Women’s D-III: Previewing the league tournaments

Emma Crocker of Elmira (Elmira Athletics)
Emma Crocker of Elmira (Elmira Athletics)

It’s the last weekend before the NCAA tournament selection show, and there is still a lot of volatility left. Here’s a quick look at how the league tournaments might shake out.

Colonial Hockey
Endicott and University of New England advanced to the championship game with wins last weekend. Endicott currently sits fourth in the PairWise, so the Gulls have a little wiggle room, but they won’t want to risk that. Endicott went 16-0 on the regular season, while second-place University of New England was 10-4-2. Those four losses were all to Endicott, which blanked UNE twice and only let up a goal each in the other two games. Endicott has the top four scorers in the conference and the top goaltender as well in Alyssa Peterson. UNE goaltender Julia Benjamin is almost as good with a .955 save percentage.

Last weekend gave a minor upset, as Augsburg knocked off Hamline, 2-1 in overtime. The Pipers had only lost one game all season in the conference, but Augsburg was known as one of the most dangerous teams in the conference entering the playoffs. In the other game, regular season champion Gustavus Adolphus knocked off Saint Mary’s, 4-1.

Gustavus swept the regular season series between the two teams, winning 4-2 and 1-0, but that was back before Thanksgiving. Gustavus is tied with Endicott for fourth in the PairWise, but like the Gulls, the Gusties will not want to leave matters to chance when it comes to their NCAA tournament selection. Augsburg is in eighth place and likely needs to beat Gustavus to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Gustavus is led up front by sophomore Kristina Press and freshman Molly McHugh, who have 31 and 30 points, respectively. The Auggies don’t have quite that level of scoring, but they do have depth, and three players have 20 points each in Bridget Wagner, Katie Flynn, and McKenna Ellena.

This will likely come down to goaltending. Abby Bolig got the nod against Hamline and likely will play against Gustavus. Bolig has a .922 save percentage and 1.52 goals-against. Augsburg could also go with Annie Juergens, who has a .934 save percentage and 1.38 goals-against and platooned with Bolig all year long. Gustavus will likely roll Katie McCoy, who played 13 games and posted a 1.06 goals-against and .949 save percentage.


Semi: St. Scholastic versus Lake Forest, with winner to play Adrian

Adrian won the conference with only one loss all season, but that loss was to Lake Forest. To get another crack at the Bulldogs, the Foresters will need to beat St. Scholastica Friday. They swept a pair of one-goal games from the Saints in November.

The Saints played well down the stretch, led by forwards Rachel Anderson and Taylor Thompson, who had 26 and 24 points, respectively. Goaltender Lexi Thomeczek has a 1.63 GAA and .951 save percentage.

Lake Forest will look to goalie Jacque Rogers, who had a 1.88 GAA and .935 save percentage, second only to Adrian’s Denisa Jandová in the conference. Up front, the Foresters are led by Sydney Simone, who had 17 points.

Adrian has the most weapons of the three teams. Four players, Nicole Guagliardo, Jessica VonRuden, Une Bjelland, and Kelly O’Sullivan, tied for the league lead in scoring with 20 points, and Jandová is a virtual brick wall in net.

Norwich is another team that was undefeated in its league schedule during the regular season. The Cadets are led by senior Amanda Conway, the top scorer in the country with 54 points. No one else is close to the numbers she has put up. In net, the Cadets have Alexa Berg, who has a .948 save percentage and 1.10 GAA. Norwich, sitting at 11th in the PairWise, must defeat Suffolk Saturday to win the conference tournament if it wants to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Suffolk, which finished sixth in the regular season, is a surprise opponent. The Rams beat Johnson & Wales and Southern Maine last weekend to advance. The Rams have good scoring from Maddy Burton and Shana Cote, and goaltender Julia McLellan (2.95 GAA, .902 save percentage) will likely play in net.

Norwich swept Suffolk this season, including a 9-1 beatdown just a month ago.


Semis: Amherst vs. Colby, Hamilton at Middlebury
The Panthers host the final weekend, and currently are ranked second in the polls and PairWise. Interestingly, their only conference loss all season was to Hamilton on Jan. 31. The Panthers are the deepest team in the league. Junior Madie Leidt paces them with 34 points, while sophomore Jenne Letterie is just behind her with 29 points. In net, Li Han has a 0.805 GAA and .960 save percentage.

Hamilton has had a solid second half. The Continentals are led by defender Michaela Giuttari, who leads the team with 25 points. Second is junior Missy Segall with 21 points. In net, Sidney Molnar has a 1.56 GAA and .925 save percentage. While the Continentals do have that win for confidence, the Panthers blanked them the next night, 3-0.

Amherst and Colby tied on the last day of the regular season, 2-2. The previous night, Colby beat Amherst, 1-0. Amherst will need scoring from freshman Jillian Mazzocca, who had 23 points during the regular season, and junior Kaitlin Hoang, who had 20 points. Caitlin Walker (1.17 GAA, .957 save percentage) will need to sand tall in net.

Colby is led up front by sophomore Lexi Cafiero and senior Tess Dupre, who each have 20 points, and then sophomore McKinley Karpa, who has 19 points. In net, the Mules have two possibilities, but will likely play Nina Prünster, who had the shutout against Amherst and also beat Bowdoin in the quarters last weekend. She has a .953 save percentage and 1.14 GAA.

This league is essentially No. 1 Plattsburgh and everyone else. The Cardinals were undefeated in conference play, going 18-0. They have the top four scorers in the conference and the top goaltender as well. Plattsburgh is second nationally in offense with 4.81 goals per game, third in defense with 0.96 goals against, third in power play with a 27.73 conversion rate, and tops in penalty kill with a .9798 success rate.

Oswego finished second in the league and will give the Cardinals a run in the championship game. They are led by freshman Megan Teachout, who has 28 points, and senior Eryn Steward, who has 23 points. In net the Lakers will look to senior Rachel Farmer, who has a 2.05 GAA and .916 save percentage.

Plattsburgh won all three games between the two during the regular season, winning 7-1, 3-0, and 3-1.


Semis: Stevenson at Elmira, William Smith versus Manhattanville
No. 5 Elmira won the regular season title and has the most depth. Junior forward Emma Crocker paces the team with 40 points, tied for fourth nationally. In net will be junior Elizabeth Hanson, who has a 0.65 GAA and .968 save percentage.

Stevenson will offer a tough test; the Mustangs barely lost to the Soaring Eagles in their one game, 2-1. Nikki Kendrick leads the Mustangs offensively with 27 points, while Trinity Barcless and Karly Aguirre each have 24. Goaltender Annie Smyth-Hammond has a 1.85 GAA and .928 save percentage. She will need to be on her game for the Mustangs to have a shot at the upset.

Williams Smith advanced with a revenge win against Nazareth, which had defeated the Herons on the last day of the regular season to claim second in the conference. The Herons got a 3-1 win last weekend to advance. They have a potent offense, ranked eighth nationally and led by senior Gina Scibetta, who has 40 points and is tied for fourth nationally in scoring. Backing her up are freshman Julianna Gong with 34 points and junior Jules Kennedy with 31 points. In net will be junior Olivia Williams, who posts a 2.46 GAA and .921 save percentage. The Herons beat Manhattanville on Feb. 1 in a wild shootout, 5-4.

Manhattanville is led by junior Tianna Lopes, who has 41 points, tied for second nationally. Following her are senior Amanda Sabia with 35 points and senior Ali Howard with 32 points. In net, freshman Lena Flores played against Chatham last weekend. She replaced senior Taylor Elias the previous weekend against Chatham in the regular season finale, as Elias got pulled 18 minutes into the game. Flores has a 1.98 GAA and .919 save percentage, but Elias has better stats and might get the nod. Either will need to be sharp for the Valiants to win.

An NCAA berth is not automatically given to the winner of this tournament, but both Wisconsin-River Falls (sixth PairWise) and Wisconsin-Eau Claire (third PairWise) are likely to get at-large berths to the tournament. Wis.River Falls has the top two scorers in the conference in Abigail Stow and Callie Hoff, who have 39 and 33 points, respectively. In net, Sami Miller will get the nod; she has a 1.30 GAA and .935 save percentage. Wis.-Eau Claire is led by Hannah Zavoral up front, who has 23 points, followed by Elizabeth Bauer, who has 21. In net, Erin Connolly is among the best in the country with a 0.91 GAA and .950 save percentage. Wis.-Eau Claire took two of three from Wis.-River Falls in the season series, but the Falcons won the last game between the two, 3-1.