Clarkson at Boston College
The national tournament gets underway with the defending national champion against the best regular-season team in the nation. This game is a rematch of the first contest on Clarkson's successful campaign for a national title last season. The Golden Knights hosted the Eagles at Cheel Arena then. Now, the tables are turned. Erin Ambrose will be looking to make waves as she was the most notorious absence from Clarkson's roster during its run last season. Ambrose will not be watching this contest from the stands of Conte Forum. Expect her to factor, however do not expect the game-changing performances that she delivered last season. Her offensive yield has been less than half that of last season. The slight wane of Ambrose has allowed Cayley Mercer to emerge as a clutch star. Shea Tiley is the free radical in this match-up. If the Golden Knights have a chance to repeat, she will need to shoulder the burden in this contest. Can the Golden Knights ground the Eagles? I doubt it. This is less a comment on Clarkson's talent and more a comment on the desires of Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa, Emily Pfalzer, and Andie Anastos to leave a mark on the national tournament. Three of those players remember their seasons ending in the North Country. Clarkson's best chance at undoing Boston College would be for the Eagles to underestimate the Golden Knights. Last season's result ensure that will not happen. Boston College wins.
Boston University at Wisconsin
I am very bullish on Wisconsin this season. They were the team that this contributor tabbed as winning the WCHA early. The real WCHA, the tournament, not that participation prize handed out before real games of consequence are played. And, well, the Badgers did. Ignoring the injustice that the Terriers are being punished with a trip out to LaBahn Arena for winning the Hockey East tournament, this pairing should be intriguing. It has two of the programs that I respect most. The best freshman forward in the nation plays for the Badgers. Anyone who does not believe that should tune in and watch the talent of Annie Pankowski. Her point production has trailed off in the postseason, registering only 0.75 points per game in the WCHA tournament compared to her 1.08 points per game performance over the entire season to date. Mark Johnson's Badgers are far from a one-trick pony. Sarah Nurse shouldered the greatest burden of the Badgers's offense in the first four games of the postseason. She is ready to do much the same. The real story may be how Boston University's potent offense, led by Marie-Philip Poulin, can solve Ann-Renée Desbiens. Desbiens has the nation's second-best goals-against average and fourth-best save percentage. That would pose quite the challenge if Boston University had not bested a goaltender of equal or better calibre last weekend in Katie Burt. Wisconsin averages outscoring opponents by nearly two and a half goals. The Badgers have found themselves on the right side of only three one-goal contests. They are untested at best and uneasy at worst in close contests. A close contest is exactly what Marie-Philip Poulin, one of the nation's top playoff performers this season, will give the Badgers. Wisconsin has all the tools to win the national title this season. This contributor would not be surprised if they pull it off still. In a shock even to me, I predict that Boston University will be the road with the greatest likelihood of advancing. The Terriers's strengths are the Badgers's weaknesses.
Quinnipiac at Harvard
Harvard will not be fooled twice. That is the premise of this. Harvard is the best team in the nation that has not remained static. Boston College was a super nova early in the season. It has gotten no brighter. Minnesota is not as untouchable as it has seemed in the last three seasons despite its nearly unblemished record. Meanwhile, the Crimson have gotten better. The team was good. Katey Stone goaded it to get better. It did get better. Harvard is the best team in ECAC Hockey this season. This contributor will go a step further, this is probably the best team out of Cambridge since the national-title winner from 1999, and the national runners-up in 2003 and 2005. This Harvard team is gifted and has earned its day in the spotlight. The story on the Quinnipiac side will be if Chelsea Laden's defense can do enough to hold the Crimson at bay. The game-tying goal that forced overtime in the ECAC Hockey semifinal between the same teams was an own goal from the Bobcats. Laden suffered a defeat in a contest that she arguably pitched a shutout and deserved the victory. Shutting out this Harvard team is no small task. It grows even more difficult when asked to do it two weekends in a row. Katey Stone, et al. will be ready and will have righted the wrongs of last weekend that kept the Crimson off the scoreboard. Harvard will advance and send many Quinnipiac fans home sad in their fan bus (isn't it cool that Quinnipiac is sending one though?).
RIT at Minnesota
The best part about this series is the rink-side conversations that may accompany it. Rochester? No, not the one that hosts the Mayo Clinic in southeastern Minnesota. Rochester. The third-largest city in New York. The largest city in the United States to bear that name. That Rochester. Well, after that gets sorted out between the Minnesotans and the Upstate New Yorkers who may make the trip out there, the game will be played. Arguably, this contributor has two conflicting loyalties that should make him choose either team. So, two diametric biases cancel each other out, right? Minnesota will win this game. Will it be a blowout? Possibly. Do I think RIT has a chance? Definitely. It is the slimmest of chances. If the Golden Gophers underestimate the recently elevated, national title-bearing program from Western New York, they discount how much pride and history exists already within this program. The Tigers have not lost a tournament in Division I since their first postseason tournament championship. Their talent is not to be underestimated. One of Minnesota's losses, the loss to North Dakota, was by a larger margin than the Tigers suffered in their opening game of their series with North Dakota. Why is that relevant? This is a one-and-done tournament now. The team that delivers the best effort deserves to win. RIT could be that team. It probably will be Minnesota. And, a cautionary tale, if this game is close late, one would think that it begins to favor the Tigers. Ask Yale in 2011. With the Frozen Four in Minnesota, strange things begin to happen when the last home-state team begins to flounder.
Boston University at Minnesota
Brooks and Parker. Oh, wait, Frost and Durocher doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Either way, both teams are familiar with one another. Both will be primed to play. The Terriers have met the Golden Gophers in the last two national tournaments. Do not expect the diminutive doggies from Beantown to be spared their same fate from the last two national tournaments. Unlike the Wisconsin squad that Boston University will encounter in its first match-up, this Minnesota squad knows how to compete in all ends of the ice. The Gophers have won several close contests that have tested their resolve. 16 of the team's members remember the disappointment that the program endured in Hamden. Do not think those thoughts will be far from this team's mind as it takes its own ice in the Frozen Four. Expect special teams to play a role as Boston University will crumble against the nation's best power-play unit as the Terriers's best response finds itself among the bottom half of the nation. Marie-Philip Poulin may be more than a match for the skill of Amanda Leveille. However, Durocher's squad from crease on onward will not be. The Golden Gophers will punch their fourth consecutive ticket to the national-title game. The gilded rodents will be hurled onto this sport's biggest stage by the unstoppable play of Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, and Maryanne Menefee.
Harvard at Boston College
The Crimson did it once, can they do it again? Well, this contributor thinks so. Boston College and Harvard have been teams of halves. No team was or could have been hotter than were the Eagles in the first half of the season. Their two losses over the entire season before the national tournament captures accurately their level of play and dominance. To whom did one of those losses come? Harvard. While Boston College was scalding hot, Harvard was simmering. The Eagles have been chilling lately. They required an empty-net goal to increase their winning margin over Connecticut to two goals. The Huskies ended their seasons seven games below 0.500. For comparison, in the regular season, Boston College outscored the Huskies 18 to one. Yeah, that is a bad omen. The only thing worse would be dropping the conference championship to archrival Boston University which did happen. Harvard's play has been improving throughout the season. Katey Stone wanted the team to improve over the course of the season and it has. The real question remains if Boston College's ebbing play is still above the level that Harvard will have reached by the time the two collide in another tournament. I maintain that it is not. Harvard will win this contest. Emerance Maschmeyer will prove why Cornell head coach Doug Derraugh tapped her for a place on Team Canada, and the Crimson will advance to the national-title game on the heels of ending the best team with the best regular-season record.
Harvard at Minnesota
This contributor would not have predicted this match-up if given the field. The bracket wants what the bracket wants. Minnesota, one season removed from its ability to complete the second-ever threepeat in the history of the NCAA tournament, will appear in its fourth consecutive national-championship game. Harvard, a program that has been a finalist three times without an NCAA-sanctioned national title to show for it, will make its fourth-ever appearance in the national-title game. Despite every fibre of my being as a Cornell hockey fan and a few as a Cornell alumnus, I cannot help but conclude that Katey Stone and this Crimson squad has it. That it factor to win it all. Stone has put together a few teams in her era that have the components to win major tournaments. Since 2008, from the ECAC Hockey tournament to the Olympics, people began to mutter aloud if she had what it took to win a big game anymore. On the ice of Cheel Arena, some 13 months late for some partisans, Katey Stone, her assistant coaches, and her Harvard squad proved that she still had or recently rediscovered what it took to get the best performances out of her team when it needed them. Archnemesis Cornell, Jill Saulnier in particular, had Emerance Maschmeyer and the Crimson on the brink of collapses, but they did not. Stone may preach that each game is the same, but her players know that is not true. On Cornell's stage (four titles in six years tends to make it that), Harvard's skaters proved that this team was special and could deliver. On the ice of Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they will deliver again. The Crimson have been building to a peak and they will explode. Names like Karly Heffernan, Lexie Laing, Mary Parker, and Sarah Edney will join names like Miye D'Oench, Lyndsey Fry, and Josephine Pucci as names well-known when the the Crimson's run is complete. The entire life span of a driving person later and a few miles down the road from Mariucci Arena, where the 1999 AWCHA National Championship took place, Katey Stone and Harvard will be legitimated with a national championship that only another epoch in college hockey can erase.
Clarkson at Boston College
Hockey East vs. the ECAC. The defending national champion vs. Alex Carpenter’s Eagles. A rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game at the opposite arena. Will the home-ice advantage of the “300” people at Conte Forum intimidate the Knights? I think Alex Carpenter will be working hard on trying to right the wrong that she couldn’t last year when she was in Sochi. However, I do think the defending champions will manage to win on the road for their second straight trip to the Frozen Four.
Boston University at Wisconsin
In what is one of the least just treatments of a conference winner, Boston University won their third conference title in a row and was shipped out west to Wisconsin. The Terriers have been hot and cold this season, but when it mattered, they handed Boston College their second title-game defeat of the year. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has seemed poised for success all season. They haven’t been as red hot as Boston College has seemed at times, but they have peaked at the right time. This will be a good game to watch, with both teams wanting desperately to see their team win the national title. Senior and gold medalist Marie-Philip Poulin leads the Terriers while Wisconsin is led by a cadre of seniors and freshman phenom Annie Pankowski. I think Poulin scores multiple goals but Wisconsin takes this one, probably in overtime.
Quinnipiac at Harvard
In an interleague matchup that also sees a rematch of the second semifinal game in the ECAC, the Bobcats head to Cambridge to determine which team advances to Minnesota. For all of the offensive power in some of these two teams, this will be a story of goaltending. Junior Emerance Maschmeyer will face off against senior Chelsea Laden. Neither are pushovers, but I think that Maschmeyer has more experience in big games. Harvard takes this one as Katey Stone heads back to Minnesota.
RIT at Minnesota
This is one of the more intriguing match-ups for me. The winner of the much maligned CHA conference championship game against the fourth-place team in the WCHA. Few realize that in spite of RIT’s record, they proved their deservingness to be in this tournament. RIT had to play a first-round series on the road at Robert Morris and swept the Colonials. Coming from the six seed, RIT then had to take on top seed and typical top dog, Mercyhurst on their home ice. A 4-1 victory over the top-seeded Lakers in Erie is pretty convincing. After that, RIT beat Syracuse in a double overtime thriller to defend (yes, they are back-to-back champions) their CHA championship. Minnesota, on the other hand, had almost exactly the opposite path. They went into the WCHA championship with the number one overall seed. They were defeated in their semifinal matchup against Bemidji State. Minnesota finished fourth in the WCHA playoffs and had to sit out their championship game as Wisconsin took home the crown. So, this is a game between a winner of a perceivedly inferior conference and the third-loser of a self-aggrandized conference. Who do I think takes this game? The Tigers.
RIT at Wisconsin
This is probably the hardest game that I have to decide. I think RIT will be on such a high from beating Minnesota that they will be playing their best hockey of the season. Wisconsin, however, will have the advantage of not traveling cross-country two weekends in a row. I think that this will be a tight game, but Mark Johnson’s Badgers will end with a better fate in the national semifinal this year than they did last year.
Clarkson at Harvard
In what the Golden Knights probably wished were a rematch of the title game from this year, it will be another ECAC vs. ECAC battle to see who advances to the title game. Clarkson has the benefit of recent experience, but Harvard has a title win and the return of a coach who knows how to coach tournament games in Minnesota. (Just ask Julie Chu). I think Katey Stone has her team prepared to defeat Clarkson for the first time this season.
Wisconsin at Harvard
This game would be fun. Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Johnson and his Badgers and Olympic Gold Medal Losing Coach Katey Stone and the Crimson. Katey Stone has the history of winning a pre-NCAA national title on this campus while Mark Johnson’s national titles have come in Mariucci, Herb Brooks Arena, Agannis Arena, and Erie Insurance Arena. However, in spite of the history of being back at the University of Minnesota once again, I think the Badgers have the edge on Harvard. This will be a well fought battle, but I think Mark Johnson gets to add a fifth arena to his resume. Wisconsin over Harvard.
Where Angels Fear to Tread is a blog dedicated to covering Cornell Big Red men's and women's ice hockey, two of the most storied programs in college hockey. WAFT endeavors to connect student-athletes, students, fans, and alumni to Cornell hockey and its proud traditions.