The 18-year history of the National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Championship has seen just four teams hoist the trophy.
Minnesota Duluth won the first three titles, and has five total, although Minnesota leads all programs with six. The Wisconsin Badgers are next with four. And Clarkson, with the help of back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, has three.
The Badgers and Minnesota Gophers are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the USCHO.com Division I Women’s poll, too, and could be on their way to a rematch of the 2012 championship game Minnesota won. But no one should pencil them in for that deciding puck drop at the People's United Center in Hamden, Connecticut just yet.
That’d sell short these five contenders, one of which could claim its first national title.
No. 3 Northeastern
Northeastern (19-3-3) played No. 5 Clarkson (20-5-1) to a tie and won once in January during the Friendship Series in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is 6-2-2 overall against teams ranked right now in the top 10. It hasn’t found much success in past NCAA tournament competition, but so far this season 16 of its wins have been decided by more than one goal as it’s scored the sixth-most goals this season and allowed the seventh-least.
Four different players in Northeastern coach Dave Flint’s balanced offensive attack have scored at least 10 goals. Six Huskies have at least 11 assists. And goalie Aerin Frankel is tied for a NCAA-best five shutouts.
Don’t be surprised if Northeastern sweeps the Hockey East regular season and tournament titles, wins the Women’s Beanpot and rides that momentum to a championship.
No. 4 Princeton
The Tigers had two chances at the Badgers back in October in Madison, Wisconsin, and lost both times — 4-3 and 3-0. But since then Princeton (14-2-5) hasn’t lost a game. Its defense has only allowed three goals or more again three times, which explains how the Tigers have the nation’s sixth-best average scoring margin. And its offense leads the NCAA in power-play goals and power-play percentage.
It’s true Princeton has only played six games this season against teams ranked at the moment. But the Tigers lead the Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey standings and are 1-0-1 against both No. 6 Cornell and No. 10 Colgate (14-8-4). Princeton has yet to play Clarkson, and the 104 goals Clarkson has scored this season are only outmatched by Minnesota’s 125, but the Golden Knights have struggled this season against the same competition the Tigers have found success against.
Princeton just has to play to its potential.
No. 6 Cornell
Flip through Cornell’s schedule and among some high-profile wins you’ll also find two rough losses that might still weigh heavy on the minds of Big Red players. But that road loss early in November against a Brown side that hasn’t won since and 5-0 shutout loss a few weeks ago against Princeton are the only two blemishes on Cornell’s record.
The Big Red are 14-2-5 and on a six-game win streak that’s seen them combine to outscore opponents 24-7. They have allowed the fourth-least amount of goals of any team and can boost of the nation’s eighth-best average scoring margin. They are clicking at the right time.
Cornell is poised to make its first return to the championship game since it lost in triple overtime in 2010 to Minnesota Duluth. And it has the pieces in leading-goal scorer Maddie Mills, Big Red assists leader Jaime Bourbonnais and goalie Marlene Boissonn to win.
No. 7 Boston College
Boston College endured an 0-2 start to the season and 1-6 stretch from the end of November through to January to amass an 18-9 record and top-10 ranking. The Eagles are second in the Hockey East standings and have won five consecutive games, scoring at least four goals each time. They need to replicate the success they’ve had at home, going 11-1, on the road, where they’ve only gone 7-8, but they have won three-straight games away from home and can prove that’s not a fluke with a strong showing at the Women’s Beanpot.
The Eagles also average 13.2 more shots per game than their opponents and are third in the nation in short-handed goals. Megan Keller is tied with Daryl Watts for the team lead in goals scored, 14, and leads the team in assists with 20. Boston College is fourth in the nation in assists.
No. 8 Boston
Boston is on a tear the past seven games with six wins and a tie and at least three goals scored each time out on the ice. And while the Terriers are third in the Hockey East standings behind Northeastern and Boston College, the conference is deep this season with all three of those teams ranked and Providence and Merrimack receiving votes, too. Boston is a combined 5-3-3 against those four teams and Feb. 5 has another shot at its first win against Northeastern this season during the Women’s Beanpot.
The Terriers have actually performed better on the road than at home this season, which could bode well come tournament time, and have in their arsenal the nation’s leader for total assists in Jesse Compher. Boston also averages 1.23 more goals per game than its opponents.