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Marc Elliott

The Blues Jordan Binnington and Wild's Marc Andre' Fleury prepare for a possible battle.

DULUTH – The 2023 NCAA Women's D1 Frozen Four was held at Amsoil Arena last weekend and Duluth should be quite proud of the hosting job they did!

In semifinal play on Friday, Ohio State downed Northeastern in a 3-0 shutout and Wisconsin won in OT over the Minnesota Gophers 3-2. The Gophers took the lead at 1-0 before the Badgers went up 2-1. The Gophers tied the game late at two each before the WCHA Rookie of the Year, and Team USA member Caroline Harvey hit the twine at the 16:47 mark of the extra frame for the win and chance to meet OSU for the National Championship.  

The Badgers took the title by a 1-0 score, preventing the Buckeyes from repeating as National Champs. This was Wisconsin's 7th title and 3rd in 4 tourneys. If there happened to be any questions regarding the women's college hockey supremacy of the WCHA, just scratch that. This is the conference's 19th crowned Champion out of 22 tournaments. Total tourney attendance was almost 11,000. Congrats to the winners!  

THE MEN'S D1 FROZEN FOUR selection show just concluded and The State of Hockey has three entrants this season. However, the NCAA has placed all three of them into the Fargo Regional! In some ways I feel that this was done to spike attendance since all the participants are just next door.

It also ensures that TSOH won't have more than one F4 entrant. So, that chafes my backside a bit. I've long had suspicions about the NCAA and how they feel about the college hockey community in the state, along with wondering if they just plain do not like the U of M Gophers. I understand they aren't well-liked up north here, but the longer I have been around to see this great event every year, the more I wonder.  

Along with the Gophers in Fargo will be the SCSU Huskies, the Minnesota State Mavericks, and Canisius. On Thursday the 23rd the Huskies and Mavs will face off at 4 pm, and the Gophers will meet up with Canisius at 8 pm.  

Are there any favorites going into the event? Well, the Gophers are the #1 seed overall, #2 is Quinnipiac, #3 is Michigan and the 4th seed is Denver. Others with a shot at the title in my view are Cornell, Harvard, and Boston U. I also believe that the Huskies and Mavs should get consideration. In watching the rankings through the entire season every year, I have always felt they were for fan entertainment. The only rating that means anything will be the one we get at the end of the title tilt. There could be 8 to 10 teams with a legit chance to win it with parity being what it is in college hockey today. You couldn't say that 40 to 50 years back. No matter what I think, I believe we are about to see another fantastic Frozen Four!  

EARLIER THIS AFTERNOON the Minnesota WILD did battle with the WAS Capitals on home ice and came away with a 5-2 win.   For the week the club won at STL in an 8-5 penalty festival and dropped a 5-2 decision to the league-leading BOS Bruins yesterday in St. Paul. That score isn't indicative of how the game played out with the WILD having two goals disallowed due to offsides. The calls proved to be correct and they clearly put a damper on any momentum the team had been building at the time of them. They were frustrating but they were right.  

For the upcoming week the team will play at the NJ Devils, at Philadelphia, and then return to St. Paul to face the CHI Blackhawks. Whether or not they can win at the NJD is up in the air, they are a top-five club so far this year, but they should be able to post wins versus the Flyers and Hawks. But you can take nothing for granted in the NHL anymore. If they don't show up ready to go they will lose pace in the standings.  

So, can the WILD still win the division? Perhaps. Could they still win the Western Conference? That is a bit dicier, but not out of the question. It is literally in their hands but I would need to see a quick return to the lockdown defense they had been playing until recent games. With this club though, when they play the shutdown game they don't score much. When they score more they also give up more goals. And they are still competing without their full complement of players. In addition, the team's trade pickups are still getting acclimated to their new systems and schemes, but for the most part they have transitioned better than I expected.  

With every team having 14 games or fewer remaining in the regular season, is it worth it to project into the postseason? The Sagarin Rating currently looks like this after the Sunday 3/19 games; 1) BOS 2) CAR 3) TOR 4) COL 5) NYR 6) EDM 7) NJD 8) TBL 9) VGK 10) DAL.   The WILD is at 11th based on a 40-30 record, 7-14 vs. the top ten and 12-21 vs. the top sixteen. Their difficulty of schedule stands at 30th in the league. Is that the correct placement for the WILD? After some consideration I would say yes. This team has struggled in games against the top five in this rank. Against the next five the results are a bit more mixed. Will this rank mean anything once the Stanley Cup tournament begins? Probably not, but it's a good map. It can indicate how a team has approached its regular season and how it might perform in the tourney. But then, the SC playoff is an entirely different beast. They are a step quicker and ten more heartbeats per minute in intensity.  

The Bruins will win the President's trophy. That's usually a curse. I don't care about that though. I don't see them winning the Cup because their tending is mostly untested in playoff situations. The Canes rank high, but I don't see a Cup for them either due to defensive concerns. TOR? They have improved this year and team-wise are better defensively. Do they have the tending? They do not.   

Can the Avs repeat? That is very uncertain. For the NYR they have a #1 tender that could take them on a deep run. They have scoring and defense too. They are a maybe for me. The Oilers have scoring, they have the most whack power play in the show, and their tending is on a wing and a hockey prayer. The Devs are perhaps one of the most improved teams in the NHL this year. Can that propel them into the Cup picture? Strong maybe. Tampa? I just watched the NJD dismantle them. Their window is closing in my view. Vegas could go on a run, and then it gets down to netminding again. The Stars? My jury is out.   That brings us to the WILD. Kirill Kaprizov will return soon. GM Bill Guerin just boosted the experience level of the team at the trade deadline. The D is capable. So is the tending. Am I saying they have a shot? PEACE