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Patrick Donnelly | | March 10, 2023

The NC women's hockey championship selection process, explained

Ohio State wins its first women's hockey championship

The National Collegiate women's ice hockey tournament sees 11 teams in a bracket compete for a national championship.

The 2022-23 season marks the second time that the championship field features 11 teams after expanding from eight, beginning in 2022. Five teams receive automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments, while the remaining six at-large bids are selected by the committee. 

Here's a full breakdown of how selections work for the NC women's ice hockey championship:

Automatic qualifiers

Before 2022-23, just four conferences received automatic bids to the tournament: College Hockey America (CHA), Hockey East, the ECAC and the WCHA. Beginning with the 2023 tournament, the New England Women's Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) will make up the fifth auto bid.

The five winners of their respective conference tournaments will automatically enter the 2023 NC women's ice hockey tournament.

At-large bids

After the top five seeds are determined via conference championships, the remaining six are awarded at-large bids by the selection committee.

Part of the criteria for at-large qualifiers shifted, beginning this season. Previously, the women's PairWise rankings were calculated using the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), which is based on winning percentage, opponents' winning percentage and opponents' opponents' winning percentage. The latter two factors were used to measure strength of schedule.

Now, the selection committee uses the NCAA Percentage Index (NPI), which is a simplified version of the RPI. The NPI is a calculation that accounts for winning percentage and opponents' NPI rating as a better way to calculate strength of schedule.

This went into effect in August 2022 after an NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee (COC) video conference

In the report, the COC said: "The COC approved the sport committee’s request to use the NCAA Percentage Index (NPI) as a replacement for the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) in the selection criteria, effective with the 2023 championship. The sport committee had asked the COC to consider this in 2020 and was advised to use the NPI in conjunction with — instead of a replacement for — the RPI for two years to assess its impact on selections and return with a recommendation to the COC.

"In that time the sport committee has affirmed its belief that the NPI provides a better calculation that is based on winning percentage and the opponent’s rating itself (rather than the combination of opponents’ winning percentage and opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage) as the measure of schedule strength."

According to the 2022-23 pre-championship manual, to be considered during the at-large process, programs must have an NPI of at least 50.0 and as well as a minimum of 20 games played against Division I and II opponents.

Part of the selection criteria is won-lost record, strength of schedule and the eligibility and availability of student-athletes for NCAA championships.

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

The following important criteria is also considered during the at-large process: NPI, head-to-head competition and results versus common opponents. In terms of the NPI, a team's won-lost record accounts for 25 percent of its NPI rating, while its strength of schedule is 75 percent. There is also a quality wins bonus (QWB) awarded for wins or overtime losses to opponents whose NPI rating is at least 51.5. 

The pre-championship manual notes: "During the selection process, each team’s full body of work will be evaluated. Each of the above criteria will carry one point, except head-to-head competition, which will carry the number of points equal to the net difference in the results of these games (e.g., if Team A defeats Team B three out of four games, Team A would receive two points in the selection process).

"When comparing two teams, the committee reserves the right to weight criteria differently based on relative team performance. In situations where a high-impact player is unavailable, the committee may consider this as part of its evaluation of the above criteria. The National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Committee does not consider outside polls as a source for selections."

Strictly as an example, say the top seeds in each of the five conferences (Ohio State, Yale, Northeastern, Penn State and LIU) won their tournament and received automatic bids. Based off the NPI alone, which you can view here, the six remaining top teams would be Colgate, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth, Quinnipiac and Clarkson. 

Tournament format

The NC women's ice hockey championship is a single-elimination tournament. 

The top four overall seeds will serve as the host sites for the regionals. Those top four teams are the No. 1 seeds, and the fifth overall program is the top No. 2 seed. 

Regional competition will be held on the campuses of the host programs from March 9-12 before the Frozen Four from March 17-19 in Duluth, Minn.

Here are the dates and venues for the 2023 women's ice hockey tournament:

Round City Venue Dates Host
Regional Columbus, OH OSU Ice Rink March 9 & 11 Ohio State
Regional Minneapolis, MN Ridder Arena March 9 & 11 Minnesota
Regional  Hamilton, NY Class of 1965 Arena March 9 & 11 Colgate
Regional New Haven, CT Ingalls Rink March 9 & 11 Yale
Frozen Four Duluth, Minn. AMSOIL Arena March 17 & 19 Minnesota Duluth

FROZEN FOUR: Here's everything you need to know for the 2023 women's Frozen Four

Seeds 6-11 will play a first-round matchup, or regional semifinal, on either Thursday, March 9, or Friday, March 10. The winners will advance to face the first, second and third overall seeds in the second round (regional final) on either Saturday, March 11, or Sunday, March 12. There must be an off day between games for regional semifinal winners. The No. 4 overall seed will play the No. 5 overall seed in the second round as well. 

Let's use the previous example for the regionals, with the field bookended by a hypothetical top seed in Ohio State and a bottom seed in Clarkson. Quinnipiac would face Clarkson in the opening round, and the winner would advance to play OSU. Wisconsin would play Minnesota Duluth with a win meaning a date with Yale. Colgate would battle Minnesota with the winner moving on to face Northeastern. Meanwhile, Penn State would take on LIU in the second round. Again, that is merely an example. 

The committee tries to avoid conference matchups in the first round, barring it does not affect the integrity of the bracket. 

The winners of the four regionals then advance to the Frozen Four.

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