Come back each week for a preview of interesting NCAA games coming up and some thoughts on what happened in the previous week's action.
(7) Yale at (3) Colgate
Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.
As an Ivy with just four games under their belt, it's really difficult to understand what exactly to expect out of this Yale team. Their lone loss is to Quinnipiac – but having seen the Bobcats humbled this past weekend, that doesn't seem like so obvious a defeat as it might have a few weeks ago. Then the Bulldogs struggled to find much offense and eked out a 2-1 win over Harvard. Having played two more games than most of the other ECAC squads, Yale currently leads the standings in points, but this game should really give us a good read on which team is truly atop the conference.
Elle Hartje is probably pass for pass, shot for shot, the most underrated player in DI and has been for at least a year. Her vision on the ice is so good you can only laugh at some of the plays she helps create. She's an impressive skater and playmaker that's driving the engine of Yale's offense.
Colgate have won six straight after an opening weekend split with Ohio State. While the Raiders' motto is "We Play Free," there's been something almost methodical in how this team dismantles and wears down opponents. As expected, Kalty Kaltounkova and Danielle Serdachny lead the team in points, but an important part of Colgate's early success has been the play of Neena Brick and Kaitlyn O'Donohoe – both of whom have been actively involved on offense, giving the team more options, drawing defensive pressure and making the team overall more dynamic.
They got a scare last weekend from RPI and I think that game will have served as a little bit of a wake up call for them in terms of not assuming anything about any opponent, but also in terms of reminding them that they can't rest on what they did last year or what a top handful of players are doing.
(1) Wisconsin at (11) St. Cloud State
Friday at 3:00 PM and Saturday at 1:00 PM Central
Watch: Free stream on BTN+.
Wisconsin owns a 95-9-4 record against St. Cloud, but one of those nine losses came last season in the Badgers' Fill the Bowl game. Jojo Chobak was spectacular and pitched a shutout in a 1-0 win in front of more than 14,000 fans. The Huskies are better this year, with more depth on both ends of the ice and the confidence to know they can hand the defending national champs their first loss of the season.
The Badgers are notoriously slow starters in the first game of a series – the lone goal in last season's SCSU win came in the first period and then St. Cloud shut them down. I'd imagine something close to that is the blueprint for these games. One other place St. Cloud will look to take advantage is on the power play. Eight of Klára Hymlárová's 17 goals last season came on the player advantage. Wisconsin took six penalties last Friday at St. Thomas.
The bigger ice sheet in St. Cloud sometimes leads to more open play, but often leads to more lapse in judgement penalties, particularly from younger players that get caught out and UW has to play smart. In addition, the Huskies are a big, physical team that will make them work for every inch, particularly along the boards and in the corners. This will be their toughest set of games yet and while they've pulled away with wins in some of the close contests where they weren't 100% on their game, the margin for error is a lot smaller here.
For St. Cloud's part, they can't let Wisconsin get too comfortable – the Badgers' game is at its best on open ice and in transition and the larger ice sheet can really lend itself to that if UW is allowed to get comfortable and find their footing. The Huskies showed last year that they can go up and down the ice with Wisconsin and don't need to rely on clogging the middle with a few attempts to break out to stymie them. They need to try and pinch the play in from the boards to stop them from gathering momentum.
On offense, they need to test the goalies and force them to be as shut down as their own duo if they're going to get a win. A lot of teams try to shoot from distance and look for deflections, but I think the key for them is to get in close, past the players selling out to block the puck and force the inexperienced Badger netminders to deal with them.
(6) St. Lawrence at RPI
Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.
Sorry Colgate, but everyone that isn't a Raiders fan was pulling for RPI last Friday. It wasn't just that they were in a great position to pull an upset on a highly ranked team – the Engineers showed so much resilience, skill and confidence to keep tying the game. It was just three seasons ago that RPI was 0-33-1 and it was delightful to see how far they've come in both their games last weekend. They weren't in those games solely on the back of strong goaltending and a prayer; they were truly competitive.
Even with the two losses last weekend, they're 6-3-3. Just a third of the way into the season their 36 goals are equal to 70% of the goals they scored all last season. They've doubled their average goals per game, are putting 10 more shots a game on goal and are allowing .7 goals fewer per game. It's a wholesale, program-wide improvement that's really fun to watch.
St. Lawrence has been the surprise of the early season. Picked to finish sixth in the ECAC and starting the season unranked, they are now up to sixth in the country and have just one loss so far this season. They handled their two toughest tests so far last weekend, downing #14 Princeton 7-2 and taking down then-5th-ranked Quinnipiac 4-1.
The Saints are averaging 4.2 goals per game, about two more than they scored last season, which is a big change for them. In the past, they've struggled to put teams away despite keeping scores close. Their ability to not just score more goals, but possess the puck and hold the offensive zone has rounded them out and made them a much bigger threat than anyone was expecting this year.
Julia Gosling had a breakout season last year, but what's important for SLU this season is that she's not doing anything on her own. With four players in double-digit points already, the Saints' offense is not just individually more potent, but is forcing opposing defenses to more closely mark more players and adjust their approach, giving Gosling more time and space. Roster depth is never just about who can put points on the board. When these other players step up, it forces teams to defend them and takes some of the pressure off on other parts of the ice.
I just think this is going to be a really fun game, especially for those with no stake in the outcome.
Also worth a look:
- (7) Yale at (10) Cornell – Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern
- Maine at (14) Boston College – Friday at 2:00 PM and Saturday at 3:30 PM Eastern
- (12) Vermont at Holy Cross – Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern
Stick Taps and Snark
↑ Undefeated teams – Clarkson, Cornell, and Wisconsin are the only three teams in the country who have not yet suffered a loss
↓ Quinnipiac – A pair of weekend losses dropped the Bobcats from 5th to 9th in the polls.
↑ Penn State coach Jeff Kampersal – Sunday's 6-2 win over Syracuse was Kampersal's 100th with the Nittany Lions.
↓ Unscored-upon goalies – After highlighting Sanni Ahola's perfect season so far, she gave up a goal in the opening minute of her game last weekend. The jinx is on and now her Goals Against Average is a whopping 0.20.
↑ RPI – The Engineers had a winless season just three years ago and this year are already three wins away from matching their total from all of last season. They jumped out to their best 10-game start in 18 years and pushed two top-ten teams to the brink last weekend. They're one of the most fun teams to watch right now and it's pretty impossible not to pull for them.
↑ Minnesota goalie Skylar Vetter – She set the Minnesota program record for saves in a single game with 52 in the Gophers' 4-3 overtime loss to Ohio State on Friday.
(Photo: RPI Women's Hockey/Twitter)