Women’s Frozen Four heats up

Zach Eisendrath

This weekend, Ridder Arena will host the women’s hockey Frozen Four. Here’s a breakdown of the field:

New Hampshire

No team enters the Frozen Four on a bigger roll than New Hampshire. The first-ranked Wildcats have posted an NCAA record 29-game unbeaten streak (28-0-1), which includes 17-straight wins. Winners of the Hockey East regular season and tournament titles, New Hampshire has earned the tournament’s top seed. The Wildcats advanced to their first Frozen Four by downing last year’s national championship’s runner-up, eighth-ranked Harvard, 3-1.

Sophomore forward Jennifer Hitchcock leads the team in scoring, with 29 goals and 34 assists (63 points). In 31 games played, junior goalie Melissa Bourdon has a minute 1.06 goals-against average and holds a .931 save percentage.

New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey – named U.S. College Hockey Online Coach of the Year on Thursday – said his team didn’t anticipate making it this far.

“It’s been piece by piece – we didn’t come into the season expecting to be here,” he said. “It was certainly a goal.”

Wisconsin

Wisconsin heads to Minneapolis fresh of its first-ever WCHA regular season and tournament championships. The second-ranked Badgers are making their first ever Frozen Four appearance, but it wasn’t easy.

Wisconsin needed two overtime periods to hold off Mercyhurst 2-1. With the score tied, Tia Hanson tipped in teammate Kristen Witting’s shot attempt for the winning goal at 90:10, the longest recorded game in Wisconsin history.

“I didn’t see it go in. I just saw everyone pile on, so I just joined the crowd,” Hanson said of her score that kept the Badgers national championship aspirations alive.

The Badgers owned the Gophers this season, winning four out of five meetings between the teams.

St. Lawrence

Third-ranked St. Lawrence started the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and has hopes of finishing in the top spot. Team points leader Sabrina Harbec scored an unassisted goal at 13:27 of the second period to lift the Saints over Duluth 1-0 in their regional final last weekend. Harbec leads the team with 25 goals and 36 assists (61).

In their only meeting of the season Oct. 8, the Saints handed the Gophers their first loss of the season, 3-1.

Minnesota

Making their fifth consecutive Frozen Four appearance, the two-time defending national champion Gophers are seeking their third title in three years.

After an inconsistent first half of the season, fourth-ranked Minnesota put things together late in the season – sweeping its last three regular season series. After losing to border rival Wisconsin in the WCHA Tournament championship game, the Gophers bounced back and toppled Princeton 4-0, gaining the opportunity to play in front of their home crowd at Mariucci Arena.

Players to watch include WCHA scoring champion Erica McKenzie and WCHA Rookie of the Year Gigi Marvin.