Goals at a premium
Some days, the defense wins. Consider Friday’s 10 games. Of the 20 teams in action, only two scored more than three goals: Clarkson seven, and Minnesota State four, the last into an empty net. In only one other game, Harvard’s 3-1 win over Boston University, did both teams combine for more than three goals. On the day, those 20 offenses combined for 32 goals. Accounting for the three scoreless overtimes played, that yields a scoring average of 1.56, equal to the offensive production of Dartmouth, which at the time ranked 29th out of 34 teams.
Perhaps this can be partially explained by the country’s top three offenses having the day off; Clarkson with the No. 4 scoring average did score seven times. However, the fifth and sixth-most prolific offenses met in Grand Forks, N.D., and played to a scoreless tie.
Saturday, with a different mix of teams, offenses rebounded slightly and 24 teams combined to score 57 times, and for a scoring average of 2.37. That is hardly scalding, but it would move up the list to 19th out of 34.
Defense wins championships
In the marquee series of the weekend, No. 2 Wisconsin traveled to No. 4 North Dakota and came home with five of six WCHA points. The Badgers’ Alex Rigsby saved all 34 shots and Shelby Amsley-Benzie had a 21-save shutout as neither team could convert through regulation nor overtime in a 0-0 tie Friday. Wisconsin’s Blayre Turnbull, the final shooter in the shootout, was able to slip the puck through Amsley-Benzie’s five hole and gain her team the extra league point.
Saturday’s rematch started down the same path until the Badgers committed a second-period penalty. Karley Sylvester stole the puck and scored short-handed for the weekend’s first goal; Michelle Karvinen scored on the same power play a minute later to even the score. Wisconsin got three power-play opportunities in the final period, and Madison Packer and Brittany Ammerman cashed in on two of them. The defense in front of Rigsby was more stout in the second game despite the goal allowed, and she only had to make 20 saves in earning the 3-1 win.
And then there was one
With Lindenwood’s 2-1 defeat of Penn State on Friday, Maine is the only remaining winless team. Nicole Hensley had a rare opportunity to watch an opposing goaltender face more rubber than she did; Lindenwood outshot its guests, 35-23. Jordin Pardoski put Penn State on the scoreboard first, just 2:38 into the contest. Carrie Atkinson and Jocelyn Slattery scored second-period goals, and Hensley saved the other 22 shots to earn the win.
Penn State got its offense untracked on Saturday to earn a split with a 4-1 win, goalie Celine Whitlinger’s third of the season. Hannah Hoenshell, Taylor Gross, Laura Bowman, and Jenna Welch scored while Shannon Yoxheimer added a couple of assists, giving the Nittany Lions their first CHA points.
Where did all the brooms go?
No. 10 Mercyhurst took home the CHA season title in last year’s first campaign as a six-team league by sweeping eight of its 10 conference series. The Lakers won’t match that feat this time, as they’ve failed to sweep any of their first three CHA weekends. That’s been a problem overall for Mercyhurst so far; its only clean weekend came versus Maine.
RIT became the latest team to take a bite out of the Lakers on Friday, 2-1, the Tigers’ first win over the perennial CHA champion. Kolbee McCrea scored twice in the first period, set up both times by Morgan Scoyne. Ali Binnigton saved 42 out of 43 shots, including all 32 over the final two periods, to earn her eighth victory of the year.
Mike Sisti opted for a goaltending change on Saturday, starting sophomore Julia DiTondo for the first time in her career. Dakota Waites put the Tigers up early, but Caroline Luczak and Emily Janiga scored in rapid succession in the middle period to give Mercyhurst a 2-1 lead. McCrea tied the score 90 seconds into the final frame. Sophomore defenseman Lauren Kilroy scored her first career goal at 6:45, and that proved to be the decisive goal in a 3-2 Lakers victory.
New look atop the CHA
Robert Morris took three of four points in a pair of defensive struggles at Syracuse. The Colonials’ Ashley Vesci answered a short-hander by Nicole Ferrara in the second period in Friday’s 1-1 tie. The result was the first non-win on the ledger of Robert Morris rookie goalie Jessica Dodds (9-0-1). Her ninth win came on Saturday in a 2-1 decision. Thea Imbrogno knotted the score after another Ferrara first goal, and Rebecca Vint won it with over a minute left. The results place the Colonials atop the conference with 13 points; RIT is four points down with two games in hand. Mercyhurst sits in an unfamiliar third place.
How the rest of the top 10 fared
No. 9 Boston University began the weekend by falling on the road at No. 6 Harvard, 3-1. Gina McDonald, Samantha Reber, and Miye D’Oench provided the Crimson with a goal in every period. Emerance Maschmeyer made 34 stops to hold the Terriers off of the scoreboard until just over four minutes remained. Sunday found BU in New Hampshire, and Sarah Lefort and Kayla Tutino scored in the odd periods to bookend a Hannah Armstrong tally for the Wildcats. Kerrin Sperry made 29 saves to preserve the 2-1 win for the Terriers.
No. 8 Clarkson had its best weekend of the season. Vanessa Gagnon scored the first of her two goals 29 seconds into Friday’s 7-0 win at Princeton. Brittany Styner and Erin Ambrose had identical output with one goal and three assists, while Jamie Lee Rattray bettered that with a goal and four helpers. Erica Howe needed only 14 saves to record the shutout. The Golden Knights followed that up with an impressive 3-0 road win at No. 5 Quinnipiac. Rattray scored in each of the first two periods, and Ambrose completed the scoring in the final minutes. Another 23 saves earned Howe her national-best seventh shutout.
The Bobcats also skated to a 1-1 tie versus St. Lawrence. Rylee Smith scored first for the Saints, Kelly Babstock responded, and Carmen MacDonald’s 47 saves were a huge reason why no winning goal was scored.
No. 1 Minnesota went on the road to Yale for a pair of games and won, 5-1, on Saturday with five different players scoring. Brad Frost picked up his 200th win behind the bench before the halfway point of his seventh season, the quickest to reach that milestone. The Gophers completed the sweep of the Bulldogs on Sunday, 4-1. The line of Rachael Bona, Hannah Brandt, and Meghan Lorence each scored a goal and assisted twice.
It wasn’t always emphatic, but No. 7 Boston College got a much-needed sweep of a home-and-home series with Connecticut. The home half came easily enough; the Eagles outshot the Huskies, 54-18, in a 6-2 win. Kristyn Capizzano and Emily Field potted a pair of goals apiece. The going was tougher on the road, but Andie Anastos’ third-period goal was the difference in a 3-2 triumph.
Other sweeps and splits
Elsewhere in Hockey East, Northeastern won the first game, 2-1, before losing the second at Vermont, 3-2. Providence got its offense untracked in sweeping visiting Maine by 8-1 and 4-2 scores.
Ohio State is 0-7-1 in November after being swept out of Mankato by the Mavericks. The 4-1 and 2-1 wins were the first WCHA points of the season for Minnesota State.
Bemidji State scored only once in Duluth, but that was enough to gain a split with Minnesota-Duluth. After the Bulldogs took a 3-0 verdict on Friday, the horn sounded on an apparent scoreless tie in regulation on Saturday. The officials reviewed a shot by Ivana Billic at 19:45 of the third period and determined that it had in fact entered the net. The goal went on the board, UMD was unable to get an equalizer as those final 15 seconds were replayed, and Brittni Mowat had a 38-save shutout.