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.