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This post begins USCHO’s blogging for the women’s National Collegiate Tournament.

Be sure also to check the women’s page for recaps of both the ECAC and WCHA tournament tonight. In the coming weeks, USCHO will also have coverage from at least two of the NCAA quarterfinal sites and the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four in Duluth.

The NCAA selections are coming at 6 p.m. tonight. Here is a quick run down of the field.

Autobids: UMD (WCHA), UNH (Hockey East), Harvard (ECAC)

Sure at-large bids: Minnesota (WCHA), St. Lawrence (ECAC), Wisconsin (WCHA), Mercyhurst (CHA)

On the bubble: Clarkson (ECAC), Dartmouth (ECAC)

Note that CHA champion Mercyhurst does not receive an autobid.

One source of drama is the Clarkson vs. Dartmouth NCAA selection. As the USCHO Pairwise Rankings suggest, Clarkson has the edge in the bulk of the NCAA selection criteria, but the margins are razor-thin. Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak suggested yesterday that perhaps his team has a case because of its clear advantage in head-to-head play (a win and a tie over Clarkson) while the other categories are all so close. It’s a fair criticism of the system, but I don’t forsee the committee overriding Clarkson’s advantage in three of the four criteria, however small those advantages may be. I’ll assume Clarkson gets the last bid for the rest of the column.

As for forming the brackets, here is how the field breaks down.

If intraconference matchups were not a concern, the bracket with “perfect integrity” is:

Clarkson at No. 1 Harvard

St. Lawrence at No. 4 Minnesota

Wisconsin at No. 3 New Hampshire

Mercyhurst at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth

The committee will certainly swap unseeded teams to avoid the intraconference matchup. But the question is, will the committee swap Clarkson with Mercyhurst or Clarkson with Wisconsin? It’s a question of whether the committee values bracket integrity more than travel costs. The Clarkson-Mercyhurst swap is superior in terms of bracket integrity, but the Clarkson-Wisconsin swap would create a UNH-Clarkson matchup that would not require a flight.

What precedent is there for what the committee will decide? The committee faced a similar tradeoff in 2007, and favored creating a BC-Dartmouth local matchup despite having to pair No. 6 Harvard at No. 1 Wisconsin. In 2005, the committee did not have to swap to avoid intraconference matchups and preserved perfect bracket integrity, despite not having any local matchups. So what the committee will do here is unclear.

So the bracket that is best for travel costs while avoiding intraconference matchups:

Wisconsin at No. 1 Harvard

St. Lawrence at No. 4 Minnesota

Clarkson at No. 3 New Hampshire

Mercyhurst at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth

And the bracket that is best for integrity while avoiding intraconference matchups:

Mercyhurst at No. 1 Harvard

St. Lawrence at No. 4 Minnesota

Wisconsin at No. 3 New Hampshire

Clarkson at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth

We’ll know the answer at 6 p.m.

  • Patrick Henry

    I guess USCHO now stands for United Stalin Communist Hockey Online seeing as the moderators are quick to remove any comments that point out errors in the CCHA writer’s blogs, and that’s only if they let them slip through in the first place. Learn to read a box score and do some research before shooting your mouth off. Ian Slater received one DQ for CHECKING FROM BEHIND, and deserves much more. The only reason for coincidental facemasking is because Slater refused to drop the gloves against Fernandez after the hit that left Sam Muchalla injured and out for the rest of the game. Also a win and a tie isn’t a split, but then again you think a 3-1 win is a shutout and that 4-2 double OT wins are possible.