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Women’s D-I wrap: Oct. 21

Shocking or explainable?
Five of the top eight teams in the most recent USCHO poll suffered defeats in the last week, four of them at home. How do we react to such developments? Should we decide that those losing teams are not as strong as we thought and lower their stock, or conclude that hockey is a game with volatile results and avoid making knee-jerk reactions to a small sample size? No matter what conclusion is reached, additional outcomes will soon surface to contradict that conclusion.

Mercyhurst rallies
The situation looked dire for the Lakers heading into a road series at No. 3 Clarkson. Losing both games would have dropped Mercyhurst to 2-5 on the season and made its NCAA tournament prospects bleak. However, Mike Sisti hasn’t put together 12 straight seasons of at least 23 wins by accident. His teams consistently rise to such challenges, and this year’s squad did as well. Goalie Amanda Makela and the Lakers’ defense combined to shut out the Golden Knights, one of the country’s top offenses, on just 19 shots in the opener. Kaleigh Chippy scored a first-period goal on a power play, and Christie Cicero sealed a 2-0 win into an empty net. On Saturday, Christine Lambert gave Clarkson a lead in the first period, Emily Janiga answered in the second frame, and Makela and Erica Howe stopped everything else as the teams finished tied, 1-1. Thanks in large part to Makela saving 49 of 50 shots in the series, Mercyhurst gained three points and was able to square its record at 3-3-1 after playing six of seven games on the road.

New Hampshire still poses a riddle
A 3-1 loss on home ice versus New Hampshire leaves No. 2 Boston College still looking for its first clean sweep of the Wildcats in a season series in the NCAA era. Vilma Vaattovaara made 36 saves while Arielle O’Neill, Nicole Gifford, and Cassandra Vilgrain scored for UNH. The Eagles rebounded with a 4-3 win over Yale on Saturday with a shortie by Taylor Wasylk deciding the matter. On Sunday, BC scored the final six goals in defeating Dartmouth, 7-2, in the Big Green’s debut, with Emily Field netting a pair in the win and Lindsey Allen scoring both in the losing effort.

Too little, too late
North Dakota, tied with Cornell at No. 5, came up short in its attempt to complete a sweep of visiting Ohio State. UND pulled away for a 5-2 win in the opener with freshman Halli Krzyzaniak scoring her first goal and adding an assist. On Saturday, the hosts spotted the Buckeyes first-period goals by Kendall Curtis and Taylor Kuehl, and 27 shots over the final two periods only halved the deficit. Lisa Steffes made 36 saves in total in earning the 2-1 win, her first of the campaign.

A tale of two goalies
No. 7 Boston University, the only ranked team to fall on the road, had few problems winning the opener at Robert Morris, 5-2. The Terriers solved Courtney Vinet five times on 28 shots; two of the goals belonged to Sarah Lefort. However, BU had no answer for freshman Jessica Dodds on Saturday when the Colonials won, 3-0. Dodds has now won all three of her starts, allowing two goals in total while saving 97 percent of the shots she has faced.

Home away from home
Minnesota-Duluth, tied at No. 7 with BU, was the only ranked team to lose to a higher-ranked opponent, but the Bulldogs were also the only one to suffer a sweep. Over the first 12 years of this rivalry, No. 1 Minnesota had little success in games played in Duluth, sweeping only once. The Gophers have fared much better in AMSOIL Arena, adding 4-0 and 6-3 wins this weekend. Amanda Leveille made 26 saves in Friday’s shutout, and senior Sarah Davis and rookie Dani Cameranesi each scored three goals on the weekend.

How the rest of the top 10 fared
Wisconsin had little trouble with St. Cloud State in 4-1 and 6-0 wins. Ann-Renée Desbiens made her debut in net for the No. 4 Badgers in the second game and earned the shutout. Brittany Ammerman had a six-point series.

No. 5 Cornell got off to a quick start with a sweep of Northeastern by scores of 6-2 and 3-0. Goaltender Lauren Slebodnick backstopped both wins and Emily Fulton found the net three times.

No. 10 Quinnipiac turned in a convincing sweep of Maine in Orono, 4-0 and 5-2. Chelsea Laden had both wins, including the 20-save shutout. Kelly Babstock’s hat trick highlighted game two.

Give and take
Splits were common in other action. Syracuse and Providence, Union and Penn State, plus RIT and Colgate all saw each competitor handed a loss to go with its win.

Women’s D-I picks: Oct. 18

After Arlan correctly got our one different pick right last week, he has taken a two-game lead on me in our season picks race. Yowsa. Last week, I went 11-3-3 (.735) to bring myself to 20-8-4 (.687) on the year, while Arlan went 12-2-3 (.794) to move to 22-6-4 (.750) on the year. We’re picking a lot of series this week, so let’s see how we do.

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 18-19

Mercyhurst at Clarkson
Candace: Mercyhurst has been up and down all year. The Lakers might get up enough for a win, but I just can’t pick them right now. Clarkson 2-1, 3-2
Arlan: Even as strong as Clarkson looks, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Lakers got a win, but I can’t favor them in either game. Clarkson 4-2, 2-1

Quinnipiac at Maine
Candace: Another test for whether the Bobcats can actually move up in the top 10 and perhaps earn a PairWise ranking. They aren’t being tested to the same extent as Clarkson, but they need to win this pair. Quinnipiac 3-2, 4-1
Arlan: Maine’s tie at UNH gives hope, but the Black Bears will need to get their PP going against the Bobcats. Quinnipiac 2-0, 3-1

Syracuse at Providence
Candace: Both teams have been up and down, though Providence hasn’t won a Friday game yet. I’ll go with the split. Syracuse 3-2, Providence 3-2
Arlan: The teams last met three years ago so there is little history to draw upon. Syracuse 4-2, Providence 3-2

Boston University at Robert Morris
Candace: Something tells me BU will be better this week than last. Boston University 4-2, 3-2
Arlan: Freshmen have demonstrated more for Colonials than Terriers; that’s likely because they’ve played twice as many games. Robert Morris 2-1, 3-2

Minnesota at Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: The Gophers will lose sooner or later this year, but I don’t think it will happen this weekend. Minnesota 3-2, 3-1
Arlan: Picking the Gophers to lose in Madison contributed hugely to my picks race loss last year, so I’m trying to be less creative this time. Minnesota 2-1, 4-2

Ohio State at North Dakota
Candace: North Dakota will probably make at least one of these games harder on themselves than they need to, but they should have enough to sweep. North Dakota 4-2, 4-1
Arlan: Recent trips to Grand Forks haven’t gone well for the Buckeyes. North Dakota 4-1, 3-2

St. Cloud State at Wisconsin
Candace: Wisconsin probably would have beaten any other team last week, except they were playing in Minneapolis. Home in Madison against St. Cloud equals a sweep. Wisconsin 4-2, 4-1
Arlan: Huskies have done better in the first half of a series. Wisconsin 2-1, 5-0

Colgate at RIT
Candace: RIT has definitely shown improvement since the first game, when the Tigers were shellacked by Clarkson. Why not pick a sweep? RIT 3-2, 3-1
Arlan: Scanning results to date for Colgate and RIT, I’m unable to locate either a rhyme or a reason scattered amidst the unpredictability. RIT 4-3, Colgate 2-1

Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 19-20

Northeastern at Cornell
Candace: Northeastern looked better last week, but the Big Red are a bigger test than the Huskies have faced to date. Cornell 3-2, 4-2
Arlan: I’m never sure how an Ivy will fare in its first game, or for that matter, any team from any league in any game. Cornell 4-3, 3-1

Sunday, Oct. 20

Dartmouth at Boston College
Candace: This pick might be a little more sporty than it would have been before BC lost to UNH, but the Eagles usually rebound from a loss, as they realize they can’t afford to come out flat. Boston College 3-1
Arlan: The Big Green have done a good job of hanging with the Eagles, although not necessarily beating them. Boston College 4-2

Women’s D-I wrap: Oct. 14

Goaltending matters
This is hardly a revolutionary concept, but the game provides constant reminders of the fact that goaltender is the most vital position.

Consider Providence. On Saturday while hosting Mercyhurst, the Friars played all three of their goaltenders in a 5-0 loss. Starting goalie Sarah Bryant yielded three goals on eight shots and was yanked with just over three minutes gone in the second period. Nina Riley finished up the frame and was touched for two power-play goals on 12 shots. Allie Morse played the third period, stopping all 16 shots she faced. So who did coach Bob Deraney turn to on Sunday? Bryant again, and it was apparently the right choice, because she saved 47 out of 49 shots as Providence gained a split with a 3-2 win.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice in that series, the Lakers’ Amanda Makela went from a 31-save shutout to being beaten by three of 23 shots on goal in the loss. Obviously, not all shots that goaltenders face are equal, but I’m guessing it would be safe to conclude that each starting goaltender played better in the game her team won than she did in the loss. What a difference a day makes.

Further evidence of goalie importance was displayed in Minneapolis. On Friday, No. 4 Wisconsin entered the second period tied with the No. 1 Gophers and proceeded to fire 18 shots on net over the next 20 minutes, many of them high-quality scoring chances. Minnesota sophomore Amanda Leveille handled them all. Her team came out of the second intermission still tied, played better, and was able to score a goal to decide the game. It wouldn’t have had that opportunity for the 2-1 win without Leveille’s heroics. She faced far fewer point-blank chances in the series’ second game while earning a 2-0 shutout, with Kelly Terry supplying both goals in the third period.

Oh, those two-goal leads
In a key conference clash in Grand Forks, both No. 9 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 6 North Dakota had an opportunity to hold a two-goal lead, the supposed worst lead in hockey, without success. The Bulldogs led 3-1 on Saturday, thanks in part to two Jenna McParland tallies. Michelle Karvinen set up a pair of goals 50 seconds apart early in the third stanza, and Josefine Jakobsen won it for the hosts, 4-3.

UMD had a three-goal run of its own Sunday in just over four minutes late in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. Once again, the Bulldogs were unable to close it out, and once more, Jakobsen was the hero, knotting the game at three with under four minutes left. After overtime failed to determine a winner, Susanna Tapani had the only shootout goal to earn her team the extra WCHA point.

Union improving in defeat
The Dutchwomen (2-3-0) lost a pair of heartbreakers at home. Coach Claudia Asano Barcomb said coming into the season that her team has struggled to finish close games, and that proved true again. Northeastern scored two third-period goals, a short-hander by Kelly Wallace and a final-minute goal from Maggie DiMasi, in defeating the hosts on Friday, 2-1. The next day, Boston University tied the game at two on an extra-attacker goal by Louise Warren with 32 seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime, where sophomore Rebecca Russo’s second goal of the game won it for the Terriers.

Squeakers abound
Of the 27 games played over the weekend, there were four ties. The contests produced 11 one-goal games, two of which were won in overtime, meaning only 12 games had multiple-goal margins.

How the rest of the top 10 fared
No. 2 Boston College swept St. Lawrence by 5-2 and 2-1 scores. Haley Skarupa’s hat trick made the first game easy in comparison to Saturday, where rookie Andie Anastos’ third goal of the season was the difference.

No. 3 Clarkson won the road half of a home-and-home series with Syracuse, 2-1, thanks to a pair of Carly Mercer goals. She had another three points on home ice, where Erica Howe backed a 4-0 shutout.

No. 7 Boston University opened with a 2-2 tie with Rensselaer. Jordan Juron and Rebecca Russo collaborated on both goals. The Terriers got into the win column the next day at Union.

No. 10 Ohio State had to settle for a 2-2 tie on Friday when St. Cloud State’s Cari Coen scored with 10 minutes left. Ali Tarr, Danielle Gagne, and both Kari and Sara Schmitt had two-point efforts in a 4-2 Buckeyes win on Saturday in Columbus.

No. 8 Harvard is still idle, and Cornell, tied for the fourth spot with Wisconsin, opens by hosting Northeastern on Saturday and Sunday.

Women’s D-I picks: Oct. 11

Well, after one week, I am already in the hole to Arlan in the our annual picks race. Last year, I had to make a strong second half comeback to win; hopefully, with some picks this week, I can catch up. Last week, I went 9-5-1 (.633), while Arlan went 10-4-1 (.700). We’ve got some intriguing matchups, so on to the picks.

Friday, Oct. 11

Northeastern at Union
Candace: I was really surprised that the Huskies fell to Syracuse last week. If they go down to Union, it could shape up to be a long campaign for Northeastern. Northeastern 3-1
Arlan: Union has already demonstrated a big variance from game to game; the Huskies vary from period to period. Northeastern 3-1

Boston University at Rensselaer
Candace: RPI looked good last week, and is at home, but I can’t pick against the Terriers just yet. Boston University 3-1
Arlan: RPI has shown improvement already; BU is a complete mystery, so Sperry may need to win this one. Boston University 2-1

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 11-12

St. Lawrence at Boston College
Candace: St. Lawrence going down to Clarkson is a big reason Arlan has a lead on me already. BC is at home, and even with Alex Carpenter off at the Olympics, I expect the Eagles have enough for a sweep. Boston College 4-3, 4-2
Arlan: SLU started with a rugged schedule last season as well, making a mess of its early win-loss record. Boston College 4-2, 3-1

Clarkson vs. Syracuse
Candace: Syracuse surprised me last week in knocking off Northeastern, but Clarkson is looking like one of the best teams in the country right now. Clarkson 5-1, 4-2
Arlan: The Orange look legitimate, but the Golden Knights are the safest bet playing right now. Clarkson 5-3, 2-0

St. Cloud State at Ohio State
Candace: Ohio State was another surprise in beating Mercyhurst on the road last week. Could it be a harbinger of better things in Ohio? Ohio State 4-2, 4-1
Arlan: I expect both the Huskies and Buckeyes to be in a lot of close games this season. Ohio State 2-1, 3-2

Wisconsin at Minnesota
Candace: Wisconsin looked good last week, especially with Brittany Ammerman back, and has the better goalie. Someone is bound to end Minnesota’s streak this year. If this series was in Madison, I’d probably pick differently. Minnesota 3-2, 3-1
Arlan: I’d answer, “Yes,” if the question was, “Will Wisconsin end the winning streak?” Minnesota 2-1, 3-2

Robert Morris at Bemidji State
Candace: Robert Morris didn’t look particularly inspiring last week at home. Now they are on the road. Which Colonials team shows up? Bemidji State 3-2, 3-1
Arlan: An attempt at predicting an RMU split last week resulted in an 0-for; grudgingly, I’ll try again. Bemidji State 2-1, Robert Morris 3-0

Saturday, Oct. 12

Boston University at Union
Candace: Look for Boston University to start the year 2-0. Boston University 5-1
Arlan: If Union wins here, then we know it will be a different season for the Dutchwomen. Boston University 4-0

Northeastern at Rensselaer
Candace: It might say something that a player who didn’t have a point in 12 games last year, and only had one point in 30 games entering this season, leads Northeastern in scoring. I’ll go with home ice. Rensselaer 4-2
Arlan: I had no idea, so I asked Siri and was told, “Sorry, Arlan, I don’t know the answer to that one,” but she did find me a link to an RPI game from 2009. That was helpful. Rensselaer 3-2

Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 12-13

Mercyhurst at Providence
Candace: The Friars looked iffy last week, and the Lakers have been playing better teams to date. The Lakers swept last year and I got burned picking a split in that series, so I’ll go with them, even if they are on the road. Mercyhurst 4-2, 4-3
Arlan: The Lakers are usually good in must-win games, and after two losses where they were the favorite, they must win at Providence. Mercyhurst 2-1, 5-4

Minnesota-Duluth at North Dakota
Candace: I thought I’d be able to pick against North Dakota more this year since they are without the Lamoureux sisters, but I think they have offense, and while Minnesota-Duluth looked good last weekend, it was against Connecticut, and I can’t bring myself to see that as an indication the Bulldogs are back in the upper echelon. North Dakota 4-2, 5-2
Arlan: Blowouts or sweeps either way, splits, ties — nothing would be a surprise in this series. North Dakota 6-5, 1-0

Women’s D-I wrap: Oct. 7

skarupa2 Womens D I wrap: Oct. 7

And we’re back …
What is to be learned from the games and exhibitions over the first couple of weeks?

As is often the case early, results can be unpredictable. Consider the CHA, where the only team with a winning record is Penn State, a second-year program that took its lumps last season. The Nittany Lions had unexpected success at Vermont as they did a year ago.

Granted that there is little data to go on at this point, like those early returns on election night with less than one percent of the precincts reporting, but some trends are emerging.

Conference power
Listen to coaches around the country and one keeps hearing comments like, “I think we play in the strongest conference,” or, “Our league is the most competitive from top to bottom.”

Such conference loyalty is commendable, but which leagues have done the best job of backing up the claims so far?

Given Penn State is its only winning team, it obviously isn’t the CHA. Collectively, the league has gone 5-9-2 in the early going, a .375 clip, and has been outscored by 21 goals.

Hockey East has struggled even more. HEA teams are 4-8-1 versus teams from other conferences, a .346 winning percentage, and are minus 17 in goal differential. It’s worth noting that neither Boston College nor Boston University, the circuit’s two Frozen Four teams from last spring, have started their nonconference schedules.

ECAC Hockey, minus the six Ivies, has recorded a 6-5-1 mark outside the league, a .542 percentage, and is nine goals to the good.

The WCHA leads the way with a 9-2-2 record in such games, a sizzling .769 percentage, outscoring opponents by 29 goals, with only Wisconsin yet to play outside of the league.

These numbers are swayed by which teams have traveled or faced tougher competition, but lower-division teams from some leagues have fared better. We’ll revisit these records around Thanksgiving to see how the balance has shifted.

Fast starter
In the early going, the No. 3 Clarkson Golden Knights have given every indication that they are who we thought they are. While not quite unscathed by roster turnover from last season, it’s safe to say that they have been less beset by such scathing than most of the other top contenders. With its core intact, Clarkson has surged out of the blocks. It had a pair of strong wins over rival St. Lawrence in non-ECAC games, 5-2 and 4-1, after opening with a 12-1 demolition of RIT.

Streak in jeopardy?
No. 7 Mercyhurst has qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of the last nine seasons, often by getting off to a quick start and not looking back. The Lakers split at Minnesota State to open the season, losing 4-2 and bouncing back with a 3-2 win. After an overtime defeat on home ice on Saturday inflicted by Ohio State, 4-3, Mercyhurst finds itself on the wrong side of the .500 mark.

However, their streak has grown so long because of what the Lakers do when faced with a challenge. Two years ago, after the same one-of-three start, they rattled off nine consecutive wins. In October 2008, Mercyhurst opened with a particularly tough stretch that saw it post three wins and four losses. The team responded with a run of 28 wins in its next 29 games and reached the NCAA Championship.

Clutch performers
What do Kylie St. Louis of Robert Morris and Taylor Kuehl of Ohio State have in common? Both scored in overtime to upend Rensselaer and Mercyhurst respectively. In each case, the losing team had erased a two-goal deficit, only to ultimately have its rally negated.

Offensive catalysts
Clarkson has the top offense in the country, averaging seven goals per game, and defenseman Erin Ambrose is a major reason why. The sophomore tallied hat tricks in her first two games and is averaging three points per contest.

A number of newcomers have already burst onto the scene, none in more spectacular fashion than Susanna Tapani of North Dakota. The Finnish product contributed six points in her first college series. She’s not the only one doing heavy lifting at UND, as junior Josefine Jakobsen matched her point for point against Lindenwood.

In the absence of Alex Carpenter, No. 2 Boston College needs a big season from Haley Skarupa. She delivered in her sophomore debut with three points, including a couple of slick goals, versus Maine in a 5-1 win.

Rachael Bona was asked to fill Amanda Kessel’s spot on Minnesota’s top line, and the junior responded with seven points at Colgate. Her new center, Hannah Brandt, avoided a sophomore jinx with a six-point weekend.

Still perfect
In goal, Julie Friend of St. Cloud State and Kayla Black of Minnesota-Duluth have yet to be scored on this season. Both turned in shutouts in their only appearances, although Friend had to settle for a tie when her team was blanked at the other end versus Quinnipiac.

How the rest of the top 10 fared
Last season, No. 1 Minnesota didn’t allow a goal until its third game or trail until its ninth game. The Gophers didn’t make it two minutes into the new season before falling behind. In all, they faced three deficits over the weekend against Colgate; they only trailed nine times in 41 games last year. Minnesota did emerge with 3-1 and 8-3 wins over the Raiders.

No. 6 Wisconsin opened WCHA conference action by dropping Minnesota State by 3-0 and 5-1 scores.

No. 8 North Dakota kept Nicole Hensley of Lindenwood busy during 5-1 and 6-1 wins. The sophomore made 46 and 69 saves in playing both ends of the weekend set.

No. 10 Northeastern was the only other ranked team to taste defeat. The Huskies lost a 4-1 contest to Syracuse and came from behind to claim a 5-4 win over RIT on Saturday.

No. 4. Cornell, No. 5 Boston University, and No. 9 Harvard have yet to commence NCAA competition.

Women’s D-I picks: Oct. 4

Well, the beer race is on! The last two seasons, Arlan and I have had a friendly wager on our weekly picks race, with the winner getting a six pack of brew at the end. In our first two years, I’ve managed to just eke out a win over Arlan; last year, I had to come from behind in the second half to pull it out.

We’ll keep track weekly on who is ahead. With that said, let’s dive into our picks!

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 4-5
Minnesota State at Wisconsin
Candace: Wisconsin doesn’t quite have a go-to scorer the way it has in years past, but luckily, Alex Rigsby is in net, so it shouldn’t make too much of a difference until the Badgers run into North Dakota and Minnesota. Wisconsin 3-1, 2-1
Arlan: The Mavericks are 1-56-3 against the Badgers, including 1-30-1 in Madison. Wisconsin 2-0, 3-1

St. Lawrence home-and-home versus Clarkson
Candace: St. Lawrence is usually good for a split against its North Country rival. Clarkson looked awesome last week, but it was against RIT, who is expected to have a down year, while St. Lawrence split with UNH. Decisions, decisions. Clarkson 3-1, St. Lawrence 2-1
Arlan: If the NCAA tournament started this weekend, the Golden Knights would be my pick to emerge as the champion. Clarkson 5-1, 2-0

Minnesota at Colgate
Candace: Even without Amanda Kessel, Noora Räty, and Megan Bozek, I am going to have a hard time picking against the Gophers this season. Minnesota 4-1, 5-1
Arlan: Do the Raiders have enough scoring to exploit the Gophers’ weaknesses? Minnesota 3-2, 4-1

Rensselaer at Robert Morris
Candace: RMU could be a puzzle this year, but then again, so could RPI. RMU lost starting goaltender Karen DiCocco to graduation; can Alexa Gruschow and company take advantage? Robert Morris 3-2, 2-1
Arlan: RMU is 34-24-7 under Paul Colontino, and that record would be a lot better but for a seven-week stretch in January and February where the Colonials went 2-11-1. Robert Morris 3-2, Rensselaer 4-3

Quinnipiac at St. Cloud State
Candace: Kelly Babstock is back as a senior, and she and Nicole Kosta should have enough to stop the Huskies. Quinnipiac 3-2, 3-1
Arlan: The Bobcats face a WCHA opponent for the first time in five years. St. Cloud State 2-1, Quinnipiac 3-2

Friday, Oct. 4

Syracuse at Northeastern
Candace: Kendall Coyne will be a huge loss for Northeastern while she competes in the Olympics, but I am going with home ice. Northeastern 1-0
Arlan: Neither team returns a lot of offense, so the first team to score will likely win. Syracuse 1-0

RIT at New Hampshire
Candace: Most of the experienced players from RIT’s D-III title team are gone. It may prove a rough couple of months for the Tigers. New Hampshire 2-1
Arlan: October may be a tough month as the Tigers work on filling holes; RIT’s first game versus a Hockey East opponent since going D-I. New Hampshire 3-1

Saturday, Oct. 5

Syracuse at New Hampshire
Candace: New Hampshire is still an up-and-down team, but I think they should come out on top. New Hampshire 2-1
Arlan: UNH was a goal better at Syracuse a year ago. New Hampshire 2-0

RIT at Northeastern
Candace: Again, I go with home ice. Northeastern 3-1
Arlan: The Huskies should retain enough speed to claim this one. Northeastern 4-2

Ohio State at Mercyhurst
Candace: Mercyhurst lost its senior netminder to graduation, but I am going with home ice. Mercyhurst 4-2
Arlan: First meeting of the two teams since 2004; the Buckeyes fell by 2-1 scores in the only two previous games. Mercyhurst 3-2

Women’s D-I picks: March 22

Well, I went 3-1 in the quarterfinal round (.750), to bring my postseason record to 27-11 (.711). There are only three games left. Let’s see how I do.

Friday, March 22

Boston College vs. Minnesota
I’ve wanted to see this game all year. It should be a speedy one too. Boston College is deeper than it was a year ago, but so is Minnesota, and with Noora Räty in net, and the Gophers playing on home ice, it’s too much for the Eagles. Minnesota 4-2

Mercyhurst vs. Boston University
Oh boy, who knows what will happen in this game. I give the Lakers a slight edge in net with Steph Ciampa, but feel the Terriers are a more balanced team, and they’ve looked slightly more consistent. I’d imagine this will go to OT. Boston University 3-2

Saturday, March 24

Boston University vs. Minnesota
The Gophers will be going for an historic season if they win the semifinal against Boston College, undefeated and untied. The Terriers played Wisconsin in the title game two years ago and fell short, and will again, as the Gophers and Hobey trio of Amanda Kessel, Megan Bozek, and Räty capture the championship on home ice. Minnesota 4-1

Women’s D-I wrap: March 18

Four survive to compete on the final weekend
A quarterfinal of the NCAA tournament may be the most pressure-packed game of the season. Win and a team is on to the Frozen Four, and by most measures, a season is judged as a success no matter where a team may have fallen short during the rest of the year. Lose, and the championship dream comes to a screeching halt.

For that one game, everything is magnified. Any decision by a coach, such as whether to juggle lines or how to match them against the opposition, what goaltender to start, or when to call that one timeout, could alter the outcome. So too for an action by a player, and those judgements have to be made in an instant.

In terms of advancing beyond that round, experience appeared to matter. The two teams that had not participated in the NCAA tournament since 2010, Clarkson and Harvard, were both eliminated in regulation. All four teams that gained a spot in the semifinals have at least some players on the roster that have participated in a previous Frozen Four, although admittedly, Mercyhurst was outgunned in that respect by Cornell.

Saturday did not prove to be a good day for the ECAC. The conference with the most teams in the NCAA tourney is the only one that won’t be represented at the Frozen Four.

Half of the quarterfinals required overtime, and one unseeded squad triumphed, along with three hosting teams.

Boston College continues success over Harvard
The storyline in this game may be as simple as the Eagles just matching up well against Harvard of late; they ran their head-to-head winning streak to five with a 3-1 victory.

Like they did in the Beanpot, the Crimson got on the scoreboard first, but again it proved to be their only goal. Gina McDonald had a chance to put Harvard ahead four and a half minutes into the contest, but with Corinne Boyles down, she was unable to lift the puck as Boyles kicked out a skate. At the 16-minute mark, Mary Parker’s quick shot on a power play got through Boyles and barely trickled across the goal line.

Exactly a minute later, Harvard’s lead was gone. Katey Stone decided to start freshman Emerance Maschmeyer over senior Laura Bellamy down the stretch, but that move did not pay dividends on this day. A rolling puck that did not appear threatening off of the stick of Haley Skarupa managed to find a route under Maschmeyer’s stick and into the goal. If one soft goal in a game of this magnitude is difficult to overcome, two can be back-breaking. A couple minutes into the middle frame, Caitlin Walsh released another shot that was more fortuitous than forceful; it fooled the goaltender, and BC was up, 2-1.

Alex Carpenter doubled the lead with a nice redirect. Harvard was unable to rally, as Boyles slammed the door with 30 saves.

Boston University overpowers Clarkson
The Golden Knights rely on a defense that allowed less than two goals on average. Their offense takes a conservative approach, averaging under three goals a contest, so when Boston University scored two goals 16 seconds apart to lead, 4-1, in the third period, that presented a challenge outside of Clarkson’s comfort zone.

The Golden Knights made a valiant attempt, answering 12 seconds later and pulling within one on a Shannon MacAulay goal with under five minutes remaining. Clarkson pulled Erica Howe for an extra skater with 1:06 to play, and Sarah Lefort converted into the empty net just seven seconds later, her second goal of the game. Lefort’s linemates, Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenelle Kohanchuk, each contributed a goal and a helper. Kerrin Sperry thwarted 34 shots to win her 23rd game, a career high.

Lakers outlast Cornell
When Caroline Luczak scored to put Mercyhurst ahead of Cornell, 3-2, at 18:47 of the third period, it appeared that the Big Red may have at last sunk into a hole from which they could not climb. Instead, a Lakers’ forward made one of those seemingly minor decisions that had major implications, dumping a puck without gaining the center line. The resulting icing call allowed Lauren Slebodnick to be replaced by an extra attacker and gave Cornell an offensive zone faceoff. Brianne Jenner won a draw back to Jillian Saulnier, and her shot wound up in the net. Just 17 seconds after falling behind, the Big Red were back to even. For the fifth straight playoff game, they had scored in the final two minutes of regulation to either tie or take the lead.

One would expect that such a dramatic turn would wreak havoc on a young team like Mercyhurst; rather than celebrating, it found itself in overtime with its season at stake. Perhaps that is where the Lakers’ youth served them well, and they were blissfully unaware that their program’s previous four trips into overtime in the NCAA tournament had ended in defeat. Saturday followed a different script, as Stephanie Ciampa made four more stops to bring her total to 29 for the game and freshman Jenna Dingeldein netted a game-winner 4:49 into the extra session.

Mercyhurst advances to its third Frozen Four and first since 2010, coincidentally also held in Minneapolis.

Minnesota takes marathon from North Dakota
The Gophers attempted to reproduce their quarterfinal recipe from a year ago against North Dakota in a quarterfinal. The first step went well, as Hannah Brandt scored in the opening minute to put the visitors in immediate trouble.  However, North Dakota departed from precedent, pressuring Minnesota into mistakes, outshooting the hosts heavily in the opening 20 minutes, and taking a lead of its own before a half minute was played in the next period on goals by Ashley Furia and Meghan Dufault. Amanda Kessel squared the contest at 2-2 before the second intermission. Minnesota had to kill off a five-minute major, North Dakota survived a couple of minors of its own, and bonus hockey was needed.

Goaltenders Shelby Amsley-Benzie and Noora Räty overcame all challenges through the first overtime, a second, and most of a third. When North Dakota was assessed another penalty, the Gophers’ Kelly Terry was finally credited with the deciding goal off of a goal-mouth scramble at 18:51 of the third OT, the longest game in history for both programs.

Semifinals schedule
The resulting bracket pairs Boston College versus Minnesota on Friday at 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT., and Mercyhurst with Boston University at 9 p.m. EDT, 8 p.m. CDT. The same matches occurred in NCAA quarterfinals in 2011, with both Boston schools earning victories.

Women’s D-I picks: March 15

Well, I did pretty well again in my second week of postseason picks, going 7-3 (.700). I can’t count the Sunday games, because I didn’t get around to posting picks in the new match-ups since I was at Denver-Alaska-Anchorage for an 11 a.m. game. Overall on the postseason, I am 24-10 (.705).

Here comes the NCAA tournament!

Saturday, March 16

North Dakota at Minnesota
This is the sixth meeting this season between these two teams. However, I don’t see the results changing, although it might be closer than it has in the past. Minnesota 3-2

Mercyhurst at Cornell
The Lakers haven’t really been tested since getting clobbered by Cornell back in January, and I think that will hurt them in this game. Cornell 4-2

Clarkson at Boston University
This comes down to goaltending: can Erica Howe hold off the Terriers offense enough for Clarkson’s less potent offense to succeed? My gut says not enough. Boston University 3-2

Harvard at Boston College
A rematch of a very thrilling Beanpot semifinal game won by the Eagles. I think the score and the winner will be the same. Boston College 2-1

Women’s D-I wrap: March 11

Conference tourneys provide final pieces in NCAA picture
The four conference tournaments are in the books, and that means our season has been reduced to the seven games of the NCAA tournament, and that bracket has been announced. First, we’ll consider the conference action, where in a complete reversal of last season, every regular-season champion backed up its success with a playoff title. Two teams repeated their runs from a year ago, while a pair of squads are back on top after being upset in 2012.

Mercyhurst resumes CHA reign
The Lakers had to deal with recent nemesis Robert Morris in the semifinals, but they emerged unscathed with a 2-1 victory. Lauren Jones gave Mercyhurst a lead in the second period, and last-minute goals by Christine Bestland into an empty net and Brandi Pollock with an extra attacker offset. Stepanie Ciampa made 25 saves to up her personal record on the year to 18-1-0.

In the other semi, Syracuse recorded its fourth-straight 2-1 win over RIT. Seniors Kim Schlattman and Tenecia Hiller combined to put the Tigers on the board first, with Schlattman tallying the four-on-four goal at 6:32 of the second. It took the Orange more than a period to answer, but Allie LaCombe did so on a power play. Six minutes into overtime, Sadie St. Germain of Syracuse flirted with the role of goat when she sat for a trip. Her teammates killed off her penalty, and less than two minutes after her confinement ended, St. Germain proved heroic, scoring the game-winner from Brittney Krebs and goaltender Kallie Billadeau. Billadeau made 22 stops in her more conventional job, and Ali Binnington denied 43 shots in defeat.

The championship game brought a continuation of the pattern where Syracuse can get so close but no closer where Mercyhurst is concerned. Shiann Darkangelo just beat the buzzer to give the Orange a 1-0 lead at the end of a penalty-filled second period. The Lakers responded with a four-goal final frame, with markers coming courtesy of Molly Byrne, Caroline Luczak, Bestland, and Christie Cicero. Ciampa stopped 19 shots to earn another win and return the CHA Championship to Mercyhurst.

Minnesota repeats in WCHA
North Dakota and Wisconsin clashed in a much anticipated semifinal to determine the eighth team in the rankings, and potentially, the final team into the NCAA field. UND seized the role of the aggressor, and it paid off with an Ashley Furia goal 12:36 into the game. Monique Lamoureux doubled the lead six minutes into the final period, and 10 minutes elapsed before Erika Sowchuk responded for the Badgers. UW had to go onto the penalty kill a minute after getting momentum from the goal, and the clock ran out on any further comeback attempt from the 2-1 hole. Shelby Amsley-Benzie saved 26 chances for her 19th win.

Versus Ohio State, Minnesota got two goals from frosh Maryanne Menefee and a 24-save shutout from Noora Räty. Hannah Brandt, Mira Jalosuo, and Megan Bozek also found the net, giving the hosts a 5-0 victory.

Bozek and Menefee scored two minutes apart in the second period of the championship game, and Räty did the rest. Her 30-save shutout of UND was her fifth consecutive blanking and the sixth in a row for the Gophers.

Terriers take Hockey East again
Louise Warren scored twice in a three-goal second period as Boston University prevailed over Providence, 4-0, and advanced to the final. Half of Kerrin Sperry’s 42 saves came in the final 20 minutes, as the Friars dominated the shot chart but could gain no ground.

After flirting with disaster in the quarterfinal versus Maine, Boston College became seriously involved in the semis. Northeastern’s Casey Pickett struck short-handed early in the second period, and the Huskies lead swelled to three before the Eagles got on the board late. Chloe Desjardins turned aside 34 shots and NU kept its NCAA hopes alive with a 4-1 victory.

BU wasn’t in the mood for any Cinderella stories in the championship. Isabel Menard got her team a lead four minutes into the game, and Sarah Lefort tacked on a goal eight minutes later. Twice the Huskies drew within a goal, and twice Jenelle Kohanchuk answered. Sperry notched another 35 saves in a 5-2 win, the Terriers hoisted a trophy, and Northeastern fell just short of the NCAA field for the second straight season.

Cornell clutch in ECAC Hockey run
Few teams of late have embraced postseason drama with the enthusiasm of Cornell. After a number of overtime classics in recent years, the Big Red needed a pair of late rallies to get by Colgate in this season’s quarterfinal. Against St. Lawrence in the semifinal, Cornell opened up a gap on two Taylor Woods goals late in the first period before the Saints’ Rylee Smith put in a pair of tallies in the next frame. Still knotted at two, the Big Red survived some penalty problems in the latter stages of the third period and got the game-winner at 18:22 as Woods completed her hat trick. She assisted on Brianne Jenner’s empty-net goal to seal a 4-2 win.

Harvard led throughout in defeating Clarkson, also by a 4-2 score. The Crimson took a three-goal lead in the final period before the Golden Knights were able to get anything going. Mary Parker put the exclamation point on the triumph with her second goal into an empty net.

Jenner and Hillary Crowe traded goals in the first period, and although Cornell dominated the shot counter, it couldn’t get a second puck by Emerance Maschmeyer until Jessica Campbell connected on a power play with under two minutes remaining in regulation. The 2-1 win gives the Big Red seniors their third playoff title in their careers.

Tournament invitations
Due to winning conference tournaments, Minnesota, Boston University and Cornell were automatically in the NCAA field. The other five at-large spots went to the next five highest teams in the PairWise Rankings. The first four were obvious: Boston College, the fourth seed and final quarterfinal host; Harvard, Clarkson, and Mercyhurst.

Although the USCHO PairWise Rankings would seem to indicate that North Dakota’s loss on Saturday dropped them out of the field, that was a result of how that algorithm considers the Common Opponents category. The computer version computes a cumulative winning percentage against all common opponents combined, and because UND had more games and losses to Minnesota, it appeared to lose a comparison to St. Lawrence despite a better record versus the only other COP, Clarkson. Based on this and other recent decisions by the women’s selection committee, it evidently considers the winning percentage versus each COP separately. That flips the UND comparison with SLU and allows UND to tie Northeastern and Wisconsin with three comparisons won. North Dakota advances due to a higher RPI.

The NCAA bracket
North Dakota at No. 1 Minnesota, Saturday at 4 p.m. CT
Harvard at No. 4 Boston College, Saturday at 1 p.m. ET

Clarkson at No. 3 Boston University, Saturday at 3 p.m. ET
Mercyhurst at No. 2 Cornell, Saturday at 1 p.m. ET

Individual awards
The three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award were announced last week, senior defenseman Megan Bozek, junior forward Amanda Kessel, and senior goaltender, Noora Räty, all from Minnesota. The winner of the award will be announced at the Kazmaier Banquet on March 23.

Each conference also handed out regular season awards, highlighted by the Player of the Year for each: CHA, junior forward Christine Bestland, Mercyhurst; ECAC Hockey, junior forward Brianne Jenner, Cornell; Hockey East, sophomore forward Alex Carpenter, Boston College; WCHA, Kessel.

The playoffs brought more recognition in the form of all-tournament teams, plus a Most Valuable Player in each: CHA, senior goaltender Stephanie Ciampa, Mercyhurst; ECAC, freshman goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer, Harvard; Hockey East, junior goaltender Kerrin Sperry, Boston University; WCHA, Räty.

All of these young ladies are most deserving, and their talents are definitely worthy of recognition.

One award of a slightly different tone went to Yale senior Alyssa Zupon, winner of the ECAC Hockey Mandi Schwartz Award. Zupon’s community service efforts, inspired in part by her late teammate for which the award is named, are truly exemplary, and serve as a sample of the great things done by players off of the ice that we learn of less often. She is also a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. More information regarding her work on behalf of causes such as earthquake and tsunami relief and forming a pediatric patients support group can be found here at this link.
http://www.yalebulldogs.com/sports/w-hockey/2012-13/releases/20130309gzv964

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