League races evolve
After weeks of inequity in terms of the number of league games played and remaining across the four conferences, this weekend finally brought convergence. All teams now have six conference games remaining, with the exception of the top half of Hockey East; those four clubs are down to five games left on their league slates.
College Hockey America
The rankings in the CHA have clarified. The top prize comes down to No. 7 Mercyhurst or Syracuse. The Orange trail the Lakers by three points, but have opened up a three-game lead on RIT thanks to a key road sweep at Robert Morris. Syracuse was a goal better both days, 3-2 and 2-1, and needed a late rally to pull out the second game. Holly Carrie-Mattimoe set up Margot Scharfe and Nicole Ferrara four minutes apart, the game-winner coming with but 60 seconds to go. Kallie Billadeau recorded 59 saves on the weekend to earn both victories. A key home-and-home series with RIT looms to determine momentum heading into a home clash with the Lakers.
Mercyhurst held its edge thanks to comfortable 5-2 and 4-1 wins at Penn State. Christine Bestland had a hat trick the first day and a three-point game in the finale. The Lakers must also keep one eye on the national picture. After succumbing to No. 5 Cornell on Tuesday, 4-0, Mercyhurst remains in a favorable at-large position, sitting seventh, but without the security of an automatic bid, needs to avoid conference setbacks.
Third-place RIT only took home one point from its trip to Lindenwood, but that was enough to increase its lead over Robert Morris to two points. On Friday, the Lions and Tigers traded first-period tallies and remained deadlocked in a 1-1 tie through overtime. It appeared that bonus hockey was on the menu again when RIT rallied from two down Saturday, drawing even at 3-3 when Tenecia Hiller scored her team’s second power-play goal of the period with over a minute left in regulation and an extra attacker on the ice for the Tigers. Alyssa West fed Alison Wickenheiser with seven seconds to go, and the sophomore’s second goal of the game gave Lindenwood its first series win in CHA play. The Lions are now solidly in fifth place, five points shy of RMU and leading Penn State by the same margin.
With six teams for the first time, the CHA has a new playoff format this year. The top two teams will have byes for the first round while the third seed hosts the sixth seed, and the fourth place team entertains the fifth seed, both in best-of-three series.
It was a good week all around for No. 5 Cornell. Brianne Jenner continued her torrid second half, with two goals in the win over Mercyhurst, four goals and two assists in an 8-1 pummeling of Union, and a couple more points in a 3-1 victory versus Rensselaer. That allowed the Big Red to pull within a point of No. 3 Harvard for the league lead.
The Crimson could only manage a tie at Dartmouth in its only game of the week. Laura Stacey scored an unassisted, power-play goal less than a minute into the third stanza to earn a point for the Big Green.
No. 6 Clarkson also let points escape when it could only claim the home half of a home-and-home series with St. Lawrence. The Golden Knights outshot the Saints, 30-15, on Friday and attempts by Brittany Styner, Jamie Lee Rattray, and Renata Fast found the net in a 3-1 win. SLU fought back from a two-goal deficit the next day with a three-goal middle period. Defenseman Amanda Boulier scored twice, including the game-winner. The Saints now hold the fourth and final home-ice position over Quinnipiac with three weeks to go.
Nicole Connery and Kelly Babstock each scored twice as the Bobcats blanked Brown, 5-0, but they needed a goal by Babstock with half a minute to go to pull out a 2-2 tie versus Yale. The three points earned on the weekend equals the Quinnipiac lead over Dartmouth.
The Big Green in sixth place hold a two-point lead over RPI. The Engineers grabbed an important win at Colgate, 4-1, as Eleeza Cox contributed two goals plus an assist. RPI enjoys a five-point gap over Princeton.
As is often the case in the ECAC, the battle for the final ticket to the playoffs figures to go down to the wire. The Tigers are currently slotted eighth, but Colgate and Yale lurk one and two points back respectively. Princeton earned its first league points since November with a much-needed sweep of Yale, 3-1, and Brown, 6-1. Denna Laing and Sally Buttler each produced a goal and a helper as Kimberly Newell made 28 stops versus the Bulldogs. Molly Contini fired in her first collegiate hat trick against the Bears, and Kelly Cooke added four points.
Colgate grabbed a couple of points with a 3-1 win over Union. Taylor Volpe, Taylor Craig, and Nicole Gass scored, and Ashlynne Rando rejected 32 shots.
No. 2 Boston College and No. 4 Boston University remain deadlocked for the top perch in Hockey East with identical 13-2-1 records. Alex Carpenter scored twice and chipped in an assist in a 6-3 triumph at Maine for the Eagles. For the Terriers, the line of Isabel Menard centering Louise Warren and Kayla Tutino combined for two goals and five assists in defeating Northeastern, 4-2. For its remaining league contests, BU has four home games, with New Hampshire, Vermont twice, and Connecticut before finishing at Connecticut. BC conversely is traveling for four of its last five HEA games, starting at Providence, then a home-and-home series with Connecticut, and concluding with two games at Vermont. Amidst those crucial skates, both teams will also be competing in the Beanpot Tournament on the next two Tuesdays, along with Northeastern and Harvard.
Providence currently holds third place by a point over Northeastern. Corinne Buie had a pair of goals for the Friars at Connecticut in a 5-0 shutout by Sarah Bryant. The Friars needed overtime to take a 4-3 decision when those two teams moved to Providence. Haley Frade and Brooke Simpson scored in the third period to overcome a two-goal deficit before Jessica Vella scored her second goal of the game 2:45 into the OT.
Fifth-place New Hampshire is two points behind Northeastern, but has a game in hand. UNH is two up on Vermont after the Wildcats and Catamounts split a pair of games at Vermont. UVM took the opener, 3-1, on the strength of a pair of goals by Brittany Zuback and 32 saves from Roxanne Douville. UNH struck back with a 4-2 victory the next day; Arielle O’Neill scored the game-winner with under seven minutes to play, and Hannah Armstrong found the net twice.
Maine and Vermont sit seventh and eighth, with the Black Bears one point ahead. It’s looking more and more like those teams will finish in that order, but thanks to the expansion of the league tournament, they’ll be eligible for postseason play with the others.
No. 1 Minnesota swept No. 10 Minnesota-Duluth over the weekend and clinched the WCHA crown in the process. Noora Räty became the winningest goaltender in NCAA history; she now has 102 victories in her career. Amanda Kessel totaled seven points in the 5-0 and 6-2 wins.
The drama in the conference standings revolves around the next four teams fighting for the remaining three home-ice berths in the league tourney. No. 9 North Dakota is two points ahead of UMD, Ohio State, and No. 8 Wisconsin in a three-way tie for third.
North Dakota swept Minnesota State to move ahead of the competition. Josefine Jakobsen had a pair of hat tricks and nine points in 4-2 and 8-2 triumphs, while Michelle Karvinen piled up eight points of her own.
Ohio State lost ground by settling for a split at Bemidji State. Ally Tarr potted the game-winner at 41 seconds in overtime on Friday to give the Buckeyes a 2-1 win. The Beavers were the team to get the clutch goal and 2-1 victory on Saturday; Mackenzie Thurston scored with under three minutes remaining.
The Mavericks hold sixth place, a game ahead of BSU in seventh. The Beavers are similarly a game up on St. Cloud State in the race to avoid a quarterfinal at Minnesota.