"One Win Away from the Frozen Four": A Look at the Top Five Seeds in the NCAA Hockey Tournament
The NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey tournament kicks off on Thursday, March 9 at 6:00 PM EST as Penn State takes on Quinnipiac concurrently with Wisconsin and Long Island University (LIU). The bracket was decided on Sunday, March 5, 2023, on ESPNEWS. The way the bracket works is that the top five seeds are all one win away from a shot at the Frozen Four. The other six teams have to play a first-round game before advancing to the quarterfinals against a seeded team.
No. 1 Seed: Ohio State Buckeyes- Western College Hockey Association (WCHA)- at large bid- WCHA regular season champions
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the defending national champions after beating in-conference rival Minnesota Duluth last year for their first-ever national championship. Led by Nadine Muzerall, in her seventh season as the head coach of the Buckeyes, they had a 31-5-2 overall record and a 23-4-1 in-conference record this season. While four conference losses might be concerning, the WCHA is one of the hardest conferences across college hockey with four of the eight teams making the NCAA tournament field in the past three seasons. Despite losing to Minnesota in the WCHA Final Face-Off game, the Buckeyes were able to grab the top seed thanks to their dominance all season.
With defender Sophie Jaques, a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier award, and forward Jennifer Gardiner, Ohio State has some of the top talents in the country and is looking to send their seniors out on top yet again. Jaques leads all defenders in the NCAA in points with 46 on the season. She was named both WCHA Player of the Year and Defender of the Year. Having been integral to the Buckeyes’ success all season, they will need her in top form to try and repeat. Ohio State will play the winner of Quinnipiac-Penn State on March 11 at 5:00 PM EST. Penn State is making its NCAA tournament debut after winning its College Hockey America title. Quinnipiac makes its second straight tournament as an at-large bid. The QU Bobcats had a strong start to their season but faltered off in the second half. Quinnipiac and Penn State play on March 9 at 6:00 PM EST.
No. 2 Seed: Minnesota Golden Gophers- WCHA- automatic qualifier- WCHA Final Face-Off Champions
Minnesota’s women’s hockey program is built on success, with a total of seven national championships since 2000. The Gophers look to add another this season, which would be their first since 2016, behind last year’s Patty Kaz award winner Taylor Heise. It was a shock to many that Heise did not make the final three for the Patty Kaz award this season as she’s had an extremely productive season. She was named WCHA Forward of the Year, scoring 29 goals this season, first in the NCAA, and recording 65 total points, second in the NCAA. With Heise up front is Olympic silver medalist Grace Zumwinkle. After taking a year off to focus on Team USA and the Olympics, Zumwinkle returned to the Gophers better than ever, recording 60 points in 37 games. That breaks down into 25 goals and 35 assists. With those two firing up front, and goaltender Skylar Vetter averaging only 1.88 goals per game, the Gophers are hoping for another ring this season.
The Gophers were 29-5-3 overall this season and 23-3-3 in-conference. They will play the winner of Minnesota Duluth-Clarkson on March 11 at 3:00 PM EST. Minnesota Duluth made it to the championship last season from this same position, before falling to Ohio State, they are making their third straight appearance as an at-large bid. Clarkson was the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament runner-up after falling to Colgate, making their second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Minnesota Duluth and Clarkson play on March 9 at 7:00 PM EST.
No. 3 Seed: Colgate Raiders- ECAC- automatic qualifier- ECAC Tournament Champions
Colgate’s most successful season came in 2018 when they fell to Clarkson in the national championship. This year, with Danielle Serdachny on the Raiders’ side, they have a chance to make it back and maybe even win it all. Serdachny leads the NCAA in total points this season with a grand total of 70 points across 39 games. That breaks down into 25 points and 45 assists.
Serdachny won her second ECAC Player of the Year this year and became Colgate’s first-ever First Team All-American in 2020-21. Additionally, she is the first Raider to ever be named to the Patty Kaz finalist list. She will need help in order to bring Colgate to the Final Four and beyond, but things are looking good for the Raiders. This season, Colgate finished with a record of 32-5-2 overall and 18-3-1 in-conference. Their ECAC title this season was their third straight as they beat Clarkson by an astounding 8-2. Colgate will play the winner of Wisconsin-LIU on March 11 at 3:00 PM EST. Wisconsin, the 2021 national championship, missed their first Frozen Four since 2012-13 last season when they failed to even make the tournament. The Badgers struggled in the WCHA Final Face-Off against Minnesota but are playing top hockey right now behind their star-studded freshmen and senior classes. They are making their 16th NCAA tournament appearance as an at-large bid. This is Long Island University’s first tournament as they make history as the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance’s (NEWHA) first automatic qualifier. Wisconsin and LIU play on March 9 at 6:00 PM EST.
No. 4 Seed: Yale Bulldogs- ECAC- at-large bid- ECAC regular season champions
The Yale Bulldogs are only making their second appearance in the NCAA tournament, after making the Final Four last season beating Colgate in the quarterfinals. Winning their first-ever ECAC regular season title, their ECAC tournament run didn’t go quite as they had hoped, falling to Clarkson in the semifinals in double overtime. Led by head coach Mark Bolding, in his third season, the Bulldogs were 28-3-1 this season overall and 19-2-1 in-conference. Yale’s success started in the net with sophomore goaltender, Pia Dukaric. It was Dukaric’s first full collegiate season and she played like it was her fourth.
With a Yale season record of eight shutouts, her goals-against average stands at 1.36 and her save percentage is .936, both putting her at the top of the ECAC and the top three in the NCAA. She made the Patty Kazmaier watch list but did not make the finalists’ list. Despite Yale’s loss to Clarkson in the ECAC tournament, the Bulldogs have had an incredible season so far and they are looking for more. They won the ECAC regular season title and clinched their first Ivy League Championship in team history, will the Frozen Four be next for them? They play #5 Northeastern on March 11 at 3:00 PM EST.
No. 5 Seed: Northeastern Huskies- Hockey East- automatic qualifier- Hockey East regular season and tournament champions
The Northeastern Huskies picked up everything there was to win in the Hockey East this season and the six-time Hockey East champions want a Frozen Four spot again. They made the last two Frozen Fours, making the national championship for the first time in 2021 before falling to Wisconsin. Despite graduating one of the best goaltenders in the nation, Aerin Frankel, the Huskies didn’t miss a beat, only losing two games this season. They posted a 32-2-1 record overall and 24-2-1 in-conference. The Hockey East is arguably not as difficult of a conference compared to the likes of the WCHA and the ECAC but only two losses in conference play are nothing to turn your back on either. The Huskies had two players named to the Patty Kazmaier Watch List with one making the finalists. Alina Mueller is one of three finalists for the award, proving herself as one of the top forwards in the nation yet again.
A fifth-year senior, Mueller has been named to the watch list all five of the years she’s been playing college hockey. Helping lead the Huskies to their sixth consecutive Hockey East title, Mueller was named Hockey East tournament MVP, posting five goals and eight points in three games. On the season, she has 58 points in 36 games, breaking down into 26 goals and 32 assists. Maureen Murphy also made the watch list with 53 points in 31 games. Northeastern will want to make it to the Frozen Four for the third consecutive year but first, they will need to get past the Yale Bulldogs on March 11 at 3:00 PM EST.
This tournament is bound to be one for the ages. There is plenty of talent, lots of which are graduating but an equal amount that is newcomers. Hockey is always exciting, and it just gets more intense when March rolls around.
Here is the broadcast schedule for all tournament games:
Regional Semifinals, March 9:
Quinnipiac vs Penn State (Columbus region), 6 pm, BTN+
Wisconsin vs Long Island (Hamilton region), 6 pm, ESPN+
Minnesota Duluth vs Clarkson (Minneapolis region), 7 pm, BTN+
Regional Finals, March 11:
No. 4 Yale vs No. 5 Northeastern (New Haven region), 3 pm, ESPN+
No. 3 Colgate vs Wisconsin/LIU (Hamilton region), 3 pm, ESPN+
No. 2 Minnesota vs Minnesota Duluth/Clarkson (Minneapolis region), 3 pm, BTN+
No. 1 Ohio State vs Quinnipiac/Penn State (Columbus region), 5 pm, BTN+
Frozen Four, March 17: at Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minnesota
Semifinal 1, 3:30 pm, ESPN+
Semifinal 2, 7:00 pm, ESPN+
National Championship, March 19: at Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minnesota
Final, 4:00 pm, ESPNU
*All times in Eastern*