Compiled by D3hockey.com staff --
Friday's first semifinal, slated for 3:00 p.m. CDT start, will feature Plattsburgh State and Adrian, two clubs that are no strangers despite the fact they hail from opposite regions.
Plattsburgh State has spent the entire season ranked first or second in the D3hockey.com Women's Top 10 as it has rolled to a 27-win season. The Cardinals scored the NEWHL postseason championship with a 7-1 win over Oswego State and 5-0 blanking of Cortland, and NCAA tournament wins over Endicott (3-2 (ot)) and Williams (5-3) have advanced the Cardinals to yet another Frozen Four.
Adrian posted a rather impressive season of its own as the Bulldogs have racked up 23 wins and advanced to the NCAAs with a dramatic 3-2 double overtime win over St. Scholastica in the NCHA title game. In last week's quarterfinals, Adrian notched yet another extra-time win as it went on the road and unseated top-ranked Elmira 3-2 in overtime.
The Cardinals and Bulldogs have a bit of NCAA history with each other and it's a rather notable one at that as the two met for the 2017 national title in a contest that saw Plattsburgh score a late, comeback win in what might be one of the most memorable women's Division III games of all-time. This year's editions are also familiar with each other as the two have already played twice this season. Both hold one win to their name as Adrian pulled out a 1-0 win on November 24 while Plattsburgh answered back with a 2-0 win on January 6.
NO 2. PLATTSBURGH STATE CARDINALS (27-2-0)
PLATTSBURGH STATE CARDINALS
Location: Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier, NEWHL Playoff Champion
NCAA Tournament History: 15th appearance, 28-10-0 overall
Road to the Frozen Four: W 3-2 (ot) v. Endicott; W 5-3 v. Williams
Scoring offense: 5.00 g/gm
Scoring defense: 0.79 g/gm
Power Play: 26.4%
Penalty Kill: 96.5%
Players to Watch:
Record: 23-4-2 overall, 15-1-2 NCHA
Location: Adrian, Mich.
Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier; NCHA playoff champion
NCAA Tournament History: 5th appearance; 2-4-0
Road to the Frozen Four: W 3-2 (ot) @ Elmira
Scoring offense: 4.00 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.34 g/gm
Power Play: 21.0%
Penalty Kill: 91.3%
Players to Watch:
It's another year and another final weekend appearance for the Cardinals. This year's appearance will mark their 13th Frozen Four which stands as the most of any Division III women's program. In their 12 prior appearances the Cardinals have skated away as national champions on six occassions.
This year's path to the Frozen Four was perhaps a bit tougher than what Plattsburgh is used to as not only was it resigned to a first-round game, but once there received a tough test from Endicott that wasn't settled until Annie Katonka netted the game-winner 45 seconds into overtime. The Cardinals were also tested by Williams in last weekend's quarterfinals as the Ephs scored to make it a 3-3 game with 11:41 to play, but goals later in the period by Nicole Unsworth and Mackenzie Millen that came just eight seconds apart helped lift the Cardinals to the win.
As far as what this year's edition of the team brings to the table, it's a lot of the same things the Cardinals have become notorious for. While that sounds simple, it's because it's simply true: they score a lot, they almost never get scored on, and they boast a plethora of high end talent -- many with familiar names.
Plattsburgh rolls into the weekend averaging five goals per game which leads the nation. Katonka leads all Cardinal scorers as she leads the nation with 30 goals scored while her 50 points rate as second-best. After Katonka, the Cardinals boast two other forwards that have topped the 30-point mark in seniors Courtney Moriarty (17-22-39) and Millen (11-23-34), as well as six others who have eclipsed the 20-point plateau.
Included in that group is a pair of defenseman in Erin McArdle (3-22-25) and Hannah Kiraly (3-18-21), and all-told the Cardinals bring seven skaters to the table that have scored at least ten goals this year.
With the nation's top-scoring offense in-tow, the Cardinals also enter the weekend with the top-ranked scoring defense in the land as they have conceded a paltry 0.79 goals per game. While thanks in large part to a team effort that often leads to dominant advantages in puck possession, as evidenced by the fact they have outshot the opposition by 30 goals per game on average, significant credit also goes to the play of senior goaltender Kassi Abbott.
In 29 appearances this year Abbot holds a 27-2-0 record, 0.81 goals-against-average and .954 save percentage.
The Cardinals have also been lights out on special teams with a power play that has converted 26.4% of the time and a penalty kill that has allowed just four goals in the year which is good for a remarkable 96.5% kill rate.
Statistically speaking, this year's Plattsburgh team is better than last year's that came up just short in the NCAAs as it fell 3-2 in double overtime to Elmira in the semifinals before falling 5-4 to Hamline in overtime in the third-place game.
Those results ended the Cardinals' string of four consecutive titles and they are now back with anexperienced and talented group, many of whom were there for the last championship as well as last year's disappointment, and there's little doubt that a team with no discernable weaknesses will be hungry to score national title number seven.
NO. 4 ADRIAN BULLDOGS (23-4-2)
If there's one thing that really stands out when it comes to this year's Adrian team it's that it enters the weekend as battle-tested as any team out there.
The Bulldogs went out of their way to face a murderer's row of a non-conference schedule that included two games at UW-River Falls, two meetings with Plattsburgh, and single contests with Middlebury and Norwich. Not bad when sandwiched within an 18-game NCHA league schedule, and Adrian's lone blemish against anyone else this season came at the hands of a Lake Forest team that finished 16-7-5 and spent time ranked within the Top 10.
Adrian posted a respectable 3-3 mark in those games and went on the road to face yet another national power last weekend in top-ranked Elmira. Perhaps the brutal schedule paid off as despite being outshot 52-38 by the Soaring Eagles, the Bulldogs hung tough and picked up some stellar goaltending from Denisa Jandová to buy enough time for Jessica VonRuden to bury the game-winner at the 17:36 mark of overtime.
This year's Frozen Four appearance will mark the second for the Bulldogs. The first came in 2017 when it came out on the short end of the aforementioned epic championship game against Plattsburgh.
So how has Adrian been getting it done this year?
At an even four goals per game the Bulldogs' offense ranks ninth in the nation and has been led by a group of six forwards that have put up at least 24 points on the year, five of which are upperclassmen. Senior Tory Harshman leads all Adrian scorers with 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points, while Kortney Diaz' 16 goals rank as most on the club. Jacqueline White has added 30 points of her own while three others have posted 24.
Defensively, Adrian has been as stingy as ever and ranks sixth in the country with 1.34 goals allowed per game. The blueliners also have been noticeable on the offensive end as four have posted at least 13 points, including Kelly O'Sullivan (7-14-21) and Shelly Czarnowczan (5-12-17).
In goal, Jandová and Kate Turner have split time this year but its the former who has gotten the nod in all four postseason games. For the season, in 14 appearances Jandová holds an 11-0-2 record, 0.84 goals-against-aversage and .957 save percentage, though Turner got the nod in the Bulldogs' 1-0 win over Plattsburgh earlier in the year.
Overall, it's not possible to get any closer to a national championship and not win it than Adrian was in 2017, and with a slew of upperclass leaders on this year's team there is no doubt they will be eager to get another crack at Plattsburgh State in the NCAAs.
They say you have to beat the best to be the best, and that will certainly be the plan for Adrian as it has already taken down top-ranked Elmira; Will it now be able to upend No. 2 Plattsburgh?