The University of Minnesota Women's Hockey team could have locked up the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament by winning the WCHA Final Faceoff this weekend. That didn't happen, as Bemidji State goalie Brittini Mowat shut down the Gophers for her second shutout win over them on Saturday, leading the Beavers to the 1-0 upset win. However, thanks to victories by a few other teams in conference tournaments this weekend, including one by arch rival Wisconsin, the Gophers still ended up on top of the pairwise rankings that the NCAA uses for its seeding, and were given the overall #1 seed Sunday night.
The Gophers will host the conference tournament champion from the College Hockey America Conference (CHA). The CHA is in its first year of receiving an autobid to the NCAA Tournament, and most people assumed it would be regular season champion Mercyhurst who had made the last nine NCAA Tournaments without the aid of an auto bid. However, top-seeded Mercyhurst was upset in the CHA semi-finals on Friday by sixth seeded Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The Tigers then pulled another upset defeating #2 Syracuse 2-1 in double overtime to win the inaugural auto bid. The Tigers will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 15-18-5 record.
The Gophers looked like they were destined to the #2 overall seed after their loss on Saturday. However, Boston University won their fourth consecutive Hockey east Tournament by upsetting #1 seed Boston College 4-1 to bump the Eagles down to the #2 overall seed. The difference between the #1 and the #2 seed? Playing a 15-18-5 RIT team or playing defending NCAA Champion and ECAC Regular Season Champion Clarkson. Thanks BU!
The other team the Gophers got help from was their rival Badgers. The way the Women's NCAA Tournament seeding works is that the top four seeds are set, and then the matchups are set with the primary criteria being geography and limiting flights. The Gopher and Badgers were locks to be in the top four seeds, so there was no worry of an early matchup between the rivals. However, if Bemidji State or North Dakota had won the WCHA Final Faceoff, they would have been required by the NCAA to play Minnesota in the quarterfinals due to geography. So thanks to Wisconsin's 4-1 semifinal win over North Dakota, and 4-0 Championship game win over Bemidji State, neither team will qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and will be required to be the Gophers opening opponent. On account of Wisconsin's wins the Gophers will not have to play either of the two teams that accounted for all three Gopher losses on the season, but instead Minnesota will play a RIT team that went 1-3 against a Penn State team that Minnesota beat 8-0 to open the season. Thanks Bucky!
So Minnesota will host RIT at Ridder Arena on Saturday at 4:00 PM in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Assuming they win, they will then play the winner of #4 Wisconsin and #5 Boston University in one of the NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals on Friday March 20th. The Gophers won't leave Ridder Arena the rest of the season, which can only help their chances of winning three more games and a national championship. We will have a full preview of the Gophers matchup against the Tigers later in the week here at The Daily Gopher.