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Patrick Donnelly | NCAA.com | January 13, 2023

2023 women's Frozen Four predictions, approaching 50 days from selections

Quinnipiac goaltender Logan Angers breaks down playing at Frozen Fenway 2023 and 3-1 win vs Harvard

We're almost 50 days away from selections for the 2023 NCAA women's hockey tournament, so it's a perfect time to revisit our early-season Frozen Four predictions.

These are the four teams that could have the best chance of advancing to the Frozen Four, right now as the second semester begins. 

Ohio State

The Buckeyes (18-2-2, 13-2-1 WCHA) look to be in position to repeat. They've stood tall with wins against top teams like Minnesota Duluth, Colgate and Cornell. The only teams that have been able to come up with answers for Ohio State have been other contenders like Minnesota and UMD. 

OSU has been nothing short of dominant as they defend their first national title. Nationally, they are third in goals per game (4.55), 10th in goals-against (1.82), first on the power play (37.5 percent) and in the top-20 in penalty killing (85.19 percent). 

POWER 10: Dominant Ohio State leads the first women's college hockey Power 10 rankings in 2023

Individually, there's one of the top stars in the nation in Sophie Jaques, who leads all defenders with 16 goals and 31 points in 22 games. Meanwhile, forward Jennifer Gardiner's 35 points (11g, 24a) in 22 games rank fourth in Division I, entering Friday. Forwards Gabby Rosenthal (15-12--27) and Emma Maltais (4-21--25) are each scoring at a point per game as well. In goal, both Amanda Thiele (9-1-1, .883 SV%, 2.16 GAA, 2 SO) and Raygan Kirk (6-1-1, .918 SV%, 1.85 GAA, 2 SO) have been solid as well.

The Bucks have been and will continue to be tested by title contenders in the top of the WCHA. They check a lot of boxes for championship programs and could become the latest team to go back-to-back.

Minnesota

A lot of what was said for OSU can also be said of Minnesota. The Golden Gophers (16-3-2, 13-1-2-2 WCHA) also check every box in terms of team statistics, individual play and goaltending. 

Minnesota is 8-3-2 against teams currently in the USCHO top-15, faltering to Yale, Wisconsin and St. Cloud State in a big November upset. Other than that, they've been rolling right along.

PATTY KAZ: Click or tap here for the latest Patty Kazmaier Award watchlist

The Gophers are scoring the most goals per game in the nation (5.1), giving up just 1.86 (12th). On special teams, their 29.58 percent power play is second to OSU, while the 81.48 percent penalty kill sits in the top-25. Meanwhile, forward Grace Zumwinkle (16g, 22a) and reigning Patty Kaz winner Taylor Heise (17g, 21a) are tied for second in scoring in Division I with 38 points. Sophomore forwards Abbey Murphy (13g, 15a) and Ella Huber (9g, 14a) are having career seasons of their own. Between the pipes, Skylar Vetter (13-3-2, 4 SO) is among the top goaltenders in the nation with a .921 save percentage and a 1.91 GAA. 

Like OSU, they have the luxury of playing in a gauntlet WCHA, consistently going up against some of the country's top teams. They failed to make it out of the quarterfinals last season, bowing out to Duluth, but the Gophers are once again loaded and among this year's favorites. 

Yale

The Bulldogs might not have the same type of powerhouse pedigree as Minnesota, but they have quickly established themselves as a true contender in recent years, making the tournament and advancing to the Frozen Four for the first time in program history in 2022.

Yale (16-1-1, 9-1-1 ECAC) immediately met expectations this season, dominating in their own formidable conference. They've gone 6-1-1 against ranked opponents, including top-five wins over Minnesota and Quinnipiac. 

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The Bulldogs rank sixth with 3.56 goals per game, third with 1.28 goals-against per game (3rd) and fourth with a 91.84 percent penalty kill. If there's any area to improve, it's their average power play, working at 18.75 percent. Yale has a number of forwards putting up a point per game, including potential Patty Kaz candidate Elle Hartje (6-17--23), freshman Jordan Ray (8-12--20) and sophomore Anna Bargman (9-10--19). Sophomore goaltender Pia Dukaric has taken hold of the starting gig seamlessly with a .946 save percentage and 1.21 GAA, both third in the nation, to go along with a 16-1-1 record and five shutouts. 

Looking to build on last year's run, Yale has proven it is right there with the other top teams, shooting up to No. 3 in the polls. This could be a season that sees them make more history. 

Quinnipiac

From one ECAC force to another, the Bobcats (20-3-0, 10-1-0 ECAC) have been among the best in Division I since the start of the season, taking another step after strong seasons the last three years. 

After their third appearance in the national tournament last season, Quinnipiac entered the season projected as a top-10 team, but like Yale, have quickly established themselves as one of the strongest teams so far. QU is 6-3-0 against top-15 teams, including two top-10 wins over Cornell and Clarkson as well as a pair of top-five wins against Colgate and Wisconsin. 

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The Bobcats check in with 3.52 goals per game (eighth), 1.09 goals-against (second) and the best penalty kill in the nation at 95.56 percent. Similar to their rivals up the road, QU's power play (18.18) is solid, but could use some work. They share a common denominator with the previous three teams listed, boasting a star in Olivia Mobley (11-20--31) as well as a strong supporting cast with Shay Maloney (10-11--21), Maya Labad (12-7--19) and Sadie Peart (8-9--17). They've gotten phenomenal goaltending out of both Logan Angers (12-3-0, .935 SV%, 1.34 GAA, 5 SO) and Catie Boudiette (8-0-0, .974 SV%, 0.50 GAA, 5 SO). 

Quinnipiac has good measuring sticks in their conference between rivals like Yale, Colgate, Cornell, Clarkson and even Princeton. They know how to get it done offensively and especially defensively, which could be the perfect recipe for their first Frozen Four run. 

Also in the mix

Minnesota Duluth, Northeastern, Colgate, Wisconsin

While Yale and Quinnipiac jumped into my top-four, Wisconsin and Northeastern are on the outside looking in, for now.

Each team has all-star rosters bubbling over with players who have established themselves on the international stage, and are definitely still in the conversation. 

The high-flying Badgers (16-5-1, 12-3-1 WCHA) boast some of the nation's top producers and one of the best offenses in Division I. They've had some lapses so far this season though, losing to Penn State in the very first game and falling Minnesota Duluth four times. They've also lost three straight at the time of writing, settling for a split at Quinnipiac before a sweep at home against Duluth that saw them score one goal across two games. 

RANKINGS: Click or tap here for the latest USCHO poll

Looking at Northeastern (19-2-1, 15-2-1 HEA), any concerns over goaltending were quickly erased when Gwyneth Phillips stepped in brilliantly for Aerin Frankel. Alina Müller, Chloé Aurard and Maureen Murphy are still cooking, but the Huskies, even though a deep team, might not have the same amount of impact producers as some of the teams above. NU also hasn't had measuring sticks against top-10 teams, and might not get that opportunity until the tournament begins.

Colgate (18-2-1, 8-1-0 ECAC) has also been one of the highest-flying teams in the nation. Danielle Serdachny leads the nation in scoring with 41 points (15g, 26a) and Krystyna Kaltounková (13g, 15a) has added strong production behind her. They have good goaltending too, but similar to Northeastern, the Raiders might not have the same type of depth as the programs ahead of them. 

Meanwhile, Duluth (15-6-1, 9-6-1 WCHA) is coming off a runner-up finish to OSU last season. They've come up with big wins over Wisconsin, including a sweep last weekend, as well as OSU. The Bulldogs have their star in Gabbie Hughes (6-21--27) and secondary producers like Mannon McMahon and Ashton Bell. UMD is strong defensively, in goal and on special teams but haven't consistently gotten the same gaudy production as their counterparts, which could hurt them down the line. 

National champion prediction

Minnesota

I picked Gophers at the start of the season, and I'm sticking with them now. Minnesota will be more than battle-tested coming out of a loaded WCHA, and so far, they've passed nearly every test they've had. 

SCOREBOARD: Click or tap here for the latest scores around NC women's college hockey

They have the individual star power between Heise, Zumwinkle and company on top of the dominant run of team play so far this season. 

I said going into the year that the only thing Minnesota might have been missing was the game-breaking goaltender we see with each championship team. Vetter has clearly stepped up in that regard, establishing herself as one of the nation's strongest goaltenders this season. 

The Gophers check each box, and sure look like they could end up with their eighth title. 

There's still a lot of hockey left to be played this season, so we'll have to see how everything shakes out the rest of the way. 

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