NCAA women's hockey bracketology: Badgers jump Bulldogs, Quinnipiac and Northeastern

Ohio State takes over the top spot from Yale, while the Wisconsin now has a first-round bye in its sights.

womens hockey game
Minnesota Duluth forward Kylie Hanley (12) controls the puck behind the goal line against Wisconsin's Vivian Jungels (20) at Amsoil Arena on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

It’s the final weekend of the regular season. The 2023 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four at Amsoil Arena in Duluth is four weeks away. Let’s do some bracketology.

The 11-team National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey tournament field will be announced on Sunday, March 5, with the first round and quarterfinals taking place at teams’ home rinks March 9-12. The national semifinals and championship will take place March 17-19 in Duluth.

Two weeks of conference postseason play starts next week. If the season ended on Thursday, Feb. 16, here is what the 2023 NCAA bracket could possibly look like.

This week’s bracket

Ohio State Regional
1. Ohio State (WCHA)
8. Minnesota Duluth vs. 10. Clarkson

Colgate Regional
4. Colgate vs. 5. Wisconsin


Yale Regional
2. Yale (ECAC)
7. Quinnipiac vs. 9. Penn State (CHA)

Minnesota Regional
3. Minnesota
6. Northeastern (HE) vs. 11. LIU (NEWHA)

Last at-large team in: Clarkson
Last two at-large teams out: Vermont, St. Cloud State

The process

The National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey tournament features 11 teams. The five conference postseason champions from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, ECAC, Hockey East, College Hockey America and New England Women’s Hockey Alliance receive automatic bids ( the current league leaders are noted in the bracket). The selection committee then uses the Pairwise rankings to select the six at-large teams, and seed the 11-team field.

The top four seeds will host the first round and quarterfinal games. The top four seeds will be placed on the bracket so that if they all advance, No. 1 will play No. 4 and No. 2 will play No. 3 in the Frozen Four. The top five seeds get byes into the quarterfinals, with the No. 4 seed “automatically” hosting the No. 5 seed, per the NCAA’s seedings and pairings guidelines .

First-round conference matchups are to be avoided, though if one league has four or more teams seeded between 6-11, then intraconference matchups are permitted to maintain bracket integrity.

Teams are not required to be kept close to home, however, the NCAA lists “competitive equity”, “financial success” and a “playoff-type atmosphere” as keys to a successful tournament.



This week’s bracket required a tweak to avoid a first-round conference matchup between the ECAC’s Quinnipiac and Clarkson. I determined the best way to fix that, based on the NCAA’s guidelines, was to send Clarkson to Columbus for the Ohio State regional while moving Penn State to the Yale Regional in Connecticut.

I could have flipped Quinnipiac and UMD, however, taking Quinnipiac out of its home state of Connecticut would tarnish the potential “playoff-type atmosphere” there. Also, keeping the No. 8 seed in the same regional as the No. 1 seed maintains bracket integrity better.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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