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