Sizing up Wisconsin, Ohio State, Colgate and Clarkson

The women’s Frozen Four is set, with the top four seeds moving on to Durham, New Hampshire.

The matchups feature Ohio State and Wisconsin (the top two teams in the WCHA) and Colgate and Clarkson (the top two teams in the ECAC). No. 1 seed Ohio State will face No. 4 Clarkson, with No. 2 Wisconsin meeting No. 3 Colgate in the national semifinals on Friday, with the games streaming on ESPN+. The winners will play for the national championship Sunday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

Ohio State and Wisconsin were the last two teams standing last season, with the Badgers beating the Buckeyes 1-0 for the national title. The teams have combined to win the past four NCAA tournaments, with the Badgers taking the title in 2023, 2021 and 2019, and the Buckeyes winning it all in 2022. (The tournament was not held in 2020 because of COVID-19.)

To get you ready for all the action, ESPN college hockey analyst Paige Capistran breaks down the Final Four teams and shares her players to watch.

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Women’s Frozen Four

at Durham, New Hampshire
All times ET

National semifinals, Friday (ESPN+)

Ohio State vs. Clarkson, 4 p.m.

Wisconsin vs. Colgate, 7:30 p.m.

Championship, Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

Teams at a glance

194 Ohio State (33-4-0)

PairWise ranking: 1

How Buckeyes got in: At-large bid

Numbers to know: Ohio State is in the Frozen Four for the fourth straight season and its 33 wins match the program record. The Buckeyes have one of the top goaltenders in the country in Raygan Kirk, who is second in Division I in goals-against average (1.11). She registered her Division I-leading ninth shutout of the season in OSU’s regional win over Minnesota Duluth. The Buckeyes have the top offense in the country (5.30 goals per game) with a balanced attack that features 14 players with at least 20 points, led by Hannah Bilka (22 goals, 25 assists, 47 points) and Jennifer Gardiner (18-26-44).

Paige Capistran’s take: The Buckeyes came out flying from the drop of the puck and played a full 60 minutes in their regional final win over Minnesota Duluth. Ohio State’s forecheck steamrolled the Bulldogs as the Buckeyes put up nine goals in a shutout victory. Having another fast start and not taking any shifts off will be key for Ohio State in the semifinals.

Ohio State plays a complete team game. The Buckeyes’ roster is loaded with talent and their lineup competes hard. Transfers Bilka and Cayla Barnes made an immediate impact and brought their national team experience to an already solid roster. Ohio State has all the tools to win its second national championship.

275 Wisconsin (34-5-0)

PairWise ranking: 2

How Badgers got in: WCHA tournament champion

Numbers to know: Wisconsin is seeking to become the first team to win the national title in back-to-back years since Clarkson in 2017-18. The Badgers already lead women’s hockey with seven titles and are making their 15th Frozen Four appearance, tying Minnesota for the most all time. Wisconsin has three of the country’s top five scorers: Kirsten Simms (74 points), Casey O’Brien (71) and Britta Curl (61). Simms, the WCHA Player of the Year, has had multiple points in 24 of 37 games this season and has eight game-winning goals, second in the nation.

Capistran’s take: The Badgers scored on the first shift against St. Lawrence and sealed the deal with three third-period goals in their 4-0 regional final win. The reigning national champions will rely on their experience against Colgate. If the Badgers use their speed and skill for a complete 60-minute effort, they should find success in Durham.

Wisconsin rolled into the NCAA tournament on a high after beating Ohio State in the WCHA championship game. Linemates O’Brien and Simms, both top-10 Patty Kazmaier finalists, have undeniable chemistry. Caroline Harvey came up clutch last season, scoring the overtime winner in the national semifinal against Minnesota, and I’m expecting her to be a weapon on the blue line once again.

2142 Colgate (32-6-1)

PairWise ranking: 3

How Raiders got in: ECAC tournament champion

Numbers to know: Colgate is the only team in this year’s Frozen Four that has not won a national championship. The Raiders have reached the title game once, losing in overtime to Clarkson in 2018, their only previous trip to the Frozen Four. Colgate has won its last six games by a combined score of 27-4. The Raiders rank third nationally in offense (4.74 goals per game) and tied for second in defense (1.23 goals allowed per game).

Capistran’s take: The Raiders were able to put away Cornell for the fourth time this season, 3-1, to advance to the Frozen Four. Colgate’s offense was the best in the ECAC this season and has been its strength. The Raiders’ top forwards will have to be at their best and continue to produce for them to beat Wisconsin.

Postseason games often come down to special teams, and the Raiders take advantage of their power-play opportunities, leading the nation with 46 power-play goals. Colgate’s offensive excellence has been led by Patty Kaz top-10 finalist Danielle Serdachny (22-39-61). Serdachny is one of the most dangerous threats in the country, so Colgate’s opponents can’t lose track of where she is on the ice. Kristýna Kaltounková has been another superstar up front for the Raiders, tallying 56 points and 11 power-play goals.

2137 Clarkson (33-4-2)

PairWise ranking: 4

How Knights got in: At-large bid

Numbers to know: Clarkson’s quadruple overtime win over Minnesota in the regionals was only the second NCAA women’s hockey tournament game to last that long. Clarkson leads the country in defense (1.21 goals per game) and has the best penalty kill (92.1%). Senior Michelle Pasiechnyk is one of three finalists for national goaltender of the year, with a 1.29 GAA, .945 save percentage and 25 wins. The Knights have won three national titles (2014, 2017, 2018).

Capistran’s take: The Golden Knights came out on top in the most entertaining regional final of the tournament. Clarkson scored on the power play in the fourth OT to beat Minnesota 3-2. Special teams are crucial in winning championships and Clarkson will need to continue its success on the power play and penalty kill.

The Knights are rock-solid defensively thanks to Pasiechnyk, and with a hot goalie, anything can happen. Clarkson’s standout defensive pair of Nicole Gosling and Haley Winn lead the team in points (39 each, tied for most in the country among blueliners) and are playing with a new level of confidence this season. Overall, Clarkson has a deep, skilled lineup.

Players to watch

Danielle Serdachny, Colgate: Serdachny is one of the most offensively gifted players in the NCAA.

Caroline Harvey, Wisconsin: The only defenseman among the top-10 Patty Kaz finalists, Harvey is a threat every time she hits the ice.

Kirsten Simms, Wisconsin: Scoring the winning goal in last year’s national championship game has amped up Simms’ confidence, and she continues to deliver in the clutch for the Badgers. — Capistran

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Regional results

First round
March 14

No. 8 Minnesota Duluth 1, No. 9 UConn 0 (2 OT)

No. 6 Cornell 7, No. 11 Stonehill 1

No. 7 St. Lawrence 1, No. 10 Penn State 0 (OT)

Regional finals
March 16

No. 4 Clarkson 3, No. 5 Minnesota 2 (4 OT)

No. 3 Colgate 3, Cornell 1

No. 2 Wisconsin 4, St. Lawrence 0

No. 1 Ohio State 9, Minnesota Duluth 0

The rest of the field

(Statistics entering NCAA tournament)

135 Minnesota (27-9-2)

PairWise ranking: 5

How Gophers got in: At-large bid

Numbers to know: Minnesota is battle tested, with 16 games against NCAA tournament teams. It is 7-8-1 in those contests, with all eight losses coming to either Ohio State or Wisconsin, and four of them in overtime. The Gophers are seeking their seventh NCAA title and their first since 2016.

Capistran’s take: Minnesota was eight seconds away from knocking off Wisconsin in the WCHA semifinals, before the Badgers scored to tie it at 3 and later win it in overtime. Despite the loss, Minnesota is playing excellent hockey heading into the tournament. The Gophers have the best power-play percentage in the nation (37%), led by Olympian Abbey Murphy (13 power-play goals).

172 Cornell (24-7-1)

PairWise ranking: 6

How Big Red got in: At-large bid

Numbers to know: Senior Izzy Daniel, the ECAC Player of the Year, is among the best scorers in the country with 1.72 points per game (20 goals, 35 assists). Freshman Karel Prefontaine (11 goals, 11 assists) has provided a boost since moving up to the top line.

Capistran’s take: Cornell has stepped up its game in the second half of the season. The Big Red are playing as a cohesive unit, getting contributions up and down the lineup. Daniel, a top-10 Patty Kaz finalist, leads the way offensively, while freshman goaltender Annelies Bergmann has adjusted well to the college game and has really found her groove the past six weeks.

2779 St. Lawrence (27-10-0)

PairWise ranking: 7

How Saints got in: At-large bid

Numbers to know: St. Lawrence has a pair of players in the top 10 nationally in points per game in Abby Hustler (1.49) and Julia Gosling (1.46). Emma Sofie-Nordstrom (.930 save percentage) has been solid in net, including a 41-save win over Yale in the ECAC playoffs.

Capistran’s take: The Saints have proved they can beat any team in the tough ECAC and carry that confidence into the tournament. St. Lawrence has some offensive weapons up front, including Hustler, Gosling and Anna Segedi. Transfer Mae Batherson was named first-team All-ECAC and runs the Saints’ dangerous power play (31.4%).

134 Minnesota Duluth (20-13-4)

PairWise ranking: 8

How Bulldogs got in: At-large bid

Numbers to know: Minnesota Duluth has the best goalie tandem in the country in sophomore Hailey MacLeod and freshman Eve Gascon. MacLeod leads the nation with a .954 save percentage, while Gascon is fourth (.951), and they have a combined 12 shutouts. The Bulldogs have won five national titles, the last in 2010.

Capistran’s take: The Bulldogs’ rotation of MacLeod and Gascon have dominated between the pipes. Defense is the most important part of the game when it comes to the postseason, and Minnesota Duluth has it.

41 UConn (25-7-5)

PairWise ranking: 10

How Huskies got in: Hockey East tournament champion

Numbers to know: UConn is tied for second nationally in defense, allowing 1.28 goals per game. Junior goalie Tia Chan hasn’t lost in regulation since Jan. 6 at Minnesota and has allowed just four goals total in her past six starts (including three shutouts). Chan had 38 saves in an overtime win over Northeastern in the Hockey East final.

Capistran’s take: Connecticut dominated in conference play this season, winning its first Hockey East championship. The veteran team plays its systems to a T and defends well in front of Chan. Senior Jada Habisch was named a Hockey East first-team all-star and has stepped up this season. If the Huskies advance this postseason, it will be because of their defense.

213 Penn State (22-12-3)

PairWise ranking: 13

How Nittany Lions got in: CHA tournament champion

Numbers to know: Penn State’s Tessa Janecke has been remarkable in the faceoff dot, with 607 faceoff wins — 100 more than anyone else in the country — and a 65.6 winning percentage. Sophomore Katie DeSa had a pair of shutouts in the CHA tournament, including a 1-0 win over Mercyhurst in the title game.

Capistran’s take: The Nittany Lions are the CHA champions for the second year in a row. Janecke, the CHA Player of the Year and a top-10 Patty Kaz finalist, leads the way. In order to shut down Penn State, the Nittany Lions’ opponent has to contain Janecke. Penn State has dealt with adversity as starting goaltender Josie Bothun’s season was cut short by an injury in mid-January, but DeSa has come up big.

284 Stonehill (21-15-2)

PairWise ranking: 30

How Skyhawks got in: NEWHA tournament champion

Numbers to know: In its second year of existence, Stonehill makes its first NCAA appearance after a pair of overtime wins in the NEWHA semifinals and final. After starting the season 1-6 and entering December with a 7-11 record, the Skyhawks turned things around and enter the tournament on an eight-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the field.

Capistran’s take: The Skyhawks are playing their best hockey at the perfect time. The NEWHA champions compete hard and have bought in on coach Lee-J Mirasolo’s system. Sophomore Alexis Petford (19-15-34) leads the team in points for the second straight year. Stonehill is playing like a team that has nothing to lose.

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