters, it was 4-0 after 2 periods) to Vermont late.
And we get the Colgate – Northeastern matchup we had anyway and Clarkson and Boston College continue their trend of ending each others’ seasons.
- 2014: Clarkson beats BC 3-1 in quarterfinals
- 2015: BC beats Clarkson 5-1 in quarterfinals
- 2016: BC beats Clarkson 3-2 in OT in Frozen Four
- 2019: Clarkson beats BC 2-1 in OT in quarterfinals
#1 Clarkson vs. #4 Boston College
Once again we go to common opponents and this time there are a lot of them: Northeastern, Vermont, Syracuse, St. Lawrence, Harvard, and Quinnipiac. BC probably has the slightly easier schedule with five games against Vermont (including the WHEA tournament) and only 1 against Quinnipiac. Clarkson got one fewer against Northeastern but also had the tough Saints and Bobcats more times. They both played Harvard and Syracuse twice.
This one is really close with BC edging the Knights in record at 13-2-0 vs. 12-2-1. Clarkson wins out in the other categories with a goals edge, +3.3 to +2.2 and shots edge, +8.3 to +3.7. The Eagles were carried by the Watts and Lonergan line at times and I think Clarkson would have been able to keep them in check.
#3 Colgate vs. #7 Northeastern.
Even ignoring the quarterfinal matchup, which also never happened in this universe, the two played twice in the regular season with convincing 3-0 and 5-2 Colgate victories. Shots were 29-28 and 38-17, both in favor of Colgate in those games.
#1 Clarkson vs. #3 Colgate
And we get the same final anyway, probably again a coin flip between Clarkson and Colgate. Is it different because maybe neither goes to a lengthy overtime two nights prior? In the season series Colgate took the first matchup 4-3 in overtime and Clarkson got the second, 5-3 on an empty netter with shots 26-25 Colgate and 30-24 Clarkson.
They also met in the ECAC title game, which Clarkson won 3-0 but might as well have been 50-0 for all the chance Colgate had in that game. Shots were only 28-26 Clarkson but the Knights had an answer for everything the Raiders did and they never seriously threatened.