Saturday’s Frozen Four championship game includes a record five of this season’s six first-team All-Americans. It has the NCAA women’s hockey’s top two point-getters and two of the top three goal-scorers.
It has the teams that have been No. 1 in the USCHO.com rankings in 14 of 15 polls.
The University of Wisconsin and Northeastern have the talent and the records to make it a compelling conclusion for an unusual season.
But there’s one area where the teams don’t come close to matching up. Saturday will be the second-ranked Badgers’ ninth championship game appearance in 13 Frozen Fours. It’s the first of both for the No. 1 Huskies.
“At this time of year nerves are definitely a thing,” said senior defender Grace Bowlby, one of eight Badgers players who skated in the 2019 championship game. “We have plenty of experience on our team. ... I think that brings a calming presence toward the younger girls, so it’s pretty valuable.”
The Badgers are looking to tie Minnesota with a sixth NCAA championship. Northeastern is trying to be the first Hockey East team to raise the trophy; UW prevented the league’s first chance through Boston University 10 years ago Saturday on the same rink in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Still, the Huskies aren’t buying into the notion experience in the Frozen Four final is all that valuable.
“I don’t think it matters at all,” senior forward Tessa Ward said. “I think that we’re coming in prepared and our coaches have given us all the tools and all the skills that we need to succeed.”
There’s no question the Huskies have the talent and the momentum to get it done. Aerin Frankel was named the top goaltender in women’s hockey. Defenseman Skylar Fontaine and forward Alina Mueller were tabbed as first-team All-Americans on Friday.
They haven’t lost in 22 games and have allowed only 13 goals during a 18-game winning streak. A test came from Minnesota Duluth in Thursday’s semifinals but Northeastern rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win in overtime.
“It was some nerves,” coach Dave Flint said. “They came at us fast. We hadn’t played at that pace yet this year. For us, it was just get the nerves out, adapt, get back to the dressing room.”
The Huskies (22-1-1) expect more of the same against the Badgers (16-3-1).
“It’s going to be even faster (Saturday),” Flint said. “Us playing at that speed (Thursday) night made our team realize, hey, we can very much play at that speed and be successful. ... I think you’ll see a different start from us.”
With Bowlby and forward Daryl Watts, the Badgers have two first-team All-Americans to Northeastern’s three. None of the previous 19 NCAA championship games has featured more than three between the teams.
Watts and Frankel represent two of the top three vote-getters for the Patty Kazmaier Award. The national player of the year honor will be presented on March 27.
Watts’ 35 points this season trails only Mueller’s 37. The Badgers senior leads the country with 18 goals; Northeastern’s Chloé Aurard is third at 15.
“There’s going to be a lot of talented players out there,” Bowlby said. “It’ll just be a fun game to be a part of.”
The Badgers have won six of 10 meetings with the Huskies with two ties. UW and Northeastern split the two in-season tournament games they’ve played in the past four seasons.
The Huskies ended UW’s season-opening win streak at 16 games in Arlington, Virginia, in November 2017. The Badgers won the Battle at the Burgh in Pennsylvania with a Caitlin Schneider overtime goal in January 2020.
“That’s ancient history,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said. “What’s most important is for the players on our side to get mentally and physically ready to compete at a high level, understanding that they have to do that for 60 minutes and throw everything into the game. Hopefully it’s going to be enough to get to the finish line.”
Look back on State Journal coverage of Badgers women's hockey games in the 2020-21 season
Read stories from University of Wisconsin women's hockey games in the 2020-21 season.
Daryl Watts scored 3:16 into overtime to beat Northeastern in the Frozen Four championship game, giving the Badgers a sixth NCAA title.
The Badgers' third line of Caitlin Schneider, Casey O'Brien and Makenna Webster produces three goals and Kennedy Blair makes 37 saves.
The Badgers earned a shutout in the NCAA quarterfinals for the fifth straight season.
Eden scored 42 seconds into overtime as the Badgers defeated Ohio State.
Minnesota twice pulls within one goal in the third period, but UW holds on in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals.
The Badgers won their fifth WCHA regular-season title in the last six years with a frantic finish at Minnesota Duluth.
Gabbie Hughes scored twice for the seventh-ranked Bulldogs, who can pass the Badgers for the crown with another victory Saturday.
It was the 11th multiple-goal game with the Badgers for Sophie Shirley but just the first for her younger sister.
Kennedy Blair made 12 saves for her fourth shutout of the season, and four players scored goals in the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team’s 4-0 victory against Bemidji State at LaBahn Arena.
A day after No. 1 UW rallied for an overtime victory, No. 2 Minnesota earned a split of six points in the series by fighting back for a 2-2 tie and a shootout win.
Daryl Watts' NCAA-leading 13th goal of the season and second of the game on a 3-on-1 rush finished off a comeback from a two-goal deficit in the third period.
A day after winning 10-0, the Badgers didn't lead Saturday until the final two minutes.
The Badgers have won 26 straight games against the Huskies.
The Badgers broke out of a scoring funk with an unprecedented offensive showing against their archrivals.
Five players scored and Kennedy Blair made 30 saves as the Badgers erased some of the bad taste from last week's split with Ohio State.
Coach Mark Johnson said the Badgers "didn't do a very good job with the puck" in losing to the Buckeyes.
Daryl Watts and Nicole LaMantia score in the final period, and UW gets 28 saves from Kennedy Blair.
Badgers goalie Kennedy Blair made 11 of her 21 saves in the third period as she shut out an opponent for the second time in four games this season.
Daryl Watts scored on the power play with 3:15 remaining as the top-ranked Badgers defeated Minnesota State.
Junior Sophie Shirley becomes 18th player in program history to reach 50 career goals.
Sloppiness in the defensive zone led to the Badgers falling behind, coach Mark Johnson said.