The opening round of the 2021-22 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship has come and gone, and so too has one of the local teams involved.
Harvard was bounced from the tournament Thursday after a brutal 4-0 loss to Minnesota Duluth. But the hope for a Boston-based national champion still is alive, resting on the fate of No. 3 Northeastern.
The Huskies, who earned a bye to the quarterfinal round as one of the top four teams in the tournament, are looking to avenge their 2021 championship game overtime loss and will have the perfect opportunity to do so when they meet defending champion Wisconsin on Saturday.
Wisconsin punched its ticket to a rematch with the Huskies with a 3-1 victory over Clarkson on Thursday. Daryl Watts scored the eventual winner for the Badgers.
The Huskies certainly are familiar with Watts. The Toronto native began her collegiate career at Boston College, where she won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial award as the top player in women’s college hockey during her rookie season in 2017-18. That year, she led the nation in scoring (82 points in 38 games) with 2.6 points per game, 42 goals and 10 power play goals — all national bests.
Watts had a quieter season in 2018-19 and transferred to Wisconsin ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. But the move hardly stopped her from tormenting the Huskies. Watts scored the overtime winner for the Badgers to claim the 2020-21 national title over Northeastern.
It’s safe to say there’s quite a bit of history — and even more on the line — for the upcoming quarterfinal battle, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Saturday at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena.
Who’s Playing Well?
Quinnipiac also earned a trip to the quarterfinals after upending Syracuse, 4-0, in first-round play. The Bobcats will get top-seeded Ohio State in quarterfinal action Saturday.
No. 4 Colgate and No. 5 Yale also earned byes to the quarterfinals and are scheduled to face off Saturday.
While it’s difficult to pull focus away from the women’s tournament, considering a national title is on the line, the men’s Hockey East Tournament got underway with three opening round games Wednesday.
Boston College defeated New Hampshire, 4-3, Providence edged Vermont, 2-1, and Merrimack stunned Maine with a 6-2 victory. The games set up the quarterfinal slate, which is scheduled for Saturday. NESN+ will air coverage of Merrimack-UMass Lowell at 4:30 p.m. ET, followed by Boston College-Northeastern at 7:30 p.m. ET. Boston University-UConn and Providence-Massachusetts also are scheduled for that day.
Semifinal games will be played March 18 with the championship game scheduled for March 19.
With men’s conference tournaments underway nationwide, it’s worth revisiting the Pairwise rankings to predict what may be on tap for the NCAA men’s hockey tournament. For those unfamiliar, the Pairwise Rankings try to mirror the method used to select teams for the national championship, comparing common opponents, head-to-head records and RPI.
Here’s a look at the top 16 teams in the Pairwise, as published by USCHO.com:
1. Minnesota State
5. Western Michigan
6. North Dakota
6. St. Cloud
8. Notre Dame
10. Michigan Tech
11. Minnesota Duluth
13. UMass Lowell
15. Ohio State
16. Boston University
Teams that win their conference tournaments receive an auto-bid to the NCAA tournament, while the remaining 10 teams in the 16-team field receive at-large bids. The men’s selection show is scheduled for March 20.