The Eagles' recent winning streak has vaulted them to 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, knocking on the door of 2nd place Harvard for 1st place in the Women's Hockey "Human" division (#1 Minnesota is 22-0-0 and ain't gettin' caught anytime soon).
The women's hockey tournament selection is markedly different from the men's side, for two obvious reasons -- first, there are only 8 teams in the tournament instead of 16, and second, there is no consideration for attendance because the top 4 seeds host the quarterfinal matchup.
There is also much less certainty in how the field will be set, as evidenced by my complete and utter failure at picking the tournament last year (I even managed to get one of the hosts wrong). But, there is some kind of method to the madness.
Let's start out by identifying our 8 teams as of the January 14th Pairwise Rankings:
1. Minnesota -- WCHA Champ
2. Harvard -- ECAC Champ
3. Boston College -- Hockey East Champ
4. Boston University
The women's hockey selection committee has two main objectives which tend to vary in importance a bit year to year, but are nonetheless under consideration:
a) Minimize Flights -- This was clearly one of the major goals last year as perfect bracket integrity would have had 4 flights, but the committee has shown that they are not willing to have 4 flights in every season except for 2005, the first season with an 8 team tournament
b) Minimize Quarterfinal Intraconference Matchups -- Though this is not a hard & fast requirement, as last year we had North Dakota vs. Minnesota as one of our quarterfinals.
We're extraordinarily fortunate thus far in that perfect bracket integrity gives us a very easy bracket:
#8 Wisconsin @ #1 Minnesota
#7 Mercyhurst @ #2 Harvard
#6 Clarkson @ #3 Boston College
#5 Cornell @ #4 Boston University
Incredibly -- and I don't think this has ever happened -- right off the bat we have zero flights (Correction: Mercyhurst requires a flight almost no matter what, but the point remains that flights are minimized) and only one intraconference matchup. I would be somewhat surprised to see the committee mess with this near-perfect situation just to avoid a Minnesota vs. Wisconsin WCHA quarterfinal, but they've done crazier things before.
Mercyhurst and Wisconsin have the same number of PWR points right now, though Mercyhurst currently holds the tiebreaker on RPI and also wins their comparison with Wisconsin outright. If Wisconsin were to flip the comparison with Mercyhurst (and a BC sweep of the Lakers this weekend would probably do just that) it would be interesting to see if the committee kept the two flights, sending Wisconsin to Harvard and Mercyhurst to Minnesota, or if they would swap the two seeds to keep the flights to a minimum.
My guess is that they would not switch the seeds, however, and go with two flights. The committee has had no problem setting up a bracket with up to 3 flights, and the lack of intraconference matchups would be appealing.
They would also probably take great care in protecting the #1 seed, Minnesota, given their ridiculous undefeated record.
What would be terrible, from a BC perspective, is if we swept Mercyhurst, leapfrogged Harvard into the #2 slot, and Mercyhurst dropped to #8. That would send perennial buzzsaw Wisconsin (though in a bit of a down year) to Chestnut Hill.
So much for getting a beneficial matchup as the #2 seed.
We'll check in on the women's bracketology periodically, but at least temporarily the committee seems to have gotten a pretty solid bracket to fall into their laps.