NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, February 23-25
- 5 min read

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, February 23-25

NCAA Women's Hockey: What to Watch, February 23-25 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.

(1) Ohio State at (2) Wisconsin

Friday at 7:00 PM and Saturday at 8:00 PM Central

Watch: Friday - Paid stream on BTN+, Saturday - live on Big Ten Network.

It doesn't get much better than the top two teams in the nation facing off on the final weekend, with the final game of the entire women's DI hockey season being broadcast on TV. While the outcome won't affect conference standings, it could have a big impact on where Wisconsin sits in the Pairwise heading into the postseason.

Ohio State are the regular season WCHA champions and have pretty much rolled through the season. They have just two losses – one to Colgate on the opening weekend of the season and one to St. Cloud State to start December. The Buckeyes are second in both team defense (1.27 goals allowed average) and team offense (5.20 goals per game). The only team more prolific on offense this season have been the Badgers.

One weakness for OSU this season has been special teams. They are 13th in the country on the power play, scoring on 16 of 77 opportunities, or 20.78% of the time. They're 20th in the country with a 83.91% penalty kill. While the numbers aren't flashy, they also haven't hurt the Buckeyes much overall. It's only a weakness if it changes the outcome and that hasn't really been an issue. It is, however, one small chink in a pretty strong armor and something I'd imagine teams will be looking to exploit. The Badgers' penalty kill hasn't been very strong, either, but they are fourth in the country on the power play, scoring double the goals Ohio State has with the player advantage.

The teams may have nearly identical team offense numbers, but how they've gotten there looks a little different. The Badgers have 10 players with 20 or more points. OSU have nine. But Wisconsin has three players with 50 or more points for the season and another two who've already passed 40 points. Ohio State's top scorers are three women with more than 30 points and six who've scored in the 20's. Both teams are deep, with scoring all the way down the roster and I'd imagine line matchups will be a big part of the strategy this weekend.

(11) Connecticut vs. Boston University (home and home)

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

Watch: Paid stream on ESPN+

UConn has to get points out of this weekend to ensure they secure their first-ever Hockey East regular season title. They have one second place finish, back in the 2007-08 season, and were third two seasons ago, but generally have finished no higher than fourth. This is a massive opportunity for the Huskies, who have only finished with 20 or more wins once before in coach Chris MacKenzie's ten-year tenure.

Connecticut currently sits five points ahead of Northeastern and need to earn at least two points to put the title out their reach. They have played a ton of tight contests this year and need to play smart to maximize their points in every game. The final standings could come down to a regulation versus overtime win and UConn doesn't want to regret leaving points on the table.

The Huskies took a 5-2 in over Boston University when the teams met a month ago. Importantly for Connecticut, their leading scorer, Jada Habisch, did not light the lamp in that game. The scoring came from across their lines, something they'll be looking to do again in these final two regular season games. Freshman Ashley Allard has been an important part of the Huskies' push for this title and she could be the offensive spark they need. They'll be counting on Megan Warrener and Tia Chan in net. Warrener still leads the country with a 1.01 goals against average.

(4) Minnesota at (8) Minnesota Duluth

Friday at 6:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 PM Central

Watch: Paid stream on BTN+

As with the above series, this is less about conference standings and more about securing NCAA positioning. At the moment, Minnesota Duluth sits 9th in the Pairwise and if the selection committee only considered that information, they'd be the first team out. The Bulldogs really need to get some points from the Gophers this weekend. They get home ice advantage, but both teams are coming off hard-fought weekends.

UMD took a 1-0 win over SCSU on Friday and tied them, losing in a shootout, on Saturday. Minnesota lost 4-3 in overtime on Friday and 4-0 on Saturday at Wisconsin. Skylar Vetter was outstanding for the Gophers in the OT loss and looks to be a big factor in this final regular season weekend. Minnesota Duluth is going to need to be sharp and smart in their shot selection, but not too precious in deciding when to let the puck fly. They don't need the perfect shot, they just need one that gives them a chance to score.

Abbey Murphy has been the offensive engine for the Gophers and when she does not score, they are unlikely to win. Against UW, she was looking to break out before her team even had full possession and the Bulldogs will need to watch for those transition plays because once she's off, she's difficult to catch and has the puck handling skills to maneuver around most everyone on the ice.

The Gophers took two 3-1 wins when the teams played in mid-November, but Minnesota Duluth's young goalie tandem has settled in since then. They have been so strong and could give the Minnesota offense fits. On the other end of the ice, I like the way UMD's forwards follow up shots and don't give up on a play. The Bulldogs come at the net in layers and will be looking for loose pucks and rebounds to clean up.

Also worth a look:

  • Vermont at (13) Northeastern – Friday at 2:00 PM and Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern
  • RIT at Penn State – Friday at 2:00 PM, Saturday at 1:00 PM, Sunday at 1:00 PM (if necessary) Eastern
  • Robert Morris at Mercyhurst – Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 Eastern (Sunday if necessary)
  • RPI at Brown – Saturday at 3:00 PM Eastern

Stick Taps and Snark

↑ Yale forward Elle Hartje – The senior's goal on Saturday gave her 164 career points, tying the program record which was set back in 1988.

↓ Colgate – The Raiders eked out the regular season win by 0.5 points over Clarkson, but their loss to Yale on Friday gave their NPI a big hit. They're currently fourth in the Pairwise.

↑ Wisconsin's Kirsten Simms – The sophomore has a seven point lead for the national scoring title after notching four points on two goals and two assists last weekend.

↓ Avoiding confusion – We're in the first partial week of the postseason and I've had to send several emails to conference commissioners to clarify what is happening in their respective tournaments. I don't think everything needs to be perfectly uniform, but we started with non-concurrent schedules and different scoring schematics and now we are switching from single elimination to best of three and back in tournaments and having weeks off in the postseason. It's my job and I have no idea what is happening, so I have no idea how casual fans are expected to keep up with this.

↑ Milestones – Clarkson's Dominique Petrie scored her 100th career point

(Photo: Ohio State Women's Hockey/Twitter)