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Women’s NCAA tournament: Meet the goalies

With high-powered offenses coming at them, which one of these netminders will lead their team to a title?

Can the nation’s top goalie cap her remarkable senior year off with a championship?
Wisconsin Athletics

As eight teams set to battle this Saturday for a chance at the NCAA Tournament Championship, eight goalies will be challenged by some of the top offenses in women’s college hockey. As notable and award-winning goaltenders, such as Wisconsin’s Ann-Renée Desbiens and Clarkson’s Shea Tiley, will undoubtedly start between the pipes, the tournament is shaping up to be a battle for all eight talented goaltenders. Just how do these goalies match up against one another and their opponent’s offense?

Wisconsin

Wisconsin enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed following a 20-game winning streak, the longest active unbeaten stretch in NCAA history. As the Badgers make their fourth consecutive Frozen Four appearance this Saturday against Robert Morris, they will rely heavily on the continued strength of goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. Desbiens is a Patty Kazmaier top three finalist, leads NCAA goaltenders in goals against average with a 0.71 clip, winning percentage with a mark of .906, save percentage with a .962 clip, and shutouts with 15. With 53 career shutouts and 25 wins this year, Desbiens looks to become only the third goaltender to receive the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. With an amazing record and an extensive list of accolades, Desbiens makes UW a difficult challenge for RMU as they face off in the first round on Saturday, March 11.

Robert Morris

Entering the tournament as the 8th seed following a 2-0 win over Syracuse, RMU’s matchup against Wisconsin marks the Colonials’ first ever appearance in the Frozen Four tournament. Entering the tournament on a five-game winning streak, the Colonials’ goaltender, senior Jessica Dodds, posted three shutouts and allowed just two goals overall. Dodds is first in program history with 45 overall wins and 11 shutouts. Dodds is second in saves (2,322) behind Brianne McLaughlin (3,809). The goaltending strength of UW with Ann-Renée Desbiens will make this Saturday’s matchup difficult for RMU. If Dodds is able to continue her strong performance, however, UW may find the matchup more challenging than anticipated.

Boston College

Boston College enters the tournament ranked fourth overall and already with a trio of trophies this season: On Feb. 3 the Eagles won the 2016-17 Hockey East regular-season title outright followed by their seventh Beanpot title on Feb. 7 with a 2-1 win over Northeastern. Topping off the trio, BC won their third Hockey East Tournament Title last Sunday, March 5. BC hopes to add a fourth trophy of the season when they make their ninth overall appearance in the NCAA tournament against St. Lawrence on Saturday. Goaltender Katie Burt has made three starts against the Saints in her career, going 2-0-1. Entering the Hockey East semifinals, Burt ranked among the national leaders in every goaltending category: sixth in goals against average (1.59), sixth in save percentage (.931), tied for fifth in shutouts (7) and seventh in winning percentage (.773 with a 23-5-5 record). Helping to propel her team into the NCAA tournament, Burt poses a strong defensive threat matched by BC’s offensive powerhouse, led by forward Andie Anastos.

St. Lawrence

The Saints head to BC this weekend to face the Eagles after earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Finishing the season with a strong 26-5-4 record, the Saints hope for a win over the fourth-ranked Eagles (27-5-5). Despite falling to Cornell in the ECAC semifinal matchup, St. Lawrence has proven to be an exceptionally hard working team with the offensive talents of Kennedy Marchment and Brooke Webster, as well as the goaltending abilities of Grace Harrison. Harrison, a finalist for the league's Goaltender of the Year honors, shattered the school’s record for shutouts in a single season with a league-best of nine. Harrison is tied for the league lead with 23 wins in net and ranks third with a 1.47 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. Facing BC on Saturday will require continued strength from both offense and defense as Harrison and her team look to advance to the semifinals.

Clarkson

Coming off of the first ECAC Championship in school history, the Clarkson Golden Knights are set to take on Cornell in the first round of the tournament with a 29-4-5 record. Much of Clarkson’s success is due to forward Cayley Mercer’s impressive performance this season, earning ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and a top 3 Patty Kazmaier Finalist position. The most outstanding performance of the ECAC championship, however, goes to goaltender Shea Tiley. Tiley became the first goaltender to ever shutout opponents in both the ECAC Semifinals and Championship. Tiley recorded 43 saves across the two games, including 17 in the final against Cornell, who Clarkson will meet again in the first round of the Frozen Four tournament. Tiley now has 76 wins and 23 shutouts in her career and is ninth in the country in goals against average (1.60) and tenth in save percentage (.928).

Cornell

Making their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance thanks to an at-large bid, Cornell is set to rematch Clarkson on Saturday after falling to the Golden Knights 1-0 in the ECAC Championship game. Despite the previous loss, Cornell will prove a tough opponent thanks to the goaltending of Paula Voorheis, who is currently in the midst of the best season of her career. Posting career-bests in save percentage (.942) and goals-against average, Voorheis also became the second goaltender in program history to hit the 2,000 career-save mark. Voorheis was also named the Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year, making her the first player in program history to receive this top award from ECAC Hockey. Stopping 23 of 24 shots in her last meeting against Clarkson, Voorheis’ skill might be the trick to stopping Clarkson’s offensive power and earning Cornell a spot in the tournament semifinals.

Minnesota-Duluth

For the first time in five years, Minnesota-Duluth is back in the NCAA tournament in large part due to the outstanding performance of sophomore goaltender, Maddie Rooney. Rooney had a record-setting performance last Saturday against the Minnesota Gophers, making 62 saves and topping her previous UMD record for saves in game. Minnesota-Duluth is set to face the Gophers again in the first round of the tournament and enters the game with a 27-51-7 all-time record against the Gophers. Immediately after the 62-save achievement, Rooney made another 50 saves in a 4-1 to number one ranked Wisconsin. Overall, Rooney made 112 saves on 117 shots, posted a .957 save percentage and played a whopping 151:29 minutes. Continuing this save streak into the first round game against Minnesota will allow the Bulldogs offense a chance to steal yet another win from the Gophers and advance to the semifinals.

Minnesota

The Gophers are anxious for a rematch against Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCAA tournament after falling to the Bulldogs in the WCHA Final Face-Off semifinal - the longest in the WCHA’s history. Despite coming up short, goalie Sidney Peters backstopped the team only allowing one goal and coming up huge on a save in the first overtime. The Gophers (25-7-5) still secured one of four at-large berths to the 2017 NCAA Women’s Hockey Championship, joining No. 3 seed Minnesota Duluth, St. Lawrence, and Cornell to make up the at-large selections. Making their 10th straight and 15th overall appearance in the tournament, goaltender Sidney Peters will be met with a tough challenge during the rematch against Minnesota-Duluth.