NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, February 16-18
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NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, February 16-18

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, February 16-18 by Nicole Haase

It's the final weekend of the regular season in the CHA, ECAC, and NEWHA, with one more week of games in Hockey East and the WCHA. Playoff berths and positions are on the line.

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.

(5) Minnesota at (2) Wisconsin

Friday at 7:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+.

The WCHA schedule for its final two weekends is loaded, and Wisconsin drew the task of facing Minnesota and Ohio State. They do get to face both teams at home and they do have the benefit of having defeated both teams in the Frozen Four en route to their seventh National Championship last season.

First up are their border rivals, the Gophers, who come in riding an eight game win streak. Wisconsin has won 13 straight. Minnesota has the top goal scorer in the country in Abbey Murphy (29). The Badgers have Kirsten Simms, who's just behind her in goals (25), but leads the country in total points (56), and Casey O'Brien, who is second in total points (52). Plus Britta Curl, who is eighth (48), Lacey Eden who is 10th (45) and Laila Edwards, who is 14th (39). While you'd think that would tilt things in the Badgers' favor, Minnesota has done just fine this season letting Murphy carry them. No other player on her team has more than 11 goals.

The two teams split their weekend series in Minneapolis to start December and a similar outcome seems likely here. Goaltending will likely play a big part, as neither team has been as strong there as they have in recent seasons. The Badgers have been good at crashing the net and having multiple players following the puck into the net, which will be helpful if Lucy Morgan gets a start for the Gophers. She left a lot of rebound opportunities against St. Cloud State last weekend and was lucky to not have that come back to bite her. For the Badgers, Jane Gervais has had some mental lapses and given up soft goals throughout the season. Wisconsin needs her to be sharp, as the Gophers will look to exploit things with shots through traffic and from a distance.

Beyond the rivalry, this series is likely to have major implications in the national rankings. At the moment, less than a point separates #2 Colgate from #5 Clarkson in the NPI rankings that inform the Pairwise rankings that the championship selection committee will use to set the NCAA Tournament slate. The top three teams will have first round byes. The top four teams earn home ice. There is so much at stake and at this point, it appears that the difference between winning in regulation and winning in overtime could decide a team's path in the tournament and perhaps ultimately whether they win a title.

(13) Northeastern vs. (15) Boston College (home and home)

Friday and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+.

It looks like Connecticut all but has the Hockey East regular season title wrapped up, with a seven point lead, but Northeastern is certainly pushing to make sure the Huskies aren't breathing too easily. They are riding a 1o game unbeaten streak and overall have just one loss in the second half of the season.

They are currently tied with Boston College, who have played a ridiculous number of close games this season, including seven ties (five in conference). The Eagles have been standing on the knife's edge all season and can't seem to find the right balance. They've won two shootouts for the extra conference point in recent weeks, but it had been a long road before that.

One of the reasons for Northeastern's success is that they are getting scoring from across their line sheet. Skylar Irving leads the team, but players like Mia Langlois and Lily Shannon have settled into their roles and are helping to diversify the Huskies' attack.

The two teams will be fighting for position heading into the Hockey East Tournament, looking to get an edge on each other, but also hold off New Hampshire, who is just four points back.

Franklin Pierce vs. Assumption (home and home)

Friday at 6:50 PM and Saturday at 7:30 PM Eastern

Watch: Free stream via Assumption.

The NEWHA conference wraps up its regular season schedule this weekend and while the top end of the standings are set, there is a fight for fourth that will ensure home ice. Sacred Heart and Franklin Pierce are tied with 26 points. Assumption sits three points back at 23 points. NEWHA awards two points for a win, so Assumption will have their work cut out for them, but it definitely helps that they're facing one of their rivals for home ice.

The teams split their previous pair of games this season, each winning 4-0. Assumption is coming off a weekend sweep of Sacred Heart. Franklin Pierce lost a pair of games to Stonehill last weekend and five of their last eight, all but one of which was by a single goal. Mikayla Kelly leads the Ravens with 12 points, including goals in four of the last five games. She's been the steadiest scorer and they'll need her to be strong this weekend. Carissa Mudrak has been incredibly strong in net for the Greyhounds and they'll be looking for Sheridan Terrazzano to lead on offense.

Robert Morris at Lindenwood

Friday at 3:30 PM and Saturday at 2:10 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on FloHockey.

The fourth and final spot in the CHA playoffs is Lindenwood's to lose. The Lions are tied with RIT in the standings and are four points ahead of Syracuse, but they own all the tie breakers. Lindenwood has to merely keep pace with RIT.

Robert Morris secured their spot in the playoffs in their first season back after their university tried to cut their program, earning a tie and win over Penn State last weekend. They were two difficult and long games and it wouldn't be surprising if RMU rests players in this weekend's series. Lindenwood is having their best season since becoming an NCAA DI program, but struggled over the past few weeks, going 1-4-1, including a pair of losses against Mercyhurst last weekend.

The two teams split their series a month ago.

Also worth a look:

  • RIT at Penn State – Friday at 2:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • (6) Cornell at (14) Yale – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • Sacred Heart vs. Post (home and home) – Friday at 8:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Eastern
  • (10) St. Cloud State at (8) Minnesota Duluth – Friday and Saturday at 3:00 PM Central

Stick Taps and Snark

↑  Clarkson forward Nicole Gosling – Not only did she score career goals 98, 99 and 100 last weekend, but two of those three goals were overtime game-winners. Just an absolutely stellar performance at a crucial time of year.

↓ Transparency – I don't have any idea exactly what is going on at Colgate, but I do know all the wild speculation is distracting from their season and can't possibly be good. I do not expect full details, but to act as though there is no need to share some context around their disciplinary action is obtuse, obstinate, and not doing the ECAC any favors.

↑ Robert Morris goalie Emma Gorski – The grad student set a new program record with 65 saves in her team's 4-3 OT win over Penn State that clinched the a post-season berth for the Colonials.

↓ The cost of watching games – Certainly it's nothing new, but the fact that there are so many interesting games on this weekend and it would require upwards of $100 to pay the subscription fees to watch all of them is so frustrating. The access to PWHL games for free on YouTube really highlights how the NCAA conferences and the sport as a whole really do make it difficult to be a fan and follow all levels of women's hockey.

↑ Milestones – Ohio State's Cayla Barnes notched her 100th career point. Wisconsin's Casey O'Brien earned her 100th career assist. Sophomore Riley Walsh set a new Union program record for points in a season with 25.

↑ Brown – The Bears will host a playoff game for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

(Photo: Robert Morris Women's Hockey/Twitter)