Current Rankings (Week 4):
- North Dakota
- Boston College
- Boston University
- Ohio State
Match-up of the Week: Minnesota-Duluth 2, Wisconsin 0 (10/13); Minnesota-Duluth 1, Wisconsin 0 (10/14)
I think this series showed two things: how much harder it’s going to be for Wisconsin to score goals this year, and how solid the Bulldogs are defensively. Being shutout twice in a row is definitely concerning for the Badgers, and impressive for Minnesota-Duluth, but neither team should take this series for more than it’s worth. It was a pretty even match-up, and I think it proved that these teams are basically level with each other.
The Bulldogs should be happy with the sweep, but it was a close series, and there were a fair amount of good and bad things for both teams to go back and look at. Freshman Kayla Black earned the shutouts for Minnesota-Duluth this weekend, which should give her and her team a great deal of confidence going forward. Jenna McParland also made an impact in her return to the Bulldogs’ line-up, scoring a goal and an assist in the series.
Minnesota had yet another successful weekend, as they swept St. Lawrence, winning 5-0 and 6-0. They looked great in all areas again; offense was plentiful, and defense and goaltending were also very good, as evidenced by the consecutive shutouts. The Saints are probably a little weaker this year than most anticipated, but it was still a very dominant performance by the Gophers. Hannah Brandt and Amanda Kessel continued their productive play; they are now tied for first in the country in scoring with 18 points apiece in six games. Noora Räty made 48 saves in five periods of play to earn both shutouts. Minnesota’s off to a very fast start this year and they’re firing on all cylinders; we’ll see how they fare as they face tougher competition in the WCHA.
-North Dakota suffered another upset at the hands of a lower-ranked team for the second week in a row, but they looked much, much better this time around. After falling 5-3 on Friday night, UND came away with the victory the following afternoon, winning 2-0. Goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie did not have the best game on Friday night, but Jorid Dagfinrud looked very good in relief and again when she started on Saturday.
On the other side, Chelsea Knapp was great again the for the Buckeyes, holding down the fort on Friday night so they could come away with a victory. I don’t know if she’ll continue to give that kind of high-quality goaltending all year, but at any rate, things are clicking right now for Ohio State. The Schmitt sisters, Tina Hollowell, Paige Semenza, Hokey Langan, and Julia McKinnon were all very impressive this weekend.
From North Dakota’s perspective, they were pretty much dominant other than the first period on Friday and the second period on Saturday. A few positives for them? They are still missing a quality scorer in Michelle Karvinen, and although Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux have looked good, there is still a whole other level that they can get to. They were down 4-0 going into the third on Friday night, but they did not let the wheels come off and almost came back to tie it. That kind of in-game response says a lot about a team.
-Boston University has gotten off to a very solid start this year. After a 3-2 win over Rensselaer and a 6-2 win over Union over the weekend, they defeated Northeastern 4-1 on Tuesday night. The first period between the two was basically a stalemate, with no team really establishing themselves offensively, but the Terriers picked up their play and were the clear victors. They were forechecking and cycling well, with the forwards utilizing each other to make plays. Northeastern was successful at times on the forecheck, but their real issue was entering the zone. Too many times, the Husky carrying the puck tried to make a play one-on-one when entering the zone. Kendall Coyne was the only one who was successful at it, as nearly every other time, a Terrier defender stepped up to force a turnover. Boston University also looked solid defensively; they won many of the battles in front of their own net.
Marie-Philip Poulin doesn’t have any goals yet this year but her vision and play-making skills have certainly been on display. Freshman Sarah Lefort has been a great addition to BU’s top line, forcing turnovers and putting in six goals already this year. I dropped Northeastern one spot in the rankings because even though they did beat RPI and Union, they still had some trouble establishing offense against those teams, just like they did against BU. Highlights of those tilts can be found here and here.
Stars of the Week
1. Kelly Babstock, Junior, Forward, Quinnipiac: Had four goals in Bobcats’ first game against Maine and totaled five goals and eight points in the series. She was absolutely ridiculous on the forecheck and just seemed to be making plays every time she was on the ice.
2. Chelsea Knapp, Senior, Goaltender, Ohio State: Made 32 saves to help the Buckeyes upset North Dakota, and then came back the next game and made 34 saves to keep it a one-goal game and give them a fighting chance. She’s been a huge part of Ohio State’s success so far.
3. Christine Bestland, Junior, Forward, Mercyhurst: Had two goals and four assists in the Lakers’ series against Providence this weekend. She will be a key player for Mercyhurst and their hopes of earning an NCAA Tournament slot again this year.
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).