In a year full of craziness the NCAA Quarterfinals are already adding to it. Instead of a normal year where the QFs are on campus sites over the weekend typically all on the same day, we have all the games at the Frozen Four site and staggered over two weekdays.
This year we have three Hockey East teams in play, the #1 overall seed Northeastern, the 6 seed Boston College, and the 7 seed Providence College.
In the first day of action only Northeastern is action among them as they take on Robert Morris. The other game pits Colgate against Minnesota-Duluth.
#1 Northeastern Huskies v. #8 Robert Morris Colonials - 2PM
How they got here
Both of these teams are automatic qualifiers due to their performances in their respective conference tournaments. The Huskies clearly were safe without the win in Hockey East, but the Colonials needed their upset victory in the CHA to make the NCAA Tournament.
Most people are not expecting a close game here. Northeastern was seeded as the top seed for a reason, lots of talent and depth at every position. They have a finalist for the top goalie in the country in Aerin Frankel, who is also a top-10 Patty Kaz finalist. Also in the Top-10 Kaz finalists are Alina Mueller and Skylar Fontaine. Fontaine was the only defensemen given that recognition this year.
All season the Colonials struggled against Penn State, the CHA favorite, and had a bit of a meltdown towards the end of the season that lost them the second seed in the CHA. However, they were able to overcome that all and take the autobid. They are a high shot volume team that would likely want to get into a track meet. This could play into the Huskies favor as free flowing games seems to allow the talent to shine for Northeastern. RMU will need to get ahead early and throw Northeastern off their game or at the least not concede any good opportunities early allowing NU to get into a rhythm.
I am going to go with everyone else and say that Northeastern will win and it likely won’t be a great game. The Huskies are hungry for their first ever NCAA victory and to prove they earned this level of recognition. Robert Morris won’t make it easy but the Huskies depth of talent should come through over a full 60 minutes of play.
Northeastern 4 - Robert Morris 0
#4 Colgate Raiders v. #5 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs - 7 PM
How they got here
Colgate was the front runner all year from the ECAC, in what shape it was, and came through on top of both the regular season and tournament. While they had some slips here and there, most people assumed they would be a ‘home’ team for the tournament this year.
Duluth is the first of the at-large teams to play this year in the tournament, and you can read all about the shock at where they are seeded. Most of the issue is the fact that they were ranked above Minnesota, who did not make the tournament. The summary is the Bulldogs finished second in the WCHA standings due to the metric of %Points won, the problem was the dramatically unbalanced schedule that saw Duluth play the 23rd ranked schedule nationally, while Minnesota played a much tougher schedule, the hardest in the country, and were ranked below the Gophers in every other statistical metric and voter based poll.
Both of these teams are capable of beating anybody and have plenty of talent. Duluth was an overtime goal away from the WCHA regular season crown, but also lost to one of the worst teams in the country. Colgate was stuck battling a very talented Clarkson team repeatedly this season and mostly only had games against the remaining ECAC teams who are regularly among the top of the conference.
Colgate isn’t super top heavy and have depth in the realm of Northeastern, Duluth on the other hand will likely live or die on the sticks of their elite talent. The Bulldogs have some great goaltending, but they are prone to meltdowns.
Colgate is the favorite for a reason. They are a more consistent team with more depth. The problem is Duluth might have a higher potential. It really will come down to which version of these teams arrived in Erie. We could be in for one of the best games of the tournament if the top talent of Duluth all synch together and Colgate is able to get production up and down the lineup. On the other hand if the Duluth team that played Bemidji State, and their QF matchup against Ohio State, meets the Colgate team that Syracuse took to OT, or the one that got beat up by Clarkson’s top talent, then we could be in for a stinker. I feel like it will be close though.
Colgate 2 - Minnesota Duluth 1