NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, September 30 - October 2
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NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, September 30 - October 2

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, September 30 - October 2 by Nicole Haase

Welcome to NCAA What to Watch for the 2022-23 season!

(4) Minnesota Duluth at (11) Penn State

Friday at 4:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

The Bulldogs are coming off a season that took them all that way to the national championship game as an 8 seed in the tournament. They are without stellar scorer Élizabeth Giguère, but otherwise return most of the roster that accomplished that feat while also adding back Olympic and World Championship gold-medal-winner Ashton Bell.

They got off to a slow start against LIU in their first game of the season, needing two empty-netters to put the game away. On Thursday, they needed overtime to put away St. Lawrence. It's far too early to read too much into any of these things, but knowing that Penn State already shut down Wisconsin once, this has to be a game UMD is a bit more nervous about now than they may have been a few weeks ago.

Penn State played four and a half very good periods of hockey last weekend and then ran out of steam to keep the Badgers in check. Wisconsin exploded for nine goals in 27:33 of game time and only one of the goals was on the player advantage. The Nittany Lions were a bit humbled after riding so high.

They have the advantage of playing another top four opponent while they are fresh and the Bulldogs played already. The fatigue that may have set in last week shouldn't come into play here. PSU did an amazing job of limiting Wisconsin's shots, clogging up passing lanes and making a massive amount of blocks. That same blueprint likely applies to UMD, who have the advantage of knowing it's coming. This could be one of the best games of the season and we're only in week 2.

(15) Boston College at (8) Quinnipiac

Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Boston College fans are as hyped for their team as they've been in years. On paper, they look like a squad that can put pressure on Northeastern and try to reclaim to top spot in Hockey East. That being said, their most impressive players were on the roster the past two seasons and the Eagles did not have a lot to show for it.

Cayla Barnes is somehow just in her fourth year of eligibility and Hannah Bilka made a huge impression on the international stage. They are joined by a number of other impactful players and have Abbey Levy in net behind them. But they were just over .500 last season and nearly half their losses came by a single goal. They're a team that has had potential, but has had difficulty turning potential into results.

I was high on Quinnipiac early last season, particularly because of their rookies, and wow, did the Bobcats ever deliver. They finished fourth in the conference and lost to Ohio State in overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals. They are returning fundamentally their same roster, while adding one of the best players from Canada's gold-medal-winning U18 squad in Madison Chantler.

Both teams have a lot to prove and this is their first real test.

Bemidji State at (10) Clarkson

Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

When these two teams met in Bemidji last season, the Beavers came away with a win and a tie. Clarkson outshot BSU in the tie, but Bemidji had the advantage in their win. They also doubled up the Golden Knights in blocks.

Bemidji State was one of the worst defenses in the country last year overall, allowing more than 3.5 goals per game. The defense was young and took a while to settle in. But they held Clarkson to two goals all weekend when they met. The Beavers can be an incredibly frustrating, smothering team that gets in opponents' heads and keeps them from being able to settle into their style. The Golden Knights have to be prepared for that and be willing – and able – to adjust, get creative, and find ways to get the puck to the net.

In the other direction, Bemidji has to be quick in transition and confident when they have the puck. They have the talent and depth to not have to just throw the puck at the net and go for a change, but they will need to be smart with the shots they take.

Also worth a look:

  • (6) Colgate at Mercyhurst – Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
  • (1) Ohio State at Minnesota State – Friday at 3:00 PM and Saturday at 1:00 PM Central
  • Stonehill vs. Connecticut (home and home) – Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 5:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

Mercyhurst's Thea Johansson – The rookie scored a hat trick in her second-ever collegiate game.

Clarkson – With both  Laurence Frenette and Dominique Petrie lost to injury for the season before it even started, the Golden Knights' prospects took a hit. They seem to have figured out whatever took Sara Swiderski off the roster for a week or so, which is good news, but in the stacked ECAC, their job just got so much harder.

UMD's Ashton Bell  – The fifth-year player rejoined the Bulldogs after centralizing with Canada and promptly netted a hat trick in their second game.

Wisconsin – The very first game of the season was an upset as the Badgers fell to Penn State. It was not the start anyone expected from Wisconsin, though they were able to rebound with a decisive 9-1 win in the second game of the series.

Union's Riley Walsh  – The rookie three goals in her first two games, including one power play goal, one shorthanded goal, and one at even strength and was named ECAC Rookie of the week.  

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