Women's Puck Bracketology: Canada West has the slipperiest slope

Well that is nice — New Brunswick won a playoff round in its first season back.
Whatever fate awaits those Varsity Reds, being this competitive under coach Sarah Hilworth and an obviously rookie-filled roster is national coach-of-the-year material. It likely speaks to more than just a wrong being remedied through the courts, but also to the investment in female hockey across Western Canada, where 13 V-Reds hail from, including AUS save percentage leader Kendra Holland and team scoring leader Tamina Kehler.

The result leaves nationals host UPEI with a 24-day layoff before hosting the March 14-17 tournament.

The need-to-know is that the four conference winners get the top four seeds in order of national ranking. The four assigned berth/host teams are arranged in a way that eliminates the possibility of a same-conference semifinal matchup.

So what chaotic outcome should one root for?

  • Manitoba and Montréal to win Canada West and the RSEQ, respectively, triggering a great debate over who should be the No. 1 seed, with a commensurate domino effect in the rest of the bracket. Nothing against Alberta, but the No. 1-ranked Pandas rolling through the league playoffs would just make the seeding committee's job easier.

    The biggest gap between champion berth and assigned berth is in Canada West, based on the rankings of those Pandas and Bisons.
  • Any upset that affects the three auto-berths that involve winning two playoff series, which are AUS champion, OUA champion and OUA assigned. The lonely always need a feel-good story from these obscure leagues, so someone better summon a 70-save shutout in a triple-overtime game.
  • And, obviously, UNB to make it interesting down east.

The all-chalk, at-first-blush, look at nationals seeding is as follows:
  1. Alberta (Canada West champion). The Pandas and Carabins are level on two national titles in this decade, so bragging rights are at stake.
  2. Montréal (RSEQ champion). Being the regular-season champion in a three-deep league has its earned privileges.
  3. St. Thomas (AUS champion). Semifinal opponent depends on the Moncton-Saint Mary's result on Tuesday.
  4. Guelph (OUA champion). Interestingly, Guelph took the L the last time out against both Western and Toronto, potential McCaw Cup final opponents.
  5. Concordia (RSEQ assigned). Has won the two most recent games against McGill, which it faces in the best-of-3 league semifinal this week.
  6. Manitoba (Canada West assigned). It was not long ago yours truly worked in a decent-sized Manitoba town and there was no organized female hockey. Now look!
  7. Western (OUA assigned).Yours truly spends way too much time on a Facebook group called For The Love of Uniforms. So the fact that the women's and men's hockey teams at that school in London do not dress out in head-to-toe purple and white seems like a real sartorial affront. Black hockey helmets and pants are more easily acquired, sure, but it just looks off when the sweaters and gloves don't contain any black.
  8. UPEI (host team). So neither the University Cup host, Lethbridge, or Golden Path Trophy host, UPEI, managed to win a playoff game, which means David Branch has more influence over the university game than we ever imagined.
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