ADRIAN, Mich. – The top-three women's hockey teams in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) will descend upon Adrian College this weekend for the Slaats Cup Semifinal and Final. No. 3-seeded Lake Forest and No. 2 St. Scholastica square off on Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. in the semifinal, with the winner taking on top-seed Adrian on Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m.
The three teams were head and shoulders above the rest of the NCHA this year, with Lake Forest finishing eight points clear of fourth-place Trine. It took until the final weekend of the regular season for the Kronschnabel Trophy to be decided, with Adrian defeating Marian to win the regular season title for the fifth straight year, and St. Scholastica sweeping Lake Forest to take the No. 2 seed. With Adrian entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and winning its first round matchup, the Bulldogs earned a bye into the championship game.
The Saints and Foresters were tied in the standings heading into the final weekend, with a matchup between the two schools to decide the seeding for the playoffs. St. Scholastica won the first night 1-0 and doubled up the second night for a 2-0 win and sweep of Lake Forest to enter the Slaats Cup Playoffs as the No. 2 seed. The Saints got there on the back of their All-NCHA goaltender Lexi Thomeczek, who made 77 saves in the series against the Foresters. St. Scholastica had five total players named All-NCHA by the league office on Wednesday, including sophomore forward Rachel Anderson being named All-Conference and Player of the Year. St. Scholastica's coach, Jackie MacMillan was named the NCHA Coach of the Year as well. Lake Forest senior standout Amy Budde was the lone All-NCHA selection for the Foresters.
Adrian played both teams on the road this season, and returned to campus with different results. The Bulldogs swept St. Scholastica early on in the season and then lost to and tied Lake Forest in January. The loss to the Foresters was AC's only conference loss this year, and only its third loss in NCHA play in each of the five seasons the Black and Gold have won the Kronschnabel Trophy. Adrian's NCHA record the past five seasons is an astonishing 80-3-7, a .928 winning percentage. The Bulldogs had one less player named All-Conference than the Saints, with four players being named for the award. Senior forward and captain Tory Harshman, senior defenseman Shelly Czarnowczan and her junior partner Kelly O'Sullivan, and freshman goaltender Denisa Jandova were named All-NCHA by the conference. In addition to All-Conference honors, Jandova was named to the All-Freshman team along with defenseman Julia Barrett.
The Bulldogs have won the last three Slaats Cups, beating Lake Forest in overtime last year to win their third straight. The winner of Sunday's contest will not only win the Slaats Cup but also secure an automatic bid into the NCAA DIII Women's Hockey Tournament. Ten teams make the tournament, with six conferences qualifying for automatic bids and one spot given to a group of schools that are in a conference that doesn't automatically qualify, leaving three at-large bids open. The selection committee will be using the PairWise rankings for the first time this year, mimicking what happens at the Division I level. Adrian is currently tied for sixth in the PairWise and would receive an at-large bid should the Bulldogs fall on Sunday and there are minimal upsets across the country. St. Scholastica and Lake Forest are on the outside looking in, sitting 12th and 21st, respectively, heading into the weekend. Either team would need to beat Adrian on Sunday if they want to have the chance to play for a national championship.
Tickets for this weekend are $7 general admission tickets and are available to purchase at the door on the day of the games. A separate ticket is required for each game. Friday's semifinal is scheduled for 7 p.m. and Sunday's championship game is slated for Sunday at 2 p.m.