The Frozen Four is officially upon us. The NCAA Division I college hockey season wraps up this weekend, and one of Ohio State, Northeastern, Yale, or Minnesota Duluth will be crowned national champions on Sunday evening.
Fans in the U.S. can tune into the semifinals on ESPN+ and catch the national championship game on ESPNU. They can also listen in on Westwood One nationally. For fans in Canada, the games will be streamed live on TSN.ca and the TSN app.
#3 Northeastern vs. Minnesota Duluth | Friday, March 18, at 3:30 p.m. ET
The Huskies already earned some redemption in this tournament after knocking out Wisconsin, the same team who beat them in last year’s national championship game. But another rematch is coming up for the Huskies, against last year’s national semifinal foe, and they’ll do their best to keep Minnesota Duluth from earning some redemption of their own.
UMD burst into the NCAA Tournament last year, a season that notably featured basically no inter-conference play, and took some folks by surprise. They pushed No. 1 seed Northeastern to the brink in double OT before Skylar Fontaine scored in the final 30 seconds of that extra period to win it for the Huskies.
I don’t think anyone is surprised to see the Huskies back here again this year, least of all Northeastern. The squads were evenly matched last time out, and not much has changed this season. The Huskies, as they showed in their win against Wisconsin last week, have clearly made some adjustments to better prepare for the WCHA’s style of play, making their already-loaded roster even more dangerous. On the Bulldogs’ side, they notably added Élizabeth Giguère to their arsenal, and their top line can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. The goaltending battle should be just as fierce. We should be in for another tightly contested Frozen Four matchup between these two.
Keys for Northeastern: The Huskies have shown they can make adjustments as needed to overcome early obstacles, but I think it would really benefit them to get on the board early and win the opening period. Defensively, they need to stay organized and prevent players from getting loose.
Keys for Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs had a lot of success last year at winning neutral zone battles and building pressure in the offensive zone. That may not be so easy to do this time around, but with the firepower they have, they’ll have their chances to sustain some offensive waves. Being creative with those and getting to high-danger areas will be key. They’ve also got to clean up in front of their own net; I thought Northeastern did a nice job last week of getting in front of the goaltender and taking away sightlines.
Players to Watch
Northeastern: Katy Knoll, Junior, Forward
Knoll was a critical part of Northeastern’s quarterfinal win over Wisconsin, scoring and assisting on the Huskies’ first two goals, and they’ll need the same effort again this week. Northeastern has possibly the most dangerous trio of primary scorers in the NCAA, if we can limit it to just three. But their secondary scoring is what makes them such a dynamic team, and Knoll is a key piece of that.
Gabbie Hughes, Senior, Forward
Although the Bulldogs have plenty of talented pieces around her, it feels like this team is going where Hughes is going. She’s played a huge role in them advancing to the Frozen Four, scoring a hat trick in the opening round and then netting a game-winner against #2 Minnesota to break a 1-1 in the third period of the quarterfinals.
Gabbie Hughes loves the NCAA Tournament. pic.twitter.com/lgieffVBXi— UMD Women's Hockey (@UMDWHockey) March 12, 2022
#1 Ohio State vs. #5 Yale | Friday, March 18, at 7 p.m. ET
The Bulldogs have made history by being here, as last week’s overtime win over Colgate sent them to their first-ever Frozen Four. But Ohio State is on the brink of history themselves. This is the first time they’ve held the No. 1 seed in the tournament, and if they win this game, it will be the first time they play in the national championship game.
Yale has been on quite the run after a historic year for their program, and they boast a roster full of 20-plus-point-scorers, a quick and mobile D, and some very strong goaltending from Gianna Meloni. But they’re running into a juggernaut team in Ohio State, who’s spent all season showing exactly why they’re deserving of their No. 1 ranking. The Buckeyes have serious skill on every line; every unit is capable of executing their game plan.
Keys for Ohio State: Clean breakouts and neutral zone play will be important for Ohio State. Top to bottom, they’re an overall stronger team than Yale, and they can sustain pressure on the Bulldogs for long stretches. But they don’t want to get into the type of match where they’re caught chasing in their own zone.
Keys for Yale: This probably goes without saying for a team as talented as the Buckeyes, but slowing down their power play will be critical to Yale’s hopes of winning. Ohio State scored two PP goals against Quinnipiac in their NCAA quarterfinal—an obvious boost for their offense in a 4-3 double overtime victory.
Players to Watch
Ohio State: Sophie Jaques, Senior, Defender
It’s hard to overstate just how impressive Jaques has been this season, and just how important she is to the Buckeyes’ plans. With 59 points from the blue line, she’s been stellar in jumpstarting their offense and helping them run their up-tempo style of play. She’s a threat to score or make a dangerous play herself, and she also transitions well to limit opposing players. She’ll be counted on to keep Yale in check and get the Buckeyes going on Friday.
Yale: Gianna Meloni, Senior, Goaltender
Meloni has been really reliable in net this season for the Bulldogs, and they’re very much going to count on her to come up big against a dynamic Ohio State team. Last week, the Buckeyes put up 54 shots on Quinnipiac through regulation and 73 total; it’s likely that Meloni will be facing the same kind of volume on Friday night. But Meloni has earned the last five starts for Yale and she’s posted a .938 save percentage this season.