NCAA Roundup: Regionals First Round Preview Edition

Dance tickets have been punched. Who's partnered with whom in the first round? Find out here, now.

NCAA Roundup: Regionals First Round Preview Edition
(Photo featured on X/formerly Twitter @CornellWHockey)

We have finally narrowed the playing field down to 11 teams for the women's NCAA hockey tournament, starting with regionals on March 14 and 16. It's been a long, arduous road to where we're at now, with some of the top teams in the nation now putting on their dancing shoes – er, skates – and aiming to unseat reigning champ Wisconsin for the top spot. Let's take a look at who's made it that much closer to a national championship.

(Check out the most recently updated poll here.)

Thursday, March 14: First Round

Stonehill (21-15-2) vs. Cornell (24-7-1)

Stonehill made history with its first bid into the NCAA tournament in just its second competitive year, having beaten Franklin Pierce 3-2 in overtime Saturday to secure the NEWHA championship.

My colleague Emma over in New England will likely have more on that soon, but just know that the Skyhawks have their work cut out for them against a Big Red team in the thick of a highly competitive conference, ECAC Hockey.

Cornell is ranked sixth overall in the nation as of this writing, having lost to eventual champions Colgate in the conference semis just this past weekend. While this will be their first-ever meeting, Stonehill has faced off against ECAC teams before (namely, RPI and Brown) and not fared well, but of course the playoffs are a different animal ... so we'll see. Either way, it'll be a great litmus test for an upstart team reaching some big milestones early in its history.

University of Connecticut (25-7-5) vs. University of Minnesota-Duluth (20-13-4)

UConn is the other major trailblazer in the National Conference, having earned its own first-ever bid to the big dance after stunning Northeastern in OT, 1-0 (!), for the Hockey East championship.

A steady uphill climb from the middle to the top of the HEA ranks could be stopped dead in regionals by a tough UMD squad – or rather, a deadly duo in net of Ève Gascon and Hailey MacLeod. Either of them in net could spell a rough ride for the Huskies, who have similar offensive inconsistencies (2.5 goals per game to the Bulldogs' 2.4). Still, all they need is one, and if they can get the puck moving like they did against Gwyneth Philips and Northeastern's defense, they could make things very difficult for UMD.

Penn State (22-12-3) vs. St. Lawrence (27-10-0)

College Hockey America has definitely gone through some trials and tribulations, with RIT and Lindenwood falling to the bottom, Syracuse in the middle of a rebuild, and RMU trying to find its footing amidst it all. Thus, it's not surprising that the Nittany Lions emerge again as the conference champs.

The Saints, meanwhile, are heading back to the dance for the first time in eight seasons. They played well against Yale before running up against a red-hot Clarkson squad in the ECAC semis; still, they do incredibly well with possession and special teams, and Emma-Sofie Nordström can make some big saves when the situation calls for it.

Penn State will really have to play disciplined hockey and try to get in front of Nordström early on if they want a legit shot at beating St. Lawrence, who can get speedy and throw a lot at a goalie given the chance.

Next roundup, we'll look at the winners of these matchups against the top three seeds in the tournament, plus Clarkson vs. Minnesota, all happening Saturday. It's about to be a whirlwind of a weekend, so I hope you're all ready!