October 22, 2021

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 5



4 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 5

(2) Ohio State at (1) Wisconsin

Saturday at 2:00 PM and Sunday at 3 PM Central

Watch: Friday - Paid stream on BTN+. Saturday - Televised on Big Ten Network.

This is a newer rivalry, but thanks to a bunch of close-fought and high-stakes games in recent years, it's a very good one. The last time these two teams played, Wisconsin beat Ohio State 4-2 in the national semifinal. The meeting before that was a 3-2 overtime win in the WCHA tournament championship game. It was the Buckeyes that took out the Badgers in OT in the WCHA title game the year before.

Overall, Wisconsin leads Ohio State 73-17-10 and 31-6-7 at LaBahn, where they are virtually unbeatable. Wisconsin's home record since the rink opened is 135-14-7 and just four of those losses came in the past six years.

Wisconsin's top line has been incredibly prolific to start the year and kept it up against tougher competition in Minnesota Duluth last weekend. The Badgers came out flat in the first period on Sunday, something they really can't afford to do against Ohio State. They dug out of a 2-0 whole against UMD, but I'm not sure that would be possible against the Buckeyes, particularly because goalie Andrea Brändli is always at her best against the Badgers.

Jenn Gardiner and Jenna Buglioni have been leading the scoring for OSU, but they're getting scoring up and down their lineup and have one of the deepest offenses we've seen from them in recent years. Seeing how these teams matchup players and lines will be interesting. Nadine Muzerall and Mark Johnson are very different coaches and personalities. Watch them both on the bench and pay attention to post-game comments. It's an interesting contrast, especially since they're both so successful.

This is a series that's either going to feature like three goals or 23. If it's low-scoring, watch how each team moves the puck, looks to disrupt their opponent and how they handle transition. It will be those small details and adjustments that will win or lose the game.

(5) Minnesota at (3) Colgate

Friday at 2:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream via ESPN+

Credit to these two teams for keeping this tough non-conference matchup on their schedule. We've been thin on top-tier non-conference games of late, other than the holiday tournaments that have popped up. With non-conference games playing such a big part in Pairwise rankings, it doesn't really behoove teams to schedule tough opponents, which is a shame for fans.

Minnesota and Colgate last met in 2019, with the Gophers sweeping the series with 2-0 and 8-1 wins. I think the two squads are closer in talent this time around and should match up pretty well.

The Gophers are 3-3, but their three loses come to other ranked teams. Facing OSU that first weekend was a rough way to kick off the season, but they continue to look better each weekend.

With the turnover in coaching staff in Minneapolis, the Gophers are finding new footing this season and looking to reinvent themselves a little bit. Things have been a little static from Minnesota the past few seasons and they've not been able to be the dynamic powerhouse that people have come to expect from this program. It's all relative, since they've still been ranked, but expectations are always high for the Gophers.

The Raiders have shown a knack for scoring across all their lines, making them tougher to defend. They're creative with the puck and skating with a lot of confidence.

All but one of their skaters have tallied a point this season and they have 16 different goal scorers. I've been especially impressed by their shooting efficiency. They are being deliberate and thoughtful with the puck and it has been paying off. I think this is the key difference between these two teams right now and if the Raiders can be deliberate in the face of the increased pressure they'll be getting from Minnesota, they'll be in a great position to win.

Mercyhurst at (10) Cornell

Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream available on ESPN+.

The Ivy League teams start their season in earnest this weekend and Cornell faces a tough test from the ranked Lakers.

Mercyhurst is coming off a 2-2 with Union that was a surprising result. They have set themselves a tough non-conference schedule to start the year. It's a bit difficult to get a read on the Lakers looking at losses to Colgate and wins over Franklin Pierce. Grad transfer Kristy Pidgeon is second in the country in scoring with 10 goals and 8 assists.

Cornell hasn't played a game since March 2019 and back then, they were the number one team in the country. The Big Red are the team that most rue the pandemic and it's effects on women's college hockey and will probably forever be wondering what might have been.

But you can guarantee coach Doug Derraugh isn't going to let this current team dwell. It's a young team, with what amounts to two classes of rookies. I'm looking forward to seeing what Ashley Messier can do. They'll need her to be a big influence on offense. They're also lucky to be able to bring back Lindsay Browning in net. She's one of the best goalies in the country and having her in back gives the Big Red the ability to be aggressive on offense and let their defenders step up into the play.

Also worth a look:

  • Clarkson at Bemidji State– Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Central
  • Maine at (4) Boston College – Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

Perfect penalty kills – Congratulations to Colgate, Ohio State, Post, Providence, and St. Thomas on not having allowed a power play goal yet this season. Colgate have killed 28 consecutive power plays so far this season.

Minnesota Duluth – The Bulldogs fell to 2-4 on the year after two losses to Wisconsin last weekend. They get a bit more breathing room in their schedule, but since they already suffered a loss to Minnesota State, they need to be extra sharp in games they might have previously thought were likely wins.

Mercyhurst's Vanessa Upson – The freshman leads all rookies with 13 points and her seven goals rank fifth in the country overall.

Northeastern – The Huskies won two games last weekend, but still dropped a spot in the national polls.

Televised women's college hockey – On Sunday, Wisconsin vs. Ohio State will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network and Holy Cross vs. Northeastern will be on NESN.



Filed under: NCAA; wisconsin; ohio state; minnesota; colgate; mercyhurst; Cornell; Vanessa Upson; northeastern; big ten network; nesn; Minnesota-Duluth

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