College women's hockey preview: WCHA Final Face-off semifinals
WCHA Final Face-off Semifinals NO. 3 MINNESOTA DULUTH VS. NO. 2 MINNESOTA When: 5:07 p.m. Saturday Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis Records: UMD is 24-5-5 overall, 19-5-4 in WCHA; Minnesota is 25-6-5, 19-4-5 Rankings: UMD is No. 2 in the USCHO.co...
WCHA Final Face-off Semifinals
NO. 3 MINNESOTA DULUTH VS. NO. 2 MINNESOTA
When: 5:07 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis
Records: UMD is 24-5-5 overall, 19-5-4 in WCHA; Minnesota is 25-6-5, 19-4-5
Rankings: UMD is No. 2 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls; the Gophers are ranked No. 5 by USCHO and tied for fourth by USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine.
Series: The Gophers lead 51-26-7 and swept UMD Oct. 14-15 in Minneapolis (4-3 and 3-2 OT wins); the Bulldogs returned the favor Jan. 13-14 in Duluth, 3-2 and 5-3.
Coaches: Maura Crowell, in her second season at UMD, is 39-26-6 and 62-33-10 for her career; Brad Frost, in his 10th season at Minnesota, is 318-51-27.
UMD update: The Bulldogs advanced to their second consecutive WCHA Final Face-off by sweeping St. Cloud State in the quarterfinals, 5-0 and 6-2. This is the Bulldogs' first back-to-back trip to the Final Face-off since 2011 and 2012. UMD has won five WCHA playoff titles, the most recent coming in 2010. The Bulldogs' last win at Ridder Arena also came in 2010 when they beat Cornell 3-2 in triple overtime for the program's fifth NCAA championship. Since then, the Bulldogs are 1-16-1 at Ridder, including 0-15-1 against the Gophers. As for the NCAA tournament picture, the Bulldogs appear to be a lock to make the field of 16, ranked No. 2 in the Pairwise. UMD may need a win today over the Gophers to lock up a home NCAA quarterfinal game next Saturday at Amsoil Arena.
Minnesota update: The Gophers needed three games to get by Bemidji State in the WCHA quarterfinals, winning 3-1, losing 2-1 and then winning 3-2 behind two goals from junior forward Kelly Pannek. The Gophers, along with Wisconsin, have a league-high six postseason titles. The last came in 2014. Minnesota had a 21-game unbeaten streak (20-0-1) against the Bulldogs prior to the two losses in Duluth in January. The Gophers are somewhat on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, ranked fifth in the Pairwise and susceptible to upsets in other league tournaments. Conference champions from outside the top eight of the Pairwise could keep Minnesota out of the eight-team field unless Minnesota can win at least once this weekend.
NO. 4 NORTH DAKOTA VS. NO. 1 WISCONSIN
When: 2:07 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis
Records: North Dakota is 16-15-6, 11-12-15; Wisconsin is 29-2-4, 22-2-4
Rankings: North Dakota is unranked; Wisconsin is No. 1 in both polls
Series: Wisconsin leads 49-7-4, having swept the Fighting Hawks during the regular season 2-0 and 5-2 in Grand Forks, N.D., and 3-2 and 2-1 in Madison
Coaches: Brian Idalski, in his 10th season at North Dakota, is 169-155-39; Mark Johnson, in his 14th season at Wisconsin, is 424-77-39
North Dakota update: North Dakota needed three games in Grand Forks to get by Ohio State in the WCHA quarterfinals. The Fighting Hawks rallied after losing 3-2 in overtime by winning the next two games 4-1 and 2-1 in overtime. This is the Hawks' seventh straight trip to the Final Face-off. They're still searching for their first WCHA title of any kind - regular or postseason. It's the fifth time North Dakota has played Wisconsin in the semifinals, with the Hawks beating the Badgers in 2013 and 2014. Ranked 14th in the Pairwise, the Hawks need to win the Final Face-off to make the NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin update: The WCHA regular-season champion and top-ranked Badgers advanced to the Final Face-off by sweeping Minnesota State-Mankato 7-0 and 6-0. The Badgers are chasing their third straight WCHA postseason title and seventh all-time. The Badgers are 43-14-0 all-time in the WCHA playoffs and have posted seven straight shutouts in those contests. The last time Wisconsin allowed a goal in a WCHA playoff game was March 7, 2015 against North Dakota. In addition to being No. 1 in the WCHA and national polls, the Badgers are a lock to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.