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) St. Lawrence at (9) Quinnipiac
Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.
The Saints had their best weekend of the season last time out, defeating #6 Cornell and #3 Colgate. With an expanded ECAC tournament making this the second-to-last weekend in the regular season schedule, the Saints are looking to secure themselves a top-four spot in the standings, which gives them a bye in the opening round of the conference tournament. Three points would put them in the clear and taking any points off Quinnipiac, who is currently in fifth, would go a long way to securing their position.
St. Lawrence had a really strong start to the season, but losses to the other ranked ECAC teams made me wonder if they were for real. But they've put together a strong second half, putting together an 8-1 record since the January 12. The only loss was during a weekend split with Clarkson. Abby Hustler has proven to be part of the second-half catalyst and was just named national Player of the Month. She lead the country with 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points in January.
Quinnipiac has had a rough couple of weeks, including four straight losses before they beat Princeton last Saturday. The offense has gone cold at times and a group averaging nearly four goals a game overall had just five goals total in the four game losing streak. They had strong goaltending and have shown a really strong defense at times in the season, but when things go sideways, they seem to go really sideways and the Bobcats haven't shown an ability to recover. I'd imagine confidence is an issue at this point and that a large portion of this slump was mental over anything else. Their series against Minnesota Duluth showed what this team is capable of, but they just don't seem to be able to find all the pieces and put them together at the moment.
(11) Connecticut vs. (13) Northeastern
Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.
UConn has an eight point lead on Northeastern in the Hockey East standings, but Northeastern has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past several weeks. It's not always pretty, but NU has found a way to win again and again in close games and they are building momentum. With the experience of their staff and on the roster, they are not a team I'd want to face in the playoffs if they can continue the trajectory they are on.
Connecticut has also put together a series of wins and ties and it feels like they've kind of quietly put together a really solid season. They've never won the conference and their lone 2nd place finish was in the 2006-2007 season. It's absolutely huge for this team to be in this position and in the drivers' seat heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.
Jada Habisch has been the offensive driver for UConn, leading the team with 14 goals and 23 points, but Kathryn Stockdale has started to come on in the second half and she lit the lamp in each of their last two games. This isn't an team that will overpower you with offense, but Megan Warrener leads the country in both goals against average, at 0.84 and save percentage, at .960 and the team is allowing just 1.3 goals per game.
(5) Minnesota vs. (10) St. Cloud State
Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Central
Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.
St. Cloud State have lost five straight and are in a frustrating position to face another top-five team for the third straight week. They are in a precarious position at 10th in the Pairwise and really need to add get some results before the end of the regular season if they're going to make a push for an NCAA bid. Minnesota is one of the teams the teams they've beaten already this season and they'll be looking to repeat the outcome, but the Huskies are struggling with the mental toll of the season and their losing streak.
Emma Gentry has been lights out for SCSU. She has four goals over the last four games and she came up huge in the faceoff circle again and again in Madison. The Huskies haven't been as prolific offensively overall and could use a couple of games where they're putting more than one or two goals in the net.
For Minnesota, it continues to be the Abbey Murphy show. She has 16 more goals than anyone else on her team and has just under double the shots on goal of any of her teammates. As she goes, the Gophers go, but despite that being information all their opponents have, no one has been able to slow her down, particularly on the power play. She did a have a relatively slow start to the second half, but she's scored five goals and added four assists over the past four games.
The WCHA looks pretty decided. There's a chance the Gophers could pass Wisconsin for second place, but they aren't going to be caught for third, so are fairly locked in there. Where Minnesota is looking for movement is in the Pairwise. Currently fifth, they would be on the road in the NCAA tournament and facing the fourth team, which is currently Clarkson. A top four spot means they could host and a top three spot means facing a team that had to play in the regional semifinal and would have them facing, at best, the sixth seed (currently Cornell). The difference in NPI from second to fifth place is just 1.28 and there looks to be room for movement with so many ranked matchups on deck for the final few weeks.
Also worth a look:
- (3) Clarkson at (12) Princeton – Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern
- (3) Clarkson at (9) Quinnipiac – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
- Stonehill vs. Franklin Pierce – Friday at 3:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
Stick Taps and Snark
↑ Cornell forward Izzy Daniel – The senior reached 50 career points. She's having a massive season, leading the country in points per game (2.00) and assists per game (1.96).
↓ Yale – The Bulldogs dropped out of the polls this week.
↑ Syracuse goalie Allie Kelley – The grad student became the first-ever goaltender in program history to record 1,000 saves in a season.
↓ Colgate – The Raiders lost both of their games last weekend, which dropped them to fourth in the polls.
↑ Ohio State – The Buckeyes set a new program record with three short-handed goals on Saturday.
↓ Overlapping events – The PWHL announced big events for the third weekend in March and I'm finding it hard to be excited for something I'd normally be over the moon about because those games will overlap with NCAA regional semifinal and quarterfinal games. To some extent, there's no good time for any of this and there will always be something that runs concurrently. But it also doesn't feel like too much to ask to not overshadow the NCAA tournament. Thus far, there doesn't seem to be much from the league in terms of working with or alongside the college game, which I really, really hope is a product of the rush of the first season and not a signal for what to expect in the future.
↑ On the rise – Brown achieved double-digits in the win column for the first time since 2006. RPI had a weekend sweep for the first time since 2008. Lindenwood set a new program high in wins during their NCAA era.
(Photo: Connecticut Women's Hockey/Twitter)