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NCAA women's hockey bracketology: Who's in, who's out, who's on the bubble?

Selection Sunday is now three days away on Sunday, March 5. On Saturday, five conference postseason champions will earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.

college women play hockey
Minnesota defenseman Madeline Wethington (5) crashes into Minnesota Duluth goaltender Emma Soderberg (30) at Amsoil Arena on Saturday, Jan. 28 in Duluth. Wethington was given a minor penalty for interference.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Selection Sunday is now just three days away as all five conferences will crown their postseason champions on Saturday. For the second-to-last time this spring, let’s do some bracketology.

The 11-team NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey tournament field will be announced at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 5, with the first round and quarterfinals taking place at teams’ home rinks March 9-12. The national semifinals and championship are scheduled for March 17-19 in Duluth.

If the season ended on Thursday, March 2, here is what the 2023 NC bracket could possibly look like.

This week’s bracket

Ohio State Regional
1.Ohio State (WCHA)
8. Quinnipiac vs. 10. Penn State (CHA)

Colgate Regional
4. Colgate vs. 5. Northeastern (HE)


Yale Regional
2. Yale (ECAC)
7. Minnesota Duluth vs. 9. Clarkson

Minnesota Regional
3. Minnesota
6. Wisconsin vs. 11. Long Island (NEWHA)

Last at-large team in: Clarkson
Last at-large team out: Vermont

The process

The National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey tournament features 11 teams. The five conference postseason champions from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, ECAC, Hockey East, College Hockey America and New England Women’s Hockey Alliance receive automatic bids ( the top remaining seed in each league is noted in the bracket). The selection committee then uses the Pairwise rankings to select the six at-large teams, and seed the 11-team field.

The top four seeds will host the first round and quarterfinal games. The top four seeds will be placed on the bracket so that if they all advance, No. 1 will play No. 4 and No. 2 will play No. 3 in the Frozen Four. The top five seeds get byes into the quarterfinals, with the No. 4 seed “automatically” hosting the No. 5 seed, per the NCAA’s seedings and pairings guidelines .

First-round conference matchups are to be avoided, though if one league has four or more teams seeded between 6-11, then intraconference matchups are permitted to maintain bracket integrity.

Teams are not required to be kept close to home, however, the NCAA lists “competitive equity”, “financial success” and a “playoff-type atmosphere” as keys to a successful tournament.



Once again we’re faced with having to break up the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup featuring the ECAC’s Clarkson and Quinnipiac. The last two weeks, I’ve presented two ways to tackle it. The first involves flipping the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds to preserve bracket integrity and protect the No. 1 seed. The other involves keeping Quinnipiac in its home state of Connecticut for financial reasons , no matter the seeds.

I don’t know what the committee will prioritize, but I’d prioritize protecting the No. 1 overall seed. I’m sending Clarkson to the Yale Regional and Penn State to the Ohio State Regional.

It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out after the conference championships are settled. Penn State, at No. 10 in the Pairwise, needs to beat Mercyhurst to get in. The Nittany Lions won’t get an at-large berth if they lose the CHA title game.

If Providence upsets Northeastern in the Hockey East championship on Saturday, the Friars — currently at No. 14 in the Pairwise — would likely knock either No. 8 Quinnipiac or No. 9 Clarkson off the bubble and out of the tournament, depending on how the ECAC tournament unfolds.

It appears the top seven teams in the Pairwise are locks for the NCAA tournament. The only teams still alive for an NCAA tournament berth are those playing this weekend in the conference tournaments. The WCHA and ECAC will play semifinals on Friday while all five leagues will crown conference champions on Saturday.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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