Compiled by D3hockey.com staff
Friday's second semifinal, slated for 7:00 p.m. EDT, pits Adrian against the Golden Gusties of Gustavus Adolphus. The Gusties are frozen four veterans with their eighth appearance set to begin, but have not appeared since 2013 and have not hoisted the big prize. Adrian continues forth in the NCAA playoffs to this round for the first time ever.
The Golden Gusties worked their way into the field on their overall body of work, as the last Pool C team selected into the NCAA tournament field. The top seed in the MIAC tournament after a 13-2-3 record in league play was thrust into that position after getting dealt a semifinal loss by a peaking St. Thomas team that gave Plattsburgh a hard time last weekend in the quarters. Gustavus bounced back in thunderous fashion by knocking out powerful UW-River Falls on a late goal in a road quarterfinal.
The Bulldogs are new to the frozen four, but made the journey a memorable one when they finally took the next step after years of progressive improvement under Chad Davis, who was named AHCA Coach of the Year on Thursday. Kaylyn Schroka netted her 29th goal of the season in a quarterfinal overtime to help the Bulldogs ground Elmira in the quarterfinals by 5-4 score.
ADRIAN BULLDOGS (27-2-0)
Record: 27-2-0 overall, 18-0-0 NCHA
Location: Adrian, Mich.
Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier; NCHA playoff champion
NCAA Tournament History: 3rd appearance; 1-2-0
Road to the Frozen Four: W 5-4 (ot) v. Elmira
Scoring offense: 5.62 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.52 g/gm
Power Play: 27.7%
Penalty Kill: 87.7%
Players to Watch: F, sr., Kristin Lewicki (30-33-63); F, sr., Kaylyn Schroka (29-30-59); F, sr., Sarah Shureb (23-34-57); F, so., Brooke Lupi (20-12-41); D, sr., Sydney Smith (11-26-37); D, fr., Kelly O'Sullivan (11-25-36); G, sr., Brooke Gibson (14-1-0, 1.43, .926); G, sr., Jade Walsh (13-1-0, 1.58, .921
As the Bulldogs get ready for their first NCAA Semifinal appearance, they do so in the unique position of getting to play it on home ice, as Arrington Arena is set to play host to the finals for the first time after the committee awarded the championship to a West region site after a three year run out East.
Last year, the Bulldogs fell short of this mark with a 3-1 loss against Elmira, but their overtime victory over the Soaring Eagles announces to the country that this Bulldogs team has taken that pivotal step forward, and is now ready to contend for the national title.
Defensively, this team is solid, but if you want to start the conversation on the Bulldogs, you had best look at what this team does up front. With four players at 40 points or more, the Bulldogs sport a vicious attack that indeed delivers more bite than bark at the highest scoring average in the country. Three of those four players are seniors in their last run at this, including NCHA player of the year Kristin Lewicki, who is somewhat of a magician with the puck on her stick. The strong open-ice forward has an impressive 12 power play goals this season to anchor the second best unit to hit the ice this weekend. Quarterfinal hero Kaylyn Schroka, the much-improved Sarah Shureb, and sophomore Brooke Lupi all add to the fascination behind this offense.
Defensively, the offensive contributions from Sydney Smith and Kelly O'Sullivan have further added to the depth of their attack, while the Bulldogs are comfortable in their own end playing out in front of veteran netminders Brooke Gibson and Jade Walsh. The senior pair split time almost evenly throughout the season, but the likely starter in the semifinal will be Gibson, who relieved Walsh in the quarterfinals and picked up the win, and has played most of the team's postseason minutes.
The Bulldogs, simply put, will have to contend with a stifling Gustavus defense and play this game at their own tempo. If they accomplish that, there's no reason they can't play for a national title on Saturday.
GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS GOLDEN GUSTIES (18-6-3)
At 18-6-3, the Gusties are the runt of the litter when it comes to how their win-loss record is presented, but don't let that fool you. The Gusties bumped out UW-River Falls in the quarterfinals, and if they can do that to the Falcons, they can do that to anybody.
GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS GOLDEN GUSTIES
Record: 18-6-3 overall, 13-2-3 MIAC
Location: Saint Peter, Minn.
Road to the NCAAs: At-large Pool C selection
NCAA Tournament History: 12th appearance, 9-16-0 overall
Road to the Frozen Four: W 3-2 @ UW River Falls
Scoring offense: 2.52 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.41 g/gm
Power Play: 19.8%
Penalty Kill: 82.5%
Players to Watch: F, jr., Erica Power (8-12-20); F, jr., Kaitlyn Klein (11-8-19); F, jr., Diana Draayer (6-11-17); F, sr., Emily Gustafson (9-5-14); D, fr., Kristen Cash (3-6-9); D, so., Marina Chapman (4-4-8); G, so., Amanda DiNella (13-3-2, 1.08, .948)
The Gusties' appearance is the culmination of a multi-year journey that began back in 2013, in their last Frozen Four appearance at Wessman Arena in Superior. With the tournament returning West for the first time since then, it's only fitting that one of the premier all-time programs in the region be a part of the festivities. The Gusties do so on a red-hot tear, with a double digit game run containing just one loss.
Unlike the other three teams left in this field, the Gusties will work off of a slightly different blueprint to achieve success. They aren't a real high scoring team, but will do enough in combination with their lockdown defensive play to win games on the margins, as evidenced by their last three games all decided by a goal or less.
The special teams numbers don't exactly jump off the page, and it's virtually imperative the Gustie penalty kill has a strong performance in their appearances to give the Gusties a fighting chance. If all goes as planned, the available sample size for the Bulldog power play will be slim to zero, as Gustavus is one of the least penalized teams in the nation.
On the forward end, the most exciting player may be Erica Power, with a team best 20 points, but the most compelling player may be Kaitlyn Klein, who scored the game-winning goal for Gustavus to pull the upset of River Falls on the road. Klein's heroics amount to a mile marker on what has been a long, tough road for the Gustie forward, as she recovered from a career-threatening injury not long ago.
On the back end, a young blue line primarily composed of freshmen and sophomores has clicked well in front of Sophomore Amanda DiNella, who is on pace for eventual All-American status after an impressive 13-3-2 run this year to go with a 1.08 GAA and a .948 save percentage. DiNella made 38 saves in the team's quarterfinal win.