Women's Frozen Four Preview: Norwich v. Hamline

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Compiled by D3hockey.com staff --

Friday's second semifinal will feature second-ranked Norwich against No. 6 Hamline.  Slated for a 7:00 p.m. EDT puck drop at Norwich's Kreitzberg Arena, the match-up will be the first ever between the two sides.

This year's Frozen Four appearance marks the seventh overall and fourth in the past five years for Norwich, who is in hunt of its second national championship and first since 2011.  Hamline, which is in its first NCAA tournament appearance, will be making its debut Frozen Four appearance where it will seek its first national championship.

Norwich won its way into the tournament by winning the NEHC postseason championship with a 7-0 win over UMass Boston, and advanced to the Frozen Four with a convincing 8-2 win over Morrisville State in last weekend's quarterfinals.

MIAC champion Hamline is the new kid on the block this year as it topped Gustavus Adophus, 4-1, to claim the MIAC title and advance to its first NCAA tournament, where it edged UW-Eau Claire, 3-2, to earn its trip to the Frozen Four.

On paper, Frirday's contest looks to be one for those who are fans of dynamic offenses as the No. 1 and 5 ranked offenses in the nation will be on display, while at the individual level four of the nation's top five scorers will be on hand -- three of which play for Hamline.

 

   NO. 2  NORWICH CADETS  (25-1-3)

Last season, the Cadets made a triumphant return to the Frozen Four after being left out in the preceding season. Once they got there, some struggles on offense took them off the rails as they were outscored a combined 7-1 in the semifinal and third place game against Plattsburgh and Gustavus Adolphus.

That may not be of any concern this time for the Cadets. Led by an experienced bunch that includes much of last year's team still in the lineup, the Cadets went on to post the best offensive numbers in the nation with the highest scoring average at 5.76 goals a game, and they hold the total goal scoring title over their next closest competitor, Elmira, by 25 tallies. 

NORWICH CADETS


Record:
25-1-3 overall, 14-0-0 NEHC

Location: Northfield, Vt.

Enrollment: 3,150

Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier, NEHC Playoff Champion

NCAA Tournament History: 8th appearance; 11-8-0

Road to the Frozen Four: W 8-2 v. Morrisville State

Scoring offense: 5.76 g/gm

Scoring defense: 1.14 g/gm

Power Play: 32.0%

Penalty Kill: 91.1%

Players to Watch:
F, so., Amanda Conway (32-23-55)
F, jr., Adrieana Rossini (21-22-43)
F, so., Sophie McGovern (14-28-42)
F, sr., Sarah Schwenzfeier (14-23-37)
F, jr., Bryn Labbe (14-22-36)
D, fr., Samantha Benoit (3-24-27)
D, jr., Robyn Foley (4-19-23)
D, jr., Carly Menges (1-20-21)
G, sr., Laurie King (20-1-3, 1.21, .930)

 

HAMLINE PIPERS


Record:
21-4-3 overall, 13-3-2 MIAC

Location: Saint Paul, Minn.

Enrollment: 2,184

Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier, MIAC Playoff Champion

NCAA Tournament History: 1st appearance; 1-0-0

Road to the Frozen Four: W 3-2 v. UW-Eau Claire

Scoring offense: 4.61 g/gm

Scoring defense: 1.93 g/gm

Power Play: 25.4%

Penalty Kill: 86.2%

Players to Watch:
F, so., Bre Simon (30-25-55)
F, sr., Sarah Bobrowski (16-38-54)
F, sr., Darby Dodds (17-32-49)
F, fr., Jordan Hansen (16-15-31)
D, so., Dani Perry (3-18-21)
G., fr., McKenna Hulsander (13-2-1, 2.09, .919)
 

The Cadets have managed 25 wins in a 29 game period up to this point, and all of their in-region losses or ties have come to teams that at least made the quarterfinals. In short, it's going to take the best of the best to overtake them at present and that moment of reckoning has finally arrived with the culmination of the season. A historical precedent could also come to the Cadets' aid here, in that any Cadets team that has won 25 or more games all-time has advanced into the championship game. 

If you're wondering how they've been able to achieve so much offensively, and overall, the simple answer is balance. A moderately prolific but not elite forward tandem from two years ago has certainly become elite now. For example, in the year they didn't make the tournament, then-top point getters Bryn Labbe and Adelle Murphy put up a total of 21. This season, an impressive nine Cadets are at that point or better. That makes a significant difference when you're going up against elite opposition in the national tournament. In addition the thought that the Cadets can legitimately go four lines deep comfortably is a scary one indeed. 

Sophomore Amanda Conway has become this team's mail carrier offensively in rather speedy fashion. She scored a team best 20 goals last season, and has completely elevated her game this season with a national best 32 goals to go with 23 assists for 55 total points. This is a young woman who is at the tail end of her sophomore season, and is already 17 points from the century mark for her career. She put up four points in the team's quarterfinal win.  She is this team's top A+ level threat, but with the balance of Mark Bolding's team, she's also one of many. Linemates Bryn Labbe (14-22-36) and Sophie McGovern (14-28-42) form the rest of a lethal tandem up front that is one of two groupings in their top six where everyone is over 30 points. 

The other top six forward grouping for the Cadets is equally as dangerous, and presents a matchup problem in the sense that any opponent defensively could be picking its poison when trying to match lines. Adrieana Rossini lines up at left wing and put up a balanced 21 goal, 22 assist line. She's joined by the Cadets' active career scoring leader, Sarah Schwenzfeier (120 career points) and sophomore forward Alyssa Hulst (17-13-30). They're especially dangerous when the outcome is in doubt, as they combined for 12 game-winning goals, but they tend to squash opponents quickly with a 2.65 goal lead on average after two frames. 

The team's skill level in open ice and their complimentary ability to draw penalties are tremendous assets. They can't be overlooked. The Norwich power play was one of the very best in the nation at generating power play opportunities this season, with 153 appearances. They were also very good once they got those situations and led the nation at a 32 percent clip. Conway and Labbe each have eight power play goals. The Cadets are also very adept at limiting opponents from loading up on power play production, as they did not allow a multiple power play goal performance to any opponent this season.

The Cadet blue line is a group with room to grow. Three of their top four defenders will return save for senior Kim Tiberi. Robyn Foley, Samantha Benoit, and Carly Menges are all strong two way players who move pucks to the right areas up front and can consistently make the right decisions at the offensive points. All four had fifteen assists or more while also only allowing 1.13 goals against per game, and could also add some positional leverage offensively against a Hamline blue line with just one goal all season. 

It has been senior Laurie King's net all season, and that won't change as the veteran with 50 career wins is likely to get the nod on Friday. King has been in net for 20 of the team's 25 wins but has ceded a bit of time to Freshman Emily Lambert against some opponents in an effort to prepare for the future. 

If there's a significant weakness in this Norwich team, nobody has found it yet, and that is especially dangerous on home ice. 

   NO. 6  HAMLINE PIPERS   (21-4-3)

The Hamline Pipers have never been to an NCAA tournament, much less a Frozen Four. That leaves many in the East region scrambling to learn about the Pipers, who came bursting into the NCAA tournament picture with a nine win improvement over last season in the third year under US Olympian Natalie Darwitz. Their rise has been nothing short of meteoric as they were just a nine win team two seasons ago.

Hamline was the top Western seed in this year's tournament and got the bye into the quarterfinals, where a battle hardened UW-Eau Claire team awaited. The Pipers jumped on Eau Claire early, and held on to win by a 3-2 score in a neutral site game played at Gustavus Adolphus. That weekend was huge for the Pipers with their first NCAA win, and for the West region as well as it was a true showcase of what that region can offer now and in the years to come. 

To take the next step and become the latest Western team to get closer to winning it all, they'll foreseeably have to match Norwich and then some in the one standout area that got both teams to this point: Offense. The Pipers bring a positively lethal attack spearheaded by a pair of Division I transfers and a sophomore who came last season to play for Darwitz, and the Hamline offense as a whole averaged 4.61 goals a game against a schedule with six games against tournament teams, and two others against St. Thomas, which had the resume to make it but barred itself from this year's field with a self-imposed ban. 

In many aspects, sophomore winger Bre Simon is their answer to Conway as she's put up a positively ridiculous 82 points in two seasons, including 30 goals and 25 assists this season to tie the Norwich forward for the most points in this campaign nationally. She is also already the school record holder in career points as a sophomore. The players around her comprise the top scoring line in the nation, with Division I transfers Sarah Bobrowski and Darby Dodds responsible for eye popping outputs of 54 and 49 points respectively.

Simon is the best pure goal scorer of the bunch, while Bobrowski is the team's best playmaker and has shown the ability to go off for big numbers at the drop of a hat. She set an NCAA Division III record for points in a single game with six goals and three assists in a 13-5 win over Concordia-Moorhead in early February and is a +50 for the campaign. 

Coach Darwitz does an excellent job of dividing the rest of her top scoring between two other lines, again making an offensive threat virtually omnipresent. Centers Jordan Hansen and Leah Schwartzman are the team's next two best threats and generally will play separately down the middle. Hansen was an all-rookie selection in the MIAC, and Schwartzman will also be heavily counted on for her NCAA tournament experience here, as she was with St. Thomas last year alongside linemate Becca Zarembinski. Melanie Bartenstein is another player worth mentioning when experience is a factor, as she is the lone remaining player on the Pipers roster to have played for Steve Debus. 

Dani Perry, a sophomore from Woodbury, Minnesota, will be the top defender trying to shackle up the Norwich offense. She stands in at just 5'3, but is very athletic and brings more than sufficient mobility to disrupt the play and backcheck with purpose. She's also an efficient puck moving type with 18 assists for the campaign, and is the only Hamline defender with a goal this season. Former UW-River Falls Falcon Taylor Ramthun is the only other rearguard for the Pipers to appear in all 28 games. 

In goal, McKenna Hulsander has been very good as a freshman and has been the go-to option for much of the second half for Darwitz. She'd make a ninth consecutive start if she is tapped by Darwitz for Friday's game.





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No contests today.