The women's college hockey regular season is officially wrapped up, and the only thing standing in front of a loaded national tournament is conference playoffs. So, it's a perfect time for a new batch of Frozen Four predictions.
These are the four teams that have the best shot at advancing to the Frozen Four, right now, as we're just over two weeks from the start of the tournament:
The Buckeyes (28-4-2, 23-4-1 WCHA) have the luxury of battling other contenders consistently in the WCHA. Aside from a 1-2-1 record against Minnesota, the defending national champs are 7-2-1 against other powers like Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth and Colgate. Jennifer Gardiner has taken off amid a career season, Emma Maltais has found another gear in the last month (4-6-10 in her last five games) and Sophie Jaques is still the best defender in the nation. They should be able to take care of Bemidji State in the WCHA opening round before their matchups ramp up.
What a moment 🥰#GoBucks pic.twitter.com/npWaSPM4Xf— Ohio State Women's Hockey (@OhioStateWHKY) February 11, 2023
The Bulldogs (26-2-1, 19-2-1 ECAC) look like the team to beat in the east right now. They rank second in the NPI, and they have quality wins over Minnesota, Quinnipiac (twice), Clarkson, Cornell, Penn State and Princeton. The pair of 5-3 losses to Colgate is concerning, but Yale has been one of the best teams on both sides of the puck in terms of goals per game (4.14) and goals-against (1.34), and the penalty kill (89.87 percent) has been dominant. Five skaters are scoring at least a point per game, led by Elle Hartje, and Pia Dukaric ranks in the top three in both save percentage and goals-against average.
FROZEN FOUR: Here's everything you need to know for the 2023 women's Frozen Four
The Golden Gophers (25-5-3, 22-3-3-3 WCHA) had a slip-up a few weeks ago in a winless weekend against Wisconsin, tying (and losing the shootout) before dropping a 7-5 barn-burner in Game 2. They got back on track against St. Thomas, who they should get past in the WCHA quarters with potential matchups with Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin and/or Ohio State on the horizon. Minnesota is a combined 6-3-3 against those teams this season. Stars like Taylor Heise, Grace Zumwinkle and Abbey Murphy are all rolling at the right time, and Skylar Vetter remains one of the better netminders in the nation.
One of the few knocks against the Huskies (30-2-1, 24-2-1 HEA) is their strength of schedule, ranked 16th in Division I. Nevertheless, their 18-game win streak is still impressive. The Huskies have still made the most of their schedule both in and out of conference. NU is 13-1-1 against their stiffest competition in Vermont, UConn, Providence, Cornell, Boston College and Princeton — all in the top-18 of the NPI, so not exactly pushovers. Chloé Aurard, Alina Müller and Maureen Murphy might be the best line in women's college hockey; Gwyneth Philips has been dominant in net; and they have two top-tier defenders in Megan Carter and Maude Poulin-Labelle. They've already got some hardware after winning the Beanpot, and the Hockey East playoffs are theirs to lose in a championship-or-bust, "Last Dance" type of season.
Bean doing great, thanks for asking. #HowlinHuskies pic.twitter.com/CKWRuZqaT8— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) February 16, 2023
BEANPOT: Northeastern wins 2023 women's tournament to complete Beanpot sweep
Also in the mix
Colgate, Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth
Each of these three programs has a strong shot to make the Frozen Four as well.
The Raiders (28-4-2, 18-3-1 ECAC) have laid waste to opponents this season. Danielle Serdachny is scoring at an insane clip with 61 points (21g, 40a) to lead the nation, and Kristýna Kaltounková (21g, 27a) has been a terrific second option among five different skaters with at least 30 points. They have the firepower and goaltending, although neither Kayle Osborne nor Hannah Murphy has taken ownership of the crease. They've got a difficult matchup with Princeton, capable of an upset, to open the ECAC tournament, but have just as good a chance as any to go on a deep run.
The Badgers (23-9-2, 19-7-2 WCHA) have as strong of a team as there is, on paper. With Casey O'Brien, Lacey Eden and Jesse Compher, among others, there is no shortage of options. Cami Kronish took hold of the 1A job in net, but has allowed 13 goals in her last three appearances, which could be of concern to Wisconsin. They can skate with anyone, but there have been worrying losses. This all-star roster has depth in all areas but has faltered against some of their biggest tests with a combined 4-6-2 marker against Minnesota, OSU and UMD. There have been unexpected duds against Penn State and Quinnipiac as well as a sweep to Duluth at home.
What a win! #Badgers || #OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/aFrDJ9Oq9m— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerWHockey) February 19, 2023
POWER 10: Click or tap here for the latest women's college hockey power rankings
Speaking of the Bulldogs (23-8-3, 17-8-3 WCHA), last year's runners-up, have strong wins against Wisconsin and Ohio State on their resume, but the overall record of 4-8-0 against the three teams ahead of them in the conference is concerning. Emma Söderberg is one of the best options in goal, and Gabbie Hughes (10-35--45) is still producing at a top level. It's just a question of whether or not UMD has the offensive firepower to keep up with its competitors in the stretch run.
The Bobcats (27-7-0, 17-5-0 ECAC) have not been the same team in the second half as they were at the start of the season. They have four losses in their last eight games as opposed to just three in their first 26 games. Top options like Olivia Mobley and Maya Labad continue to fill the stat sheet, but some depth options have gone quiet in this recent stretch. They'll have their hands full in the ECAC tournament with potential matchups with Colgate and Yale awaiting them. All it takes is a run, though, and QU has the tools to do it.
SCOREBOARD: Click or tap here for the latest scores around NC women's hockey
National champion prediction
I'm going down with the ship, sticking with my pick from previous predictions.
The Gophers still have the deepest roster from top-to-bottom, and they've proven they can beat other top programs like Ohio State, Wisconsin and UMD. They have game-breaking skaters, as well as the goaltender in Vetter. Heise and Zumwinkle have been on a tear in the second half, and they have plenty of depth in Murphy, Abigail Boreen and Peyton Hemp serving as more than viable secondary options.
Minnesota has the top offense in the nation, averaging 4.61 goals per game, in addition to strong special teams. They could be the total package.