NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, September 22-24
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NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, September 22-24

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, September 22-24 by Nicole Haase

It's the first week of the new season and while only a handful of teams are hitting the ice, the early action should be super entertaining. Get your subscriptions set up and get ready for another amazing season of women's college hockey.

(11) Penn State at (6) Northeastern

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

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

This time last year, Wisconsin went to Penn State and lost the very first game of the season. It was a massive upset win for the Nittany Lions and was the foundation they'd build off of to win their first-ever conference tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth. They'll be hoping to do the same thing this year against Northeastern.

Both teams have very different looking rosters. Two of Penn State's most impactful players, Olivia Wallin and Kiara Zanon, transferred out while Northeastern graduated three of the most impactful players in program history in Alina Müller, Maureen Murphy, and Chloé Aurard.

The focus for Penn State will be on sophomore Tessa Janecke, who has had a whirlwind of a past few years, going from U18 standout to national Rookie of the Year and Women's World Champion. She is going to draw much more attention thanks to her raised profile and the absence of the two transfers – so the Nittany Lions will need to find some other offensive weapons to take on bigger roles that include drawing attention from Janecke. The have a stellar goalie in Josie Bothun and were among the county's best in offense, defense and on both sides of special teams.

Northeastern returns 2023 Goalie of the Year Gwyn Philips to anchor last year's best defense in the country. Their defense is largely intact from last season, but at forward they'll be looking to newcomers Peyton Compton and Alex Lalonde to get to speed quickly and provide some of the offensive fireworks. The Huskies were one of the best at scoring shorthanded and breakaway goals over the past season. Their incoming offensive talent is definitely going to to score goals, but I'll be looking for them to also become big time playmakers.

Union at (13) St. Cloud State

Saturday at 3:00 PM and Sunday at 1:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

St. Cloud State doubled their overall wins and nearly tripled their conference wins over the previous year this past season. Brian Idalski made an immediate impact despite a late start and basically icing a roster he had no input on. Now he's added to the roster through the transfer portal while returning most of his big impact players, and the Huskies are going to be a tough team to beat.

In net, the combo of Jojo Chobak and Sanni Ahola is one of the best uses of a tandem goalkeeping setup as I've seen in recent history. Klára Hymlárová broke out as a leader on offense, not just a supporting character. The team really responded to their new coach. A number of players have now seen international action since the season ended, and the team now has more time with Idalski to get to know each other and work together. With all of these factors combined, I think St. Cloud is one of the scariest teams in the league. If opponents think they're getting an easy game against the same old Huskies, they'll be in for a rude awakening.

An off-season mascot change means that Union are now the Garnet Chargers, which is definitely superior to "Dutchwomen" but is going to take some getting used to. They are one of the programs that took a year off during COVID, and it put a halt to any progress the program had been making. This past season, they doubled their conference wins and added six more non-conference victories over the previous year. They have a young and talented team – last year's leading scorer was freshman Riley Walsh who will look to repeat her success in her sophomore season.

Also worth a look:

  • (9) Clarkson at Merrimack – Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM Central

Stick Taps and Snark

↑ Pro Impact – All 18 of the early free agent signings and 86 of 90 players selected in the PWHL draft played in the NCAA. There is simply no ignoring the impact NCAA women's hockey has on the international and professional stage. Minnesota Duluth led the way during the draft, with 11 alumnae selected. If you include the early free agents, Wisconsin has the most alumnae to join the league so far, with 13.

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