This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: Jan. 8, 2009

The month of January is named after “Janus”, the Roman god of doors, whose two faces were said to be able to see both forward and backward.

What the heck does this have to do with women’s hockey, you ask? Nothing, really, except that the first column of the new year is a convenient place to take a conference-by-conference look at what has taken place to date, and what might be on its way.

Hockey East

Last year, just about this time, this space mused about the possibility of Boston University being a possible participant in this year’s Womens Frozen Four, which it will host.

At the time, the Terriers were still looked upon as mere pups, a nascent program with promise but no accomplishments. Ah, but the story is a whole lot different this year. BU is having its best season ever, and remains in the hunt for the WHEA regular season title.

Unfortunately for them, so are four other schools — Boston College, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Providence — all of whom are separated by a mere four points.

To their advantage, the Terriers and Providence both have three games in hand on league leaders BC. BU still has two tilts each with the two teams on the bottom, Maine and Vermont.

ECAC Hockey

What the heck has happened to Harvard? That’s the question of the hour in women’s hockey.

The conventional wisdom around the league had the Crimson waltzing to another ECAC title, with several others (Dartmouth, Cornell, St. Lawrence) fighting for the honor of being No. 2.

However, Harvard has recorded just two wins in their last eight games (although conference wins over Dartmouth and Quinnipiac helped their cause). You want more conventional wisdom? Don’t count Harvard out. They have too many quality players — beginning with defending Patty Kazmaier winner Sarah Vaillancourt — to ignore, and a strong finish in the ECAC tourney could be just what they need.
A reasonably easy schedule the rest of the way shouldn’t hurt them, either.


Wisconsin and Minnesota? Or Minnesota and Wisconsin?

They may be mulling that one over all the way to Boston in the national championship game. The Badgers do have the upper hand so far, having tied (1-1), then defeated (2-1) Minnesota at the Kohl Center in October. The two will meet again for a weekend set in Minnesota on Feb. 7-8, so stay tuned for that one.

Stay tuned, too, to Minnesota-Duluth, whose national title all the others are trying to wrest away. If any coach can cajole her team into tournament readiness, it’s UMD’s Shannon Miller.

And for a while, we’ve been waiting for a fourth team to spring out of the “W” to challenge the Big Three. If anyone can, it would be North Dakota, whose mettle will be severely tested during the final two weekends in February, when they’ll face the Gophers and Duluth. Then, of course, they’d have to run up against one or more of those teams again in the league tournament.


The Nation’s smallest loop — with just five teams — has suddenly become one of the most competitive.

Since its inception, the CHA has been the personal playground of Mercyhurst, who won the league’s first five titles outright, and shared last year’s crown with Wayne State.

This year, the Staters are keeping step with Mercyhurst, but have been joined in the chase by Robert Morris, who pulled off a stunning early-season upset at Minnesota (one of the Gophers‘ two losses to date).

All three schools have fattened up on lesser lights Niagara and Syracuse, and now have a whole slew of tilts against each other in the final two months.
You want interesting? Check out Mercyhurst’s two game, end-of-season trip to Wayne. The regular season title could well be up for grabs.

One thing seems certain. We could all be in for a wild ride over the next two months.