- North Dakota
- Boston College
- Boston University
The loss of Sarah Erickson, Jen Schoullis, and Emily West up front for Minnesota cannot be understated, as they each logged important minutes and provided experience and production. The Gophers’ offense should still be competent, however; Amanda Kessel is a preseason Patty Kazmaier candidate, and freshman Hannah Brandt likely slots immediately into the top-six. Kelly Terry and Sarah Davis both look poised to produce consistently. What remains to be seen is how well players like Terry, Davis, Rachael Bona, and Meghan Lorence handle more important scoring roles. Anne Schleper leaves big shoes to fill on the blue line, but Megan Bozek is a proven top-pairing defenseman and Rachel Ramsey showed a lot of promise last season. Finnish national team player Mira Jalosuo, Baylee Gillanders, Jordyn Burns, and incoming freshmen Lee Stecklein and Milica McMillen provide a good amount of depth and skill for Minnesota’s defensive corps. Goaltender Noora Räty enters the season with a career save percentage of .943; she will give the Gophers a chance to win every night. It might take some time for the team to adjust to their losses, and for Kessel to get back to full health, but I expect Minnesota to finish the season at the top of the rankings once again.
Cornell loses a very special player to graduation in Rebecca Johnston, but they have enough skill throughout their lineup to handle her departure. The offense might not be as prolific as last year without Johnston, Chelsea Karpenko, and Catherine White, but they have enough skill and depth to provide sufficient production. Brianne Jenner and Jill Saulnier will lead the charge in that department, and Jess Campbell and Emily Fulton should be able to step up and produce at top-six level. The Big Red also add Canadian U18 player Hayley Woods. The blue line will be led by the terrific pairing of Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau; Hayleigh Cudmore, Amanda Young, Alyssa Gagliardi, and Cassandra Poudrier add above-average talent to fill out the defensive corps. Lauren Slebodnick will most likely take sole control of the starting goaltending duties this season, and if she can post consistently good numbers, Cornell could take over the number one spot in the rankings. Overall, this is a squad with a good amount of experience and a high level of talent. They should face a decent amount of adversity over the course of the season playing in the ECAC. If they successfully overcome that adversity and fill the holes they need to fill, they could be playing for a national championship come March.
#3 North Dakota
North Dakota rosters an absolutely formidable offense, the best in the country, and it will be led by Monique Lamoureux and Jocelyne Lamoureux, two of the most dominant players in the world. Michelle Karvinen is sure to produce at a high level, and players like Josefine Jakobsen, Andrea Dalen, Meghan Dufault, and Rebecca Kohler will provide offensive depth. Although all of the graduated seniors played important roles on the team, they have enough players at each position to effectively replace them. Jordan Slavin is a talented offensive defenseman and incoming freshmen Sam LaShomb and Tanja Eisenschmid will add more skill to the back-end. Whether senior defenseman Candace Molle will be available to UND this season is still unknown but it’s a big loss if she won’t be, as she could really be the key to providing a dominant two-way force on the blue line. Depth might be a question for the defense, and they might be a little shaky overall in their own zone, which is really what hampers them from being ranked higher. Goaltending is also a question mark going into the season; if they can get consistently good numbers from Jorid Dagfinrud, Shelby Amsley-Benzie, or both, North Dakota is a very strong contender to at least make it to the Frozen Four.
#4 Boston College
The Eagles enter the year with a very good all-around team with loads of potential, especially up front. Sophomore forward Alex Carpenter is one of the most intriguing players in the nation. A point-per-game scorer last year, she was the definite leader for BC’s offense as a 17-year-old. Emily Field, Taylor Wasylk, Ashley Motherwell, Haley Skarupa, and Dana Trivigno will help balance the scoring. The Eagles will also have a very solid defensive corps, headed by Blake Bolden, Dru Burns, and Emily Pfalzer. Freshmen Kaliya Johnson and Lexi Bender add some immediate skill, and Jackie Young and Meagan Mangene will be good bottom-four players. The only real question mark for Boston College is in goal. Corinne Boyles posted decent numbers in her first season as a starter, but she wasn’t very consistent, and I see Megan Miller taking over the starting role at some point. Head coach Katie King-Crowley did a fantastic job of putting it all together last year after losing Kelli Stack and Molly Schaus, so she should be able to get everything to work nicely this year. Although I wouldn’t consider them a favorite to win it all, if everything is clicking come March, the Eagles could be the first women’s Hockey East team ever to win the national title.
It’s going to be very difficult for Wisconsin to replace the scoring of Hilary Knight, Carolyne Prevost, and Brooke Ammerman. Production-wise, this could be one of the weakest Badger squads in years, even figuring in last year’s Patty Kazmaier Award winner Brianna Decker. On the plus side, Brittany Ammerman looks poised for a breakout year. While players like Ammerman, Madison Packer, Katy Josephs, Blayre Turnbull, and Karley Sylvester could all start contributing much more this season, it’s no sure thing that enough of them will. The blue line will be anchored by Stefanie McKeough, and Saige Pacholok, Kelly Jaminski, and Courtney Burke add a decent level of surrounding skill. It’s a good defense, but it’s not much improved from last year, and I thought the Badgers’ defense was the issue last season. At any rate, Alex Rigsby will provide very good goaltending almost every night, easing some of the worries defensively. I think Wisconsin will be a good team this year, and I definitely don’t expect them to slip out of the top five in the national rankings, but there are some legitimate concerns about the Badgers that haven’t been there in recent years.
Haley Irwin is a big loss up front for the Bulldogs, but she is the only player they will have difficulty replacing this year. Audrey Cournoyer is a proven 20-goal scorer and point-per-game player, and expectations are high for Jenna McParland after her rookie season. Senior Pernilla Winberg’s production was down last season but she also has a high offensive ceiling, and freshmen like Hannah Bramm and German U-18 national team member Marie Delarbre will only boost UMD’s forward group. Headlined by senior Jessica Wong and sophomore Brigette Lacquette, the Bulldogs’ defensive corps is one of, if not the best in the WCHA, and that should translate to national prestige as well. The Bulldogs will have three freshmen goalies battling it out for the starting job, including Sofia Carlstrom, who was a member of Sweden’s Under-18 team. The lack of experience at that position is worrying but there is definitely some ability, especially in Carlstrom’s case. I see Minnesota-Duluth as a well-coached, very solid all-around team, and as long as they don’t go through any extended slumps, they should find themselves playing in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Except for Alissa Baumgartner’s four points, the Crimson return all of their scoring from last season. Although not a particularly potent offensive squad, losing only one senior will be extremely helpful, especially when it comes to experience. Jillian Dempsey and Lyndsey Fry are both point-per-game players and will definitely be counted on heavily to produce. Harvard’s real strength, however, is on the back end. Josephine Pucci is an absolute workhouse and probably the most underrated defenseman in the country; Sarah Edney, Marissa Gedman, and Michelle Picard round out one of the best top-fours in the nation. The Crimson also have some prestige behind the bench. It was announced this summer that head coach Katey Stone will coach the United States National Team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Goaltender Laura Bellamy is very similar to Boston College’s Corinne Boyles. Although she posted decent numbers last season, she wasn’t very consistent and she doesn’t possess true game-stealing abilities. That could end up being the difference for the team this year. With two talented players up front and a defense this good, Harvard should find themselves qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in March.
#8 Boston University
It remains to be seen how well they will cope without Canadian National Team player Jenn Wakefield, but I’m a big fan of the Terriers’ offense heading into the year. Their top-six is easily their strength. Between Marie-Philip Poulin, Isabel Menard, Kayla Tutino, Jenelle Kohanchuk, Louise Warren, and rookies Sarah Lefort and Rebecca Russo, BU boasts an abundance of talent up front. Poulin especially will be a constant threat; she’s one of the best players in the world and is a probable Patty Kazmaier Award finalist if she stays healthy. The Terriers will need all the offense they can get as they look to be a little weak on the back end; they lack both experience and a defenseman with true top-pairing talent. Shannon Doyle, a junior transfer from Colgate, will help shore things up a bit, but shutting down opponents’ top players most likely won’t be this team’s strong suit. Goaltender Kerrin Sperry has shown flashes of game-stealing abilities in the past, but she will have to be much more consistent this season if the Terriers expect to make the cut for the NCAA Tournament.
Much like Boston University, Northeastern’s strength is very clearly in their forwards. Kendall Coyne and Casey Pickett lit up the score sheet last season, and they have a talented supporting cast in Paige Savage, Brittany Esposito, Lucie Povova, and Katie MacSorley. Maggie DiMasi, Colleen Murphy, Sonia St. Martin, and Jordan Hampton make for a solid top-four defensive corps. The Huskies are young but they have experience; they do, however, have a lot to prove this year as they had a considerably weak schedule last season. There is a huge question mark in goal as of right now for Northeastern, due to the graduation of all-world goaltender Florence Schelling. She broke a Hockey East record for save percentage last season, and the Huskies’ success was due in large part to her play. It is not even clear at this point who will replace her, although Chloe Desjardins probably has an inside track to the starting role. Ultimately, I foresee Northeastern’s goaltending situation and slight lack of depth being a problem for them, causing them to be on the outside looking in come March.
The Golden Knights are my dark-horse team this season. Although not a particularly high-scoring squad last year, they did have two point-per-game players in Jamie Lee Rattray and Carly Mercer. Danielle Skirrow also posted solid numbers, and the Golden Knights will add Canadian Under-18 Team forwards Cayley Mercer and Shannon MacAuley. On the back end, Hailey Wood had a breakout year offensively in 2011-2012, making her a very solid two-way defenseman. It’s not a particularly deep group of blue-liners, but they are serviceable, and incoming freshman Erin Ambrose should be able to contribute in a big way right off the bat. The one player that makes Clarkson so dangerous, however, is junior netminder Erica Howe. A consistently dominant goalie, she’s posted great numbers in back-to-back seasons, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be able to do so again. A goalie can make a huge difference, especially in the postseason, and I expect her to be a difference-maker for the Golden Knights. They probably don’t have enough skill to make the NCAA Tournament, but they are certainly a team worth keeping an eye on this season.
Preseason First Team All-America
Monique Lamoureux, Senior, Forward, North Dakota
Marie-Philip Poulin, Junior, Forward, Boston University
Amanda Kessel, Junior, Forward, Minnesota
Laura Fortino, Senior, Defenseman, Cornell
Megan Bozek, Senior, Defenseman, Minnesota
Noora Räty, Senior, Goaltender, Minnesota
Preseason Second Team All-America
Jocelyne Lamoureux, Senior, Forward, North Dakota
Alex Carpenter, Sophomore, Forward, Boston College
Brianna Decker, Senior, Forward, Wisconsin
Josephine Pucci, Senior, Defenseman, Harvard
Lauriane Rougeau, Senior, Defenseman, Cornell
Alex Rigsby, Junior, Goaltender, Wisconsin
Preseason Third Team All-America
Kendall Coyne, Sophomore, Forward, Northeastern
Michelle Karvinen, Junior, Forward, North Dakota
Jillian Saulnier, Sophomore, Forward, Cornell
Jessica Wong, Senior, Defenseman, Minnesota-Duluth
Stefanie McKeough, Senior, Defenseman, Wisconsin
Erica Howe, Junior, Goaltender, Clarkson
Gabriella is now in her third season of covering NCAA and international women’s hockey for The Hockey Writers. She is the founding editor of At Even Strength, a website dedicated to providing full-time coverage and analysis of women’s hockey. She is currently working towards a degree in Communication at the University of North Dakota, and is also interning with UND Athletic Media Relations. She can be reached on Twitter (@gabfun) or via e-mail (gfundaro10 [at] gmail [dot] com).