The women's college hockey season is technically a few weeks old, but this is the first week the Ivy League schools are playing, so we've got a full slate of games and the season is now officially and fully underway.
Clarkson are the top team in the country and are the two-time defending national champions. Numerous women who were centralized for and competed in the Olympics have returned to their teams, including gold medalists Maddie Rooney at Minnesota Duluth; Kelly Pannek at Minnesota; and Cayla Barnes, Megan Keller, and Kali Flanagan at Boston College.
It was an offseason full of transfers, as goalie Kassidy Sauve departed Ohio State for Clarkson and netminder Sydney Scobee left Vermont for Minnesota. Clarkson also picked up former Quinnipiac forward TT Cianfarano.
Holy Cross officially joined the Division I ranks and became a member of Hockey East.
There was early-season action among some of the top teams in the league as Minnesota Duluth has already played Boston College, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Bulldogs swept BC before earning a tie and a loss against the Gophers. Last weekend, the Badgers swept them, so we're not really any closer to understanding how all those teams actually match up against each other.
That's what you've missed so far, so let's get to it
Come back each week for a breakdown of the most interesting upcoming games, how to watch or listen to them, and some thoughts on the movers and shakers from the previous week.
(4) Ohio State at (3) Minnesota
Friday at 7:00 PM Central; Saturday at 4:00 PM Central
Watch: The games will be available through a paid stream on FloHockey and also through BTN. You can listen to a free streaming radio broadcast here.
Last season, Ohio State swept their regular season series with the Gophers for the first time in program history. Minnesota responded by knocking Ohio State out in the semi-finals of the WCHA tournament.
The Buckeyes earned their first-ever Frozen Four berth with an upset of Boston College to cap off a dream season.
A lot has changed since then, as the Buckeyes are without Sauve, who played a huge role in the team's success. Minnesota has retained Pannek as well as Sarah and Amy Potomak.
It'll be a test for the Ohio State defense as the Gophers are averaging more than four goals scored per game. The Buckeyes stumbled a bit last weekend, needing overtime to defeat Minnesota State. You can bet OSU coach Nadine Muzerall used that as a wake up call.
Both teams are less strong than they've been in recent years in net. Scobee and Alex Gulstene have shared the role evenly thus far in Minneapolis, though Scobee's numbers are better. Amanda Zeglen and Andrea Braendli have each played three games for Ohio State, with Braendli allowing fewer goals. With the offensive firepower on both squads, goalie play is going to be a big factor in how this weekend plays out.
(10) Maine at (9) Northeastern
Friday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Watch: This game will air on NESN and be available for streaming through StetchInternet.
These are two of the more interesting teams to keep an eye on this season. Maine surprised a lot of folks last season with a third-place finish in Hockey East. Northeastern has a potent offense and two solid goalies to rely on. Both teams will be fighting for spots at the top of the conference come season's end.
Maine has built their roster by recruiting players from overseas. Czech players Tereza Vanišová, Anna Zíková and Vendula Pribilová are joined by Russian nationals Daria Tereshkina, Swedes Celine Tedenby, Ebba Strandberg, and Ida Press; Latvian Liga Miljone; and Michelle Weis from Denmark.
Vanišová was Hockey East Rookie of the Year two seasons ago and led the team with 46 points last season. Her importance to the team cannot be overstated. The Black Bears were 10-1-2 last year when Vanišová tallied a goal and 17-3-3 overall when she had at least one point.
Northeastern is getting offensive contributions from their underclassmen. Veronika Pettey was an All-Hockey East Rookie Team member and has stepped into an expanded role this season.
Alina Mueller is a two-time Olympian from Switzerland. When she won bronze in 2014, she was the youngest player ever to medal in women's hockey. She led all scoring in Pyeongchang with ten points in six games. She and French player Chloe Aurard have gelled well for the Huskies and look to be a dynamic duo for them.
Northeastern upset national runner-up Colgate last weekend and are averaging 3.75 goals scored per game.
We should see some spectacular offense in this game.
Vermont at (6) Boston College
Friday at 7:00 PM Eastern; Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Free stream available on ESPN3.
Vermont has been one of those teams capable of stealing wins from squads. They beat Clarkson last season and have surprised Boston College in years past.
On paper, BC looked like they'd be nearly unbeatable this season. Last season, they were an offensive powerhouse led by eventual Patty Kazmaier Award winner Daryl Watts that had a thin defense thanks to loaning three blue-liners to Team USA for the Olympics.
Now those three gold-medal winners are back, along with all the same offensive pieces, to create a roster that seemed like a possible juggernaut. That hasn't been the case and the Eagles are trying to get back on track. Last year's offensive output hasn't been matched – they've scored more than two goals just once so far this season and they're missing Katie Burt more than we all thought they would in net.
Boston College should sail through Hockey East with ease, as they've done the past few seasons, but it doesn't bode well that non-conference games so far didn't go so well.
Also worth a look:
- St. Lawrence vs. Clarkson (home and home series) – Friday at 3:30 PM Eastern and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
- Princeton at (2) Wisconsin – Friday at 7:00 PM Central and Sunday at 12:00 PM Central
Stick Taps and Snark
↑Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson – With the Badgers' win over UMD on Sunday, he tallied his 465th career victory, surpassing Katey Stone to become the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I women's hockey history. Stone held the title for the past eight seasons and she and Mercyhurst coach Mike Sisti sit just one win behind Johnson, so we could see this title switch hands a few more times over the course of the season. But I expect Johnson, who averages 10 more wins a season than Sisti, will pull away and hang on to his title until next season.
↓Boston College's Daryl Watts – Expectations can be rough. This time last year, the reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner had six goals and eight assists through her first five games. This year, she has just two goals and an assist over the same stretch. She's taken a similar number of shots, but she's definitely no longer under the radar.
↑St. Cloud State's Hallie Theodosopoulos and Julia Tylke – A team that's perpetually struggled to score is finding all kinds of output from these two so far this season. Theodosopoulos is tied for first in the country with five goals and Tylke's nine assists led the nation.
↓St. Lawrence – A pair of overtime losses to Boston College dropped them out of the national rankings this week.
↑RPI's Lovisa Selander – The senior goalie continues to impress. She was named ECAC Goalie of the Week as she turned away 93 of the 95 shots she faced, including a 58-save shutout of Robert Morris.
(Photo credit: Ohio State)