As is the norm at this juncture in the schedule, the postseason structure begins to take on a semblance of order. Nevertheless, there are always a few unheralded teams willing to upset the applecart. Such was the case this week in both the NESCAC and MIAC. Consistency overcame unforeseen upsets however, as five teams (Norwich 12-0-0, ECAC East, Elmira 10-0-0 ECAC West, Plattsburgh 10-0-0, ECAC West, St. Thomas 10-0-2, MIAC, and Middlebury 9-0-3, NESCAC) stayed unbeaten in conference play, enhancing their respective chances at securing a No. 1 seed for the upcoming playoffs.
Ephs serve notice to NESCAC
A year ago, Williams stumbled to a seventh place finish in the always competitive NESCAC, compiling a 9-15-1 (5-10-1 NESCAC) record. Entering 2013-14 with only two winning seasons since the 2005-06 campaign (71-114-12 overall), the Ephs rolled out to a rather aggravating 3-5-0 start. Since the semester break however, Williams, led by third-year coach Meghan Gillis, had made an exemplary about face. With a sweep over formerly ranked Bowdoin this week, the Ephs advanced their slate to 8-1-1 in 2014. Consequently, No. 9 Amherst’s split with Connecticut College (3-6-3 NESCAC) provided Williams with a three-point advantage over the Jeffs in the race for second place in the conference. Leading scorer Cristina Bravi (15-12-27) has collected 12 points in her last six games for Williams. Teammate Hanna Beattie, who leads the conference in scoring among freshman (7-14-21), is currently in the midst of a seven-game point streak. The Ephs last exceeded the .500 mark by going 12-11-2 in 2009-10 under coach Marissa O’Neil. O’Neil, now with Bowdoin, and Gillis, were teammates when they skated for the Polar Bears from 2003 to 2005. With only six games left in the regular season, all of which are conference matchups, Gillis’ club is within reach of securing home ice for the quarterfinals of NESCAC playoffs, beginning Saturday, March 1.
Blazers monumental weekend
St. Benedict freshman Katie Cristan’s first collegiate goal midway through the third period of Saturday’s game with visiting Gustavus Adolphus stamped an exclamation point on what was unquestionably the utmost meaningful weekend in program history. With the embers still smoldering from the previous afternoon, (an upset 4-2 victory over the No. 7 Gusties), Cristan’s marker at 11:56 in the third unlocked a 2-2 stalemate and served as the jumping off point to a 4-2 triumph. The Blazers improved to 3-9-0 in the MIAC. Cristan had a run of 11 scoreless games before striking for the monumental goal. Coming into the matchup, Gustavus Adolphus had not been swept in conference play since 2003-04. St. Thomas moved past the Gusties in the standings with a pair of wins over Augsburg in a home-and-home set.
Cadets looking to run table in ECAC East
Following consecutive 4-0 wins over Southern Maine and Plymouth State, No. 4, Norwich (17-3-0, 12-0-0 ECAC East) ran its win streak to eight games. With the positive results, the Cadets closed to within one victory of securing the No. 1 seed for the conference playoffs. Leading scorer Tori Charron had two goals in Friday’s win over the Huskies, giving her 19 for the season and 99 for her career. Norwich held a significant advantage in shots on goal in both weekend contests, going 33-5 over Southern Maine and 50-4 against the Panthers.
NCHA playoff seeds in question
In an uncharacteristic low-scoring affair, St. Scholastica pulled out a 1-0 win over host No. 10 Adrian Friday night. Saints freshman goalie Lindsey Hartfiel finished with 39 stops in gaining her ninth win and third shutout of the season. Adrian outshot St. Scholastica 39-13. The Saints were without Nina Waichader for the second game, as the Olympian joined her Swiss teammates in Sochi last week. Weekend action left a logjam at the head of the NCHA standings. Adrian (10-4-0), St. Scholastica (9-3-2) and Lake Forest (9-3-2) are deadlocked with 20 points; St. Norbert is a point behind.