Wednesday Women: Searching for Answers

Jenna Dingeldein of Mercyhurst (Tim Brule)
Jenna Dingeldein has only two points so far for winless Mercyhurst (Mercyhurst Athletics)

Candace: There were a lot of interesting results over the weekend Arlan, and it gives us plenty of fodder. While I usually like to start with teams that are impressing us, I think the story this week has to be two teams that have been historic powers that are struggling mightily: Boston University and Mercyhurst.

The Terriers got blitzed on Saturday by Northeastern, 7-1, a result the likes of which I can’t ever remember happening. It was BU’s third loss in a row, and fourth in their previous five games. BU righted the ship on Sunday with a 5-2 win over Vermont, but there has to be cause for concern down on Commonwealth Avenue. Senior Sarah Lefort is off to a terrible start, with only four points in eight games, and senior Kayla Tutino is even worse, with two points in eight games. We knew the loss of Marie-Philip Poulin might affect things, but when Poulin was at the Olympics in 2014, Lefort shone brightly, scoring 55 points. The defense and goaltending are also struggling. Junior Victoria Hanson has a 3.77 goals-against average and .879 save percentage, while sophomore Erin O’Neil has a 2.43 GAA and .917 save percentage. The Terriers aren’t being helped by special teams either, as the power play is only clicking at an 11.5 success rate, while the PK is a middling 84.6 percent.

If things are bad in Boston, they are even worse in Erie, Pennsylvania, where the Lakers are without a win this season after getting swept by Princeton at home this weekend. Both losses were by a goal. The days of sending out potent scorers like Meghan Agosta, Jesse Scanzano, and Vicki Bendus while brick walls in net like Hillary Pattenden or Stephanie Ciampa hold down the fort are long gone, but even you and I didn’t think the Lakers would struggle so much. It didn’t start out that badly, with a 3-3 tie against Quinnipiac, but since then, the Lakers have had four one-goal losses and also got blown out by Northeastern, 7-3. The goaltending stats are pretty poor among all three netminders; only sophomore Jessica Convery has a GAA below three goals a game, and none of the goalies has a save percentage over .900, but when you see that in two of the losses, the Lakers have only scored a single goal, and in another, two goals, you realize offense is an issue too. Freshman Rachel Smith is off to a good start with six points in six games, and senior Emily Janiga isn’t doing too badly with five points. Senior Jenna Dingeldein is struggling though, with only two points, well below her usual pace of nearly a point a game.

The Terriers might be able to regroup a little next weekend, when they travel to Durham to face New Hampshire and then host Yale; they had better, because the following weekend they play a Boston College team that looks very good right now, and then have two games against Maine at home. They also close November by facing Cornell and Ohio State.

The Lakers should at least get in the win column this weekend when they host an RIT team that has been struggling too, but then they go on the road to face Penn State twice and have two games against Cornell two weeks after Penn State. And the way the Lakers are playing, the mid-month series against Lindenwood is far from the gimme it used to be for the Lakers.

What is your sense of what is going on in Boston and Erie?

Arlan: Even in successful seasons, BU has had some rough stretches. Last year’s 9-2 drubbing at the hands of Harvard comes to mind. Hanson started in goal in that game as she did against Northeastern, and then recovered down the stretch to give the Terriers solid goaltending. Right now, they seem rather fragile, and there is no better duct tape to repair many flaws in a hockey team than good goaltending. In most of BU’s games, it has fallen behind early, the lone exception being the first game versus Clarkson. It would be a boost to the team’s psyche if the defense can hold the other team at zero deeper into the game.

Against the Huskies, BU fell behind early, and when it looked like it might get to the intermission down just one, the Huskies added two goals in the final 3:04 of the first period. Up until then, the goaltending hadn’t been that bad, but it got rather shaky in the second period. The Terriers are likely going to need some major turning-point moment in their season, be it a team meeting, locker room speech, dramatic comeback, or the like. The other route to turning their season would be to get better game by game. The Hockey East schedule will offer opportunities for the gradual recovery, with New Hampshire and Providence still winless and Vermont’s only win coming over the Friars. Even though BU has us scratching our heads wondering what is wrong, it sits atop the Hockey East standings.

Obviously that won’t last if BU doesn’t improve radically once the number of games played starts to even out. Also, Boston College pops up on the schedule a couple of times a week into November. If the Huskies can expose weaknesses in BU, imagine what the Eagles will do.

When I watched Mercyhurst, offense wasn’t really the problem, because it scored seven times while being swept by Northeastern, but even in those games, the Lakers were pinned in their zone for long stretches. Part of the reason that a goalie like Pattenden had such a successful career and set so many records was that the puck spent a lot of time at the other end of the ice and she had a lot of goal support on the scoreboard. Against Quinnipiac and Northeastern, the Lakers were shooting at rather inexperienced goalies. Princeton posed a new challenge with an accomplished senior in Kimberly Newell, and 58 shots only added up to three goals for Mercyhurst. While RIT isn’t nearly as evolved in goal nor offensively as Princeton, RIT has managed to post three more wins than have the Lakers. I would agree that the winless drought for Mercyhurst is likely to end this weekend.

The entire CHA is trending toward mediocrity. Everyone other than Mercyhurst has at least two wins, but other than Robert Morris with a 4-3-1 mark, the rest of the CHA teams have losing records. It looks like one of those seasons where no result in a conference game is likely to be too surprising.

Consider Penn State, which was hinting at being a team on the rise. The Nittany Lions dropped a pair of one-goal decisions on home ice to Connecticut. Is that a sign that Penn State may not be as strong as some thought, evidence that UConn is improving more than expected, or just how things go in hockey?

Candace: I think it’s a little of both, honestly. It’s time for me to take a second look at Connecticut. In the last two weeks, the Huskies have beaten Syracuse, tied Colgate, and swept Penn State. They only lost to BU 2-1 in their season opener. I think the one blemish on their record was the tie with Union. The Huskies have a few upperclassmen leading the way, with three seniors playing well in Brittany Berisoff, Leah Buress, and Caitlin Hewes. They are also getting solid goaltending from Elaine Chuli and Annie Belanger, both of whom have save percentages over .900. The Huskies will need both to be in form next weekend when they face Boston College for a pair.

Penn State meanwhile, was exposed a bit this weekend. I had looked at them more favorably after the Nittany Lions split with BU and then swept Union, but getting swept on home ice is never good. It looks like in the first game, Chuli stole one; Penn State had double the number of shots of Connecticut, but couldn’t break through. On Sunday, Penn State had a two-goal lead after Hannah England scored at 1:23 of the third, but Berisoff and Hewes stepped up and got two goals within seven minutes of England’s, and then Marisa Maccario scored the game-winner at 11:35. UConn fired 32 shots on net, so the defense wasn’t clamped down the way it needed to be.

Penn State has veteran leadership, and needs those players need to step up some, especially next weekend, where the Nittany Lions go on the road to face Nicole Hensley and Lindenwood. The Nittany Lions can’t afford to lose either of those games if they want to position themselves in the CHA. I think you are right that the CHA is looking mediocre right now. We might see a conference where almost every team’s conference record is around .500. It is a big change; even a couple of years ago, there was a possibility that two CHA teams would get at-large bids. I don’t see that happening this year. Perhaps it’s just one of those cyclical things.

As long as we are talking about surprise results, what are we to make of Harvard dropping its opener to Dartmouth? The Crimson could only muster one goal, from Miye D’Oench, and now that offense will really be tested when Clarkson pays a visit this weekend. St. Lawrence is also playing as part of the travel pairing, and neither of those games looks like an easy out for Harvard. Mary Parker didn’t dress on Friday, and it’s unclear whether she is hurt or not, but Harvard could definitely have used her offense.

Arlan: Sophomore Lexie Laing, who had 25 points as a frosh, wasn’t in the Harvard line-up either, so added to the seven seniors that graduated, that means half of the skaters that suited up in the national championship game weren’t available in this year’s opener, half of the forwards and half of the defensemen. Going by the Dartmouth highlights package, the Big Green may have had a little better puck luck in that game, scoring the tying goal with 0.3 seconds remaining in the opening period and having a couple of glorious scoring chances for the Crimson go begging. Harvard lost a couple of unexpected decisions in the early going last season with a more veteran squad, so I don’t know that we should make too much of this loss. It was a rivalry game, and those often don’t follow the expected script. The optimistic view for Harvard could be that its rebuilt defense held up well, holding its opponent to two goals.

The Crimson’s offense could be a problem, as it was when SLU and Clarkson came calling in February and the offense only scored once all weekend. On the other hand, Clarkson just got done allowing six goals to a New Hampshire offense that had only connected five times in its other five games. As for the Saints, they’ve won three straight over Vermont twice and Syracuse, but their 0-5-1 start against the trio of Northeastern, Clarkson, and BC would suggest that they aren’t any more ready for Harvard than Harvard might be for the Saints. Brooke Wolejko and Sonjia Shelly split the minutes in goal in the game at Syracuse, so it isn’t obvious who will get the starting nod versus Harvard.

It seems to me like there are more teams that are unsettled in goal than in a typical season. I’d count Yale as one of those after Quinnipiac got to junior Hanna Mandl for six goals on 26 shots. The Bulldogs got outscored by a two-to-one ratio just like Harvard did, scoring more but yielding more goals as well. Over the next four weeks, Yale faces Princeton, Quinnipiac again — but this time in an ECAC contest, BU, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Minnesota twice, so the next month could present a tough time for a Bulldogs’ goaltender to get comfortable.

Cornell is another team where I can’t say with any degree of certainly who will be the primary goaltender in a month. The Big Red series versus BC was curious in that regard. Junior Paula Voorheis only allowed the Eagles two goals on 42 shots in the opener, but Doug Derraugh turned to rookie Marlene Boissonnault in the second game, and she didn’t fare well. BC got to her for eight goals on 34 shots. Admittedly, that’s a tough opponent against which to get a baptism, but it isn’t exactly a confidence builder for even a highly regarded goalie to have a save percentage that is sub .800. That he didn’t pull her was either a vote of confidence or an admission that the game was out of reach and he just wanted her to get more seasoning at that point.

Do you think I’m wrong in saying that there are more teams trying to feel their way around when it comes to the goalie position than what is usual?

Candace: I’m not sure if I agree. It seems like every year there are a few teams looking to figure out their goaltending situation. For instance, last year, BC was looking at an unknown after Corinne Boyles had graduated. I don’t know that anyone could have anticipated that Katie Burt would step up so well. Clarkson had to replace Erica Howe from their championship team of 2014, and I think that Shea Tiley stepped up so quickly was a surprise. BU also had to replace Kerrin Sperry last year as well, and that the Terriers are more unsettled in net is a testament that neither Hanson nor O’Neil has stepped up. If you look to next year, Minnesota will need to replace Amanda Leveille, North Dakota will have to replace Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Harvard will need to replace Emerance Maschmeyer, and even teams that aren’t in the NCAA conversation regularly will be hit hard. For instance, Lindenwood will need to replace Nicole Hensley and Penn State will need to replace Celine Whitlinger.

As for the teams you mentioned, yes, the goaltending is up in the air at St. Lawrence, which is still looking to decide on who will take over now that Carmen MacDonald graduated. Wolejko is a sophomore; she played 11 games last year as MacDonald’s backup, but so far, Chris Wells seems to be leaning more on Shelly, a freshman who has played twice the number of minutes that Wolejko has.

I guess you could say things are up in the air at Yale. Mandl may be a junior, but she only played seven games last season while backing up Jamie Leonoff, who graduated, and played five games as a freshman. Senior Rachelle Graham has played even less, playing one game last season and one game the season before. That leaves Mandl and freshman Kyra O’Brien, who I am sure Yale coach Joakim Flygh will want a look at soon. Regardless, it’s not like there is a lot of experience in net for Yale.

Clarkson isn’t really unsettled. Tiley is their netminder. She was in goal Friday and only gave up two to New Hampshire, and one was a sloppy defensive play by Clarkson. Tiley has a .951 save percentage. McKenzie Johnson was in net on Saturday when New Hampshire scored four. I didn’t see that game, so I don’t know how those goals came. You need to get the backup some minutes in case the starter goes down, and perhaps Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers thought a New Hampshire team that hasn’t won a game yet was a perfect opportunity. Perhaps the Golden Knights also came out and didn’t skate as hard on Saturday, and it came back to bite them a little.

It’s a little like the situation we talked about a few weeks ago, where we discussed Robert Morris getting a surprise tie at Bemidji State in the second game between the two. You rightly pointed out that Brittni Mowat wasn’t in net for that game, and it’s hard to picture her giving up four goals to Robert Morris, and perhaps it was just that Jim Scanlan wanted to get backup Erin Deters some playing time.

Speaking of the Beavers, what are we to make of this weekend, in which Wisconsin swept them handily by scores of 3-0 and 4-0? Bemidji bedeviled Minnesota last year, and had swept Minnesota-Duluth and taken a win and a tie over North Dakota in the weeks leading up to the Wisconsin series. Wisconsin just seems like a bad matchup for the Beavers, who lost to the Badgers four times out of five last year. The first four were one-goal affairs, including one that went to OT, but the game in the WCHA championship was a 4-0 blowout.

Arlan: Back to my comment about goaltending being unsettled for a minute. I agree that teams like Clarkson and Boston College went into last season with unknowns in net, but by the time we reached this point of October, everyone knew what the goaltending plan was for the Golden Knights and the Eagles. I certainly don’t mean to imply that Clarkson’s net is unsettled now.

When we look ahead to the teams that you mentioned next year, I think there is already some foundation in place for a replacement in the crease. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be a shaky start or that the goaltending will be at the same level that it is with an All-American caliber senior as the primary starter. However, North Dakota has played junior Lexie Shaw regularly over the years, and she’s made 26 starts. If anything, there have been times where Amsley-Benzie hasn’t played enough, although that situation is complicated this year by the fact that she’s coming off of surgery. Minnesota has redshirt sophomore Sidney Peters, a goalie who has played in a championship game at the Under-18 World Championships, waiting in the wings, plus a commitment from a high-profile Canadian goaltender. Brianna Laing has considerable experience for Harvard, having made 16 starts. We’ve seen little of freshman Jolene deBruyn at Lindenwood, but she was good enough to hand Northeastern its only loss of the year. Sophomore Hannah Ehresmann has made 16 starts already at Penn State, and her career numbers aren’t that far off from those of Whitlinger. I’d expect those teams to go through a little of what we saw this year at St. Cloud State, where someone like Katie Fitzgerald had to deal with the mental aspect of being the top goaltender more than anything, but has now settled into the job.

For now, maybe we agree to disagree, and we can always revisit the matter in the future, be it later this year or next.

As for your question, Wisconsin is a bad matchup for a lot of teams, not just Bemidji State. North Dakota has more problems against the Badgers than it does against the Gophers. Wisconsin does a lot of the same things that teams like BSU and UND do, it just does them better with better players. The plan of don’t make mistakes and capitalize on the mistakes of other teams doesn’t work as well if your opponent doesn’t make any mistakes. Despite the Gophers’ unbeaten streak against Wisconsin, UW poses a tougher matchup for them than does Bemidji State or North Dakota. Minnesota gets up to play the Badgers more than any other regular-season opponent, and I’d say that it has had better puck luck in those recent meetings. I think teams like Boston College and Harvard would rather face Minnesota than Wisconsin. The Eagles, the Crimson, and the Gophers all want to get up and down the ice, and if the game becomes a track meet, they’re willing to take their chances. Wisconsin likes to get up and down the ice, but it places a higher priority on making sure its opponent can’t get up and down the ice.

That said, what does it mean for Bemidji State’s recent series in Madison? In both games, the Beavers were down before the halfway point of the first period. They aren’t really built to be a comeback team, and they certainly aren’t built to be a comeback team against Wisconsin. In Saturday’s game, the first goal allowed wasn’t typical for Mowat, and for the Beavers to pull the big upsets, she has to be in the form that made her the best goalie in the country last year. An approach of, “Keep it close and hope for a bounce,” can only succeed if the zone time is somewhat equitable, and Wisconsin had far too great of a territorial advantage in the second game.

While teams like Bemidji State and North Dakota are built to give the top teams headaches, both can be vulnerable against lower-ranked clubs. We saw that on Saturday at St. Cloud State. After UND squeezed the life out of the Huskies and gave them only six shots on Friday, SCSU broke out of a five-game goal scoring drought, thanks to a hat trick from Molly Illikainen. That set up one of the wilder comebacks in recent memory. What did you think of that game?

Candace: It was a bold move by Brian Idalski to pull Lexie Shaw with about five minutes left in the game down by three. Some coaches might have waited to see if they could get one back, but Idalski, knowing his team might be in a dogfight to make the NCAA tournament, went for it. Amy Menke scored almost immediately, at 15:32, and then Layla Marvin scored another at 16:51. Then Menke scored again with 11 seconds left to tie it.

I think St. Cloud has to be disappointed it didn’t get its first win after playing so well. Perhaps they can get some confidence from it for their road series against Bemidji State this weekend. Coach Eric Rud at least got his team regrouped and prevented North Dakota from winning in overtime, which would have been devastating. The Huskies finally got some offense and should have won outright, but at least they got the shootout point.

Katie Fitzgerald was solid in net, making 38 saves in the game. Shaw, on the other hand, only made seven. Fitzgerald also made 33 saves in Friday’s 3-0 loss.

For North Dakota, that isn’t the type of game they can afford to give away points in, especially since right now, Bemidji owns the points advantage. No offense to Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are regrouping, and I think finishing third and hosting OSU versus finishing fourth and hosting Minnesota-Duluth, if it shakes out that way, would be a huge difference.

Despite the fact that North Dakota rallied, I think the team has to look at the game as a blemish. UND trailed 2-1 heading into the third after Kayla Gardner had scored an extra-attacker goal at 17:38 of the second with Shaw pulled on a delayed penalty. Then Illikainen scored unassisted at just 1:06 of the third and Hannah Potrykus scored at 11:35. Giving up two third-period goals when you are in a dogfight is not something North Dakota can afford.

Speaking of Minnesota-Duluth, the Bulldogs got swept by Minnesota this weekend in Minneapolis. The Gophers rallied from a two-goal deficit in the first game, and ran away with the second. The Gophers now travel to Grand Forks to face North Dakota, while Duluth gets two bye weeks to regroup before having to face Wisconsin. What did you learn about the Gophers and Bulldogs from those two games?

Arlan: I only saw Friday night’s game, so if Saturday was radically different, then my apologies. From Friday, it looks like Minnesota-Duluth has a good one in goaltender Maddie Rooney. She very calmly handled the first 30 or so shots that the Gophers fired, and she was the biggest reason the Bulldogs had built a 2-0 lead halfway through the first game. Having played boys’ hockey last year as a high school senior, the college game really isn’t a step up in terms of the shots she is facing. As the game went on, Minnesota quit trying to beat her glove hand and showed greater commitment to trying to get those gritty goals that coaches love, and that’s when the Gophers started having success.

The Bulldogs rely a lot on their junior class. Top scorers Ashleigh Brykaliuk and Lara Stalder have picked up where they left off, and each made a nice play to account for Friday’s goals. Sidney Morin has more career points than the rest of the blue line contingent combined. When Katerina Mrázová returns, that will add another scoring option. Reportedly, she is injured and won’t be back until the second semester. The sophomore class is certainly more visible than it was a year ago, and many of its members fill bigger roles, but they haven’t taken those big jumps forward that players often do in a second season. Maybe once they really start to get comfortable in Maura Crowell’s systems, then we’ll see a bigger splash from a Maria Lindh or Michelle Löwenhielm up front, or any of the four sophomore defensemen.

I expect the Bulldogs to keep improving and start taking some points from the top teams as the season progresses. Whether or not they can grab enough of those points to be a host once the playoffs start, I don’t know. I’m going to guess they will, but it will be very tight. It might come down to how much each team plays its best goaltender, because from what I’ve seen, UMD, Bemidji State, and North Dakota are all less formidable when they decide to play a different goalie.

As for Minnesota, that was the first time the Gophers have trailed this year, and in time, they responded well. According to the Gophers’ Web stream, Kelly Pannek said that game was the most fun she’d had this year, and it was the first time since the opening game that the game has been competitive into the third period. As was the case a couple of years ago, Minnesota really dominates the second period. In 2013-14, they outscored opponents 86-16 in the second period, including 61-7 in conference play. This year, they’re leading 29-2 in the middle frames. Pannek gives the Gophers a different dimension. Where the first line is a trio of elusive players with quick hands moving the puck to create opportunities, Pannek brings a little more size and strength. She has a couple of retrievers on her wings that win the puck and get it back to her, and then she orchestrates the attack. She possess a very good head for the game.

I don’t see much in the way of separation between what I view as the top three teams, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Boston College, in whatever order people want to list them. Cornell was able to stay with the Eagles for a couple of period, thanks in large part to Paula Voorheis stopping 27 of the first 28 shots, and 40 of 42 for the game. It wasn’t until Alex Carpenter scored the 100th goal of her career 9:17 into the third period that the matter was decided. Boissonnault made her debut in the second game and didn’t fare as well, getting torched for eight goals and a Carpenter hat trick on 34 shots. What do we conclude from two disparate results?

Candace: I like what I’m seeing from the Eagles so far. Last year, BC didn’t really get tested at all in the first half, and I think it cost them down the line. You mention Carpenter’s 100th goal in that first game, but that hardly decided the matter. Carpenter’s goal put the Eagles up 2-1, and they spent most of the last four minutes down anywhere from one to three players due to penalties. Cornell had a five-on-three for 1:23, a six-on-four for 23 seconds, a six-on-three for eight seconds, and a six-on-four for seven seconds before Lexi Bender scored an empty-netter to make it 3-1, and then Cornell had a five-on-four, six-on-four, and, finally, a six-on-three for 46 seconds before Carpenter scored an empty-netter with 18 seconds to go to really seal it. That is gutting out a win on the road, to me.

The Eagles are also doing very well defensively. Aside from the St. Lawrence series, they have clamped down hard, allowing one goal in two games, two goals in one game, and getting three shutouts.

If you compare this year to last year, BC wasn’t tested in the first half at all last year aside from the two St. Lawrence games on the road. They played a lot of games at home, and tended to roll over opponents at will. So far, BC has faced tough tests from Minnesota-Duluth, St. Lawrence, and Cornell.

They weren’t as good offensively on the road, so seeing BC rack up eight goals at Cornell bodes well. It was their first road series, and they have a few more road games in the first half, including Connecticut, Boston University, New Hampshire, Northeastern, a pair at Maine, and Syracuse.

The special teams have also been strong. The power play is currently clicking at 31 percent, and the penalty kill is a perfect 30-for-30. Last year, the power play in particular really cost BC. The Eagles were only successful 17.5 percent of the time, I think in part because they kept going for the pretty goals instead of working it down low.

In BC’s three losses and tie over the last month of the season last year, they gave up a game-winning power-play goal to Harvard in the second period of the Beanpot championship, got a third period power-play goal to tie Boston University with 1:15 to go in the third, and gave up a short-handed game-winning goal to Mary Parker in the third period against Harvard while not scoring on their own power play. So, in three losses and a tie, the Eagles got one power-play goal. If that power play can continue to succeed the way it has so far, that will really help the Eagles as the games inevitably get tighter.

Let’s stay with Hockey East and give a little love to Merrimack, which split with Colgate over the weekend, dropping a 4-3 decision on Friday and rallying for a 4-2 win on Saturday. The Warriors are now 2-6, and 1-1 in Hockey East, and have played a lot of teams really tough. Did you think Merrimack would show the skill it has so far? Usually, teams transitioning to D-I have a season where they struggle mightily. Lindenwood, for instance, didn’t beat a single D-I opponent in its first year, while Penn State, after surprising Vermont in its first game at this level, got a single win against Lindenwood and then a tie against Lindenwood, as well as a tie against RIT. Its wins came against D-I in-name-only Sacred Heart and D-III Chatham.

Arlan: Lindenwood is a very atypical model. It was transitioning its entire athletic department from NAIA to NCAA. I don’t know that there was enough of an appreciation for how different that was, or that a team that was a contender in the ACHA playing club hockey was a long way from being ready to compete in D-I. I’m not sure there is a recent model that parallels Merrimack. A program like Syracuse was committed to giving the team the resources to be successful and hired an experienced head coach, but Paul Flanagan became involved so late in the cycle; he was still coaching St. Lawrence the previous March. Erin Hamlen, on the other hand, was hired in June of 2013. I think that difference is reflected in the caliber of recruits she was able to attract for Merrimack’s first season. If a program waits until six months before it is going to begin competition, there aren’t going to be players who make U-18 World Championships rosters still available.

Still, I agree that Merrimack has done very well. It’s one thing to get some quality players on a roster; it is another thing altogether to have enough of them that you can come out on top after 60 minutes, or even stay in games consistently. A second problem a first-year program has is that it is always at a disadvantage in terms of experience. Goaltending is a huge equalizer, and the Warriors have been able to leverage an advantage in net into a couple of wins. One thing to watch with young players is that they’ll hit a wall near the end of November, when they grind of the season starts to wear them down. Finally, we’ll have to see if their confidence takes a beating when they play ranked teams. Three of the next four games are against Northeastern, so they’ll have to chase Kendall Coyne and company around the ice. At least they don’t have to worry about BC until 2016.

Merrimack’s goal for its first season was to not only make the playoffs, but get home ice and advance to the semifinals, which it is hosting. When I first heard it, that seemed ambitious, but maybe it is achievable. We’ll have to see how games against teams like Maine and Connecticut go.

Vermont finally got a win, but New Hampshire and Providence are still looking. Vermont is home for its next four games, and the schedule sets up such that it could position itself decently in Hockey East, hosting UNH, Maine, and then Providence twice.

UNH and Providence play on Nov. 7, so barring a tie, one of them will be in the win column after that. Union and Brown look to be the other teams at risk of not winning for a while yet. The Bears should beat Sacred Heart next month, but that’s not really what we mean by getting a win. Brown plays Providence at the end of November and Union the week after, assuming it doesn’t win over the next month. The other winless teams are Ivy League teams that just started and Mercyhurst, which I can’t imagine losing for much longer. Who do you think will be the last team to taste victory for the first time?

Candace: I’m going to say Union, just based on scheduling. I agree that Mercyhurst is likely to get a win soon, either this weekend against RIT or the next at Penn State. Providence and UNH play three times before Thanksgiving, and I don’t see either sweeping all three games, so each team will get a win against the other. Whether you like it or not, a win is a win, so Brown beating Sacred Heart counts as a win. Yale has some tough games over the next month, with Quinnipiac, Harvard, Dartmouth, a pair versus Minnesota, and Boston University, plus Princeton and Merrimack, but I think the Bulldogs could win one of those last two. That leaves Union. If the Dutchwomen can’t beat Colgate Friday, they’ve then got Cornell, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Harvard, and Dartmouth through November before facing Providence on Dec. 1. I don’t see Union winning any of its November games, which means the first wins come in December against either Providence or Brown.

1 COMMENT

  1. On UConn / BU — that loss to BU was a bit deceptive, as BU got the winning goal with 0.6 seconds to go. A win is a win and a loss is a loss, but it factors into the overall story of UConn being stronger than expected and BU being weaker.

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