NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, January 26-28
- 6 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, January 26-28

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, January 26-28 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.

(2) Wisconsin at (7) Minnesota Duluth

Friday and Saturday at 3:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

Minnesota Duluth is coming of a pair of losses at Ohio State, including a 1-0 defeat last Saturday that also ended a long scoreless streak on the penalty kill. After holding off the number 1 team for most of the game, it was a deflating way to lose. The Bulldogs have had a tough non-conference schedule again this season, but other than a sweep of Bemidji State two weeks ago, haven't been able to string much together since early November. They did split a series with Wisconsin to start December and have won five of the last eight games against the Badgers.

For its part, Wisconsin has won seven straight, but it's been nearly two months since they've played another ranked team and there were some shaky starts through their recent winning stretch. This series starts a march to the end of the regular season that matches them against every other ranked team in the WCHA. The Badgers do tend to be a team that plays their best hockey in February and March, but I'm not sure this recent stretch has prepared them well for the level of play they're about to face. This is a crazy talented Wisconsin team on paper that hasn't yet put together a full weekend of games that lives up to their promise.

The Badgers' stats are certainly padded by some early non-conference games, but even if you remove their first two series, they're averaging nearly double the goals per game of UMD. Wisconsin is going to try and control the game and hold possession. If the Bulldogs are going to win, they have to disrupt the Badgers, especially in transition. UW's goaltending has been shaky at times and they'll need a big performance from their tandem.

(3) Clarkson at (9) St. Lawrence

Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

Clarkson is just a half point back of Colgate atop the ECAC standings and have put together a heck of a season so far, with just one loss and two ties. They have the best penalty kill and team defense in the country, thanks in large part to the 1.15 goals against average Michelle Pasiechnyk has put together. They're also sixth in the country in team offense and they're doing it by committee, with six different players who have 20 or more points. Darcie Lappan and Anne Cherkowski lead the team with 12 goals each, but the ability to score from anywhere on the ice through several lines have been crucial to the Golden Knights' success so far.

St. Lawrence has a five-game win streak. They had an early win over Quinnipiac and have beaten Yale twice, but haven't been able to take down any of the C-schools that have been leading the way in the ECAC – Colgate, Cornell or Clarkson. They currently sit third in the conference, 4.5 points behind Clarkson, and a win this weekend would be big for them. This wouldn't just help them in the standings, but would help push them a little further up the Pairwise, where they currently sit 10th and would be in a very precarious position to make the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid. Abby Hustler is having a breakout junior season where she's already tied her goal output from last season and exceeded her assist and points total. Defender Mae Batherson transferred from Syracuse for her fifth year and has helped stretch the offensive zone with a dynamic shot from the blue line.

These two teams played a pair of games earlier this season marked as non-conference matchups – Clarkson won both. The Golden Knights definitely seem to have the edge here, but I think St. Lawrence has what it takes to split this series.

(1) Ohio State at (10) St. Cloud State

Friday at 3:00 PM and Saturday at 1:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

The Ohio State juggernaut rolls on as their win-streak hit seven in a row last weekend. Of course, their last loss came to St. Cloud State in early December. Sanni Ahola made 46 saves when the Huskies won 2-1 and they'll need another outstanding goaltending performance if they're going to repeat the feat this weekend.

SCSU has the advantage of playing at home on their Olympic-sized 200x100 ice sheet, but with their speed and passing, Ohio State could definitely use that extra ice against the Huskies. The St. Cloud defense has to use the space to keep the Buckeyes to the outside and limit the looks they get on the net from there. Then they have to be smart about the offensive rushes and get pucks to the net. Klára Hymlárová has been the engine of their offense, but they've gotten goal scoring across three lines and that ability to adapt and not have one focus is part of what's made them successful.

The Buckeyes have a lot of weapons, but what they do best is possess the puck and limit the opportunities their opponents have. They push and wear down and move the puck and will look to keep St. Cloud on the ice instead of being able to change. Ohio State has been very good and looking at their stats, it feels like they haven't come close to hitting the ceiling with many of their offensive threats. St. Cloud has the confidence of knowing they can beat this team and they'll need to hold on to that and not get pushed out of their game as OSU tries to grind them down.

Also worth a look:

  • LIU vs. Saint Anselm – Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • (12) Princeton at (14) Yale  – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • Providence vs (13) Boston College  – Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

↑  Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall – She earned her 179th career win at the helm of the Buckeyes on Friday, making her the winningest coach in program history. Over eight seasons, she's amassed a 180-71-19 record.

↓ Quinnipiac – A rough stretch for the Bobcats has them down to #8 in the polls.

↑  Players reaching milestones – Congratulations to Colgate's Kalty Kaltounková, who broke the Raiders' career record for goals that had stood since 2002. She now stands at 80 lamp-lighters for her career. Congratulations to Wisconsin's Casey O'Brien, who reached 150 career points; as well as Colgate's Sydney Bard, Clarkson's Darcie Lappan and St. Lawrence's Abby Hustler, who each reached 100 career points.

↓ Gendered language in hockey broadcasts – There are plenty of people who think this is a pointless thing to care about, but as a journalist, I can't understate how important language is. There is no reason in 2024 for broadcasters to be using the words "defenseman" or "linesman", or calling the penalty "too many men" when the change to "defender", "linesperson", and "too many skaters" is so easy and simple. Men's hockey isn't the default, so let's not perpetuate the use of language that reinforces that long-held belief. Just because that's the way it has always been and some (or even many) people don't feel the term is a problem doesn't mean the change shouldn't be made. It takes a bare minimum of effort and can have a massive impact for those listening to games to hear. In the grand scheme of things, it isn't even high on the list of things that need to urgently change in hockey. But when I hear broadcasters making the effort, it signals to me a willingness to listen and adapt that has long been absent in the establishment of this sport. It feels more inclusive and shows a degree of care, whereas the opposite – insistently using "defenseman" as a means to kind of make a point – feels unnecessarily stubborn in the face of the fact that a simple word choice can make a world of difference to someone watching at home. The Beanpot broadcast was particularly bad about this, despite the fact that it was a women-led production.

↑  Women's Beanpot at TD Garden – Not only did the two games live up to their surroundings, but the folks of Boston showed up in a way they normally don't for women's college hockey. More than 10,000 people watched Northeastern win the title – which is close to the total amount of people that have attended a game at either BU or Northeastern thus far this season.

(Photo: Wisconsin Women's Hockey/Twitter)