Thursday, March 18, 2010

Women's Frozen Four: Three Regulars, One Total n00b

The final weekend of the women's hockey season is upon us. We've been over the highs and the lows of all four of these teams, so we'll just quickly go over the ins and outs of the semifinal games, which take place tomorrow at Ridder Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN.

Cornell vs. #1 Mercyhurst (5:00 pm)

The Big Red (20-8-6) suffered their 11th consecutive losing season last year, but it was their second consecutive season with at least 10 wins, an improvement over the previous six. They get to finish off their first winning season since 1998 and their first 20-win season in the history of the program with their first trip to the Frozen Four. Their reward for their minor upset over Harvard last weekend is Mercyhurst (30-2-3), the odds-on favorite for the championship.

The Lakers fairly easily took care of another first-time NCAA opponent in Boston University last weekend, and although Cornell has proven that they have a shot at writing their name among the nation's elite squads, Mercyhurst has the size, scoring, and resume to suggest that they should be on their way to a second consecutive national championship.

Prediction: Mercyhurst 4, Cornell 2

#3 Minnesota vs. #2 Minnesota-Duluth (8:00pm)

The Gophers (26-8-5) and the Bulldogs (29-8-2) are somewhat acquainted with each other as two of the most dominant teams in the WCHA year-in and year-out and with a combined six national championships (seven if you include the Gophers' 2000 AWCHA triumph in the final national championship not sponsored by the NCAA), but unbelievably, this is the first time the in-state rivals have ever faced off in the Frozen Four.

This will be the sixth time this season that the teams have faced each other. The first four were during the regular season, with the home team winning each contest. The fifth was in the WCHA Championship game, held at Ridder Arena, which was won by Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs have won the last three, but this one is for all the marbles, and it's on the Gophers' turf again. Duluth did beat Noora Raty in the championship game, but faced her backups when the teams met in Duluth while Raty was away for the Olympics. As the records indicate, these teams are very, very close. Home ice advantage is the tipping point.

Prediction: Minnesota 3, Minnesota-Duluth 2

The title game takes place Sunday at noon.

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