It all comes down to this.
The 2022 women's Frozen Four is college hockey's marquee event and it is here. On Friday, No. 3 Northeastern takes on Minnesota Duluth at 3:30 p.m. ET. At 7 p.m. ET, No. 1 Ohio State battles No. 5 Yale. Both look to be really good games.
The championship will be played on Sunday.
FOLLOW THE ACTION: Click here for live coverage of the women's hockey tournament
Here are the five biggest storylines to watch in the Frozen Four.
1. Aerin Frankel’s performance in net
Aerin Frankel most recently won Goaltender of the Year in college hockey. She won the 2021 Patty Kazmaier Award and was a top-10 finalist this season.
The 𝙗𝙚𝙨𝙩 goaltender in the country.— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) March 16, 2022
For the second year in a row, Aerin Frankel has been named the Goaltender of the Year!
📰: https://t.co/AcG9wboyuX#HowlinHuskies pic.twitter.com/HztvPSykIG
In other words, she’s really good.
Minnesota Duluth, Northeastern’s opponent in Friday’s Frozen Four semifinal game, carries the sixth-best offense in the nation with 3.5 goals per game. The Bulldogs boast an offense with seniors Elizabeth Giguere and Gabbie Hughes. Giguere ranks second in the nation in points with 60 and Hughes is a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
If Northeastern is to beat Minnesota Duluth, it will be in large part due to Frankel’s play in net.
2. The play of Sophie Jaques at both ends of the ice for Ohio State
Speaking of finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, Ohio State defender Sophie Jaques put together a terrific season. Her 59 points are tied for third in college hockey. Her plus/minus of plus-49 ranks first.
Jaques had a goal and an assist in Ohio State’s 2OT-win over Quinnipiac. The game before that, the WCHA championship, saw her pot two goals against Minnesota.
P3| @_sophiejaques 👊— Ohio State Women's Hockey (@OhioStateWHKY) March 12, 2022
Buckeyes take a 3-2 lead at 2:19 into the period! #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/zvaaqzTiiJ
She’s been a difference-maker all season for Ohio State. It is easy to imagine she will be one in the Frozen Four.
3. How will Yale do at quieting Ohio State’s offense?
The Bulldogs are tied for second in the country in goals against per game (1.5). They take pride in their defense and it is one of the biggest reasons as to why they are still playing.
Senior goalie Gianna Meloni has been outstanding this season. Her .938 save percentage and 1.47 goals against average both rank in the top 10. She stopped 28 of 29 shots against Colgate and was vital in getting Yale to Pennsylvania for the Frozen Four.
BRACKET 2022: Check out the 2022 women's bracket
Ohio State carries the No. 1 offensive attack in the country. Yale will need its defense and Meloni in net to hold the Buckeyes’ goal-scoring prowess at bay.
4. Minnesota Duluth carrying its momentum from win over Minnesota
Minnesota Duluth posted the most shocking result of the quarterfinals when it took down No. 2 Minnesota, 2-1, in Minneapolis.
Despite being outshot, 38-27, Minnesota Duluth held off the Golden Gophers’ scoring attack with solid defense and great goaltending from senior Emma Soderberg.
FROZEN FOUR BOUND.@UMDWHockey | #WeAreWCHA pic.twitter.com/T0fjcdvEPL— WCHA Hockey (@WCHA_WHockey) March 12, 2022
Things do not get any easier with a matchup against Northeastern in the Frozen Four. Hughes and Giguere will be essential to sliding past the Huskies.
Also essential will be the momentum gained from the upset in the quarterfinals.
5. What’s the most interesting national championship matchup?
Easy. Let’s cut to the chase: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Northeastern.
Getting to watch Frankel and the defense of Skylar Fontaine and co. try and hold off the high-flying Buckeyes offense would be as must-watch as must-watch gets.
Northeastern’s offense is worth mentioning as well. It ranks fifth in the country in goals for with 135 and has senior Maureen Murphy — the nation’s leading goalscorer.
RELIVE THE QUARTERS: Here's 5 takeaways from the quarterfinals
One interesting matchup would be Jaques against Fontaine going head-to-head. Fontaine ranks second in the nation to Jacques in points with 48. Both would also be tasked with shutting down the opponent’s top players.