The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
Editor's note: This post is arriving late to you because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Because of that, we've added commentary about the results of each game that has already been played in Nicole's preview.
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.
(2) Minnesota at (8) St. Lawrence
Friday at 4:00 PM Eastern
Watch: There appears to be a free stream from Vermont, who is hosting the tournament these two are playing in.
These two are competing in the Windjammer Classic, hosted by Vermont. They haven't faced each other since 2015, when the Gophers swept St. Lawrence at home. They've played each other just 12 times overall.
Minnesota comes in with a four game win streak, outscoring opponents 19-8 over that stretch. St. Lawrence also has a four game win streak, outscoring opponents 15-2 in that time.
The Saints have been a team in recent years that seemed to have a lot of the components, but couldn't quite put it all together to take down the top teams. With wins over Clarkson and Ohio State already to their name, this looks like it might be a different year for the Saints. Senior Justine Reyes and sophomore Skylar Podvey lead the team in scoring.
Minnesota has lost just two games, to Wisconsin and Ohio State, but there have been a few games this season that have ended closer than they likely should have. Last weekend they needed overtime to defeat St. Cloud State and then came back to win 7-2 the next day. There is a massive amount of talent on this team, but they do seem to be struggling a bit to figure out how it all fits together.
One place they still seem a bit unsure is in net. Alex Gulstene has more starts than Sydney Scobee – it's not a true platoon – and they have similar numbers. Their stats are good, but not great, and it seems like if they have a vulnerability, it's in net.
Results: Minnesota hammered the Saints by a score of 8-2. Alex Gulstene allowed 2 goals on 16 shots, but the Gophers kept up consistent pressure to score seemingly at will, including a hat trick by Kelly Pannek.
Minnesota-Duluth at (3) Clarkson
Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern; Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
Watch: A paid stream is available on ESPN+. They have a free trial, or the cost is $4.99 a month.
Minnesota-Duluth has has a tumultuous start to the season and that has made it difficult to understand exactly how good (or not) they are. Their 5-6-1 record certainly doesn't tell a complete story of how they've played or how they measure up. With game after game against top teams, it's hard to tell if they're good but struggling against the top or if they just aren't as good as we initially thought after the swept Boston College to open the season.
Sidney Brodt was a refreshing surprise with Team USA at the Four Nations tournament while freshman Gabbie Hughes and sophomore Noami Rogge have stepped up to lead the team on offense.
Clarkson is coming off a horrible 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Yale. The five goals allowed by the Knights were the most given up since a 5-1 loss at Boston College in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The Golden Knights themselves had been averaging nearly five goals per game, so it was an uncharacteristically poor offensive showing from them.
Additionally, Kassidy Sauvè did not play in net for Clarkson. Their two young and inexperienced goalies both played and got beat up on by Yale. It's unclear if Sauvè will return to the net this weekend, but her presence clearly makes a huge different for the Golden Knights. Clarkson has been known as a defensive team in the past, but strong defense and goaltending had given them the confidence and ability to push more on offense. Should Sauvè be out again, we'll get a much better look at how well this team can adapt and work the blue line. If Sauvè stays out, I imagine we'll see those offensive numbers drop significantly as we see the Golden Knights revert back to more defensive ways.
Results: Sauvè did return and stopped 22 of 24 as part of Clarkson's 4-2 victory. Michaela Pejzlová and T.T. Cianfarano each had 2 goals, with Elizabeth Giguère and Loren Gabel each picking up 2 assists. It was a return to form for the Golden Knights, who have shown that they may live and die by their goaltender this year. UMD was yet again good, but not great, mounting consistent offensive pressure, but not as much as Clarkson, who peppered Maddie Rooney with 38 shots en route to the win.
(4) Boston College at (5) Northeastern
Tuesday at 7:00 PM Eastern
Watch: The game will be broadcast live in NESN. It appears a free stream is also available via Northeastern.
Honestly, this is probably the game of the year thus far. Not only are these teams rivals who'll be fighting for the top spot in Hockey East, but they're ranked among the tops in the nation. When these two meet, there will at least seven women on the ice who are likely to be playing for their respective countries come the 2022 Olympics. And by the way, admission is just $5. If you're anywhere in the Boston area, you have to make plans to be in Boston Tuesday night.
Northeastern just ended a ten-game win streak but turned it into an 11-game unbeaten streak when they tied Maine 3-3 on Saturday. They're off to the best overall and best conference start in program history.
They're led by freshman Alina Mueller from Switzerland and freshman Chloe Aurard from France, both of whom are in the top-ten in scoring in the country. The Huskies are also getting stellar goaltending from sophomore Aerin Frankel, who's the only goalie in the country averaging less than a goal-against per game (0.72). Her .972 save percentage is also tops in the nation.
Boston College feels like a team struggling to find their identity or maybe to live up to their own hype. After Daryl Watts had one of the best freshman seasons in NCAA women's hockey history, it felt like all that was missing for BC was defense. They returned their gold-medal-winning defenders from the Olympic team and on paper, it looked like things couldn't be more perfectly aligned for the Eagles.
In practice, things have been a bit more bumpy. This isn't the super team we thought they might be, but they're still a very good team. Once people look past the pre-season expectations, they see this is a team that's third in the country in team defense and top-ten in team offense, scoring more than three goals per game. Freshman goalie Maddy McArthur has been very good in net for the Eagles, as well.
How these two fare head-to-head is likely to decide who wins Hockey East this year. This is going to be a fast-paced, highly-skilled game that's relying on freshman goalies. It's going to be one of the best games you watch all year.
Stick Taps and Snark
↑Minnesota State-Mankato – The Mavericks have already matched their total wins from last season and this is the latest in the season they've been at .500 or better in the last eight seasons.
↓Minnesota-Duluth – The Bulldogs have played the toughest schedule in the country, including 10 of their 14 games against ranked opponents. They dropped out of the national rankings this week after they were swept by Ohio State.
↑Yale – The Bulldogs earned the program's first-ever win over a top-3 team when they beat Clarkson 5-1 last weekend.
↓Colgate – The Raiders are 2-2-2 over the past six games. They've dropped out of the national rankings and are down to fourth in the ECAC.
↑The youngsters – Thanks to ties, there are 11 women ranked No. 9 or higher in the nation in scoring. Seven of them are underclassmen. Clarkson sophomore Elizabeth Giguère and Ohio State sophomore Emma Maltais lead everyone with 24 points. Providence sophomore Maureen Murphy leads the country with 12 goals.
↑Historic Coaches – When Wisconsin and Harvard face off this weekend, it will feature one of the most prolific coaching matchups in NCAA women's hockey history. Mark Johnson and Katey Stone have a combined 938 Division I coaching wins.
Photo credit: Northeastern Twitter
Filed under: NCAA; minnesota; st. lawrence; clarkson; Minnesota State; Minnesota-Duluth; wisconsin; harvard; Boston college; northeastern; mark johnson; katey stone; yale; colgate; emma maltais; elizabeth giguere; alina mueller; chloe aurand
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