NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, December 29 - January 2
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NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, December 29 - January 2

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, December 29 - January 2 by Nicole Haase

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.

LIU at (8) Quinnipiac

Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

The Sharks are having an absolutely stellar season in their conference – they're undefeated in 14 games through the first half. This game will be a great opportunity for them to gauge how that prepares them for the postseason. LIU earned the very first auto-bid into the NCAA Tournament for NEWHA last year and promptly ran into eventual national champions Wisconsin. They're not going to be happy with just making it anymore and at some point, dominating your own league doesn't actually prepare you for facing the best teams in the country.

It can also be difficult to know what parts of your game need work when in the games you're playing, everything is clicking. Quinnipiac is a strong defensive team that will put LIU under pressure and force them into making quicker decisions. The whole pace of the game is going to be ramped up and the Sharks have to be able to make plays, dish the puck and find teammates without the luxury of time and space they usually have.

For Quinnipiac, the biggest issue they'll have to solve is LIU goalie Tindra Holm, who's been pretty much lights out. The Sharks need to slow down the Bobcat transition, but Quinnipiac has to be smart in their shot choices and not miss the small windows of opportunity they'll get. The Bobcats are going to look to own time of possession and block shots. Turning the puck back down the ice is going to be one of the ways LIU can try and wrest the puck back and keep Quinnipiac from long shifts and cycling the puck.

St. Anselm at (13) Boston College

Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Similar to LIU in the above game, this will be a really good opportunity for Saint Anselm to test where they stand at this point in the season. The Hawks are chasing the Sharks in the standings and will have to push through these final few months. NEWHA is only going to get more difficult to win and it's going to take improvement and getting even better than what was enough the previous season.

Saint Anselm got the easier assignment here with Boston College and I think they can match up with the Eagles more evenly. BC can be quick and score in bunches, but they don't always seem to remember that. If Saint Anselm can put pressure on them, keep them from pickup up too much speed in transition and hold on to the puck in the offensive zone so they can set up, I think this will be an interesting match.

If the Hawks only manage to take the puck into the zone and throw it on net while trying to get a line change, it's going to be a really long afternoon.

No one team has really separated themselves out in Hockey East and at the moment, BC would be on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament. They have to be consistent and string together wins. A victory here wouldn't move the meter too much for them, but a loss would be a big blow. They have to be aggressive in the second half if they're going to be in contention for an NCAA bid.

Northeastern at (14) Yale

Tuesday at 5:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

It's been a disappointing season for both of these teams thus far. It was to be expected for Northeastern with the number of legendary players they graduated, but it's a little more surprising from Yale, who still have Elle Hartje up front and Pia Dukarich in net, plus a really solid roster of players around them. They're struggling to score and just haven't seemed to find the magic that they had the past two seasons.

The Bulldogs have lost some very winnable games and are going to have a difficult time making a case to be the fourth or fifth ECAC team included in the NCAA tournament come early March. They need some quality wins and this would get them off on the right skate to start the second half.

Northeastern closed out the second half with a trio of needed wins after losing four of five in November. They'll be looking to build off that momentum as they have just four games before the Beanpot. The Huskies will be pushing hard to put together a stronger second half, even if it's only to put them in a better position heading into next season. They've been balancing on thin margins all season. If they can show even just small improvements on both offense and defense, it should give them a little more breathing room in close games.

Also worth a look:

  • Dartmouth at New Hampshire – Sunday at 2:00 PM Eastern
  • Sacred Heart at Harvard – Tuesday at 6:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

↑ PWHL kickoff – The long-awaited debut of the PWHL happens on Monday when Toronto hosts New York at 12:30 PM Eastern.

↓ Women's games on NHL Network – Looking back to the Rivalry Series, I just have to say that the barriers to accessing NHL Network make it so frustrating that the channel is the exclusive home of so much women's hockey content in the United States. I'm at the point where I'd be happy to pay a small fee to watch individual games because my other option is adding NHLN to my cable package at a minimum of $80 per month – and I say that as someone who still pays for cable and pays for an extra sports package. Inexplicably, NHLN is still that expensive after clearing those two barriers, which means it's absolutely out of the realm of possibility for a lot of people. Not only do I hate the assumption that if I watch women's hockey I'd also want to watch the NHL, but it's just such a limiting factor for the sport. Something has to give here. Please. Let's hope that the Stateside national broadcast partner for the PWHL isn't NHLN.

↑  2024 IIHF U18 Women's World Championships – The tournament starts on January 6. Based on their previous dominance and the firepower on their roster, it looks like Canada's tournament to lose, but Sweden and Finland were both outstanding in 2023 and USA has a whole lot to try and prove.

(Photo: Saint Anselm Women's Hockey)