Weâ€™re now solidly into the new year with Christmas, New Year’s (and Boxing Day for all you Canadians) in the rearview mirror. The first half of the Division III womenâ€™s hockey season was filled some great story lines.
How about the Lake Forest Foresters with an 8-0-2 record at the break and leading the NCHA. Carisa Zaban, now in her fifth year at the helm of the Lake Forest program, has the Foresters primed for their first run at the NCHA crown and on pace to shatter their single-season record for wins of 14, set back in the 2002-2003 season.
Kim Herring has become a household name around the D-III womenâ€™s hockey world as the sophomore forward from Dover, New Hampshire leads the nation in points (22) and is tied for the lead in goals (14).
Staying out West, St. Catherine leads the MIAC with a 7-1 record. The Wildcats’ lone blemish of the season came at the hands of St. Maryâ€™s in a 2-0 loss. St. Catherine has yet to face the meat of its schedule however, with showdowns looming against Wis.-River Falls, and twice each against Gustavus Adolphus, St. Thomas, Bethel and St. Olaf.
In the East, perennial powerhouse Plattsburgh has answered all critics so far after losing Danielle Blanchard and the Cardinals’ outstanding senior class from 2009. The Cardinals lead the ECAC West with a perfect 7-0 overall and league play record. They also defeated defending ECAC West champion and NCAA runner-up Elmira twice already this season.
The Cardinals will join arch-rival Elmira in representing the ECAC West in the annual Panther-Cardinal Classic taking place this year in Middlebury. Defending national champion Amherst rounds out the star-studded four team field. USCHO Game of the Weekâ€™s Brian Schulz will have audio and video coverage on Sunday, Jan. 3 and Monday, Jan. 4 for all four games of the tournament. (Iâ€™ll have full tournament coverage including interviews with all four coaches later in the week with my weekly This Week in D-III column).
The ECAC East has been tough to judge so far this season. Norwich and Manhattanville have once again emerged as the favorites, but itâ€™s hard to determine who has had the better first half so far. Norwich has only lost once, but their loss came to Manhattanville as the Valiants pounded the Cadets 7-0.
Manhattanville on the other hand has lost three times this season. Although none of the losses are anything to shake your fist at as the Valiants dropped two games to Elmira and one to D-I Holy Cross. Norwich tied Holy Cross on the other hand the night before they got trounced by Manhattanville. The Valiants have also beaten Elmira for their signature win so far this season.
Manhattanvilleâ€™s highly touted freshman class has been turning up roses so far as six of its top eight scorers are rookies. Leading the way has been Katie Little, who might remind some fans of last yearâ€™s Laura Hurd Award winner, Elmiraâ€™s Kayla Coady. The 5â€™11 forward from Victoria, British Columbia has sniped 14 goals and added five assists on the season for 19 points, ranking her third in the nation behind only Herring and R.I.T.â€™s Katie Stack. Manhattanville and Norwich will meet again on Jan. 16, which will more than likely decide the ECAC East regular season crown.
The NESCAC looks like once again it will come down to perennial powers Middlebury and Amherst. Both teams are unbeaten so far with the Panthers holding a perfect 5-0-0 record and Amherst at 5-0-2. The Lady Jeffs however have faced the tougher schedule, picking up two wins against RIT and Trinity and then tying a game with each as well.
Trinity, Williams, and Bowdoin are three teams looking to try and bridge the gap to the top two teams. Trinity probably has the best chance with the always tough Isabel Iwachiw between the pipes for the Bantams still.
Judging from my bold predictions segment of my column, you should look the opposite of what I predict here for the second half of the season.
20. Chatham beats Plymouth State at the St. Michaelâ€™s Tournament leaving the Panthers and Wesleyan as the only winless D-III teams
19. Plattsburgh wins the Panther-Cardinal Classic
18. Trinity hands Lake Forest its first loss of the season at the Codfish Bowl
17. Oswego wins the Rutland-Herald Invitational
16. Manhattanvilleâ€™s Katie Little wins the scoring title with over 50 points.
15. Elmira beats Amherst on Jan. 20 in a rematch of last yearâ€™s National Championship
14. Two of the Plattsburgh, Elmira, RIT, Amherst, or Middlebury combo lose to unranked teams
13. St. Catherine gets ranked in the USCHO.com Poll
12. Holy Cross beats Middlebury on Jan. 26 and goes unbeaten.
11. Trinityâ€™s Isabelle Iwachiw wins the Laura Hurd Award.
10. Adrian makes the NCHA Championship game
9. Norwich wins the ECAC East
8. Wis.-River Falls comes back to win the NCHA
7. St. Thomas wins the MIAC
6. RIT wins the ECAC West
5. Amherst wins the NESCAC
4. Plattsburgh and Middlebury get at-large bids
3. The West hosts the Frozen Four despite the conspiracy theorists thinking itâ€™s headed East again.
2. Middlebury, Wis.-River Falls, Plattsburgh, Norwich make it to the Frozen Four
1. Middlebury wins the National Championship