What to watch: first glimpses of Ivy

After giving the other 29 teams a head start, the six Ivy League squads are now set to join the competition.

Voters in the D-I Women’s USCHO.com Poll, who have been taking their best guesses as to where teams like No. 5 Harvard and No. 9 Cornell might belong after graduating impactful senior classes, will at last have some actual data points to analyze. Brown has a new head coach as it looks to improve on its last place finish. Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth attempt to move up the standings and host an ECAC quarterfinal series, but a surge by a team that finished in the bottom third could potentially knock any of them out of the postseason altogether.

Princeton at Mercyhurst, Friday, 3 p.m. EDT and Saturday, 2 p.m. EDT
Mercyhurst kicked off its season three weeks earlier, but the Lakers and Tigers have the same number of wins entering the weekend. These may not be must-win games for the hosts’ NCAA at-large bid hopes, but they’re at least really-should-win games. The two programs last met in November of 2007, with the Lakers sweeping two games in Hobey Baker Rink.

Harvard at Dartmouth, Friday, 7 p.m. EDT
Perhaps the fairest way for the Ivy League teams to compensate for their later start is to have them debut against each other, but this is the only all-Ivy matchup. The Crimson and the Big Green have the advantage of having a travel partner in the same situation, affording a better opportunity to schedule such an opening game. One of Harvard’s four conference losses last year came on its trip to Hanover.

No. 2 Boston College at Cornell, Friday, 7 p.m. EDT and Saturday, 3 p.m. EDT
The Eagles caught Cornell coming out of the gate last year and thumped the Big Red twice by identical 6-2 scores. Cornell was unable to get its season turned around in time and saw its string of five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances end. BC’s Alex Carpenter, who scored in both games last year, needs one more goal to reach 100 for her career.

Brown at Maine, Friday, 7 p.m. EDT and Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT
The series opens in Auburn, Maine, at Norway Savings Bank Arena before concluding at the Black Bears’ usual home of Alfond Arena in Orono. The Robert Kenneally era begins at Brown. These two programs met in each of the previous four seasons, with Brown holding a 3-2-3 edge in those series.

Yale at No. 8 Quinnipiac, Saturday, 4 p.m. EDT
These in-state rivals meet in a nonconference series. The Bobcats have played four times, but they are coming off a bye week with only an exhibition. Yale looks for a replacement for goalie Jaimie Leonoff from senior Rachelle Graham, junior Hanna Mandl, and freshman Kyra O’Brien. Mandl has the experience edge, having appeared in 10 games with five starts in her career.

Ivy-free options

Minnesota-Duluth at No. 1 Minnesota, Friday, 6:07 p.m. CDT and Saturday, 4:07 p.m. CDT
Maura Crowell attempts to lead a Minnesota-Duluth rally in what once was one of the best rivalries in the sport. The Gophers’ Hannah Brandt, who tallied five times last year against the Bulldogs, also sits at 99 career goals.

No. 6 Bemidji State at No. 3 Wisconsin, Friday, 7:07 p.m. CDT and Saturday, 3:07 p.m. CDT
The only matchup besides BC and Cornell to feature two ranked teams also pairs two of the top three in the WCHA standings. Wisconsin boasts the country’s top scoring defense, while the Beavers are fourth in that category.