February 18, 2022

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 21



6 min readby Nicole Haase



NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, Week 21

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.

(3) Wisconsin at (2) Ohio State

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

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Last weekend OSU coach Nadine Muzerall pulled her goalie in a tie game and it came back to bite her and ended up as the top play on SportsCenter that night for their opponents, Bemidji State. It was a gamble that didn't pay off, but Muzerall knew her team needed the three points from a regulation win in order to try and catch Minnesota atop the WCHA standings. As it is, the Gophers has sole possession of the top slot and the Badgers and Buckeyes are tied in second place. No offense to St. Thomas, but it's incredibly likely that Minnesota gets all six points this weekend and has the regular season conference title in the bag.

That means Wisconsin and Ohio State are playing for position – both in the conference tournament and Pairwise rankings. The second place WCHA team will likely face St. Cloud State in the first round. Third place would likely play Bemidji State.

These two met very early in the season, with Wisconsin taking a regulation and overtime win in late October. Both teams have changed quite a bit since then. Ohio State has seen Sophie Jaques really step up at the blue line. She's one of their best scorers, but also knows how to protect her team's own zone. Andrea Brändli has been a thorn in the Badgers' side throughout her career. She may or may not be back from the Olympics for this series, but backup Amanda Thiele has been stellar in relief and playing Wisconsin really seems to pull the very best games out of everyone on OSU's roster.

The Badgers have been up and down over the past few weeks, though their tie to St. Cloud State looks a lot less eyebrow-raising in light of how the Huskies have played against Minnesota and UMD over the two weekends since then. They had been struggling to score, putting dozens of shots on net, but not lighting the lamp. They definitely seemed to break out of that slump in a big way last weekend. Their x-factor might be Sophie Shirley, who has played spectacularly, moving the puck well and creating opportunities for herself out of seemingly nothing. But she has been absolutely snake-bitten when it comes to converting those opportunities into goals. If she can get that monkey off her back, it adds a whole other dimension and depth to the Badger attack.

Assuming that Minnesota sweeps the Tommies, neither UW or OSU would jump the Gophers in the Pairwise with a weekend sweep. But a weekend sweep and a WCHA tournament crown would likely give either of these teams the top seed heading into the NCAA tournament.  Two years ago, Ohio State put a damper on Wisconsin's senior weekend and kept them from winning the WCHA title. I'm guessing the Badgers would be happy to return the favor to the greatest extent possible.

(6) Yale at (9) Quinnipiac

Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream on ESPN+.

Yale is currently in first place in the ECAC, with a two-point lead over Harvard. The Crimson have a much easier slate of games this weekend, so the Bulldogs are looking to eke out every point they can. But Quinnipiac won both meetings between these two this season – a 3-1 victory back in October and a 3-2 overtime win as part of the Nutmeg Classic.

After a very strong start to the season, Quinnipiac has had more stumbles in the second half. They've played a number of tight games and are on a three game winning streak. Yale is on a six game winning streak dating back to a surprising loss to Brown.

Both of these teams have been successful this season in large part because of increased depth down their line chart. They're getting contributions from all their lines, forcing teams to defend them from top to bottom and not just focus on one group.

Look for how Quinnipiac transitions and moves the puck through the neutral zone. They counter quickly, move the puck well and are often in on the goalie before their opponent has crossed the blue line.

Yale has been building up to a team like their current roster. The program has grown so much in the past few years and now is a threat up and down their lineup. Their top two lines are great at dishing the puck and play very unselfishly. It feels like they have at least three different options every time they are in the zone. It makes them hard to defend and is frustrating for defenses, who can't cover ever inch of space at once. There's a creativity to how they move the puck and find open spaces.

If both teams are playing well, it's truly anybody's game and could be extremely fun.

(8) Colgate at (10) Clarkson

Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Clarkson is a half point behind Quinnipiac and three points behind Harvard in second place. Colgate is two points behind Clarkson and currently sits in fifth place. With St. Lawrence, Cornell, and Princeton currently sitting below them in the standings, where these teams finish in the regular season standings could the difference between an early exit from the ECAC tournament and, for Clarkson, an NCAA bid.

Clarkson won the first meeting between these two a few weeks ago 3-1. The Golden Knights have been trading wins and losses in February. They've not been able to develop that rhythm or carry momentum as the season winds down. Currently, they'd be the final team to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but any conference tournament upsets would leave them on the outside, looking in. They're looking to shore up their position and make sure they give themselves the best possible chance to advance deep into the ECAC tournament.

Colgate has a measured, deep attack across multiple lines. They have a lot of size and are gritty along the boards and not easily bodied off the puck. Clarkson will use the speed and skill of Caitrin Lonergan to try and catch the Raiders off guard. Despite the recent stumbles, Clarkson has steadily improved and found their identity this season. They will not give up on this season without a fight.

Also worth a look:

  • LIU at Franklin Pierce – Friday at 7:30 PM an Saturday at 4:00 PM Eastern
  • Providence vs. Boston University (home and home) – Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 5:00 PM Eastern
  • New Hampshire at Maine – Friday and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

Sarah Nurse – The former Wisconsin Badger set Olympic records for points (18) and assists (13) scored in a single Olympic tournament and became the first Black woman to win a hockey gold medal.

Respect for women's hockey – We suffered through a spate of bad takes, what if tweets and bad faith arguments again this week as people who never watch women's hockey felt it important to wonder if the sport should be removed from the Olympics since the US and Canada dominate. Bless Switzerland, Finland, and the Czech Republic (and all the other Olympic teams) for promptly showing how wrong these folks were.

↑  Hockey Humanitarian Finalists – Congratulations to UMD's Gabbie Hughes, RPI's Hannah Price, and Saint Mary's Jordan Keeley on being named finalists for the Award given to college hockey's "finest citizen" for leadership in community service.

My faith in the future direction of women's hockey in the US – Not only are there any number of questions that need an answer (not the least of which is whether it was somehow better to start Alex Cavallini on a torn MCL and little-to-no practice than Nicole Hensley) but there should be serious concerns about the lack of a development pipeline and who's next for the senior national team.

Wisconsin's Daryl Watts – With a nine-point weekend, Watts moved into sole possession of second place on the NCAA all-time career scoring list. She needs just 10 points to tie Megan Agosta's mark of 303. She's also tied for fifth in all-time goals with 133 and tied for fourth all-time in career assists with 160.

The impact of the NCAA on international hockey – Women who are committed to play, currently play, or have previously played in the NCAA were responsible for 131 goals and 200 assists in Beijing – or 74% of all scoring in the tournament.

(Photo: Yale Women's Hockey Twitter)



Filed under: NCAA; NCAA postseason; yale; colgate; clarkson; Quinnipiac; wisconsin; ohio state; Sarah Nurse; daryl watts; ice hockey

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