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.
(6) St. Lawrence at (5) Clarkson
Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.
The Saints continue what might be the most surprising start to the season of any other team in the country. Picked to finish in the middle of the conference, they were a sub-.500 team last season and did not have significant offseason changes. But things have come together well for them as players are all playing to their potential and have found great chemistry together. Julia Gosling, who's currently playing with Team Canada at the Rivalry Series, leads the Saints with 11 goals and 21 points. But what has made this team successful so far is that they aren't reliant on a single player or line to carry them. That has opened up their game and they gain confidence with every win.
These two teams are playing two games this week, though they are marked as non-conference. The points won't count toward ECAC standings, but the games should serve as a good benchmark for both teams. The first game was Wednesday at Clarkson and the Golden Knights took a 6-3 win, though the score isn't really indicative of how close the game was. The teams were tied 2-2 at the midpoint of the final frame. Four penalties in the course of six minutes made all the difference as Clarkson scored short-handed, on the power play and with an empty net to secure the win.
The Golden Knights are very good at even strength, but are very opportunistic. It's a pretty difficult combination to defend against for 60 minutes. They are scrappy and tough and will fight for the puck in front of the net and along the boards, but also have players that can let the puck rip from the blue line.
(15) Boston College at (13) Vermont
Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Free stream on ESPN+.
Hockey East could not be more wide open right now and it's a conference in want of a team that will step up and grab hold of the opportunity. The problem pretty much across the conference has been consistency. For example, Boston College beat the UConn team that swept Northeastern last weekend, but left points on the table in a tie with Holy Cross and loss to Maine. Holy Cross may be better than we've seen from them in the past, but they are still a team below both of these squads in the rankings and standings and championship squads have to win all the winnable games week in and week out.
With some bigger names from the offense having departed, Katie Pyne has taken on a bigger role and is showing what she's capable of, leading the team in points and goals. But if BC is going to return to prominence atop Hockey East, they have to be a little more prolific on offense and a little tougher on defense. They need to be able to get more of a cushion and just be more dynamic. They showed in their first game against Wisconsin early in the season that they can play with pace, be dangerous in transition and shoot with purpose. Now I'd like them to get up for a game that same way when the opponent isn't ranked first.
Vermont has felt consistently on the edge of taking a big step in the conference for a couple of seasons and it would be cool to see them really pull it together and turn all that potential in realized dominance. They have one of the most creative skaters in the country in Natálie Mlýnková, but the skaters around her aren't always able to keep up with her. That said, I think the Catamounts probably have the most well-rounded roster in the conference, with Jessie McPherson in net and Sara Levesque on defense plus Evelyne Blais-Savoie up front.
This series really could be a turning point in either team's season and I'd say the team who comes out ahead is likely the front runner to take this season's Hockey East crown.
Saint Anselm at LIU
Friday at 3:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.
There's a pretty big divide between the top and bottom teams in NEWHA, with Saint Anselm, LIU, and Stonehill atop the standings and then a pretty severe drop off to the other five schools. That means that sometimes I go to highlight a NEWHA game and none of the matchups look all that competitive. But this week, we've got two of the top three and a thin schedule for games, meaning there's no excuse not to spend some time with this too-often overlooked group.
Last season, LIU won the season series with three wins, a loss and a tie, including a 2-0 win in the conference tournament championship game to give the Sharks the conference's first-ever auto-bid into the NCAA Tournament.
LIU started the season with four losses to ranked opponents in Northeastern and UMD, but have started strong in conference play with six straight wins. Things have been a little rockier for Saint Anselm, but they've rallied to win the last four in a row. The Hawks hold a single point advantage in the NEWHA standings, but the Sharks have two games in hand. This will be a good matchup of some of the best individual athletes in the conference – LIU's Tindra Holm is best among goalies in all metrics while Saint Anselm's Natalie Tulchinsky leads NEWHA in goals and is tied for the lead in points.
If the Hawks are going to carry on at the top of the standings, they have to find ways to be a little better on both sides of the puck. They're currently average the exact same number of goals scored and goals allowed per games (3.2). It's going to be difficult for them to sustain a winning record like that and ideally, every game wouldn't be balanced on edge and liable to go the other way at any given moment.
For the Sharks, who are allowing more goals than they're scoring, they have to be less reliant on Holm. No one on the team has more than 11 blocks and one of the people who leads the team is their top-scoring forward. Ideally someone else would be laying out for those pucks and looking to feed Sara Rourke on the breakout.
Also worth a look:
- RPI at (7) Yale – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
- Mercyhurst at (14) Princeton – Friday at 3:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
- Stonehill at Sacred Heart – Friday and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Stick Taps and Snark
↑ Maine forward Ida Kuoppala – The fifth-year forward notched her 100th career point with the Black Bears on November 3rd.
↓ Northeastern – The Huskies are 7-6 overall and 3-4 in conference and dropped out of the national rankings for the first time since February 2018.
↑ St. Cloud State – Despite losing both of their weekend games to Wisconsin, the Huskies moved up in the polls. SCSU is showing that they can consistently play with the best of the best and are getting noticed for it.
(Photo: LIU Women's Hockey/Twitter)