2022 NCAA Tournament: Opening Round Recap

Quinnipiac, Minnesota Duluth, and Wisconsin move on to the quarterfinals

One day of games down at the 2022 NCAA Tournament, and our quarterfinal field is set. On Saturday, we’ll have Ohio State taking on Quinnipiac, Northeastern taking on Wisconsin, and Minnesota taking on Minnesota Duluth. But first, a run down of how the first-ever opening round of our expanded 11-field tournament went.

Quinnipiac 4, Syracuse 0

Quinnipiac: Taylor House, Sadie Peart, Jess Schryver, Lexie Adzija
Syracuse: n/a

After a relatively quiet first period, the Bobcats broke this game open in the second. House took advantage of a rebound in front to pull ahead a little more than halfway through the period, and Peart scored a few minutes later after collecting the puck in front of Cuse goaltender Arielle DeSmet and tucking it home. Both goals came after Quinnipiac transitioned out of their defensive zone.

The shutout victory marks the first-ever NCAA Tournament win for Quinnipiac’s program, a huge and well-deserved milestone.

Minnesota Duluth 4, Harvard 0

Minnesota Duluth: Gabbie Hughes (x3), McKenzie Hewett
Harvard: n/a

Hughes was the star of the show in this one, as her natural hat trick propelled the Bulldogs to a key NCAA victory. UMD had the clear edge in all aspects of this game. Emma Söderberg stood tall in net, making 27 saves. The Bulldogs’ offense, especially their top line, had their way with Harvard’s defense. In fact, it was the Crimson’s top unit that was on the ice for all three of Gabbies Hughes’ goals; they just couldn’t find a rhythm or an answer for the plays that UMD was stringing together.

Wisconsin 3, Clarkson 1

Wisconsin: Maddi Wheeler, Daryl Watts, Delaney Drake
Clarkson: Nicole Gosling

Some really nice play-making helped Wisconsin gain some breathing room against Clarkson, and despite a hard-fought effort by the Golden Knights to tie it up, the Badgers held on for the win. Wheeler got the scoring started in the closing minutes of the opening period after beating a Clarkson defender outside to get in on goaltender Amanda Zeglen. Nicole LaMantia then found an open Daryl Watts on the back door on the PP to gain a 2-0 lead halfway through the second. The Golden Knights weren’t ready to pack it in, though; they outshot the Badgers, 14-5, in the third period, and got a goal back in the final minute, before Drake closed it out with an empty-netter.

Up next: NCAA Quarterfinals

I’m still not totally sure if we’re calling this next round the “regional finals” or the regular old quarterfinals. I guess it’s both? Anyway, with all of our teams locked in, here are the matchups you have to look forward to on Saturday. Winners advance to the Frozen Four in Happy Valley.

Wisconsin at #3 Northeastern | Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m. ET

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I’m not sure how many of us expected to see this so early in the tournament, but this will be a rematch of last year’s national title game, which the Badgers won in overtime. I think it’s fair to say that Wisconsin was the superior team last year, and Northeastern learned a lot about what it takes to truly compete in every game of this tournament. The Huskies returned almost the entire core of that team; we already knew they weren’t short on talent, and last year’s experience could be exactly what they need to put this team over the edge. While Wisconsin hasn’t asserted quite the same level of dominance of late, they are still a major threat to unseat Northeastern here. They’ve shown they’re capable of snuffing out sustained possession, so it will be on the Huskies’ top players to come through in support and break through with dynamic plays. On the Badgers’ side, I think winning battles and cleaning up rebounds in front of their own net will be crucial.

#5 Yale at #4 Colgate | Saturday, March 12 at 3 p.m. ET

This should be a really interesting rematch of the ECAC Championship game from a week ago. The Raiders are comparatively seasoned veterans when it comes to NCAA Tournament play, while the Bulldogs are playing in their first-ever NCAA postseason. Both teams have had excellent seasons to be proud of, but with their experience and consistency, there may be more potential here for Colgate to make a serious run. Still, the margin is very close; it took overtime for the Raiders to top the Bulldogs last week, and Yale won both of their regular-season matchups.

If Colgate wins, it’ll likely be because of their depth on both sides of the puck, and their success at having all five players  on the ice contribute to driving offense. If Yale wins, it’ll probably be because their power play, tops in the conference, had something to say about it. They’re converting at a rate of 28.6% this year.

Minnesota Duluth at #2 Minnesota | Saturday, March 12 at 3 p.m. ET

This will be another rematch from last week’s conference playoffs; the Bulldogs and Gophers met in the WCHA semifinals, where the Gophers skated to a 5-1 victory. But UMD has matched up pretty well against Minnesota this season, splitting the regular-season series, and they’ll be coming into the game with a lot of momentum after a huge opening-round win against Harvard. We know what the Gophers are capable of; they can take control of the game for long stretches, and make it difficult for the Bulldogs to break out or generate much energy. Their offense is one of the most balanced in the country to boot.

But looking back to last season, I find it slightly interesting that it was a blowout loss in the WCHA semifinals that sparked UMD’s run to the Frozen Four, where they pushed Northeastern to the brink. I think this year’s team probably feels similarly, in that they can play a lot better and let in fewer goals. We’ll see if they’ve made enough adjustments to upset Minnesota and punch their ticket again to the Frozen Four.

Quinnipiac at #1 Ohio State | Saturday, March 12 at 5 p.m. ET

This is a matchup that I sorely wish we were getting to see next weekend instead, because I think the talent level at both ends is that good. This should be a really fun, high-energy, back-and-forth game—and also, if it ends in a blowout, don’t come yelling to me. The Buckeyes showed exactly why they were deserving of the No. 1 overall seed last weekend, when they came back from down two goals against rival Minnesota in the WCHA championship game to win the title. Quinnipiac doesn’t play with quite the same high-octane offense, but there are play-makers all throughout their lineup, too, and I’m very excited to see the blue line matchup between Sophie Jaques and Kendall Cooper.