This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: February 26, 2010

The end of the regular season, which was last week for three of the four D-I leagues (all but the CHA, that is), meant a renewal of that rite of late winter. Senior Day. (That is not to be confused with Senior Moment, of which your correspondent is all too well acquainted).

Routinely celebrated during the last home game of the season (pick a sport, pick an amateur level), Senior Day is a time to recognize the contributions of each club’s seniors. Sadly, it’s also a realization that it’s almost over.

That life will be different, henceforth.

And in women’s hockey, it means the sands in the hourglass have just about squeezed through that tiny opening for the last time. They are moving on without hockey, and hockey is moving on without them.

Such will be the case for New Hampshire’s Kelly Paton, the Wildcats’ leading scorer.

Anyone who knows Paton knows what a electric player she is. Anyone who knows UNH would put Paton in a league with Carisa Zaban, who set the schools career scoring marks a decade back.

“I would agree,” said UNH coach Brian McCloskey, who was an assistant on the mens’ side when Zaban was waterbugging around the Whit. “I remember Carisa very well. Statistics aside, I’d say Kelly’s one of the all time greatest forwards to ever play here. She’s special.

“I told the seniors that I was going to miss them for a lot of reasons. I’ll miss Kelly because she was so much fun to watch. She makes you look good as a coach because she knows what to do. She’s like having a coach out there.”

For Paton and the other departees, Senior Day was a mixed bag. The Wildcats dropped a 2-1 count to Boston College in what is all but certain to be the last game that Paton, Micaela Long, Shannon Sisk, and Kelly Cahill will ever play on the Olympic-sized Whittemore Center sheet.

However, the bundles of flowers, hugs and kisses from parents, and that pre-game ceremony, all worked to provide a little closure.

“I woke up,” Paton said of the morning of the game, “and was talking with some of my classmates. We were reflecting on the season, and couldn’t believe how fast it went. You always think you have a couple of years before you’re actually a senior.

“Today was the day we had to celebrate our four years here. It would have been nice to get the win. But I’ve been happy over the last four years. And that I got to share it with the people that I did. It was all good.”

As good as she was.

Tourney Talk

Tournament action gets underway on several fronts this week within Hockey East, the ECAC, and the WCHA. Most notable is the WCHA bracket, which as a look not seen before in league history. For the first time ever, an “outsider” has broken into the “Big Three”.

That newbie is St. Cloud, which recorded its best-ever finish, third place. It’s the first time any club has displaced the troika of Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, who all took turns winning the WCHA and winning the NCAA championship. The Huskies displaced Wisconsin, which finished fourth, from that group.

A little precedent was set in the ECAC, too, when Cornell – one of women’s hockey’s longest running programs – captured its first regular season crown. That means the old Lynah Rink will host women’s postseason action for the first time ever, when Colgate comes in for the best-of-three set.

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