December 3, 2021

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 11



5 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 11

(5) Minnesota at (1) Wisconsin

Friday at 7:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

The Badgers are on a roll and just continue to pick up steam. They have a 22-game unbeaten streak dating back to last season. Wisconsin has also dominated the recent series with Minnesota. They are 10-3-2 in the last 15 games against Minnesota and undefeated with a 6-0-2 record over the last eight meetings. But their schedule gets tougher from here on out.

Minnesota had won 11 straight dating back to an OT loss in early October against UMD before they lost to Colgate on Saturday. They close out their first half with this Border Battle series and two more against Minnesota Duluth.

One reason Colgate was able to get the win over the Gophers was they were able to contain Taylor Heise. The November National Offensive Player of the Month did not have a point in the game, despite having 10 shots on goal (five more than anyone else on her team). Wisconsin will need to get between her and the net and limit what she's able to do with the puck if they're going to continue their undefeated streak.

Wisconsin has been virtually unstoppable on offense. They are second in the country in team scoring, averaging five goals per game. Makenna Webster is the only player in the country averaging more than two points a game and Casey O'Brien leads the country with 16 goals.

They've also been very good on defense, allowing just 14 goals in 16 games played. However, they're down to six defenders, as transfer Kendra Nealey had season-ending knee surgery. These games are quick and chippy. The Gophers will run four lines and it will test the Badger blueline's fitness.

(2) Ohio State at (8) Minnesota Duluth

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

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Ohio State's only two losses this season came at the hands of Wisconsin. They've won six straight and lead the country in team offense, scoring 5.19 goals per game. They are particularly good in the second period – it's where they've recorded the most shots and goals. Sometimes they take a little bit of time to get going, but they've outscored opponents 83-23 overall.

With the Buckeyes' transfers, they've added a lot more depth, with dynamic players across all lines. It makes them a tough team to match up against. Both Paetyn Levis and Sophie Jaques have gotten more comfortable letting the puck fly – they lead the team in shots and it's paying off. In years past, it felt like there were a few players that everyone else was trying to get the puck to. This year, there's more confidence showing from each player as they look to make plays and not necessarily dish the puck off.

The Bulldogs had a rough start to the year, facing Minnesota and Wisconsin in the first few weeks. They split with the Gophers and lost a one-goal game to Wisconsin, showing they deserved to continue to be in conversations about the top teams. This past weekend in Washington D.C., they lost to Penn State before taking an OT win from St. Lawrence. UMD had two straight bye weeks to start the month. They were well-rested, but weren't able to build up any momentum. Now they close out the first half of their season with OSU and Minnesota.

Emma Soderberg has been great in net for the Bulldogs. They've been thinner on defense, but the team has stepped up. There are a lot of great pieces on this team, but I'm not sure they've reached their full potential as a group. This first half schedule likely has a lot to do with it. It's hard to be in system against those teams.

I'm hoping to see them look cohesive here before the break and I think they've got more in them than we've seen. They've fallen some in the rankings, but I would not bet against them if the postseason started today. They're scrappy and gritty and have some incredible goal scorers.

Cornell at (3) Northeastern

Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Televised on NESN. Free stream outside New England on CollegeSportsLive.

Northeastern was supposed to be off playing in the World University Games, but they were cancelled due to COVID precautions. Instead, they're playing two against Cornell. In some ways, I think this will be a net positive for them.

Northeastern seems to be far and away the best team in Hockey East. Unfortunately for them, that's not necessarily saying a whole lot this year. The conference as a whole is struggling with consistency. If and when the Huskies make it out of conference play, I fear they're not going to be as prepared as they'll need to be. It was an issue against UMD last season and they were lucky to come out of that game with the win. (Spoiler alert: it was because they had Aerin Frankel, who kept them in it until they finally adjusted, late in the game.)

I don't think they want to take that chance again this postseason, so games like these against Cornell become even more important. The Huskies know their Hockey East opponents well and know how to dominate. They need to learn how to handle teams they aren't quite as familiar with, playing different styles of hockey.

They've been much better since Alina Müller came back from injury, though now it seems Chloe Aurard may be missing some time.

I've written about this before, but there is probably no program that was more hurt by the COVID shutdown than Cornell. After a disappointing loss in the 2019 Frozen Four, they were in an amazing position to go all the way in 2020. They were the top team in the country. And the tournament wasn't played. Then Ivy League schools didn't play last season. So now Cornell has basically a whole new roster and a lot of unfulfilled dreams.

They've had good wins and bad losses and I think are still really trying to figure out who they are as a team. It may be a relatively down year for the Big Red, but they have some very intriguing recruits coming in and a talented roster that I think just needs some time to find its identity. Despite their 4-5-1 record, I believe this is a team that can beat ranked opponents.

Also worth a look:

  • Mercyhurst at Syracuse – Friday at 7:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • (8) Clarkson at St. Lawrence – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • Boston University at (8) Yale – Wednesday at 7:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

National Players of the month – Congratulations to Minnesota's Taylor Heise (offense); Northeastern's Aerin Frankel & Mercyhurst's Jenna Silvonen (goaltenders); and LIU's Tindra Holm (rookie) on being named National Players of the Month for November.

Boston College – The Eagles gave up 108 shots over two games with Colgate and Mercyhurst last weekend. They have lost three straight and seven of the last nine.

Colgate – The Raiders had lost four straight games to Minnesota before beating the Gophers this weekend in the championship of the Smashville Showcase. Congrats on the big win!

Minnesota Duluth – November wasn't very kind to the Bulldogs. They had two bye weeks to start the month, so they played just four games – two wins over Bemidji, a loss to Penn State, and a win over St. Lawrence in overtime. UMD went from six in the polls to being tied for ninth, garnering just 21 points in this week's vote.

(Photo: Minnesota Women's Hockey/Twitter)



Filed under: NCAA; Boston college; colgate; minnesota duluth; minnesota; wisconsin; Cornell; northeastern; ohio state

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