NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 17
- 4 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 17

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 17 by Nicole Haase

Schedules have been in flux due to COVID, with a number of series getting canceled, called off, and rescheduled. All information here is current as of the time of publish, but is subject to change.

(1) Wisconsin at (5) Minnesota

Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 4:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Wisconsin's lone loss came at the hands of the Gophers in early December. In fact, the Gophers took four of the possible six points and the Badgers took just one in that series. It was the sloppiest Wisconsin has looked this season and likely the best the Gophers have played.

Minnesota pressured the Badgers in all areas of the ice, out-hustled them for pucks and were relentless in a way Wisconsin struggled with. The sheet at Ridder is five feet narrower than LaBahn, giving the Badgers even less room to maneuver than they are used to. Don't expect Wisconsin to be as caught off guard this time around, but do expect a fast-paced, back and forth game. There won't be a lot of puck possession on either end and they'll both need to take advantage of the opportunities that creep up.

Before these teams' last meeting, I said the Badgers needed to contain Taylor Heise, and she scored seconds into the first game. As I said then, as goes Heise, so go the Gophers. She is the nation's top scorer, she is their offensive leader and playmaker and if Wisconsin wants to muster more than a point this weekend, they have to force the Gophers to use other means to score.

The Gophers are coming off an OT loss to Minnesota State while Wisconsin hasn't played a DI series since January 2. They played an exhibition a week later, but with cancellations and their bye week, it's been a long stretch off the ice for the Badgers. Generally, they've struggled coming back from a break – the last Border Battle was a good example. They have to be sharp or they'll find themselves in an early hole that will be almost impossible to dig out of.

(8) Minnesota Duluth at (2) Ohio State

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

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Welcome to Olympic year chaos. Both these teams have top-tier goalies. That's why they'll be playing in Beijing and not with their squads until mid-to-late February. UMD's Emma Söderberg has departed to join Team Sweden in camp while OSU's Andrea Brändli has left to join Switzerland.

This was going to be a very interesting matchup anyway. The two teams split their series early in December. OSU has played just two games since then – two blowout wins over Lindenwood. But without their starting goalies, it's a different matchup entirely. OSU has Amanda Thiele, who's started seven games this season and was just named to the Goalie of the Year watch list. She's had plenty of experience in net and in her short season so far this year, has some of the best stats in the country.

Minnesota Duluth's backups have seen far less ice time. Söderberg herself spent two years sitting on the bench as Maddie Rooney's backup. There hasn't been much call for additional goalie in Duluth for while, so sophomore JoJo Chobak and freshman Holly Gruber have a tough test ahead of them this weekend. Ohio State leads the WCHA in goals scored. They've settled into a deep, rotational offense that ends up being relentless. There's scoring across all their offensive lines and they have threats like Sophie Jacques at the blue line.

There won't be much tape on the goalies for the Buckeyes to study, but you can guarantee they will focus on putting pucks to the net and keeping the pressure on so whoever gets the start can't catch their breath.

UMD took a little time to find their full footing this season. They had a lot of roster movement and it didn't all gel completely right away. They've split series with Minnesota and OSU and swept Harvard. They'll have to face this series and one against Wisconsin without Söderberg, but otherwise I expect them to sail to the end of the season. This is a big weekend for them.

(9) Harvard at (4) Quinnipiac

Friday and Saturday at 3:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

As we get into late January, it's impossible not to look at standings, polls, and the Pairwise. Harvard has been hovering at the bottom of the polls and rankings and they have one of the toughest schedules of anyone in the country in the coming weeks. They are a team on the cusp that should make the postseason, but would like to be in a more secure spot when March comes around. They helped themselves last weekend with a win over Yale and could advance their case with a win here.

Three of Quinnipiac's last four games have come against top-10 teams and they have two losses and a tie in those games. They rebounded with a strong win over Union, but could use the push of this win as they head into a tough slate of ECAC games.

The Bobcats are great with putting pressure on teams and disrupting their flow of play. Harvard needs to not get flustered and work to keep the puck out of Quinnipiac's possession.

Also worth a look:

  • Boston University at (3) Northeastern – Friday at 4:00 PM Eastern
  • Providence at Vermont – Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • Cornell at (10) Yale – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel – Became the program's first player to ever reach 3,000 saves on Tuesday.

Minnesota and Yale – Both teams lost games last weekend and dropped in the most recent polls.

Vermont's Maude Poulin-Labelle  – The junior defender scored Vermont's first natural hat trick in 14 years and became the third player in program history with three career hat tricks.

IIHF – We still have no word on what's happening with the U18 Women's World Championships. The initial furor died down and things have just been in limbo ever since.

Harvard's Becca Gilmore – The senior became the 25th player in program history to record 100 points.

Minnesota State – The Mavericks defeated Minnesota in OT on Saturday to end the Gophers' 53-game win streak over them.  It was the Mavericks first victory over the Golden Gophers since January 20, 2007, and the first at Ridder Arena since January 25, 2004.

(Photo: Ohio State Women's Hockey/Twitter)