INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The NCAA announced Sunday night that the University of Minnesota, Niagara University, University of Minnesota-Duluth and Brown University have been selected to compete in the 2002 NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship that will be held at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center from March 22-24. The field features two conference champions and four Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award candidates.
Minnesota, as the top seed from the West, will play Brown in a March 22 semifinal game at 8:30 p.m. Niagara, the top seed from the East, will battle defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in the other semifinal game, which begins at 5 p.m. Both games will be televised live by CNN/SI and the New England Sports Network (NESN). Brown and Minnesota-Duluth received at-large bids.
The winners of the semifinal games will meet in the March 24 national title game. The contest, which will also be broadcast live by CNN/SI and NESN, is set for 4 p.m. A consolation game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
"The colleigate women's ice hockey committee is looking forward to a very competitive tournament," said Carolyn Campbell-McGovern, who served as chair on the selection committee.
During the regular season, Minnesota recorded a 3-2 road victory against Brown on Nov. 17. Minnesota-Duluth and Niagara did not meet during the regular season.
Although none of the 72 players on the teams' rosters are from New Hampshire, there are two ties to the host school, the University of New Hampshire. Shawna Davidson ('92) is an assistant coach with Minnesota-Duluth and she will match wits in the semifinals against Niagara assistant coach Heather Reinke ('97).
Brown (24-7-2 overall, 12-3-1 ECAC North) won the ECAC North League championship on Sunday with a 4-3 overtime victory against Dartmouth College. The Bears enter the NCAA tournament with a seven-game winning streak - currently the longest in the nation - and are 18-1-1 over the past 20 games.
The offense, which is averaging 4.15 goals per game, is well-balanced with 13 skaters in double figures in points. Kristy Zamora leads the way with 53 points on 32 goals and 21 assists; she is third in the nation at 1.61 points per game while Kim Insalaco is ninth at 1.44 ppg (13-26-39). Pam Dreyer and Katie Germain have split the goaltending duties evenly. Dreyer has a 12-3-2 record with a 1.50 GAA and a .937 save percentage in 17 games while Germain is 12-4-0 with a 1.73 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 18 games.
During the regular season, Brown had a 1-2-1 record vs. the NCAA field. The Bears split two games against Niagara as each team registered a 3-1 victory on home ice. In home games against the western teams in mid-November, Brown lost to Minnesota (3-2) and tied Minnesota-Duluth (2-2).
The Bears are led by 13th-year head coach Digit Murphy, who ranks among the all-time leaders in women's hockey with 228 career victories.
Minnesota won the WCHA regular season and tournament titles en route to a 28-3-5 overall record (19-2-3 WCHA). The Golden Gophers have won five consecutive games and had a 24-game unbeaten streak of 20-0-4 from Nov. 2 to Feb. 9. UM's offense, which is averaging 3.42 goals per game, is led by WCHA Player of the Year Ronda Curtin (13-34-47). The freshman goaltending tandem of Jody Horak and Brenda Reinen has split duties between the pipes. Horak has a 14-1-2 record with a 1.40 GAA and a .948 save percentage while Reinen has a 12-1-3 mark with a 1.20 GAA and a .946 save percentage. Laura Slominski (18-14-32), along with Curtin was a Patty Kazmaier candidate.
During the regular season, the Golden Gophers went 3-2-1 vs. the tourney field. As already mentioned, Minnesota defeated Brown. They had a 2-1-1 series advantage against Minnesota-Duluth (Oct. 20-21 on road, 7-0 loss and 1-1 tie; Jan. 18-19 at home, 1-0 and 3-1 wins). Minnesota lost to Niagara, 2-1, on the roald Oct. 27.
Minnesota is guided by fifth-year head coach Laura Halldorson. She has 133 victories as the Golden Gophers' head coach and has 192 career victories in 12 seasons.
Minnesota-Duluth, the only repeat selection from the 2001 Frozen Four, enters the NCAA Championships with a 22-6-4 record that includes a 16-5-3 WCHA ledger. The Bulldogs, who lost some players to Swedish and Finnish national teams during the Olympics, finished third in the league tourney by defeating Ohio State, 6-2, in the consolation game and they have a 9-4-2 mark over the past 15 games.
The offense, which is averaging 3.97 goals per game and has 14 players in double figures in points, is led by Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award candidate Maria Rooth with 22 goals and 15 assists for 37 points. The goaltending responsibilities have been split between Patricia Sautter and Tuula Puputti. Sautter has a 13-1-3 record with a 1.41 GAA and a .928 save percentage in 20 games while Puputti is 9-5-0 with a 2.06 GAA and a .908 save percentage in 15 games.
Minnesota-Duluth, which was ranked No. 1 in the national polls over the first half of the season, had a 1-2-2 record against the NCAA field. The Bulldogs went 1-2-1 against Minnesota as they defeated (7-0) and tied (1-1) the Golden Gophers in October's home series; they also lost a pair of road games in mid-January by scores of 1-0 and 3-1. Duluth skated to a 2-2 draw against Brown on an east coast trip in mid-November.
UMD is led by third-year head coach Shannon Miller, who has 75 career victories.
Niagara won the ECAC Eastern League regular-season crown with a 19-2-0 record but was ousted in the conference semifinals by Providence College in double overtime, 3-2. The Purple Eagles had been unbeaten in 10 games (9-0-1) prior to the league tourney and enter the NCAAs with a 26-7-1 overall record. Niagara is anchored by Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award candidate Tania Pinelli in goal. She played in all 34 games and recorded a 26-7-1 record with a 1.22 GAA and a .933 save percentage. The offense, which is averaging 3.35 goals per game, is led by Valerie Hall (23-20-43), Brooke Bradburn (14-26-40) and ECAC Eastern League Rookie of the Year Teresa Marchese-Del Monte (17-21-38).
Niagara registered a winning record against the NCAA tourney teams at 2-1-0. The Purple Eagles bested Minnesota, 2-1, on home ice in late October and split a pair of games against Brown as both teams recorded a 3-1 victory on home ice.
Niagara is led by fourth-year head coach - and ECAC Eastern League Coach of the Year - Margot Page. She has 71 career victories.
The off-day (March 23) of the championships will be highlighted by the presentation of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding women's collegiate hockey player, at the Sheraton Harborside Portsmouth (N.H.). The three finalists are Ronda Curtin (Minnesota), Carly Haggard (Dartmouth) and Brooke Whitney (Northeastern).
The NCAA committee announced its criteria for selection as win-loss record, strength of schedule (RPI - win-loss, 35%; opponent's winning percentage, 50%; opponents' opponent's winning percentage, 15%), head-to-head record, record vs. common opponents, record over the past 16 games and record vs. teams under consideration for the NCAA Championships.
"We look forward to this year's championship and wish all the teams the best of luck," said Troy Arthur, the NCAA Associate Director of Championships.
In last year's inaugural NCAA championship, Minnesota-Duluth upended St. Lawrence University, 4-2, in the title game. Harvard University defeated Dartmouth College in the consolation game, 3-2.