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The Takeaway: NCAA Tournament looms

With the excitement of the conference championships in the rearview mirror, we turn our sights to the NCAA quarterfinals

Northeastern won this weekend’s Hockey East championship in a thrilling overtime victory against BC.
Michelle Jay

Our four conference champions have been crowned and the 2019 NCAA Tournament field is set. Catch up on the biggest happenings and performances of the conference playoffs with the latest edition of The Takeaway.

5 Things to Know

Syracuse wins its first conference championship: Coming into last week’s College Hockey America Tournament, history did not favor the Orange. After defeating Lindenwood in the first round, they faced off against Mercyhurst, who they were previously 0-for-7 against in the CHA playoffs. A hat trick from senior defender Lindsay Eastwood snapped that trend and propelled Syracuse to the CHA championship game. They handily defeated No. 1 seed Robert Morris, 6-2, for their first conference championship win in seven title game appearances. Junior forward Anonda Hoppner was named tournament MVP, and for the first time in school history, the Orange are headed to the NCAA Tournament. Also worth noting: Syracuse’s media relations staff absolutely killed the postgame celebration coverage, and good for them. Any program’s first championship is a huge deal.

Drama in the Hockey East final: With Boston College and Northeastern playing for the Hockey East championship, we were treated to a tightly-contested matchup between the top two seeds. For the entirety of the game, no team could grab a lead larger than one goal, and there was plenty of drama at the end to decide it. First, Northeastern rookie Alina Müller snapped 1-1 tie with just over five minutes remaining in the third. That set up Boston College’s chance to tie it up. With an extra attacker on for BC, the Huskies iced the puck, officially with 7.4 seconds left on the clock. Head coach Katie Crowley argued profusely for more time to be added; the puck was dropped for the faceoff anyway, and Kali Flanagan tied the game up for the Eagles with just five seconds left. Here’s a recount from The Heights, though, of what happened before that goal and what led to a review:

So, right before the puck dropped on the faceoff, Crowley chucked her notebook onto the ice. It went unnoticed, though, and Kelly Browne won the faceoff, Watts touched it back to Flanagan, who went bar down for the equalizer. BC’s Erin Connolly deftly picked the notebook up as the referees went to review the play, and, much to the chagrin of the Northeastern bench, it was ruled a goal. Flint was furious, seeking either an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Crowley or a whistle on McArthur for apparently leaving her bench.

The Huskies went on to win in overtime anyway, with Kasidy Anderson scoring the winner. It’s the second-straight Hockey East Tournament championship for Northeastern.

Clarkson three-peats as ECAC champions: For the third-straight season, the Golden Knights captured the ECAC Tournament title, and allowed just one goal total in the semifinal and championship games. Loren Gabel was outstanding, as usual, and turned the game on its head, as usual, with a two-goal outburst in a span of 26 seconds to put Clarkson ahead against Cornell in the final. They never lost that lead and went on to win, 4-1.

One thing I was really impressed with in the ECAC Tournament was the play of the top defenders for each team. Colgate’s Olivia Zafuto, Cornell’s Micah Zandee-Hart and Jaime Bourbonnais, Clarkson’s Ella Shelton, and Princeton’s Claire Thompson all seemed to bring their best to Lynah Rink. They’ve of course been excellent all season, but that group helped drive a lot of the play over championship weekend, too, and it was fun to see them go at it.

Redemption for Wisconsin in the WCHA: After a bumpy end to the regular season, Wisconsin outscored St. Cloud State 13-0 in their quarterfinal series to advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff. There, the Badgers met Ohio State for a rematch of that bumpy regular season finale, which saw the Buckeyes take four of six series points behind two shootout wins. This time, however, Wisconsin pulled a 3-2 victory, with senior Annie Pankowski scoring the winning goal with just 4:30 left on the clock.

Minnesota, who won the WCHA regular season title, advanced to the championship game as well after completely stifling Minnesota Duluth in the semifinals. The Gophers outshot the Bulldogs 44-9 and won by a score of 4-1. In the championship game, though, the second-seeded Badgers prevailed. Caitlin Schneider and Britta Curl gave them a 2-0 lead and they never looked back, going on to win 3-1. Pankowski was named Final Faceoff MVP and Wisconsin earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament field set: We’ve got a slew of non-conference matchups in the NCAA quarterfinals, and the selection committee was able to maintain complete bracket integrity, too. In this year’s field, we’ll see #1 Wisconsin take on Syracuse, #2 Minnesota take on Princeton, #3 Northeastern take on Cornell, and #4 Clarkson take on Boston College. Syracuse, Minnesota, Princeton, and Cornell grabbed the four at-large bids. For more info on the selection criteria and how we got this field, check out this really helpful write-up from BC Interruption.

Top Performers

Mackenzie Lancaster, Senior, Forward, Quinnipiac: Lancaster was named the winner of the ECAC’s Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year Award. She scored four goals, 18 assists, and 22 points for the Bobcats this year while setting an example in the classroom, too. She holds a 3.91 GPA as a Psychology major and Sociology minor.

Lindsay Eastwood, Senior, Defender, Syracuse: As mentioned above in our first thing to know, Eastwood scored a hat trick in the semifinal to send the Orange to the CHA title game. Here’s a look at her second goal of the game, which was unreal:

Aerin Frankel, Sophomore, Goaltender, Northeastern: Frankel took home Hockey East Tournament MVP honors for the second year in a row. She’s just the fourth two-time recipient of the MVP award in Hockey East history, and is now 8-0-0 all-time in the tournament.

Micah Zandee-Hart, Junior, Defender, Cornell: Zandee-Hart had a great game against Princeton to help the Big Red advance to the ECAC championship game. She scored the winner in double overtime, but before that, in regulation, she made this great read to find the stick of Gillis Frechette and get Cornell on the board (0:59 in the video below).

Loren Gabel, Senior, Forward, Clarkson: Along with being named the ECAC Tournament MVP, Gabel was also named a Patty Kazmaier Award top-three finalist. Gabel has 40 goals and 39 assists for 69 points on the year.

Megan Keller, Senior, Defender, Boston College: Keller was also named a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier. She’s having a record-breaking year on the blue line; she leads the nation in defender scoring with 43 points (19 goals and 24 assists). She’s the highest scoring defender in Hockey East history, both in a single season and for her career.

Annie Pankowski, Senior, Forward, Wisconsin: Pankowski rounds out the top-three Patty Kaz finalists and has 23 goals, 22 assists, and 45 points this season.