The bracket is here with few surprises. Per rule, the committee switched Clarkson and Syracuse to avoid an intraconference matchup between Clarkson and Quinnipiac and then sent UMD and Harvard to Minnesota rather than Ohio State.
#6 Wisconsin vs. #10 Clarkson
Clarkson probably gets the worst deal of the switching, meeting a Wisconsin team that is a notch above Quinnipiac. Then again, considering how the ECAC Quarterfinals went, maybe they’re looking forward to the Badgers.
On paper this looks like a huge mismatch, and it’s definitely a mismatch, but Clarkson is closer than a lot of people might think.
The Golden Knights were also a very good shots team, not as good as Wisconsin, but they put up better numbers against the Bobcats than the Badgers did. Where the difference gets stark, and produces the difference in overall records, is the shooting and save percentages.
Clarkson has been a cold shooting team and Wisconsin pretty hot. (For context the NCAA average is 8.2%.) The Knights have had good shots, they just haven’t made their way into the net. On the other side Wisconsin has gotten stout goaltending, as per usual, and Clarkson has struggled. Some of that was due to injury to starter Michelle Pasiechnyk, and I think it has more to do with defense coverage than the goaltenders themselves, but that figure is worrying.
Wisconsin – Daryl Watts and Casey O’Brien will figure heavily as Patty Kazmaier nominees. Watts had the slight jump with 27-29-56 vs. O’Brien’s 26-28-54. Forward Makenna Webster notched a 23-28-51 line herself and top defender Nicole LaMantia hit 8-21-29. Wisconsin is an experienced group with Sarah Wozniewicz the only freshman cracking the top ten at 10-9-19. Senior goaltender Kennedy Blaire led the way with a .927 save percentage.
Clarkson – No ECAC players got a Patty Kaz nod, but Caitrin Lonergan probably should have with 17-30-40. Gabrielle David led the team in goals with 18 and added 20 assists to go with it. The Knights have three freshmen figuring heavily in the scoring. Forwards Jenna Goodwin (8-12-20, 6th) and Laurence Frenette (6-6-12, 8th) were big contributors. Haley Winn, the newest defender, finished 5th with 7-16-23, second only to D partner Nicole Gosling among blueliners. Goaltender Michelle Pasiechnyk hit a .930 save percentage.
#7 Quinnipiac vs. #11 Syracuse
Like Wisconsin – Clarkson, this game is a clear mismatch, but closer than people might think. Syracuse only notched one win over common opponents (Union), but they kept the score close against everyone except Colgate. Quinnipiac, despite the better record, had middling shots totals and relied more on quality goaltending and a well-executing power play.
If Syracuse can get a good game from goaltender Arielle DeSmet, who’s been red hot lately, they can put an upset on Quinnipiac and get the program’s first NCAA tournament win.
Quinnipiac – Corinne Schroeder was lights out with a .950 save percentage and backup Logan Angers, who got into 15 games and started 13, hit a .932 figure herself. Quinnipiac is a team built on goaltending and scoring by committee. Olivia Mobley (17-14-31) and Sadie Peart (13-18-31) tied in points.
Syracuse – A lot of it starts with DeSmet, a Robert Morris transfer who has been world-beating for a program that has historically struggled to find consistent goaltending. DeSmet posted a .937 figure this season which might be a program record. Outside the crease Abby Moloughny led the way with 17-15-32, and came up big in the CHA tournament, notching all three goals in the semifinal and getting the scoring started in the final. Jessica DiGirolamo was the big game presence on defense with 6-13-19. DiGirolamo is one of the best defenders in the country and should factor heavily.
#8 Minnesota-Duluth vs. #9 Harvard
UMD and Harvard did play each other this season, both at Harvard so we don’t have to rely on common opponents. In those games UMD handled Harvard pretty well. Sometimes when teams play each other a bunch, the lower seeded team will figure out how to press and keep things close. We saw this in the WCHA quarterfinal between UMD and Minnesota State. Sometimes the small differences become exacerbated as the better team locks in. We saw this between Minnesota and UMD in the WCHA semifinal. Hard to say which will happen here between non-conference opponents whose one series was a bit less important than a lot of the other games on their schedule.
One thing to watch will be both teams’ refusal to kill penalties. Harvard actually posted the 4th best PK in the nation at 93.75% (not counting shorties), UMD…not so much. The Bulldogs came in at 24th, though an 83.33% kill isn’t exactly terrible.
Minnesota-Duluth – Elizabeth Giguère led all scorers with 21-35-56 and Gabbie Hughes was right behind with 18-37-55. The Bulldogs were heavily forward-led, with Nina Jobst-Smith their highest-scoring defender at 0-9-9. In net Jojo Chobak started fewer games than Emma Soderberg, but became the go-to goaltender with a .928 save percentage to Soderberg’s .913.
Harvard – Becca Gilmore led all scorers with 19-26-45, but Kristin Della Rovere (15-25-40) wasn’t far behind. Dominique Petrie led the team in shots with 150, but only had 9-12-21 to show for it. Becky Dutton led the goaltenders with a .922 save percentage but split time with Lindsay Reed (.912). The Crimson opted to go with Reed in the ECAC tournament. Did that work out for them? It did not.