Women’s D-I wrap: Feb. 24

Clarkson emerges on top of roller-coaster finish in ECAC Hockey
There are times when hockey may be more enjoyable for those who don’t have a team in the race but are interested observers. Sure, Clarkson fans are ecstatic now that the Golden Knights have earned their first league championship. But when a three-team, see-saw battle comes down to the final day with only a single point of separation between the leader and two pursuers, that causes many a tense moment.

Friday’s action proved pivotal in the ECAC. Trailing Cornell by a point and tied with Harvard, Clarkson needed assistance and Quinnipiac and Yale delivered.

Jessica Campbell put Cornell up, 1-0, 10:46 into the game versus the Bobcats, and through two periods, it looked as though that may be enough, as Paula Voorheis saved 16 shots flawlessly. But Emma Woods scored a couple of minutes into the final frame, and Kelly Babstock, who had an assist on the Woods goal, tallied unassisted at the 9:15 mark. Quinnipiac and goaltender Chelsea Laden, who finished with 27 stops, were able to close out a 2-1 win as the Big Red watched control of the title slip away.

Elizabeth Parker got the Crimson off and running less than four minutes into their game at Yale. However, the Bulldogs responded with goals by Taylor Marchin, Jackie Raines, and Krista Yip-Chuck to take a 3-1 lead. Miye D’Oench pulled Harvard within one, and Sydney Daniels tied it with just over a minute to go, but the Crimson had to settle for a 3-3 tie and one point in the standings rather than two.

Clarkson made the third period a formality in its game versus Rensselaer, taking a five-goal lead early in the second period and coasting to a 6-0 win. Vanessa Gagnon found the net twice, and both Jamie Lee Rattray and Erin Ambrose added a goal and two assists. Erica Howe needed just nine saves to post her 11th shutout of the year, the 26th of her career.

The Golden Knights needed only a win over last-place Union in their final league game to clinch the crown. That proved to be anything but trivial. Erin Ambrose scored for Clarkson 13 seconds into the second period, but Christine Valente drew the Dutchwomen even on a power play with five minutes gone in the third. Shenae Lundberg stopped the other 30 shots she faced in regulation, so the two teams went to overtime tied at 1-1. Harvard had won, 3-1, at Brown, so Clarkson needed to score in the five minutes of overtime for an outright title. A minute into the extra session, Olivia Howe struck, giving Clarkson a 2-1 win and its first ECAC trophy.

Dartmouth claims last ECAC playoff spot
Three teams were in contention for the eighth and final playoff spot heading into the weekend: RPI, Dartmouth, and Colgate. The bottom two of those, Dartmouth and Colgate, recorded wins on Friday to keep all three alive heading into Saturday. The Big Green got goals from Lindsey Allen, Devon Moir, and Kennedy Ottenbreit, plus a 26-save shutout by Lindsay Holdcroft, to subdue Brown, 3-0. Ashlynne Rando made 20 stops and freshman defenseman Hannah Rastrick scored her first goal to lift Colgate over Princeton, 1-0. The situation mirrored that found in the race for first; here, Dartmouth led, and Colgate and RPI were a point behind.

Ultimately, Dartmouth won on Saturday, 2-1 over Yale, while its closest pursuers fell short, and the Big Green took eighth place by three points. Ottenbreit and Moir scored the goals, and Holdcroft made 17 saves. Rensselaer lost at St. Lawrence, 3-2, and Colgate couldn’t get any transaction in getting throttled by Quinnipiac, 3-0.

Amanda Colin, Shiann Darkangelo, and Cydney Roesler tallied, and Chelsea Laden rejected 12 shots in the shutout for the Bobcats as they wrapped up fourth place and home ice for the quarterfinals.

ECAC playoff foes
The quarterfinal round features best-of-three series hosted by the four highest seeds. Clarkson hosts Dartmouth. Yale travels to Harvard, an opponent against whom the Bulldogs had success this season. Princeton finished the regular season with a 4-3 win at Cornell; the Tigers head back to Ithaca for the postseason. Quinnipiac will be at home versus St. Lawrence, and the Saints took three of four points from the season series.

North Dakota famine continues
Michelle Karvinen was back with her NCAA team on Friday in Columbus, but North Dakota’s suffering continued as Ohio State won, 2-0. Kari Schmitt and Sara Schmitt scored the goals, and Lisa Steffes saved 32 shots. Both teams changed goaltenders to start Saturday’s rematch. Amy Menke scored first for UND midway through the opening period, but Ally Tarr tied the game five minutes later. Kendall Curtis and Danielle Gagne tallied for the Buckeyes in the final period and Chelsea Knapp made 30 saves to earn Ohio State a 3-1 victory. The defeats increased UND’s losing streak to four. North Dakota played at a 1-6-1 pace in the last month while trying to compensate for Olympic absences, and barring a miracle, needs to win the WCHA tournament to return to the NCAAs for a third straight year.

Pairings set in the WCHA
The quarterfinal slate in the WCHA is the same as it was in 2012: Minnesota hosts St. Cloud State, Wisconsin welcomes Minnesota-State on the heels of the Badgers sweeping the Mavericks in Mankato over the weekend, Bemidji State visits North Dakota, and Ohio State ventures to Minnesota-Duluth. This is the third consecutive year for the Buckeyes and Bulldogs facing off in Duluth, and they exchanged sweeps, with Ohio State coming out on top last year.

Two quarterfinals on tap in CHA
Robert Morris headed into a bye week with a sweep of Penn State, 5-2 and 4-0, the Colonials first sweep since taking two from St. Lawrence to open 2014.

Mercyhurst also gets a bye into the semifinals; the Lakers will host the final two rounds of the CHA playoffs. They had to settle for a 2-2 tie with Lindenwood in their last game after opening the series with a 4-1 triumph thanks to a Christine Bestland hat trick. Nicole Hensley made 41 saves in the tie for the Lions, and Mercyhurst’s Jenna Dingeldein scored the tying goal.

RIT swept both ends of a home-and-home series with Syracuse to garner the third seed. On home ice, the Tigers got goals from Erin Zach and Kolbee McCrea to break a 1-1 tie. When the action moved to Syracuse, Melissa Bromley netted the game-winning goal 2:31 into overtime in a 2-1 win for RIT in which Ali Binnington recorded 37 saves. Kourtney Kunichika scored in each game.

The results mean that RIT will host Penn State in a quarterfinal series, while Lindenwood ventures to Syracuse.

Hockey East quarterfinal games
Maine opened the weekend in last place, but thanks to 4-1 and 5-2 wins at Connecticut, the Black Bears moved up to fifth in the standings. They scored the final five goals in the second game to claw back from an early hole, aided by a hat trick by Audra Richards. That series shuffled the deck for the quarterfinals, where the four higher seeds will host a single game versus a team from the lower division.

It seems like a long time ago that New Hampshire got off to a strong start and led the league in the early going. The Wildcats put up a good fight but proved unable to stop a revived Northeastern. The Huskies swept a weekend series, coming back to win, 5-4, on home ice and taking over in the second period for a 4-2 victory in Durham. Brittany Esposito scored twice in the first game and improved that to a hat trick in the second. As a result, New Hampshire has the unenviable task of facing Boston College in the quarterfinal round, while Northeastern hosts Connecticut.

BC enjoyed a sweep of its own at Boston University’s expense. Lexi Bender and Andie Anastos scored in the third period, the latter with five seconds left, to give the Eagles a come-from-behind 3-2 win. Anastos had three more points on Sunday in a 5-1 triumph, giving her five points on the weekend.

BU hosts Providence. The Friars losing streak reached seven as they were swept out of Vermont. Roxanne Douville made 40 saves in a 2-1 win on Friday, and had an easier time in a 3-1 victory the next day as Amanda Pelkey had a hand in all three goals. The Catamounts next host Maine.

Golden Olympics
Once Americans get over the devastation of the tournament’s final result, and the Swedes and Finns look past the disappointment of coming home without a medal, I believe that most would concede that this was about as entertaining an Olympic competition as it would be possible to stage with these eight teams. Japan wouldn’t be able to defeat the Canadians once if the two squads squared off every day for a year, so luckily, the format used spared us watching the Japanese make a futile attempt at doing so. The rosters in the bottom tier featured far better skaters than we’ve seen in Olympics past, so although teams may have faced a disadvantage in skill, strength, and stamina, at least there were far fewer reasons to feel pity for an athlete. That emotion was reserved for those having to put up with the overmatched officiating.