Boston College expected on top in Hockey East

Emily Field (BC - 15) - The visiting Boston University Terriers defeated the Boston College Eagles 4-1 on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Emily Field (BC – 15). (Melissa Wade)

“The Olympic year is an equalizer for all of college hockey, not just Hockey East,” said Providence coach Bob Deraney. “There’s increased parity because some of the marquee players throughout the country are with their national teams at this time. I think that’s a wonderful thing, because it really shows the parity in women’s hockey because everyone is really equal now.”

Increased parity in Hockey East would be welcomed by three quarters of the league’s coaches, because Boston University and Boston College very quickly turned the regular season into a two-team race a year ago. Those two teams, plus Northeastern, the top three teams in the standings last spring, each lose a star player with remaining eligibility to national team centralization.

Despite those personnel loses, Hockey East coaches placed that trio atop the league once more in their preseason poll, with BC being awarded the top rung, just as the Eagles were 12 months ago. The coaches followed Boston College with BU, Northeastern, Providence, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut in that order.

“Wherever they’re picked in the preseason poll, it really won’t matter once the puck is dropped,” said new Connecticut boss Chris MacKenzie. “The poll is something to talk about before the season.”

And so we will, given that puck has not yet dropped for the Hockey East race. MacKenzie’s charges were picked to finish last, as they did in February under previous coach Heather Linstad.

“One fear I would have is that we settle into that expectation and not drive ourselves out of that as far as we’re placed in the preseason poll,” MacKenzie said. “The rest of the league — I respect all the coaches here, all the programs here, and I’m just excited to compete against them.”

In recent years, we’ve seen the majority of programs take a step forward in the first season under new leadership. I expect to see UConn do so as well, although its climb figures to be limited by the fact that many of the other teams look to be rising.

As for the regular-season crown, it would appear to be BC’s to lose. However, that is a prize the Eagles have never won, coming up a point short in each of the previous two campaigns.

Below is a short breakdown of each squad, with a predicted order of finish. Click on the team name for the detailed season preview.

Boston College Eagles
Projected Finish: First
Hockey East Coaches Poll: First
Previous Season: Second, 17-2-2, 36 points
Key Departures: Blake Bolden, Dru Burns, Alex Carpenter, Ashley Motherwell, Caitlin Walsh
Arrivals: Andie Anastos, Kristyn Capizzano, Julie Fish, Steph Lemieux, Haley McLean, Lauren Wedell
Key Players: Haley Skarupa (24-29-53), Emily Field (13-19-32), Corinne Boyles (1.83 goals against average (GAA), .927 save percentage)

Providence Friars
Projected Finish: Second
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Fourth
Previous Season: Fifth, 8-10-3, 19 points
Key Departures: Nicole Anderson, Jessica Vella, Emily Groth
Arrivals: Arina Buxman, Cassidy Carels, Kendra Goodrich, Liv Halvorson, Arianna Reid, Janine Weber
Key Players: Haley Frade (13-18-31), Molly Illikainen (12-18-30), Corinne Buie (11-15-26)

Boston University Terriers
Projected Finish: Third
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Second
Previous Season: First, 18-2-1, 37 points
Key Departures: Marie-Philip Poulin, Jenelle Kohanchuk, Isabel Menard, Jill Cardella, Kathryn Miller
Arrivals: Mia Becker, Maddie Elia, Natalie Flynn, Victoria Hanson, Sarah Steele, Samantha Sutherland
Key Players: Sarah Lefort (24-19-43), Louise Warren (15-19-34), Kerrin Sperry (2.20 GAA, .919 save percentage)

Northeastern Huskies
Projected Finish: Fourth
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Third
Previous Season: Third, 13-7-1, 27 points
Key Departures: Kendall Coyne, Casey Pickett, Rachel Llanes
Arrivals: Sarah Foss, Melissa Haganey, Hayley Masters, Heater Mottau, Hayley Scamurra, Bella Sinsigalli
Key Players: Kelly Wallace (16-12-28), Brittany Esposito (10-17-27), Chloe Desjardins (2.58 GAA .913 save percentage)

Vermont Catamounts
Projected Finish: Fifth
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Sixth
Previous Season: Sixth, 6-11-4, 16 points
Key Departures: Emily Walsh, Erin Wente, Kelci Lanthier, Meghan Huertas
Arrivals: Rachael Ade, Victoria Andreakos, Bridget Baker, Cassidy Campeau, Sarah Kelly, Casey Leveillee, Madison Litchfield, Ashley Salerno
Key Players: Roxanne Douville (3.16 goals GAA, .913 save percentage), Brittany Zuback (14-12-26), Amanda Pelkey (9-11-20)

New Hampshire Wildcats
Projected Finish: Sixth
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Fifth
Previous Season: Fourth, 10-8-3, 23 points
Key Departures: Kristina Lavoie, Kristine Horn, Kailey Chappell, Katie Brock
Arrivals: Kate Haslett, Cassandra Vilgrain, Ashley Wilkes
Key Players: Alexis Crossley (7-17-24), Hannah Armstrong (11-8-19), Jessica Hitchcock (9-9-18)

Connecticut Huskies
Projected Finish: Seventh
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Eighth
Previous Season: Eighth, 1-19-1, 3 points
Key Departures: head coach Heather Linstad, assistant coach Jaime Totten, assistant coach Jennifer Chaisson, Kelly Horan, Casey Knajdek, Maude Blain
Arrivals: head coach Chris MacKenzie, assistant coach Casey Handrahan, assistant coach Jaclyn Hawkins, Susan Cavanaugh, Rebecca Fleming, Kelly Harris, Carly Haskins, Alexandra Lersch, Kaitlin Storo, Jessica Stott, Viivi Vaatovaara
Key Players: Elaine Chuli (3.91 GAA, .893 save percentage), Kayla Campero (9-9-18), Michela Cava (10-7-17)

Maine Black Bears
Projected Finish: Eighth
Hockey East Coaches Poll: Seventh
Previous Season: Seventh, 2-16-3, 7 points
Key Departures: assistant coach Tyler Bilton, Brittany Ott, Brittany Dougherty, Chloe Tinkler
Arrivals: assistant coach Sara Simard, Eve Boissonneault, Emilie Brigham, Mariah Fujimagari, Kristin Gilmour, Karissa Kirkup, Morgan Sakundiak, Jess Vallotton, Anna Wright
Key Players: Meghann Treacy (3.79 GAA, .892 save percentage), Jennifer More (7-9-16), Audra Richards (7-6-13)