Candace: In last week’s entry, we discussed the Terriers missing Marie-Philip Poulin, but it didn’t seem to slow them against BC. Do you think losing twice to Wisconsin helped BU?
Arlan: Any time a team plays against a top-quality opponent, I think that there is a benefit. The games are at a fast pace that just can’t be simulated in practice or against teams of a lesser caliber. How much can we read from the BU and BC game though, when the Eagles outshot the Terriers 31-15 despite losing 4-1?
Speaking of teams playing Wisconsin, the last time I saw Minnesota-Duluth, it was against the Badgers. In that one, UMD came out very strong and controlled the play early. Their first meeting of the season with in-state rival Minnesota on Friday started much the same. The Bulldogs didn’t have as many shots in the first against the Gophers, but they had several Grade A chances. They didn’t break through on those, but did get the first goal of the weekend on a nice tip in the second period. Thereafter, a rash of penalties blunted their momentum, and I’m sure the absence of Haley Irwin didn’t help.
Another team missing a star was Ohio State. Were you surprised that the Buckeyes were able to stay close to Wisconsin as long as they did without Natalie Spooner?
Candace: I think that the evidence from the BU-BC game reinforces what you said last week about the Eagles missing Schaus. The offense seems there, but they need Corinne Boyles to really step up, and in her first two years, she hasn’t had the opportunity, because Schaus was so dominant.
Regarding Ohio State staying close to Wisconsin, I was surprised, but Mark Johnson has indicated the Badgers are a work in progress, and Alex Rigsby has faced a lot of shots, including facing 30 or more in four games so far. It seems that the Badgers are counting on their high-flying offense to keep them in the win column.
Speaking of Duluth, every time I think they are ready to turn a corner, they come up empty. The Gophers certainly dismantled them Friday night. What do you think about the Bulldogs’ progress?
Arlan: Comments that we’ve made regarding other teams definitely apply to the Bulldogs; with the number of young players that they feature, they will also be a work in progress. I was very impressed with how they started Friday’s game minus Irwin. Year in and year out, UMD will be one of the faster teams in the country, and that was on display. They move the puck well, and for a team with so much youth on their blue line, it is impressive how successfully they were able to break out of their zone against Minnesota. It does seem that Jessica Wong is on the ice a ton, and freshman Brigette Lacquette was much more of a force than she was a couple weeks back versus Wisconsin. Their other high-impact rookie, forward Jenna McParland, did not have the best game Friday versus the Gophers, and seemed to get frustrated. She had three penalties, Lacquette had a couple as well, and Shannon Miller voiced her displeasure afterward regarding their ill-advised infractions. I think it is part of the package with young players, no matter how talented. Rachel Ramsey, who has been Minnesota’s best freshman to date, picked up a could minors of her own in game one. Young players make mistakes, and then in trying to make up for them, compound them with penalties.
Veteran players are huge. Gophers sophomore Kelly Terry had at least three top-quality chances in the second period alone on Friday night that she couldn’t convert; had Minnesota lost, she’d have seen them in her sleep. Minnesota won the opener against UMD because they got three goals from their senior captains and an empty-netter from junior Megan Bozek, who is playing great hockey for them. Both teams’ goalies stoned a few shots that easily could have been in the net in that game. For example, Jennifer Harss stopped both Amanda Kessel and Sarah Erickson on third-period breaks to keep her team in it. Harss was much better than she was against Wisconsin. You mention the Badgers’ firepower, but another plus they’ve had is that Alex Rigsby is far ahead of where she was 12 months ago, and she keeps Wisconsin even until that big offense gets rolling.
That is what BC needs from Boyles. I can’t tell the difference in a box score between soft goals and defensive breakdowns, so the blame doesn’t fall all on her. She isn’t going to be Molly Schaus overnight. Even when a goalie’s defense fails her, she has to be able to erase most of those mistakes and make them quickly forgotten.
Some notable upsets this weekend. What surprised you the most?
Candace: For me, it would have to be Union beating Clarkson. Even though I picked Bemidji to beat Minnesota State, I thought the Beavers might be flat after beating Minnesota. Clarkson however, is supposed to be one of the better squads in the ECAC, and Union one of the weaker. I found that result a stunner. Kate Gallagher stopped 33 against Clarkson and 52 against St. Lawrence, while Émilie Arseneault scored the game-winner. What do you think of Union beating Clarkson?
Arlan: Good for the Dutchwomen. I watched them twice back on opening weekend, and whatever their failings, lack of effort isn’t one of them. I also saw a little of their meeting with Northeastern via webcast, and if Union is supposed to roll over when playing teams like the Northeastern, Minnesota, or Clarkson, it didn’t get the memo. As with many teams, where the goals will come from on any night is a question. That likely helped trip up Bemidji as well. The Beavers will work for 60 minutes, although Friday required a few seconds beyond that, but they don’t have a lot of pure goal scoring. What I found remarkable about the Minnesota State win is that the box score shows the Mavericks getting five shots on goal in 17 seconds of full-strength OT. Were the Beaver skaters even on the ice?
Candace: Hard to say how Bemidji gave up so many shots so quickly. Maybe the Mavericks simply had an extra jolt of energy. It is a disturbing stat though. Looking back east, we see that Northeastern has continued to win, but I’m more interested in Maine and Providence. the Friars especially were expected to do well, with many picking them second in the conference. What do you see out there?
Arlan: When it comes to Hockey East, it seems that so many games wind up being unpredictable. Before Maine met Providence, I felt that either team could sweep or be swept and it wouldn’t surprise me, because they both seem to have good days and bad days, and the separation between those levels is fairly evident. That they played to a 3-3 tie on Saturday is also typical, because Hockey East seems to produce ties frequently. Perhaps that is because on a league average, the defenses tend to be ahead of the offenses. Hockey East seems to be a goalie conference, where most teams have a solid netminder in any given year, but you don’t see as many Agosta and Knight types that were born to score. I think Jenn Wakefield being the first 100-goal scorer that the league has had speaks to that. I don’t know if the coaches in the conference like to pack it in around the net to a greater extent, or if there is some other strategy that contributes. Under Maria Lewis, Maine has shown some willingness to open it up a bit more.
The 3-3 game from Maine and PC, while featuring a touch more offense than some contests, still was one of those back-and-forth affairs. Nobody led by more than a goal. There was more offense in the second, because there were a lot of penalties called, and the teams combined for three power-play goals.
Candace: That’s a good point about Hockey East offenses Arlan. Aside from a few standouts, like Wakefield and Kelli Stack, the conference seems to be tight defensively. Perhaps that’s why you don’t seem to have teams dominating the conference. Speaking of, Boston College then rebounded to beat archrival Boston University at Agganis Saturday, as I thought they might. We talked about BC’s shot advantage in its loss Wednesday. The Eagles launched another 30-plus shots against Terriers goalie Kerrin Sperry Saturday. Is that an indication that BU needs to tighten up defensively, or is BC just that strong offensively?
Arlan: The Eagles are speedy, and when a team can fly up and down the rink, it puts a lot of pressure on the opponent. Innocent plays can become dangerous in a hurry. BC has a lot of youth as well, so it is likely we have yet to see the full impact of their offense. As far as the BU defense, I’m anxious to get a look at the Terriers and see if the absence of Catherine Ward has left a hole. Obviously, any time you lose a gold medalist, she isn’t replaced overnight.
On the topic of speed, Minnesota finished off its sweep of UMD in a back-and-forth game that saw both teams go end-to-end well. I’d say that when the Bulldogs and Gophers meet, it is consistently some of the more entertaining hockey in the game, and the 3-2 Minnesota win was no exception. As has been the case in most of their wins, the Gophers’ first line was the difference, with each member contributing a goal. UMD got a couple of power-play goals, but despite pulling their goalie for the last minute plus, they couldn’t draw even. Both teams will be a factor come March.
We spend a lot of time talking about the top teams in the country, but one has to be encouraged by strides made by those who have been stuck near the bottom. Union tied St. Lawrence, 2-2, as a follow up to their win over Clarkson, and Brown came up with an unexpected tie at Quinnipiac by the same score.
Every silver lining has a cloud — do you think the Bobcats will ever get any traction this season?
Candace: It’s tempting to pin the blame for Quinnipiac’s woes on Kelly Babstock having a sophomore slump. While her scoring is down from 1.59 points per game to .9 points a game, I don’t think that’s the case. I think it might be more that Victoria Vigilanti is having an off year, or the team defense is down. If they can shore that up, it will bring good results back to the Q. You mentioned Union having a big weekend and it possibly giving them some confidence, and that’s true. When I think of confidence-boosting though, the Gophers sweeping Minnesota-Duluth and splitting with Wisconsin has to have Amanda Kessel and company feeling pretty good. To finish off this week, is this the year we see the Gophers reclaiming their first title since 2005, or are the Badgers poised to win again?
Arlan: The Badgers seem to always be poised to win again. From what I’ve seen, this is the best Minnesota team since 2005, but it still has some question marks. The second line of Emily West, Sarah Davis, and Kelly Terry has been a little snake bit. Were they to start finishing on a more regular basis, it takes some pressure off of the Schoullis line. Becky Kortum rejoined the team this weekend after missing about a month due to illness, and she added some experience to the third unit. The Gophers can get offense from their veteran blue line, where Megan Bozek is off to a good start, and of course, Noora Räty in net will be crucial to any title aspirations.