Wednesday Women: Mercurial programs

Candace: Well Arlan, I thought Dartmouth might have turned a corner. A win against even a depleted Cornell is big, yet the Big Green laid an egg last weekend. Thoughts?

Arlan: Chris Wells of St. Lawrence said earlier in the year that he felt that meetings of the large middle layer of teams were likely to produce games decided by a goal more often than not. That’s what Dartmouth essentially had this weekend, with the Saints adding an empty-net goal. When the Big Green played Clarkson and SLU on the road, the games were also one or less goal differentials, with DC coming out with three of four points. So, my conclusion would be that there likely isn’t much separation between Dartmouth and St. Lawrence or Clarkson, win over Cornell aside.

The question mark for the Big Green looks to be their offense. They put 38 and 26 shots on net against the Saints and Golden Knights respectively. Maybe you just tip your hat to goalies Carmen MacDonald and Erica Howe and say they were just too good, but zero goals in 120 minutes on your own ice is an attention grabber. Dartmouth only scored twice against a middle-of-the-pack defense from Colgate as well, so that’s a trend that’s worth watching.

If the other contenders knock each other off and nobody emerges from the pack, then it will set up well for the Big Red winning the ECAC. Harvard is the one contender that is perfect against everyone not named Cornell. Do you see the Crimson as the leading threat to the champ, or are you reserving judgement until you see how they do hosting Minnesota?

Candace: Well, I’d say that even though Harvard lost to Cornell, they played them tough. They have crushed St Lawrence twice now and taken two from Clarkson. I do think we will learn how much of a threat the Crimson are when they take on the Gophers. Speaking of, was Schoullis and her line that good last weekend, or was UNH just that bad?

Arlan: Both. Friday’s game definitely got away from the Wildcats at some point of the second period, and everyone from Minnesota became dangerous. However, the Schoullis line caused problems for them all weekend, and that’s a theme in most of the Gophers’ games. When that line doesn’t score, Minnesota is 0-2. Schoullis looks like she is getting back to full strength after being injured against MSU and missing the first Wisconsin game. She’s not a speedy player, but she is able to create space for herself in open ice with her cuts, and by putting the puck where opponents can’t get to it. Battling along the wall, she’s very strong, Erickson is good in that regard as well, and both possess a quick release on their shots. Kessel — what can one say? She’s lightning fast, extremely creative with the puck, and is finishing better than last season. If she stays healthy, she will challenge some pretty lofty point records at Minnesota.

The only team that has managed to stop that trio for an entire game this season was Bemidji State, and they were frustratingly effective once more in Duluth on Sunday. The Beavers don’t seem that dangerous until they are taking away all of your time and space and forcing you into mishandling the puck. They are good at making opponents look bad. Offensively, they were buoyed by the return of Emily Erickson, and she had two goals and two assists on the weekend, and Bemidji only scored five goals.

Of course, I could just be thinking too highly of UMD. If the season ended today, the PairWise Rankings have BSU at No. 8 and UMD not even under consideration. In theory, their schedule is getting easier now, but they could easily slip in Columbus. Do you think the Bulldogs will be able to get on a roll and play consistently before it is too late?

Candace: The Bulldogs sort of remind me of Dartmouth. Every time I think they are ready to get rolling, they fall down. I had a feeling Bemidji would get a win this past weekend, and I was right. I honestly feel that this is a rebuilding season for the Bulldogs, and I think both Bemidji and North Dakota are stronger this year. Speaking of learning about teams, headed into last weekend, Northeastern had a great record but hadn’t faced any strong teams. We both felt we might learn something about the Huskies. Given that BC swept them, do you think Northeastern is still a step below the two Boston teams?

Arlan: I haven’t seen BU this year, so it is hard for me to say just where they fall, but from what I saw, Northeastern is definitely a step below BC. I’ll excuse their first period Thursday, because adjusting to a team as fast as the Eagles will take time, but BC was just better. People keep telling me how fast Northeastern is, I’ve watched the Huskies on a webcast three separate times this season, and I saw them play in person once last year. Maybe they have speed, but they don’t play like a fast team. Coyne is obviously a burner, and they have some other kids that can get up and down the ice, but when I’ve watched them, there are too many periods where the feet aren’t moving. I’m likely being too critical, but if we are talking about being an NCAA team, I just don’t think that the Huskies are there yet. Schelling will have to beg, borrow, and steal to get them into the dance.

I was impressed with the Eagles, however. Everyone looked fast. Boyles was shaky early, but she seemed to improve as Thursday’s game went along. Restuccia wasn’t playing; I assume she’s injured? Given that their two top scorers are rookies, as well as three of the top four, I expect that the upside is pretty high for the Eagles. Consistency is always a question for a young squad, and I think we’ve seen some struggles in that regard. What are your thoughts on BC and the rest of the HEA?

Candace: We’ve discussed Hockey East a few times this year Arlan, and it always seems to come back to Boston University and Boston College. I think the fact that the Eagles’ leading scorers are rookies is a great upside. Alex Carpenter looks like she is picking up right where Kelli Stack left off. I haven’t been able to find anything on Restuccia, but if she starts producing like she is capable of, the Eagles are one of the few Eastern squads that I think can challenge the WCHA hegemony. Even if Restuccia isn’t producing points at a high clip, her leadership will be invaluable. Looking at the rest of the conference, when BU gets Poulin back, they will be a threat to just about anyone. Below the Boston squads, I see teams that can threaten, but I don’t think they are strong enough to challenge consistently. Maine is about mercurial as they come, UNH just doesn’t have it this year, and Providence, while improving, is still a step below. Now, looking ahead, the Eagles have a two-game series with Mercyhurst. The Lakers will also play two with Cornell. The Lakers have kind of flown under our radar, especially for me after losing to Minnesota State. What do we see from coach Mike Sisti’s squad?

Arlan: A lot of inactivity. Until Tuesday night’s win over SLU that see-sawed through two periods, they’d only played four games since sweeping Providence on October 16, a pair with each of Lindenwood and Yale, two teams near the bottom. When I spoke with Mike Sisti early in the year, he said that this season would be challenging for his staff in that they had a very young team and had much they needed to teach them. I expect that this stretch that’s been light on games has helped in that regard, but we’ll need to see them in game action against better teams to be able to judge. The two series with Cornell and BC should give us a barometer reading from Erie.

And props to two “R” teams. With a win over Colgate on Tuesday, Robert Morris is 9-1-1. Yes, they don’t have any marquee wins, but I’m willing to bet that’s a new high-water mark for the Colonials program. And couldn’t you almost hear a gasp from around the country when Rensselaer led Wisconsin in the third period on Friday?

Candace: Yes, we could hear a huge gasp when the Engineers led Wisconsin! However, I’m inclined to view that as Four Nations hangover. Regarding the Colonials, yes, kudos for beating Colgate. We’ll have to see what happens when they start facing some better teams. I had someone e-mail me asking why they weren’t ranked yet, and I think we can safely say it comes down to strength of schedule, which it always seems to. The best teams play each other and maintain their position. Considering that the Colonials struggled against, for instance, St. Cloud, which still hovers at the bottom of the WCHA, I don’t think we can read too much into their record. It’s the same with Northeastern. Speaking of gasps, it just came in that Quinnipiac beat Boston College in overtime. The Bobcats have been disappointing so far this year; might we see a second half resurgence from Kelly Babstock and company?

Arlan: Babstock herself definitely surfaced just in time, getting the tying 6-on-4 goal with a scant 10 seconds to go. Amanda Colin’s game-winner 35 seconds into OT shows just how much hockey can be a game of momentum. The Bobcats accomplish zilch all game against the Eagles, and then get two goals past Boyles in 45 seconds of action. Interesting that frosh Chelsea Laden earned the win for Quinnipiac, stopping all but one of 34 shots. Whether that’s a sign that Victoria Vigilanti is not healthy or that Rick Seeley is trying to stabilize the position I don’t know, but given that their offense isn’t blazing at the moment, they’ll need to be strong in net. And speaking of health, I see that Restuccia played for BC, so I guess that question is answered.

I know RMU is likely to fade as they face tougher teams, but they are a TUC right now, so they deserve at least a little love.

In talking to Brian McCloskey last weekend, he made the point that he thinks Hockey East is stronger top to bottom than the ECAC this season. Although BC failed to close the deal tonight against an ECAC foe, do you agree with him?

Candace: I am actually inclined to agree with Brian on that, but I think it’s a subtle difference. To me, the ECAC is basically a two-tier league. You’ve got Cornell, Harvard, St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Dartmouth, and Quinnipiac up top, and maybe Princeton. But teams like Brown, Yale, Union, even RPI, despite its showing in one game against Wisconsin, those teams are very unlikely to beat anybody in the top half. The last place team in Hockey East is New Hampshire, which beat Dartmouth and lost pretty convincingly to Vermont, the team just above them in Hockey East. I know that games are as much about match-ups as anything, but it does seem that Hockey East has a stiffer level of competition overall than ECAC. Speaking of, this weekend, and to wrap things up, we have a really intriguing nonconference series between Boston University and Cornell, as well as one between Minnesota and Harvard. Both have significant PairWise implications, wouldn’t you agree?

Arlan: There are so few nonconference games involving Ivy League teams or WCHA teams, so the importance of each one played is amplified. Unfortunately, the BU games, as it seems has been the case with so many key games this season, will be less insightful because of missing players, if Poulin and Kohanchuk are still out. Of course, the PWR are blind to these absences and don’t care beyond the win, loss, or draw. Right now, all of these teams are okay in the PairWise, but BU is sitting in eighth after tonight’s BC loss and Mercyhurst win and could use points. Being swept would be painful for any of the these teams, but they all could survive that worst-case scenario. We may eventually find that these games have a ripple effect for other teams in the ECAC, HEA, and WCHA, so it is hard to guess at the true impact. In November, maybe we’re best off just enjoying the hockey — and a little turkey and stuffing.

Candace and Arlan want to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving!


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