Saints travel to Merrimack for two ahead of Clarkson matchup

After a strong 1-0-1 showing against Mercyhurst to open the season, the Saints head to Merrimack this weekend, looking to stay undefeated against the Warriors, who are in just their third season as a Division I sport, but opened the year with a statement, defeating BU and Minnesota. The Saints and Warriors have played once before, in Merrimack’s inaugural season of 2015-16, when SLU took a 6-2 victory at Appleton. The Warriors enter this weekend at 2-2-1 while the Saints enter 1-0-1.  

With Clarkson looming on the horizon, two good weekends to start the season will be important for the Saints, and that means they’ll need the goals to keep coming. Their 4-1 victory against the Lakers on Friday was a good sign, but only mustering a lone goal and 19 shots in a game two tie on Saturday has to have the Saints chomping at the bit to put pucks on net this weekend. 

Hannah Miller and Kennedy Marchment each have two goals on the young season, and their continued success will be crucial for SLU as the offensive leaders for the team. Justine Reyes has also opened her junior season strong with a goal and an assist through two games, Grace Harrison continued to shut the door on teams, allowing just one goal in each of the two games against Mercyhurst.

Given that it’s so early in the season, it’s tough to tell what kind of team Merrimack is. They can put up four goals against Minnesota, but only managed two goals in two games against UNH, which isn’t exactly a Hockey East powerhouse. Junior Katelyn Rae leads the Warriors in goals with three, including a power play goal and shorthanded goal, but they’re mostly a young team, something SLU can definitely exploit with a good forecheck and constant pressure. Their PK has struggled so far, at just 77%, which is a good sign for a SLU team that needs to get their power play going.

SLU’s PK looked good against Mercyhurst, but the power play got plenty of action and only managed one goal. The Saints have to replace two of their mainstays on the power play in Brooke Webster and Kirsten Padalis, so the early season may be a little rough, but Merrimack is a team that SLU should get plenty of good scoring chances against when they have the advantage.

This shouldn’t be too stressful of a weekend for SLU. Yes, they should be mindful that Merrimack is capable of beating good teams, but as long as the Saints are responsible with the puck for 60 minutes, they should be fine. This is an opportunity to continue to establish good habits, get the rookies even more acclimated to college hockey, and work the parts of their system that might need to be fine-tuned before they face Clarkson, and hopefully spoil their banner raising ceremony.

What a year

What a year. 26-6-4, a second straight appearance at the championship weekend and a return to the NCAA tournament. Picked to finish seventh in the league at the beginning of the year, the 2016-17 SLU women’s hockey team exceeded all expectations.

Brooke Webster had been a consistent scorer for the Saints in her previous three seasons, but she took it to another level this year. She reached the 100-point plateau in her career, and came up short of 150 by a lone point. Perhaps most impressive is that she dominated the game at 5-on-5, scoring only two of her 23 goals on the power play and none were empty-netters. She started the season against Northeastern with a hat trick and just kept rolling.

Kennedy Marchment almost doubled her 29-point output from each of the last two seasons, finishing second on the team with 56 points, which vaulted her over the 100-point mark in her career as well. She’ll have a chance to climb the all-time scoring leaderboard next year for a SLU team that should again contend for titles.

Hannah Miller emerged as the player we knew she could be, posting 48 points in 36 games and rounding out the highest scoring line in the country with Webster and Marchment. She’ll help fill Webster’s void next year along with Marchment.

Kirsten Padalis was a force from the blueline, anchoring one of the best defenses in college hockey and adding 22 points as well.  Grace Harrison had six shutouts over an eight game period and nine in total en route to a 23-win season. Rookies like Kalie Grant and Kayla Vespa had immediate, and significant, impacts on the offense and defense for the Saints, and they’ll continue to have growing impacts as their careers progress.

 While the Saints didn’t bring any hardware home this season, they had one of the best regular seasons in program history, had two Patty Kazmaier top-ten nominees in Webster and Marchment, and had players nominated for player of the year, defender of the year and goalie of the year in the ECAC, not to mention coach Wells’ nomination for coach of the year.

The Saints also hosted, and won their first playoff series at Appleton Arena since the 2008-09, sweeping Yale by 4-1 and 4-0 scores and held on to the top spot in the PairWise for a significant portion of the season. In all, they won 26 games, more than any single season total under Chris Wells, and the most since Paul Flanagan’s final season in Canton in 2007-2008, when the Scarlet and Brown won 28 for the second straight season.

At the end of the day, the final two losses to Cornell and Boston College were difficult pills to swallow. The Saints were capable of beating both teams, having already beaten Cornell once this year, and matching up well on paper with the Eagles. A bit of bad puck luck and opponents playing well was the demise of a Saints team that had so much promise, but there isn’t a single player or coach on that team who should hang their head. They gave it their all in every game and represented St. Lawrence well on and off the ice, which as all anyone could ask for.

To the three seniors, Kirsten Padalis, Brooke Webster and Alex Moore, who played their hearts out in 428 combined games and recorded 248 combined points: The St. Lawrence hockey community cannot thank you enough for your dedication. You’ve made an indelible mark on the program and will not be forgotten. To the returning 20 skaters and goalies: enjoy your time off. We’ll be patiently waiting for you to take the ice once again in September.

We live to compete

In the North Country, the winters are long. It snows early, it snows late, and it’s always cold. Refuge is found in a number of ways, but hockey has found a foothold here as a winter tradition rivaled by none. Some people root for NHL teams, like the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, or Montreal Canadiens. But on Friday and Saturday nights, the place to be is right here in the NoCo.

College hockey draws the locals, and the students, out into the snow, the wind, and the cold. For the Green and Gold, or more preferably, the Scarlet and Brown, North Country hockey fans turn out in force each weekend.

You can see the health of hockey in the North Country anytime you take in a game at Appleton Arena, men’s or women’s. There are always young hockey players looking to snag a high five or fist pump from a player as they enter or exit the ice, and the crowds of young fans are always waiting after games, win or loss. It’s been this way for a long time, and some of those fans grow up to be the players. These players, with local connections, have an affinity for life in the North Country, to the benefit of the entire team.

Kalie Grant, a rookie center for the Saints, has North Country hockey royalty in her blood. Her grandfather, Bill Sloan, held the record for career shutouts at St. Lawrence until Kyle Hayton surpassed his mark of 10 earlier this season. Her uncle, Shawn Grant, played net for the Golden Knights in the late 90’s and had a knack for defeating the Saints.

She grew up a fan of both teams, but when it came time to play college hockey for Kalie, St. Lawrence was the choice, because of the hockey, and the school.

“When I came to St. Lawrence, I had known Wellsy before, which was nice, and it just felt right the right place for me academically and athletically,” Grant said. The connection with coach Wells was important, because he could relate to playing hockey close to home, as a Cantonite who donned the Scarlet and Brown. His experience helped her decide that playing close to home was the way to go.

“I initially thought I wanted to get away from home, but after I toured all the other schools and talked to Wellsy, he told me that when he came to St. Lawrence, it didn’t feel like he was right at home, and it doesn’t feel like I’m right at home.”

She isn’t exactly “right at home”. She grew up in Potsdam, 11 miles away, playing hockey for the St. Lawrence Ice Storm for most of her career, along with another player who plays for the Saints.

Allie Compeau, a sophomore goaltender, will openly admit she grew up rooting for Clarkson more than St. Lawrence. With parents who work at Clarkson, it’s understandable.

“Friday nights in particular were a huge, we’d always go to the Clarkson games,” said Compeau of the college hockey scene growing up. As a goalie, she particularly admired Stephanie Hansen, a goaltender for the Golden Knights.

“I remember my dad had her in class too, so I got to meet her,” Compeau recalled. “he would come to my house sometimes, and we’d go skate on my pond in the winter with some of the other girls, so that was huge for me.”

When her coach offered her the chance to play goalie, she took it immediately, and now, she is a D-1 goalie that local kids look up to. Getting to see the people she grew up, her friends and family, at every home game, is part of what makes being at SLU so special for her.

“It’s awesome. It just really cool because you see people you know all the time, and going to Clarkson to play is amazing because everybody knows you and you know each other, and that’s one of the parts of playing here that I love.”

Grant has noticed the same thing in her first season on campus.

“I see some former teammates, and the parents of some of the guys I used to play with, and it’s funny, because it’s people you don’t expect. But I think it’s good for me, and it’s good for the program.”

The once-young hockey fans that dotted the bleachers of Appleton and Cheel in the mid-2000’s now help maintain the popularity of hockey in the North Country. And few people know North Country hockey like Chris Wells.

A native of Canton, Wells skated for the Saints in the late 80’s and early 90’s, worked as an assistant coach under Joe Marsh, and has been in charge of the women’s program since 2008. He’s been here most of his life, and he’s been around the hockey as much as anyone. He was a walk-on at SLU, and his personality and playing style are obvious in the way his team plays. The local flavor, according to him, is important.

“Both Kalie and Allie are well connected with the history of SLU hockey and how important it is to the young girls who play now,” Wells said. “St. Lawrence has a very loyal local following and having two section X alumnae on our team really connects with the fans.”

“They both show up, say hello and work as hard as they can, smile and say goodbye.” Wells said of his local players. “They have been great additions to our team. They have been able to bring our out of town kids closer to the North Country and show them all the great things the region offers.”

The ties are strong between SLU hockey and the North Country. Young fans can watch some of the best in the game, usually for free, in a great college hockey barn, and the teams are now reaping the benefits of their legions of fans.

The local connection is also important to Grant and Compeau, who have been playing hockey together long before suiting up at Appleton Arena.

“It’s just nice to have each other, and have another local kid on the team,” Grant said on what it means to have a fellow North Country resident on the roster in Compeau. Wells’ ties to the area are helpful too.

“He can always relate to me, and he knows how it is. We make jokes about being locals sometimes.”

As locals, they grew up watching SLU during the golden days, Wells in the mid-to-late 80’s, and Grant in the early-to-mid 2000’s. Neither of these programs are strangers to success, and the local fan base has become accustomed to winning.

Luckily for them, the SLU women have been winning quite a lot this year. They win because they work hard, but have fun doing it. As Wellsy said:

“We live to compete. Period!!”

“That's fun!!”

Back in the Big Dance

For the first time since 2012, SLU women’s hockey is headed to the NCAA tournament, but the opponent will be the same. After defeating Cornell in the ECAC championship game, SLU headed to BC for the NCAA tournament, losing 6-3. This time, SLU is coming off a loss to Cornell in the ECAC semifinals and will again head to Conte Forum.

In 2012, the Saints were a bit of a surprise. They had a good regular season, going 24-10-4 and 14-6-2 in the ECAC, but finished fifth in the conference, upsetting the regular season champs, Cornell, in the title game.

This year, nobody is surprised to see SLU in the NCAA tournament. They began the season on a 15-game unbeaten streak, and sat in the top 5 of the PairWise basically the entire season. As the fifth seed in the tournament, no one will be surprised if SLU beats BC either.

It took BC double overtime against Vermont in the semifinals and overtime against Northeastern in the championship game to win the Hockey East tournament title. What that says to me is that they have trouble putting away big games, which this team has struggled with the past few years. But after finally winning the league tournament last year, this BC team may be on their way to a run to a national championship.

However, they’ll have to go through St. Lawrence, and it’s never an easy task to beat the Saints. They have two Patty Kaz top ten finalists, one of the nation’s best goalies, and a well-rounded blue-line. Players like Kalie Grant, Kayla Vespa, and Nadine Edney form a core of secondary players who make it a pain in the ass to play against SLU, an asset in any high stakes game.

While the Saints offense runs through the top line, BC tends to score by committee, though they still have several studs on offense. Andie Anastos racked up 40 points this year, Megan Keller had 28 from the blue-line, and Makenna Newkirk followed up her breakout rookie season with another solid year, producing 37 points.

Katie Burt’s stats technically dropped, but nobody is complaining about a .931 save percentage and a 1.6 goals allowed. 25-5-5 ain’t shabby either.

Boston College is a good team, but St. Lawrence is fully capable of beating them. A standard performance from Grace Harrison will be important, but the key for St. Lawrence will be their ability to slow down BC in the neutral zone. The Saints play their best defense in the neutral zone, which is why they tend to allow so few shots. If this trend continues on Saturday, the Saints should limit the Eagles’ best scoring threats effectively, while also giving their top scorers more shots at Burt.

This is a big game for the Saints. They’ve already exceeded the expectations of most from the beginning of the season, but have gone through tough stretches as well. They closed the first half and opened the second half with losses, and couldn’t overcome Cornell in the semifinals.

But they still have a chance to win it all. Clarkson did it just three years ago, and now seems as good a time as any for the Saints to hang up a new banner. It’s been ten years since SLU appeared in a Frozen Four, and now seems as good a time as any to get back.

Puck drops at 1:00 PM. Be sure to check out the alumni event prior to the game.

Two teams, one spot: Saints clash with Cornell, vying for a spot in the ECAC championship game

Whenever Cornell and St. Lawrence meet, good hockey is the result. The pace is always tremendous, the skill readily apparent, and the intensity at playoff level, but when these two teams meet in the postseason, it’s really is hockey at its best.

These are historic programs, with success that has come at different points over their long histories. Cornell is not so far removed from their dominant run through the ECAC, when they captured 4 straight regular season titles from 2010-2013, 4 of 5 tournament titles from 2010-2014, and appeared in 3 straight Frozen Four’s in 2010, 2011, and 2012. St. Lawrence accumulated most of their hardware in the mid-2000’s, advancing to 5 Frozen Four’s from 2001-2007, as well as capturing two regular season titles in 2004 and 2006. But what is at stake this weekend, the ECAC tournament championship, has only been won by SLU once, in 2012.

While the coaching staff remains from the championship, none of the players still don the Scarlet and Brown, but for Cornell, the senior class, including two of their top three scorers, and presumptive starting goaltender Paula Voorheis, won an ECAC championship in 2014.

Cornell is a veteran team, with good offensive talent. Hannah Bunton leads the way with 28 points in 31 games, followed by ECAC rookie of the year nominee Kaitlin Doering, who picked up 25 points in 29 games in her first year in Ithaca. As a team, they don’t score much, just 2.52 goals per game, and 2.46 in ECAC play, but their defense is the heart of their strength. They allowed just 1.68 goals per game this season, and 1.54 in ECAC play, while also icing a strong penalty kill, which succeeded 86.9% of the time.

SLU handled Cornell easily, or so it would seem, at Appleton, winning 5-2, but boxscores don’t always tell the full story. The Saints were outshot 30-26, including 14-5 in the third period, both of Cornell’s goal’s came on special teams (SHG and PPG with the goalie pulled), and SLU picked up an empty net goal midway through the third period. It was a past paced game, as they always are, and SLU took a lot of penalties.

When they met again at Lynah Rink, Cornell stormed back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to scrap out a tie against SLU in a low scoring, defensively sound game. The teams allowed just 39 shots combined, and took 3 penalties in total.

What the season series indicates is that if the Saturday’s game turns into a track meet, it favors the Saints, but if the teams favor defense, the Big Red match up more evenly with SLU. That’s why the home-ice advantage SLU gets by virtue of being the higher seed is so important. It will allow Coach Wells to keep Marchment, Webster, and Miller away from Cornell’s top defensive pairing, like he could at Appleton, and the results should be evident. Miller had 3 points against Cornell at Appleton, Marchment had 4 and Webster had 3, and the Saints won 5-2. Marchment was the only one who found the scoresheet at Cornell, with a goal, but reassuringly, SLU was still able to tie the Big Red.

With the advantage of last change, SLU should be able to get significant production from the top line, and the new-look power play featuring Maggie McLaughlin in front of the net, but more than production, they’ll get possession, which will limit Cornell’s chances, and then Harrison and the nation’s third best defense will do the rest.

Even if the Miller-Webster-Marchment has one of their mythical off-nights, SLU has the depth, and the tenacity, to beat Cornell. Players like Justine Reyes, Kayla Vespa, Kalie Grant and Nadine Edney, who might not find the scoresheet as often as the top line, still provide strong scoring, but also a ferocious forecheck and really strong active sticks in the neutral zone and at the Saints blue-line, which makes it really hard for teams to get into the Saints end effectively and set up offensively.

They also have an extremely mobile defensive corps, with players like Kirsten Padalis, Alex Moore, Lydia Grauer, and Amanda McClure, who can skate and move the puck well, and are all sound defensively, with good sticks and spacing. There are no glaring weaknesses on this SLU team

Grace Harrison also had nine shutouts this, which speaks for itself.

No matter what kind of game it turns out to be, SLU has the ability to beat Cornell. Whether they do it with an avalanche of goals, or stifling defense and shot blocking remains to be seen, but SLU is equipped to best Cornell in every facet of the game. They are a tough opponent, that plays SLU well every time and is experienced, but Sunday should bring a chance to play for an ECAC tournament title. And if the hockey gods are willing, it’ll be SLU-Clarkson, and we can hand the Golden Knights a loss on their own ice.

Back at home: the ECAC playoffs return to Appleton

Women’s playoff hockey returns to Appleton Arena this weekend for the first time since 2009, and after an 8-year absence, and it is more than welcome. The Saints, who finished second in the ECAC, will take on Yale, who, though sub-.500, present a difficult task for SLU.

Before we preview the matchup, it seems necessary to take a moment to recognize the accomplishments of this team. SLU amassed 24 wins this season, which was their total in 2012, the last time they won the ECAC tournament, but that 2012 figure includes 4 wins in the playoffs. A cinderalla run could see the Saints match their program record of 31 wins, which would require a national championship, but they are bound for the national tournament for the first time since 2012 and have the highest scoring line in the country. And now they get to put all that success on the line in the playoffs. This is why the players play, for a chance to win championships, and the road begins with Yale. 

SLU swept the season series with the Bulldogs, outscoring them 8-1 over two games. Nadine Edney had a hat trick, and four goals in total against Yale, and Amanda McClure picked up three goals over the two contests. One goal in two games against the fourth best defense in the country isn’t surprising for Yale, who only score 2.34 goals per game. The Saints feasted on the Yale defense, which allows more than 2.5 goals per game, and will look to continue that trend this weekend.

Yale will undoubtedly send their top defensive pair to counter the Saints top line of Miller-Webster-Marchment, but the line will undoubtedly pick up at least a goal, but the secondary scorers, like Justine Reyes, Kayla Vespa, Edney, and Kalie Grant will have plenty of room and favorable matchups to work against. The depth of this team has been the secret weapon this season, and it will be crucial in this series, for the Bulldogs will not roll over easily.

Yale is a well-coached and scrappy team, with experience in the playoffs, even if they’ve come out on the losing end of things recently. They just can’t match up with SLU’s high-end offensive talent.  The Bulldogs are lead in scoring by Eden Murray, who has 26 points in 29 games. SLU’s offensive leader, Kennedy Marchment, has twice as many points as Murray, in just 3 more games. So long as SLU doesn’t make any significant gaffs in their own zone, or leave Grace Harrison completely out to dry, and even if they do, she’s good enough to bail them out anyway.

This weekend will mark two (hopefully not 3) of the final three games the senior class will play at Appleton. They’ve now been to the playoffs in each of their four seasons at SLU, but will play at home in the postseason for the first time, which is due in large part to their leadership and dedication to the program. 

“The day they set foot on campus this fall, there was different aura about the senior class,” said assistant coach Mare MacDougall-Bari. “I think that they felt like they wanted to end their college career having done everything they could do bring success to the program.”

They’ve done more than their part this season, taking the Saints program to new heights. Brooke Webster eclipsed 50 points, Kirsten Padalis anchors the fourth best defense in the country, and Alex Moore chipped in 10 points while providing stability and poise on the blue-line. But it’s their dedication to team success that has made the difference for this SLU team, a team that, win or lose, seems like it’s having more fun than anyone else.

“I think fun would be the perfect word to describe it,” continued MacDougall-Bari. “They put in the work during the week and then reap the rewards on the weekend.”

Elite scoring, solid depth, excellent defense and goaltending, a seasoned coaching staff and a team that always manages to have fun is a pretty good recipe for success. Check out the playoff games at Appleton this weekend, you might just like what the SLU women’s hockey team is serving.

Saints put unbeaten road record on the line at Cornell, Colgate.

The final week of the regular season is upon us, and it sends the Saints to Cornell and Colgate, the two opponents directly below SLU in the standings. Cornell (30 points) sits just below St. Lawrence (32) in the standings, and 7th in the PairWise, while Colgate is five points back and 9th in the PairWise. A weekend sweep not only locks up the second spot in the ECAC, it should go a long way in securing SLU’s spot as a host of a regional in the NCAA tournament, and who doesn’t want NCAA tournament hockey in the North Country?

First up is Cornell, and the Big Red are no easy foe, despite SLU’s 5-2 win at Appleton about a month ago. Cornell hasn’t lost since that game, going 4-0-2, but all of those games came against teams in the bottom half of the ECAC, and only a lone game against Yale has come against a playoff team. St. Lawrence is also the only ECAC team Cornell has failed to beat this season, so the matchup on paper favors the Saints.

The matchup on paper, however, is irrelevant once the players step on the ice, and Lynah Rink is never an easy place in which to be an opponent. The Saints have been a strong road team, with just a single loss away from Appleton, which took place on neutral ice, so technically, SLU’s road record is undefeated at 13-0-2. They are the only undefeated road team in the ECAC, but again, this is not typical ECAC rink.

The Saints will put that record on the line against the Big Red, who continue to play solid defense and get consistent goaltending from Paula Voorheis, but the offense still isn’t there at a high level, especially against the top half of the ECAC. In 8 games against the other five teams in the top half of the ECAC, Cornell has 16 goals. They’ve scored 3 goals just twice in a game against a top 6 ECAC opponent, both against Quinnipiac. They’ve won largely on the strength of its defense, which isn’t a bad way to build a team, but when the goals don’t come, it makes it hard to consistently beat the other strong defensive teams who have scoring.

One of those strong defensive teams that also has scoring is St. Lawrence. They boast the league’s second best offense, at 3.5 goals per game in ECAC play, while allowing the second fewest, just 1.4 per game, tied with Quinnipiac. They also have the fourth best power play in league contests and the fifth ranked PK.

All three members of the Miller-Webster-Marchment line are in the top 6 of ECAC scoring, while only Hannah Bunton makes an appearance in the top 14 for the Big Red, at 7th, one spot behind Miller but with 6 fewer points.

SLU will be out for blood after a disappointing 0-1-1 weekend at Appleton, and are sure to come out flying against Cornell on Friday. As the better offensive team and the better defensive team, SLU need only play to its strengths as it did earlier in the year against Cornell, and they should pick up a crucial win that will guarantee them second in the ECAC.

The Saints will then close out their 2016-2017 regular season with their first game in the new Class of ’65 rink at Colgate. Colgate handed SLU a 4-3 overtime loss in their game at Appleton, so the Saints will carry their hopefully-still-undefeated road record into Saturday looking for some revenge.

Colgate is unranked right now, but have won six games in a row and 7 of their last 8 after a rough patch in the middle of the season. This team stayed undefeated almost as long as SLU did, starting 12-0-1, but the bump in the road they hit in January took them out of competition for the regular season title. The Saints must take this Colgate team seriously, despite it’s absence in the polls, partially because Colgate has already beaten SLU once, but also because the Raiders are a flat-out good team.

Jessie Eldridge continues to lead the Raiders in scoring with 37 points in 32 games, and she’s joined at the top of the scoring list by her fellow sophomores Shae Labbe (29) and Bailey Larson (25). The sophomore class has contributed more than just goals for the Raiders however: Julia Vandyk has provided excellent goaltending, with a sub-2.00 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

Their penalty kill is outstanding at 91.9% and their power play outpaces SLU’s, connecting 18.5% of the time, but at 5-on-5, the teams are pretty even, and the edge should go to SLU because of their top end scorers. Eldridge is certainly effective, but her 20 points in 20 ECAC contests would put her third on the team if she played for SLU.

Colgate is a well-rounded team, but they run into trouble most often in the third period. They’ve allowed at least one third period goal in all but one of their seven of their losses, while the Saints have outscored opponents 29-19 in the final period. It’s not quite as impressive as their 33-5 advantage in the first period, but I guess you can’t be that good for three periods.

While Colgate can’t catch SLU in the standings, a win against the Raiders will also go a long way in helping SLU’s PWR cause. ‘Gate is ninth in the PWR, but if they beat Clarkson on Friday, and hopefully they will, they would most likely rise at least one spot, making a win over them on Saturday that more helpful to the Saints.



Senior weekend marks the final regular season games at Appleton for 2016-17

It’s hard to believe that this weekend marks the final regular season contests at Appleton for this season. The Saints host 9th-ranked Quinnipiac on Saturday night and take on Princeton, ranked tenth, for senior day on Sunday afternoon. These are huge games for SLU, and in fact, the four games taking place in the North Country these weekend feature four teams in the top ten of the USCHO poll, all of whom are competing for a spot in the top four of the ECAC and a bid to the national tournament.

Statistically, these teams are markedly similar. Tied at 24 points in the ECAC, both teams have an 11-5-2 record in conference play. Princeton’s goal differential is 56-25, while Quinnipiac is 57-26.  With two tough opponents coming to town, the Saints have their task set this weekend.

It’s been a down year but Quinnipiac standards in terms of offensive production, with TT Cianfarano leading the way with 24 points. In 30 games, that isn’t meager production, but considering Cianfarano finished last season with 52 points, something isn’t quite right in Hamden this season.

Perhaps it’s the departure of Nicole Connery, Nicole Kostka and Nicole Brow, seniors who all provided significant scoring for the Bobcats. Sydney Rossman’s numbers are down as well, but her incredible season last year was always going to be hard to follow. The power play and penalty kill are both worse and they’ve already allowed 8 more goals this season than last year, with at least six total games remaining.

Where Quinnipiac has been pretty good this season has been in conference play. Last season, a year in which the Bobcats went 30-5-5, they scored 3.18 goals per game in conference play, and they nearly matched that this season, finding the twine 3.17 times per game. But they’re allowing more than half a goal more to opponents per game. 

In my best estimation, Quinnipiac isn’t a significantly weaker team than it has been in years past. They’re in a noticeable tougher conference than they were two years ago, St. Lawrence, Princeton and Colgate all seeing their programs surge in the past two years. This is a Bobcat team that knows how to win, and has still done a fair bit of that this season.

Cianfarano is dangerous, as is second leading scorer Melissa Samoskevich, and Taryn Baumgardt is one of the more underrated puck-moving defenders in the ECAC. Quinnipiac is solid defensively, well coached, and the Saints can’t underestimate them.

SLU dug deep for a 1-0 win against the Bobcats in Hamden back in early November, and they’ll need to dig deep again to sweep the season series. Quinnipiac likes close, low-scoring games, and has had a fair amount of success in them this season. They also like to score the first goal and play with lead, so putting plenty of pucks on Rossman and getting one past her early is key for the Saints. Do that, and they should be able to take down the Bobcats before an emotional day on Sunday.

Sunday will mark senior day and brings with it the Princeton Tigers. Quinnipiac and Princeton are fairly similar teams statistically, but Princeton has a game-breaking player who can make all the difference.  Karlie Lund has 38 points in 25 games for the Tigers, including 3 game-winning goals and 3 power play goals. She’s also only taken one penalty all season, which means she’s on the ice quite a bit for Princeton. She requires attention at all times when on the ice, but she’s not the only one.

Molly Contini, Carly Bullock and Cassidy Tucker are all above the 20-point plateau, and Kelsey Koelzer is arguably the best defender in the ECAC, with 22 points in 25 games from the blue line. Alysia DaSilva and Steph Neatby have split time between the pipes, but Neatby has the better statistics and has been on fire of late, garnering the first ever HCA National rookie of the month award for January. Expect the rookie to be in net on Sunday,

Princeton had hopes of an ECAC championship last season before the Saints went on the road and defeated the Tigers in the playoffs in a tightly contested 3-game series. After a slow start to this season, they’ve started to play better and have clawed their way back into the polls. They split last weekend against Yale and Brown, losing to the Bulldogs, but other than that blemish, the Tigers are owners of an 10-1-2 record since being swept by BU to finish November. They’re averaging 3.84 goals per game over the span while allowing only 1.38 goals to their opposition each contest.

Princeton is deserving of their spot in the poll, but their 11th place ranking in the PairWise makes this game a must-win for Princeton, and I would expect their play to reflect that. This is going to be an aggressive Princeton team that knows it is playing well, and needs to continue to do so. To beat the Tigers, SLU needs to be on top of their game defensively and in goal, but nothing that we’ve seen so far this year would suggest that the Saints would be ready. The offense has shown that it will deliver on pretty much a game-to-game basis, and I wouldn’t expect that to change on Sunday.

Two wins and four points will guarantee St. Lawrence a third place finish at the very least, but that is pretty much already a given. Cornell is four points back of the Saints, who sit just one point behind Clarkson. All ECAC teams have played 18 games, and with just two weekends left, the ECAC playoff picture is getting clearer. Cornell, SLU and Clarkson have all essentially guaranteed their position in the top four, and first place has basically been narrowed to a race between the Route 11 rivals. A weekend sweep and a little help puts the regular season title firmly in the Saints hands heading into the final weekend.

Weekend Preview: Harvard and Dartmouth

On the road for the second straight week, the Saints head to Harvard and Dartmouth to face two teams who are in desperate need of ECAC points to stay even remotely relevant in the playoff discussion. Clarkson and St. Lawrence have put some space between themselves and the rest of the ECAC field, with third place Cornell four points away from the Saints and six from the Golden Knights, but collecting four points on the road is still important for SLU. 

It’s been a long fall for the Crimson, the Saints opponent on Friday night. Harvard hasn’t finished a season sub-.500 since 1997-98, but with a 3-16-3 record this season, they are on pace for the worst winning percentage in program history. Two years removed from a runner-up finish in the NCAA tournament, Harvard has the 8th ranked offense and 9th ranked defense in the ECAC, and the tenth worst penalty kill. Emerance Maschmeyer is no longer between the pipes, and the Crimson are feeling the loss, allowing 2.73 goals per game. 

The defense hasn’t been spectacular, but it’s the offense that has let Harvard down. They’re led in scoring by Sydney Daniels and Lexie Laing, each who have 12 points on the season, while rookie Kat Hughes has 11. There is little scoring to go around the rest of the lineup, hence, the Crimson find the back of the net less than twice a game. They’ve been shutout four times this year and have only once recorded more than three goals in a game; in the first game of the season, a 5-1 win over Dartmouth, the Saints’ opponent on Saturday. They have an overall -1.2 goal differential and are brutal at home, with a 1-8-1 record. 

The only three wins that Harvard has recorded this year have come in games where they hold their opponent to a single goal. The Crimson also have not won a game when trailing after the first or second periods, which basically means that a two-goal first period all but guarantees the Saints a win. The Saints have a 30-5 edge in goals scored in the first period, compared to a 6-13 deficit for Harvard, and have not lost when leading after the first period, and are 16-0-1 when leading after two periods. 

The Saints got a hat trick from Kennedy Marchment and a shutout (obviously) from Grace Harrison in a 4-0 win at home in the first matchup of the season. Marchment’s first goal came just 25 seconds into the game, and Alex Moore capped off a two-goal first period to help the Saints win easy. A similar outing should secure two points for SLU. 

Dartmouth is one of three teams that’s found a way to be below Harvard in the standings. They’re tied with Brown, owners of just 6 league points, which is still better than basement dweller Union (3 points). The highlight of the season came when the Big Green defeated Princeton 3-2 in overtime in November, but it’s been a tough slog for Dartmouth throughout 2016-17. 

They do have a better record than Harvard, at 5-17-0, but a worse ECAC mark puts them firmly out of the discussion for the playoffs unless they win out. Unfortunately for the Big Green, scoring just 1.18 goals per game and allowing 2.73 per game is not a recipe for a whole lot of wins.  

Kennedy Ottenbreit leads the way offensively with 11 points in 22 games, followed by Eleni Tebano, with 10, but no one else for the Big Green is in double digits. Robyn Chemago and Christie Honor have done a respectable job in net, but it hasn’t been enough to keep Dartmouth in games, especially because the offense is completely stagnant. 

They’ve lost seven games by three or more goals, while only managing to score three or more goals twice all season. That offensive explosion came in back-to-back wins against Colgate and Maine in November. 

The Saints only needed two goals to beat Dartmouth at Appleton, thanks to yet another Grace Harrison shutout. Marchment and Kayla Vespa had the goals for the Saints, who outshot the Big Green 30-15. 

Much like the game against Harvard, leading after the first period should pretty much be the nail in the coffin of the Big Green. A quick start will put Dartmouth in a hole, something they have shown they can’t dig out of, so the Saints can quickly turn their attention to Princeton and Quinnipiac, who visit Appleton for the final regular season contests of the year on home ice for SLU. 

Weekend preview: Back on the road

The Saints take to the road this weekend to start a four-game road trip, heading to the capital district to take on Union and RPI, two teams below the Saints in the standings. SLU will stop at Messa Rink first for a matchup with the Dutchwomen on Friday before making the trek to Troy to face Rensselaer on Saturday. 

Compared to last season, Union is having a decent year, but it’s impossible to get worse than a winless season, which is what the Dutchwomen endured a season ago. They won’t suffer a similar fate this season at 4-21-1, but it appears they’re still destined to finish last in the ECAC. 

In a tumultuous offseason, Union first said they wouldn’t fire their head coach, then ultimately did, as they should have, and brought in Josh Sciba, who’s first order of business was to find a new goalie after Melissa Black transferred to UVM. The answer has been Kate Spooner, and she has been pretty good for Union. Her record is only 4-13-1, but a 2.57 GAA and a .921 save percentage shows she’s better than her wins and losses indicate. 

Rookie Haley Shughart leads Union in scoring with 10 points, but she’s the only one to reach double digits. They average barely a goal a game and allow more than three to the opposition. Their PK is decent at 84.4% but their power play is stuck below 11%. 

Scoring early and often should be the goal for the Saints. If SLU can come out of the first period leading by a pair of goals, the game should pretty much be over. Union is 1-15-0 when trailing after the first period and 0-12-0 when trailing entering the third. 

Union has improved significantly over last season, but they’re still a bottom-dwelling ECAC team. Their four wins are spread over the course of the season, against pretty bad teams (all are among the worst ten teams in the PairWise). If the Saints play a smart but aggressive game against the Dutchwomen, two road points should be no problem. 

They’ll take on Rensselaer on Saturday in a game that provides just a touch more difficulty. RPI is 9-15-2 overall, but 6-7-1 in ECAC play. They are in the midst of a 4-1-1 stretch, with wins against Union, Harvard, Yale, and Brown, three of the worst teams in the ECAC. They also lost to Dartmouth and tied Union in that stretch. 

RPI has piled up wins recently, but not against tough competition. They haven’t come close to beating a ranked opponent, and lost 4-1 to SLU at Appleton in November. That being said, they aren’t a team to take lightly. 

Statistically, their offense gets close to two goals per game, but they have individual players who can make plays, like Laura Horwood (14 points in 19 games) and rookie Sabrina Repaci (13 points in 24 games). Lovisa Selander is one of the more under-appreciated goalies in the ECAC and has the capability to steal games. 

Another smart game for the Saints should put two points in their pockets and keep them two points back of Clarkson in the ECAC standings and in second in the PairWise. 

In other news, Kennedy Marchment was named ECAC player of the week for the second time this season after putting up four points on the weekend. She now leads the team in scoring with 41 points, good for second in the country. She'll look to pad her stats and reach career points 100 this weekend. 

Weekend Preview: Red Raiders come to Appleton

The Saints are home again this weekend, with ECAC tilts scheduled with Cornell and Colgate. They’re coming off a 7-2 romp over Brown and a similarly explosive first period against Yale that helped them coast to a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs. They’re still second in the ECAC and the PairWise, and fifth in the less important polls. The Saints draw Colgate on Friday before hosting #10 Cornell on Saturday. 

Gate has been as high as fifth in the USCHO poll, but sit unranked at this point in the season. They started really strong, as they were expected to after arguably the best season in program history last year, but have struggled of late, with no wins in their last six games and an 0-4-2 record in the stretch. They sit sixth in the ECAC and 13th in the PWR, so they are not a pushover. 

They can certainly put the puck in the net, doing so close to 3 times per game. Lead in scoring by sophomore Jessie Eldridge, who has 29 points in 24 games, the Red Raiders have 11 players in double digits in points on the season, and only Hannah Rastrick has failed to register a point. 

Julia Vandyk has done well between the pipes, sporting a 1.95 GAA and a .922 save percentage and carrying a 13-6-2 record. However, over the recent skid, Vandyk’s numbers drop to roughly a 3.4 GAA and an .877 save percentage. She has no wins, obviously. 

The offense has similarly gone dry, scoring just nine goals in their six game skid, and they’ve been shutout twice, including once by St. Cloud State. Edlridge hasn’t scored since December 3rd, and second leading scorer Annika Zalewski has just three points since November. 

The Saints offense, on the other hand, is about as dry as a lime rickey. Seven goals against Brown preceded a four goal first period against Yale on Saturday, earning SLU four ECAC points last weekend, keeping them just two points behind Clarkson for first place, but only one point ahead of Princeton and Quinnipiac, who sit tied for third. 

SLU fought through their 5-2 loss to Mercyhurst to open 2017, rebounded with a win the next night and then blew the roof off Appleton last weekend. They’re primed for a big game, which they’ll need on Saturday against Cornell. 

The Big Red’s scorer, Hannah Bunton, has 17 points in 19 games, and none of them are scoring at a crazy pace, and neither is the team as a whole. But as we said about the Cornell men’s team, decent defense masks offensive deficiencies, and the 2.5 goals Cornell scores per game is more than enough when they only allow 1.6 per contest. Their PK (89.9%) is pretty good as is their power play (19%). They’re tenth in the polls, three points behind SLU in the ECAC and eighth in the PWR. 

Both of these games require solid efforts from the Saints, but there is no reason to think that isn’t what we’ll get. Despite all the attention the team is getting this year, they’re still the same group of hard working, modest players, and they still play like it on the ice. 

They have great high end scoring, but also depth. Only two skaters haven’t scored a goal for SLU this year, and both Emily Middagh and Michelle Alonardo scored their first career goals on Friday. Both Webster and Marchment have a decent shot at 20 goals in the regular season, and late surges from Padalis and Vespa could leave SLU with six players at 20 or more points in the regular season. 

The defense continues to be solid, anchored by Padalis, and Grace Harrison still looks nearly unbeatable. The power play needs a little work but the PK is great at 92.4%. All the Saints need to do is play their game this weekend, and they should win. They’re better than both these teams, and if Clarkson slips up, which we can all hope for, the Saints will be back even with Tech, though they’ll need more luck than that, since the Golden Knights own the tiebreaker with SLU