Clarkson again the favorite in the ECAC

Kennedy Marchment of St. Lawrence (St. Lawrence Athletics)
Kennedy Marchment of St. Lawrence (St. Lawrence Athletics)

Last year in the ECAC, Clarkson proved that 2014 was no fluke, nor did they need an Olympic year to win. St. Lawrence made an early splash with a sweep of Northeastern and Cornell, and Colgate showed the ECAC continues to grow and be strong. Princeton showed how important impactful freshman are, and Harvard left everyone scratching their heads. It’s going to be a tough fight at the top of the conference. I expect Clarkson to finish on top again, but you never quite know how things will shake out in the ECAC.

Brown
Last season: 7-22-0, 5-17-0 (10th). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Sam Donovan: She led the team with 21 points.
Sena Hanson: She was the second-highest scorer on the team as a freshman.

“We will have four new forwards, two D, and one goaltender. This class, added with our returners, will provide more skill and depth to our program.” — coach Bob Kenneally.

Three questions
1. How can they improve on special teams? They were third-from last in power-play goals and last on the penalty kill. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but improvements in both of those stats would be a good marker to show how they’re working to get better. They also averaged the sixth-most penalty minutes in the country. They need to get disciplined and stop putting themselves at a disadvantage.
2. Who’s in net? Senior Monica Elvin took the lion’s share of the starts last season, so it would seem the role is up for grabs.
3. Can they survive February? The Bears’ final regular season month is brutal, with games against Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Cornell, Quinnipiac, and Princeton.

Crystal Ball
It seems unlikely Brown finishes better than 12th.

Clarkson
Last season: 32-4-5, 19-1-2 (first). Won the national championship.

Names to know
Shea Tiley: The netminder was a top 10 goalie in the country last season and blanked high-octane Wisconsin in the national title game.
Loren Gabel: She averaged just more than a point per game as a sophomore and was the third-highest scorer on the team.
Savannah Harmon: She was the second-highest scoring defenseman in the country last season with 36 points.

“This year, we will be looking to continue to make strides forward after a pretty special 2016-17 season that saw the Clarkson Women’s Hockey program win our second national championship in the past four years; win the first ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship in program history; win our third ECAC Hockey Conference Championship; and make the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year.” — coach Matt Desrosiers.

Three questions
1. Can Michaela Pejzlová and Loren Gabel become elite? Clarkson returns quite a lot of talent, but their two top scorers last season combined for 115 points, 30 percent of Clarkson’s overall offense. The fourth-highest scorer was a defenseman. Gabel and Pejzlová have shown plenty of promise and will need to take the next step if Clarkson is going to defend its title.
2. Can they be better on special teams? The Golden Knights penalty kill was 12th and the power play was 10th, both respectable spots, but even just slight improvements on both sides of the special teams puck would give them a bit more breathing room.
3. What will it take to win the close ones? Three of their four losses were by a single goal, and they had five ties. With an even bigger target on their back this season, those close games could make all the difference. If they can find an extra gear for those games, they’re going to give teams an awful hard time this year.

Crystal Ball
The Golden Knights will repeat as ECAC champions.

Colgate
Last season: 22-11-3, 13-8-1 (sixth). Lost to Cornell in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Livia Altmann: She played well for Team Switzerland at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships and had a goal from the blue line.
Julia Vandyk: She was solid for them in goal last season and gives their defense the confidence they need to push forward.

“We are so excited to get the 2017-18 season underway. We have put together a nonconference portion of the schedule that we think will challenge and prepare us to compete for our first league championship this season. We are also fortunate that we will be able to play so many home games in the Class of 1965 Arena this season; there will be plenty of opportunities for the fans to come watch us play.” – coach Greg Fargo.

Three questions
1. Can they beat the top teams? The Raiders will have to find a way to eke out some wins against Princeton and Clarkson if they’re going to ascend in the standings.
2. Can they avoid a late slump? Last year, they lost four straight to end the season. The final few weeks of this year’s schedule seem much friendlier, but the Raiders have to find a way to play the full season without letting up.
3. Can they put it all together? They return 94 percent of their goal scoring from last season.  They lost just a few seniors to graduation, have a large senior class this season, return most of their offense and defense, and have a strong goalie. All the pieces are there, and they’ve had two really good seasons before this. They’ve got experience; now it’s time to make it all mesh and come up with something great.

Crystal Ball
The Raiders should finish fourth.

Cornell
Last season: 20-9-5, 13-4-5 (third). Lost to Clarkson in the ECAC tournament final.

Names to know
Kristin O’Neill: She set the program record for short-handed goals in a season (5) as a freshman. The highest returning scorer on the team is just a sophomore. She also had the most blocked shots by a forward on record in program history (46).
Marlène Boissonnault: The netminder played 13 games and had a 10-1-2 record. She’s likely to be the full-time goalie this season.

Three questions
1. Can they survive the early weeks? Cornell starts the season with a gauntlet that includes the two teams who played for last year’s title, plus No. 4 St. Lawrence, Princeton, and Quinnipiac.
2. How do they improve the offense? The Big Red had one of the best power plays in the country and were seventh in the country in team defense, but were in the bottom half for team offense. There’s a big opportunity for some younger players to make a name for themselves, but someone’s got to step up and take it.
3. Can they unseat St. Lawrence and Clarkson? Cornell’s been steadily moving up and is picked third in the preseason voting. They’ve shown they can beat both teams; is this the year they make a move?

Crystal Ball
I’m going to give them the edge over St. Lawrence and put Cornell second.

Dartmouth
Last season: 7-21-0, 5-17-0 (11th). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Joe Marsh: He will be coaching the team as head coach Laura Schuler coaches Team Canada in the Pyeongchang Olympics. He coached the St. Lawrence men’s team for 27 seasons.
Christina Rombaut: She is the highest returning scorer to the team as a sophomore.

“I’m excited to step in and help Laura’s program. I’m coming into a program that Laura and her staff are continuing to establish on a national level. Philosophically, we are on the same page. The transition should be easy because of how well she has built and organized this program in her time here. … We have a very solid game plan in place for what needs to be done to rebuild the team. I am thrilled to be here.” – coach Joe Marsh.

Three questions
1. Who’s going to step up on offense? Just two players scored in double-digits last season, and they both graduated – and one was a defender.
2. Who’s the starting goalie? Robin Chemago was a solid presence for them in back and she graduated. Christie Honor played in six games last season. Shannon Ropp played in one game two seasons ago. Kayla Wormsbecher is a freshman. There’s a lot of question marks here, especially since they averaged twice as many goals against as goals scored last season.
3. Can Marsh continue the culture change? Last season, Schuler put a lot of emphasis on rebuilding and culture shift, but is gone just a year later. Will she have to start from scratch next season or can Marsh help keep the Big Green on a path toward improvement?

Crystal Ball
I have Dartmouth finishing 11th.

Harvard
Last season: 5-19-5, 5-13-4 (ninth). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Beth Larcom: She won gold at the IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championships with Team USA and set a Harvard record for saves by a freshman, but only saw eight games last season. Presumably, the net is hers to lose.
Lexie Lang: She led the team with 21 points.
Becca Gilmore: She was named the top U.S. forward at the IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championships.

Three questions
1. What happened last year? It’s the question women’s college hockey fans would love to have an answer to. Where did it all go wrong? They were 30th in the country in team offense and gave up nearly a goal more per game than they scored. How do they right the ship? Just six players scored in double-digits last season, a graduated senior was the only one to score more than 10 goals, and only one player had more than 20 points. As a team, they tallied just 137 total points. They rotated three goalies, all of whom had a goals-against above 2.00. There isn’t a spot on the ice that doesn’t have room for massive improvement.
2. If they don’t show improvement, is Katey Stone on the hot seat? She’s a coaching legend and there was plenty of young talent on the team, which is what made the season so shocking. She definitely gets the opportunity to prove last season was an exception, not the rule, but you do have to wonder how much of a cushion she really has.
3. Can they finish strong? Six of their final eight games are against teams that were ranked last season. They finish with the Beanpot tourney, where even if they get past BU, they’ll get BC or Northeastern in the final. Then they close against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. It’s a brutal stretch heading into the postseason, and it might make or break them.

Crystal Ball
I’ve got Harvard eighth.

Princeton
Last season: 20-10-3, 14-6-2 (fourth). Lost to Clarkson in the ECAC semifinals.

Names to know
Cara Morey: The new head coach replaces Jeff Kampersal, who left for Penn State after 21 seasons leading the Tigers. Morey was an assistant at Princeton for six years before taking over the lead role.
Stephanie Neatby: She earned a pile of awards as a freshman: USCHO rookie of the year, ECAC Goalie of the Year, finalist for ECAC Player of the Year, finalist for ECAC Rookie of the Year, First-Team All-ECAC, First-Team All-Ivy League, ECAC All-Rookie Team.
Karlie Lund: A top forward who led the team in scoring with 21 goals and 23 assists for 44 points in 33 games.
Carly Bullock: She was the ECAC Rookie of the Year.

Three questions
1. Can they keep from sliding back? The rest of the conference keeps improving, and after a stellar season in 2015-16, Princeton struggled to match their own success. They failed to make the ECAC championship game and didn’t make the NCAA tournament. If they’re going to keep pace with the improving ECAC, they’ve got to make sure they don’t regress any more.
2. What will it take to beat Clarkson? The Tigers are winless against the Golden Knights dating back to Feb. 15, 2013, a streak that includes eight losses and a tie.
3. Which underclassmen are going to step up this season? Neatby and Bullock made immediate impacts. The Tigers will need another few youngsters to make quick transitions this season.

Crystal Ball
The Tigers finish fifth.

Quinnipiac
Last season: 21-10-6, 13-6-3 (fifth). Lost to Princeton in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
TT Cianfarano: She has 108 points in 109 career games for the Bobcats.
Melissa Samoskevich: She led Quinnipiac with 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points as a sophomore last season.
Anna Kilponen: A transfer from North Dakota, she played with Team Finland in Sochi in 2014.

Three questions
1. Who’s in net? The biggest question mark for the Bobcats is at goalie. Sydney Rossman was the number three goalie in the country last season. Sophomore Abbie Ives started just three games last season, and junior Clare Lachner has never appeared for Quinnipiac.
2. Can the offense provide enough cover for the defense to get up to speed? Quinnipiac has been known as a defensive squad, but they’re going to rely on their experienced offense to give them a cushion. The Bobcats had the second-stingiest defense in the country last year.
3. Can they beat the top half of the conference? Last season, they had just three wins over teams ranked in the top half of the conference, two against Colgate and one against Princeton in the postseason. If they are going to move up in the standings, they have to do better.

Crystal Ball
I have them sixth. I don’t think they do as well as last season without Rossman in net.

Rensselaer
Last season: 10-24-2, 7-14-1 (eighth). Lost to Clarkson in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Shayna Tomlinson: The highest returning scorer, she was second on the team last season with 11 assists and 17 points.
Lovisa Selander: The goalie had an outstanding rookie campaign two years ago in net and looks to bounce back a bit this season.

“You just come in with a clean slate and you make your evaluations. You only have a couple of weeks as a team before you’re playing. I’ve been really impressed with the group so far. The attitude and effort, that’s all we’re asking at the start of the year. It’s been great in practice. The energy level has been great.” — coach Bryan Vines

Three questions
1. Who’s going to score? For the second straight year, the Engineers managed just 62 goals all season. They have to find ways to put the puck in the net.
2. Can the defense support Selander? They averaged 3.25 goals allowed per game, and Selander faced nearly 1,100 shots over the course of the season. The defense has to be getting in front of the puck and keeping it out of their zone.
3. Can they make the ECAC tournament? The coaches’ preseason poll has them finishing ninth and out of the postseason. Returning to the tournament this season should be a big goal for the Engineers.

Crystal Ball
RPI will finish 10th.

St. Lawrence
Last season: 26-6-4, 16-3-3 (second). Lost to Cornell in the ECAC tournament semifinals.

Names to know
Kennedy Marchment: She tied for third in scoring in the country.
Hannah Miller: She had a breakout season and was ranked sixth nationally in assists per game (0.92) and tied for 11th nationally with 1.33 points per game. She was a Second-Team All-ECAC Hockey selection.

“Every year, we try to design a schedule that will give our players memorable experiences. Last year, we had the opportunity to play the first women’s college hockey games in D.C. This year, our trip to California will be a first for our program, and will also give some of our players a chance to play in front of friends and family.”

Three questions
1. Can they repeat last year’s chemistry? What Marchment, Miller, and Brooke Webster had on the top line was magic. Webster seemed to have the finishing touch, but finding another player that meshes that well is not likely to be easy.
2. Can they beat the elite? The Saints have shown they can beat the best in their conference, but it was a disappointing postseason, with an ECAC semifinal exit at the hands Cornell and a 6-0 loss to Boston College in the NCAA tournament. Last season, they were very good. They need to improve on that.
3. Can they hold off Cornell? Until they prove otherwise, Clarkson is the presumptive top of the conference. St. Lawrence has a hold on the second spot, but there will be plenty of teams gunning for them, most immediately, the Big Red.

Crystal Ball
For now, I’ve got St. Lawrence finishing third.

Union
Last season: 5-28-1, 2-19-1 (12th). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Haley Shugart: She finished the season with a team-high 11 points, which included a team-high seven goals as well as four assists as a freshman.
Kate Spooner: She appeared in 26 games in net as a freshman and is the first goalie in Union history to record four or more wins in her rookie season.

“We want to create a new ceiling for our team. We began to scratch the surface of our on-ice identity last year. We really want to drive that home this year — play free, play fast, play tough, and play hard on the puck. We want each player to be confident and feel unique in their role on the team.” — coach Josh Sciba.

Three questions
1. Are they ready to shake it off? It’s been a rough stretch for Union, but the signs of growth and improvement have been there. Now it has to come together, and the team has to be willing to hold on to the opportunity they have this year. They’ve never won more than four games as a Division I program. There are a lot of expectations to meet this season.
2. Will they make the ECAC tournament? Coaches picked them sixth in the preseason poll, which would put them in their first-ever ECAC postseason.
3. Can the freshmen get up to speed quickly? The Dutchwomen have 11 first-year players that they’ll have to count on to be impactful if they want to meet their expectations this season. There’s opportunity for young players to make themselves crucial, but it won’t be easy.

Crystal Ball
Taking a bit of a flyer and banking on their experience — putting Union eighth.

Yale
Last season: 10-17-4, 8-12-2 (seventh). Lost to St. Lawrence in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Eden Murray: She will be expected to lead the offense. She earned the team’s Mandi Schwartz Award, given for courage, grit, and determination, and tied for the team lead in points while placing second in assists.
Tera Hofman: She took the lion’s share of starts in net last season as a freshman. A year of experience should help.

Three questions
1. Can the defense continue to improve? After having one of the worst team defenses in the country two seasons ago, the Bulldogs cut more than half a goal off their team average last season, but they’re still averaging more goals allowed then scored. It was a great jump for a single season, and I’d love to see them show even more improvement.
2. Will experience make a difference? The Elis have a large senior class — eight women will be leading them this year. They’ve got big shoes to fill after the graduation of Pheobe Staenz and Krisa Yip-Chuck.
3. Can they continue to improve? Two seasons ago, Yale finished a single point out of the postseason. They responded by placing seventh. It gets tougher to move up in the standings from here.

Crystal Ball
The Elis finish seventh.

Last year in the ECAC, Clarkson proved that 2014 was no fluke, nor did they need an Olympic year to win. St. Lawrence made an early splash with a sweep of Northeastern and Cornell, and Colgate showed the ECAC continues to grow and be strong. Princeton showed how important impactful freshman are, and Harvard left everyone scratching their heads. It’s going to be a tough fight at the top of the conference. I expect Clarkson to finish on top again, but you never quite know how things will shake out in the ECAC.

Brown
Last season: 7-22-0, 5-17-0 (10th). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Sam Donovan: She led the team with 21 points.
Sena Hanson: She was the second-highest scorer on the team as a freshman.

“We will have four new forwards, two D, and one goaltender. This class, added with our returners, will provide more skill and depth to our program.” — coach Bob Kenneally.

Three questions
1. How can they improve on special teams? They were third-from last in power-play goals and last on the penalty kill. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but improvements in both of those stats would be a good marker to show how they’re working to get better. They also averaged the sixth-most penalty minutes in the country. They need to get disciplined and stop putting themselves at a disadvantage.
2. Who’s in net? Senior Monica Elvin took the lion’s share of the starts last season, so it would seem the role is up for grabs.
3. Can they survive February? The Bears’ final regular season month is brutal, with games against Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Cornell, Quinnipiac, and Princeton.

Crystal Ball
It seems unlikely Brown finishes better than 12th.

Clarkson
Last season: 32-4-5, 19-1-2 (first). Won the national championship.

Names to know
Shea Tiley: The netminder was a top 10 goalie in the country last season and blanked high-octane Wisconsin in the national title game.
Loren Gabel: She averaged just more than a point per game as a sophomore and was the third-highest scorer on the team.
Savannah Harmon: She was the second-highest scoring defenseman in the country last season with 36 points.

“This year, we will be looking to continue to make strides forward after a pretty special 2016-17 season that saw the Clarkson Women’s Hockey program win our second national championship in the past four years; win the first ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship in program history; win our third ECAC Hockey Conference Championship; and make the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year.” — coach Matt Desrosiers.

Three questions
1. Can Michaela Pejzlová and Loren Gabel become elite? Clarkson returns quite a lot of talent, but their two top scorers last season combined for 115 points, 30 percent of Clarkson’s overall offense. The fourth-highest scorer was a defenseman. Gabel and Pejzlová have shown plenty of promise and will need to take the next step if Clarkson is going to defend its title.
2. Can they be better on special teams? The Golden Knights penalty kill was 12th and the power play was 10th, both respectable spots, but even just slight improvements on both sides of the special teams puck would give them a bit more breathing room.
3. What will it take to win the close ones? Three of their four losses were by a single goal, and they had five ties. With an even bigger target on their back this season, those close games could make all the difference. If they can find an extra gear for those games, they’re going to give teams an awful hard time this year.

Crystal Ball
The Golden Knights will repeat as ECAC champions.

Colgate
Last season: 22-11-3, 13-8-1 (sixth). Lost to Cornell in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Livia Altmann: She played well for Team Switzerland at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships and had a goal from the blue line.
Julia Vandyk: She was solid for them in goal last season and gives their defense the confidence they need to push forward.

“We are so excited to get the 2017-18 season underway. We have put together a nonconference portion of the schedule that we think will challenge and prepare us to compete for our first league championship this season. We are also fortunate that we will be able to play so many home games in the Class of 1965 Arena this season; there will be plenty of opportunities for the fans to come watch us play.” – coach Greg Fargo.

Three questions
1. Can they beat the top teams? The Raiders will have to find a way to eke out some wins against Princeton and Clarkson if they’re going to ascend in the standings.
2. Can they avoid a late slump? Last year, they lost four straight to end the season. The final few weeks of this year’s schedule seem much friendlier, but the Raiders have to find a way to play the full season without letting up.
3. Can they put it all together? They return 94 percent of their goal scoring from last season.  They lost just a few seniors to graduation, have a large senior class this season, return most of their offense and defense, and have a strong goalie. All the pieces are there, and they’ve had two really good seasons before this. They’ve got experience; now it’s time to make it all mesh and come up with something great.

Crystal Ball
The Raiders should finish fourth.

Cornell
Last season: 20-9-5, 13-4-5 (third). Lost to Clarkson in the ECAC tournament final.

Names to know
Kristin O’Neill: She set the program record for short-handed goals in a season (5) as a freshman. The highest returning scorer on the team is just a sophomore. She also had the most blocked shots by a forward on record in program history (46).
Marlène Boissonnault: The netminder played 13 games and had a 10-1-2 record. She’s likely to be the full-time goalie this season.

Three questions
1. Can they survive the early weeks? Cornell starts the season with a gauntlet that includes the two teams who played for last year’s title, plus No. 4 St. Lawrence, Princeton, and Quinnipiac.
2. How do they improve the offense? The Big Red had one of the best power plays in the country and were seventh in the country in team defense, but were in the bottom half for team offense. There’s a big opportunity for some younger players to make a name for themselves, but someone’s got to step up and take it.
3. Can they unseat St. Lawrence and Clarkson? Cornell’s been steadily moving up and is picked third in the preseason voting. They’ve shown they can beat both teams; is this the year they make a move?

Crystal Ball
I’m going to give them the edge over St. Lawrence and put Cornell second.

Dartmouth
Last season: 7-21-0, 5-17-0 (11th). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Joe Marsh: He will be coaching the team as head coach Laura Schuler coaches Team Canada in the Pyeongchang Olympics. He coached the St. Lawrence men’s team for 27 seasons.
Christina Rombaut: She is the highest returning scorer to the team as a sophomore.

“I’m excited to step in and help Laura’s program. I’m coming into a program that Laura and her staff are continuing to establish on a national level. Philosophically, we are on the same page. The transition should be easy because of how well she has built and organized this program in her time here. … We have a very solid game plan in place for what needs to be done to rebuild the team. I am thrilled to be here.” – coach Joe Marsh.

Three questions
1. Who’s going to step up on offense? Just two players scored in double-digits last season, and they both graduated – and one was a defender.
2. Who’s the starting goalie? Robin Chemago was a solid presence for them in back and she graduated. Christie Honor played in six games last season. Shannon Ropp played in one game two seasons ago. Kayla Wormsbecher is a freshman. There’s a lot of question marks here, especially since they averaged twice as many goals against as goals scored last season.
3. Can Marsh continue the culture change? Last season, Schuler put a lot of emphasis on rebuilding and culture shift, but is gone just a year later. Will she have to start from scratch next season or can Marsh help keep the Big Green on a path toward improvement?

Crystal Ball
I have Dartmouth finishing 11th.

Harvard
Last season: 5-19-5, 5-13-4 (ninth). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Beth Larcom: She won gold at the IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championships with Team USA and set a Harvard record for saves by a freshman, but only saw eight games last season. Presumably, the net is hers to lose.
Lexie Lang: She led the team with 21 points.
Becca Gilmore: She was named the top U.S. forward at the IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championships.

Three questions
1. What happened last year? It’s the question women’s college hockey fans would love to have an answer to. Where did it all go wrong? They were 30th in the country in team offense and gave up nearly a goal more per game than they scored. How do they right the ship? Just six players scored in double-digits last season, a graduated senior was the only one to score more than 10 goals, and only one player had more than 20 points. As a team, they tallied just 137 total points. They rotated three goalies, all of whom had a goals-against above 2.00. There isn’t a spot on the ice that doesn’t have room for massive improvement.
2. If they don’t show improvement, is Katey Stone on the hot seat? She’s a coaching legend and there was plenty of young talent on the team, which is what made the season so shocking. She definitely gets the opportunity to prove last season was an exception, not the rule, but you do have to wonder how much of a cushion she really has.
3. Can they finish strong? Six of their final eight games are against teams that were ranked last season. They finish with the Beanpot tourney, where even if they get past BU, they’ll get BC or Northeastern in the final. Then they close against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. It’s a brutal stretch heading into the postseason, and it might make or break them.

Crystal Ball
I’ve got Harvard eighth.

Princeton
Last season: 20-10-3, 14-6-2 (fourth). Lost to Clarkson in the ECAC semifinals.

Names to know
Cara Morey: The new head coach replaces Jeff Kampersal, who left for Penn State after 21 seasons leading the Tigers. Morey was an assistant at Princeton for six years before taking over the lead role.
Stephanie Neatby: She earned a pile of awards as a freshman: USCHO rookie of the year, ECAC Goalie of the Year, finalist for ECAC Player of the Year, finalist for ECAC Rookie of the Year, First-Team All-ECAC, First-Team All-Ivy League, ECAC All-Rookie Team.
Karlie Lund: A top forward who led the team in scoring with 21 goals and 23 assists for 44 points in 33 games.
Carly Bullock: She was the ECAC Rookie of the Year.

Three questions
1. Can they keep from sliding back? The rest of the conference keeps improving, and after a stellar season in 2015-16, Princeton struggled to match their own success. They failed to make the ECAC championship game and didn’t make the NCAA tournament. If they’re going to keep pace with the improving ECAC, they’ve got to make sure they don’t regress any more.
2. What will it take to beat Clarkson? The Tigers are winless against the Golden Knights dating back to Feb. 15, 2013, a streak that includes eight losses and a tie.
3. Which underclassmen are going to step up this season? Neatby and Bullock made immediate impacts. The Tigers will need another few youngsters to make quick transitions this season.

Crystal Ball
The Tigers finish fifth.

Quinnipiac
Last season: 21-10-6, 13-6-3 (fifth). Lost to Princeton in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
TT Cianfarano: She has 108 points in 109 career games for the Bobcats.
Melissa Samoskevich: She led Quinnipiac with 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points as a sophomore last season.
Anna Kilponen: A transfer from North Dakota, she played with Team Finland in Sochi in 2014.

Three questions
1. Who’s in net? The biggest question mark for the Bobcats is at goalie. Sydney Rossman was the number three goalie in the country last season. Sophomore Abbie Ives started just three games last season, and junior Clare Lachner has never appeared for Quinnipiac.
2. Can the offense provide enough cover for the defense to get up to speed? Quinnipiac has been known as a defensive squad, but they’re going to rely on their experienced offense to give them a cushion. The Bobcats had the second-stingiest defense in the country last year.
3. Can they beat the top half of the conference? Last season, they had just three wins over teams ranked in the top half of the conference, two against Colgate and one against Princeton in the postseason. If they are going to move up in the standings, they have to do better.

Crystal Ball
I have them sixth. I don’t think they do as well as last season without Rossman in net.

Rensselaer
Last season: 10-24-2, 7-14-1 (eighth). Lost to Clarkson in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Shayna Tomlinson: The highest returning scorer, she was second on the team last season with 11 assists and 17 points.
Lovisa Selander: The goalie had an outstanding rookie campaign two years ago in net and looks to bounce back a bit this season.

“You just come in with a clean slate and you make your evaluations. You only have a couple of weeks as a team before you’re playing. I’ve been really impressed with the group so far. The attitude and effort, that’s all we’re asking at the start of the year. It’s been great in practice. The energy level has been great.” — coach Bryan Vines

Three questions
1. Who’s going to score? For the second straight year, the Engineers managed just 62 goals all season. They have to find ways to put the puck in the net.
2. Can the defense support Selander? They averaged 3.25 goals allowed per game, and Selander faced nearly 1,100 shots over the course of the season. The defense has to be getting in front of the puck and keeping it out of their zone.
3. Can they make the ECAC tournament? The coaches’ preseason poll has them finishing ninth and out of the postseason. Returning to the tournament this season should be a big goal for the Engineers.

Crystal Ball
RPI will finish 10th.

St. Lawrence
Last season: 26-6-4, 16-3-3 (second). Lost to Cornell in the ECAC tournament semifinals.

Names to know
Kennedy Marchment She tied for third in scoring in the country.
Hannah Miller: She had a breakout season and was ranked sixth nationally in assists per game (0.92) and tied for 11th nationally with 1.33 points per game. She was a Second-Team All-ECAC Hockey selection.

“Every year, we try to design a schedule that will give our players memorable experiences. Last year, we had the opportunity to play the first women’s college hockey games in D.C. This year, our trip to California will be a first for our program, and will also give some of our players a chance to play in front of friends and family.”

Three questions
1. Can they repeat last year’s chemistry? What Marchment, Miller, and Brooke Webster had on the top line was magic. Webster seemed to have the finishing touch, but finding another player that meshes that well is not likely to be easy.
2. Can they beat the elite? The Saints have shown they can beat the best in their conference, but it was a disappointing postseason, with an ECAC semifinal exit at the hands Cornell and a 6-0 loss to Boston College in the NCAA tournament. Last season, they were very good. They need to improve on that.
3. Can they hold off Cornell? Until they prove otherwise, Clarkson is the presumptive top of the conference. St. Lawrence has a hold on the second spot, but there will be plenty of teams gunning for them, most immediately, the Big Red.

Crystal Ball
For now, I’ve got St. Lawrence finishing third.

Union
Last season: 5-28-1, 2-19-1 (twelfth). Did not qualify for the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Haley Shugart: She finished the season with a team-high 11 points, which included a team-high seven goals as well as four assists as a freshman.
Kate Spooner: She appeared in 26 games in net as a freshman and is the first goalie in Union history to record four or more wins in her rookie season.

“We want to create a new ceiling for our team. We began to scratch the surface of our on-ice identity last year. We really want to drive that home this year — play free, play fast, play tough, and play hard on the puck. We want each player to be confident and feel unique in their role on the team.” — coach Josh Sciba.

Three questions
1. Are they ready to shake it off? It’s been a rough stretch for Union, but the signs of growth and improvement have been there. Now it has to come together, and the team has to be willing to hold on to the opportunity they have this year. They’ve never won more than four games as a Division I program. There are a lot of expectations to meet this season.
2. Will they make the ECAC tournament? Coaches picked them sixth in the preseason poll, which would put them in their first-ever ECAC postseason.
3. Can the freshmen get up to speed quickly? The Dutchwomen have 11 first-year players that they’ll have to count on to be impactful if they want to meet their expectations this season. There’s opportunity for young players to make themselves crucial, but it won’t be easy.

Crystal Ball
Taking a bit of a flyer and banking on their experience — putting Union eighth.

Yale
Last season: 10-17-4, 8-12-2 (seventh). Lost to St. Lawrence in the opening round of the ECAC tournament.

Names to know
Eden Murray: She will be expected to lead the offense. She earned the team’s Mandi Schwartz Award, given for courage, grit, and determination, and tied for the team lead in points while placing second in assists.
Tera Hofman: She took the lion’s share of starts in net last season as a freshman. A year of experience should help.

Three questions
1. Can the defense continue to improve? After having one of the worst team defenses in the country two seasons ago, the Bulldogs cut more than half a goal off their team average last season, but they’re still averaging more goals allowed then scored. It was a great jump for a single season, and I’d love to see them show even more improvement.
2. Will experience make a difference? The Elis have a large senior class — eight women will be leading them this year. They’ve got big shoes to fill after the graduation of Pheobe Staenz and Krisa Yip-Chuck.
3. Can they continue to improve? Two seasons ago, Yale finished a single point out of the postseason. They responded by placing seventh. It gets tougher to move up in the standings from here.

Crystal Ball
The Elis finish seventh.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here