The Takeaway: Playoff fields set in the ECAC, Hockey East, and WCHA

An exciting finale to the regular season cleared up the playoff picture

After a wild ending to the regular season in the WCHA, ECAC and Hockey East, we’ve finally got ourselves a playoff field that’s set in stone. Plus, there’s still plenty to be decided in College Hockey America. We’ve got a rundown of those playoff matchups and scenarios in the latest edition of The Takeaway.

5 Things to Know

WCHA championship comes down to the wire: Wisconsin came into the weekend with a two-point lead on Minnesota for first place in the WCHA and owned the tiebreaker on goals allowed in their head-to-head games. But because the Badgers went to a shootout and lost in both games against Ohio State, and the Gophers swept Bemidji State, Minnesota moved ahead of them in the standings to take sole possession of the newly-named Julianne Bye Cup. Along with securing the Bye, the Gophers will also get a bye into the WCHA Tournament semifinals.

Ohio State’s big push in Madison: Because of their efforts on the road to close out the regular season, the Buckeyes also locked down home ice in the WCHA quarterfinal round. In game one, rookie Andrea Brändli stopped 52 shots in a 1-1 tie, as well as all three shooters she faced to earn OSU the extra point in the shootout. In game two, Ohio State had a 2-0 lead over the Badgers going into the third period, but Sophie Shirley and Emily Clark tied things up to force another overtime. Brändli had another 40 saves on the afternoon and again helped the Buckeyes come away with the shootout win.

As a slight aside, it’s hard to know what to make of Wisconsin’s offense this season. They’ve got more than a few blowout wins to their credit, including a 7-2 win over Minnesota State and a 6-1 win over Minnesota Duluth in February alone. But they’ve been very frustrated at times by good goaltenders and stingy defenses. Coming back from two goals down against Ohio State is definitely something to build on going into the playoffs, but it probably goes without saying that Wisconsin would benefit from stretching out more two- or three-goal leads when they dominate games.

Cluster at the top of the ECAC: Princeton dropped its last three regular season games (against RPI, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence), opening up the top seed in the ECAC. Cornell took full advantage, closing out the schedule with a sweep to win the ECAC championship outright. But beneath them, Colgate, Clarkson, and Princeton ended up tied in points with 33, and those teams will be seeded in that order. So, despite leading the conference for much of the season, the Tigers will finish fourth and host a solid St. Lawrence team. The Raiders will take the second seed despite lingering questions all season about how they followed up last year’s national runner-up finish. They’ve been on a roll lately, though, going undefeated in eight straight games.

Also in the ECAC playoffs are Quinnipiac, Harvard and Rensselaer. The latter two could make a lot of trouble for Cornell and Colgate thanks to Lindsay Reed and Lovisa Selander in net, respectively.

Vermont punches its ticket to the Hockey East Tournament: Saturday’s game between Vermont and Maine was a play-in game for the last spot in the Hockey East playoff field. The Black Bears needed two points to overtake the Catamounts, and Brittany Colton gave them an early lead just 1:26 in. The Catamounts went up 2-1 in the second period, however, before Colton tied it up about five minutes into the third. That led to an exciting overtime finish, but Maine couldn’t score the winning goal and with the 2-2 tie, Vermont moves on to the Hockey East quarterfinals.

What’s on the line in College Hockey America: Mercyhurst’s split last weekend with Robert Morris means the regular season title is still up for grabs, though the Colonials are in control of their own destiny. They lead the Lakers by three points with two games left, so any win next weekend against Syracuse would give RMU the championship. Mercyhurst, meanwhile is tied with the Orange in points with 22, and that’s critical because the top two teams in the CHA get an automatic bye into the semifinals.

Top Performers

Lovisa Selander, Senior, Goaltender, RPI: Selander’s latest performance of note featured 57 saves in a 2-1 win over Princeton.

Jessie Eldridge, Senior, Forward, Colgate: Eldridge has been fantastic for Colgate to end the season with four goals and five assists in her last four games. She also now owns the program record for goals in a single season.

Theresa Schafzahl, Freshman, Forward, Vermont: She’s posted two goals and four assists in Vermont’s last three games of the season to help the Catamounts lock up that final Hockey East Tournament bid.

Andrea Brändli, Freshman, Goaltender, Ohio State: Brändli stopped 92 shots on the weekend to help the Buckeyes take four of six points from Wisconsin.

Katelyn Rae, Senior, Forward, Merrimack: Rae notched two goals and four assists in one afternoon for the Warriors, leading the team to a 7-2 win over UConn.

Maggie Flaherty, Freshman, Defender, Minnesota Duluth: Flaherty helped the Bulldogs survive an upset bid from Minnesota State, recording two goals and an assist in a 5-5 tie.

Brianna Storms, Senior, Goaltender, Northeastern: In her first career start on Senior Day, Storms recorded a 21-save shutout to help lead the Huskies to a 3-0 win over Merrimack.

Don’t Miss It

Upcoming games to watch for:

The first round of the ECAC, Hockey East and WCHA playoffs start this weekend. Matchups include:

  • In the ECAC: #1 Cornell vs. #8 Rensselaer, #2 Colgate vs. #7 Harvard, #3 Clarkson vs. #6 Quinnipiac, and #4 Princeton vs. #5 St. Lawrence.
  • In Hockey East: #1 Northeastern vs. #8 Vermont, #2 Boston College vs. #7 UConn, #3 Boston University vs. #6 New Hampshire, and #4 Providence vs. #5 Merrimack.
  • In the WCHA: #2 Wisconsin vs. #7 St. Cloud State, #3 Ohio State vs. #6 Minnesota State, and #4 Minnesota Duluth vs. #5 Bemidji State. #1 Minnesota has the bye./