One season ends as another begins
We’ve reached the end of the regular season — almost. Due to weather-related postponements, Lindenwood has a pair of games to make up at Syracuse, while Yale plays one at Harvard this week. The former has playoff seeding implications in the CHA; the latter matters because Harvard is still in the NCAA tournament picture.
This week’s wrap will summarize the conference tournament pairings to the extent that they have been determined.
The ECAC has a best-of-three quarterfinal round hosted by the higher-seeded team.
League champion and No. 1 seed Cornell hosts its travel partner, Colgate, as the Raiders emerged from a four-way battle for the final playoff berth. The Big Red took care of business, winning 4-1 at Rensselaer and 4-0 at Union. Coupled with Harvard’s inability to gain more than a single point on the weekend, the victories lifted Cornell to its fourth-straight ECAC regular season title. Colgate defeated the same two opponents by identical 2-1 scores. The Friday win over the Dutchwomen required a bit more drama; Colgate got a late second-period goal from Jenna Klynstra to tie and a power-play game winner from Taylor Volpe with 92 seconds to go. Brittany Phillips had both goals versus RPI and the Raiders led most of the way. Colgate returns to the postseason for the first time since 2010 thanks to a big assist from Yale in knocking off Princeton.
Clarkson secured the second seed with a road sweep at Dartmouth and Harvard, winning 3-1 both days. The Golden Knights took a two-goal lead into the first intermission in each contest and made it stand up. Erica Howe was strong in net, making 31 saves against the Big Green and adding 39 to top the Crimson. Vanessa Gagnon led the attack with two points at Harvard, and her goal in the final second of the opening frame was pivotal. Clarkson will entertain RPI, which returns to the tournament after a year’s absence, albeit on a three-game losing skid.
Harvard started the week with a 5-2 win over Brown on Tuesday, but a 2-2 tie with St. Lawrence and the loss to Clarkson dropped it to third. That means the Crimson host their travel partner as well. Dartmouth looks like a dangerous team, going 12-4-3 over its most recent 19 games. On the weekend, the Big Green followed the loss to Clarkson by pounding the Saints, 7-2. Sasha Nanji and Karlee Odland potted a pair of goals each in the win.
Quinnipiac gained the final home-ice berth with matching 4-0 wins at Yale and Brown. Victoria Vigilanti denied all 36 shots she faced on the weekend. St. Lawrence will visit Hamden, hoping that the road will prove as kind as it did a year ago.
Hockey East has a new playoff format, as all eight teams qualify for one-game quarterfinals at the higher seed.
Boston University earned its second regular-season conference crown by sweeping a home-and-home series over Connecticut, 7-5 and 4-2. Saturday’s game got off to a rocky start; Alissa Fromkin got the Senior Day start and surrendered four goals on six shots in the opening stanza. Usual starter Kerrin Sperry’s relief effort began shakily as well, and Connecticut led, 5-1, 2:52 into period two. Sarah Lefort and Jenelle Kohanchuk keyed a rally, and BU knotted the score by the second intermission; Kayla Tutino provided the game-winner at the 4:43 mark of the third period. Lefort and Kohanchuk had three points in a far more orderly win on Sunday to wrap up the title. As a reward, the Terriers host Connecticut again on Saturday.
For a second consecutive season, Boston College botched an inside track to its first regular-season championship and wound up a point short. The Eagles were undone by a 1-1 tie at Vermont on Saturday, when Roxanne Douville frustrated them with 53 saves. Emily Walsh put the Catamounts on the board first, and BC needed a late power-play goal from Alex Carpenter to salvage a tie. The Eagles’ 4-0 win on Sunday was a bit hollow, but in the big picture, BC still seems assured of an NCAA home quarterfinal as it prepares to host Maine on Friday night in the HEA tournament.
Northeastern took both ends of a home-and-home series with Providence and locked down the third seed. Casey Pickett enjoyed a big weekend with two goals and two assists in Saturday’s 5-1 win, and another assist in Sunday’s 4-3 victory. Vermont will be the Huskies’ opponent on Saturday night in the Catamounts’ first foray into the postseason as a D-I program.
New Hampshire will host the Friars on Saturday. The Wildcats took three of four points from Maine on the weekend, skating to a 2-2 tie and getting a third-period game-winner from Sara Carlson on Sunday.
All teams in the WCHA compete in best-of-three quarterfinals at the higher seed starting Friday.
Top-seeded Minnesota completed the first undefeated regular season in the NCAA history of Division-I with 2-0 and 3-0 wins at St. Cloud State. Rookie Amanda Leveille turned in her third shutout in as many starts in game one, and Noora Räty followed suit on Saturday with her 39th career shutout, matching the mark established by Jessie Vetter. Bemidji State travels to Minneapolis for the opening round.
Wisconsin turned in a 2-0 and 3-1 sweep at Bemidji State that left it tied with North Dakota in the standings. The Badgers take the second seed thanks to a 3-1 head-to-head record and will host St. Cloud.
North Dakota dropped to third when it tied, 2-2, but lost a shootout in the second game at Minnesota-Duluth. Without the WCHA’s shootout system, UND would have earned the second seed. Jocelyne Lamoureux had three points in Friday’s 4-1 win. Minnesota State will travel to Grand Forks to battle North Dakota.
Ohio State took five of six points versus the Mavericks over the weekend, but the Buckeyes needed all six. Minesota-Duluth was able to forge a tie and take the tiebreaker with more league wins. The Bulldogs will play host to OSU for the second consecutive year.
Due to the delay of the Lindenwood at Syracuse series, the CHA bracket is still a work in progress. Mercyhurst is assured of the top seed. The Lakers and the second-seeded Orange get quarterfinal byes. Penn State will be the sixth seed and face the third-seeded team. The odds are that will be RIT. The Tigers are currently tied with Robert Morris with 19 points and own a head-to-head tiebreaker. Lindenwood sits four points back and could conceivably create a three-way tie for third and win tiebreakers over both RIT and RMU based on more league wins and head-to-head results, respectively. That seems unlikely only because Syracuse has been the most predictable team in the turbulence that is this season’s CHA, and the Orange did sweep the Lions earlier in the year. If Syracuse gains at least a point, RIT will host Penn State and Robert Morris will entertain Lindenwood. What is certain is that the CHA will have best-of-three quarterfinals hosted by the third and fourth seeds.
In the games that did take place as scheduled over the weekend, Mercyhurst completed a season sweep of RIT, 4-1 and 5-2. Stephanie Ciampa earned both wins to improve to 17-1-0 on the season. Christine Bestland had a two-goal game and Jenna Dingeldein, Vaila Higson, and Kelsey Welch all had three-point games on the weekend. Robert Morris dominated the shot chart in sweeping Penn State, 4-1 and 4-2.