2018-19 ECAC Women’s Hockey Preview

The Clarkson Golden Knights celebrate Elizabeth Giguère’s overtime goal in the 2018 NCAA Tournament championship game. (Clarkson Athletics)

Coming off of back-to-back national championships, Clarkson is the strong favorite to win the ECAC this season. The top-six teams in the conference, however, should all be very competitive.

Clarkson Golden Knights

Head Coach: Matt Desrosier
2017-18 Record: 36-4-1 (19-3-0 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Amanda Titus, D Savannah Harmon, G Shea Tiley
Key Returners: F Loren Gabel, F Elizabeth Giguère, F Michaela Pejzlová, F Rhyen McGill, F Cassidy Vinkle, F Kelly Mariani, D Ella Shelton, D Josiane Pozzebon, D Emma Keenan
Key Additions: F T.T. Cianfarano, F Morgan Helgeson, F Taylor Sawka, F Miranda Gaudet, G Kassidy Sauvé, G Marie-Pier Coulombe
Breakout Candidate: F Kristy Pidgeon. It’s almost difficult to find a player for Clarkson who hasn’t already broken out, but Pidgeon was formerly in Hockey Canada’s U18 player pool and scored 6 goals and 9 points last year. We could see her take a step forward in a stacked offense.

3 Things to Know

  • Clarkson has won three of the last five national championships, including back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. They became the first team outside of the WCHA to win it all in 2014, when they were considered underdogs; now, they would likely solidify dynasty status if they can do it again this year.
  • Though they’re getting a high-caliber starter in senior transfer Sauvé, the loss of Tiley in net is sizable. She was tops in the country last year with a .945 save percentage and 12 shutouts, to go along with a 1.20 GAA. Sauvé had a .938 save percentage, 1.88 GAA, and 10 shutouts, so there’s a good chance the Golden Knights hardly blink at the goalie transition.
  • The trio of Gabel, Giguère, and Pejzlová scored 201 points between them last season. Giguère was a freshman and did this in the national championship game vs. Colgate:

Season Outlook

There is little doubt that this will be another very good season for the Golden Knights. They are the team to beat in the ECAC, though they have some losses to deal with. Clarkson’s offense will be in good shape with so many of their top forwards returning, plus the addition of Cianfarano. The Golden Knights’ biggest concern is on defense, where they’ll be dealing with the loss of Harmon. They’re not adding any defenders, and Shelton and Pozzebon will need to step up to keep things running smoothly. I see them firmly at the top of the ECAC standings, and making a run for another national championship.

Cornell Big Red

Head Coach: Doug Derraugh
2017-18 Record: 21-9-3 (15-5-2 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Brianna Veerman, D Sarah Knee, D Erin O’Connor
Key Returners: F Kristin O’Neill, F Madlynne Mills, F Lenka Serdar, F Paige Lewis, D Jamie Bourbonnais, D Willow Slobodzian, D Kendra Nealey, G Marlène Boissonnault
Key Additions: F Samantha Burke, F Gillis Frechette, D Micah Zandee-Hart, D Taylor Pietrowski, G Kaitlyn McKenzie
Breakout Candidate: D Willow Slobodzian. She wasn’t a huge factor last season, but she recorded 3 goals and 8 points, and she was much younger than most of the NCAA; she was still eligible to compete for Canada at the 2018 U18 World Championships, where she won a bronze medal.

3 Things to Know

  • I think it’s safe to say Cornell had a heartbreaking end to the 2017-18 season. They finished 7th in the PairWise according to Grant Salzano’s PairWise Calculator, but were shut out of an NCAA Tournament bid after conference champions Mercyhurst, Minnesota, and Northeastern all earned automatic bids, bumping out the Big Red.
  • O’Neill, a junior, has already cemented herself as one of the ECAC’s best players coming into the year. She was named an All-ECAC First Team honoree after finishing fifth in the league in scoring last year with 20 goals, 21 assists and 41 points.
  • Cornell was a strong all-around team last season, scoring 3.03 goals per game and giving up 1.97 goals per game. Both marks ranked third in the ECAC. They gave up the fewest shots on goal against in the conference (762).

Season Outlook

The Big Red are coming off of two straight 20-win seasons and there’s good reason to believe they’ll have continued success this season. Their biggest players look poised for big seasons: the trio of O’Neill, Bourbonnais, and Zandee-Hart all earned invites to Hockey Canada’s Fall Festival. Mills should also be a big factor up front after an 18-goal freshman season. Knee is a notable loss, but having Zandee-Hart back from Olympic centralization should make up for it. Boissonnault is a solid starter but doesn’t get tested as much as some of her ECAC counterparts. They can compete with any team in the league, including Clarkson, but I don’t see them truly challenging for number one.

Colgate Raiders

Head Coach: Greg Fargo
2017-18 Record: 34-6-1 (19-3-0 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Breanne Wilson-Bennett, F Megan Sullivan, F Shelby Perry, F Annika Zalewski, D Lauren Wildfang, D Kaila Pinkney
Key Returners: F Shae Labbe, F Jessie Eldridge, F Bailey Larson, F Malia Schneider, D Olivia Zafuto, D Shelby Wood, D Livia Altmann, G Julia Vandyk
Key Additions: F Rosalie Demers, F Nemo Neubaeurova, D Charlie Mailhot, D Tanner Gates
Breakout Candidate: F Malia Schneider. She was tied for third in ECAC rookie goal scoring with 18, and with so many key players graduating, there’s plenty of room for her to contribute higher up in the line-up.

3 Things to Know

  • The Raiders had their best season by far in 2017-18, reaching 30 wins for the first time and then making a run all the way to the national championship game, where they fell to Clarkson in overtime.
  • Last season, Colgate had eight players on its roster who scored 30 points or better; unfortunately, they lose half of those players in Wilson-Bennett, Sullivan, Perry, and Wildfang.
  • Another big reason for the Raiders’ success last season was their proficiency in the faceoff circle. Wilson-Bennett led the league in faceoff percentage (64.5%). Zalewski won 57.5% of her draws and Labbe won 53.3%.

Season Outlook

Colgate returns several key pieces from last year’s national runner-up squad, including Eldridge, Labbe, and Zafuto, who expect to be among the best in the conference at their respective positions. The Raiders also have next to nothing to worry about in goal with Vandyk returning; she had a .929 save percentage and 1.77 GAA last season. Unfortunately, their losses are just as big as what they return. Wildfang and Pinkney are huge losses defensively, and I think their offense will have some hiccups at first while they try to replace Wilson-Bennett, Sullivan, and Perry. They should still be a strong ECAC team, but I’m not sure if they find their way back into the top two.

Princeton Tigers

Head Coach: Cara Morey
2017-18 Record: 14-14-4 (11-10-1 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Kiersten Falck
Key Returners: F Carly Bullock, F Karlie Lund, F Sharon Frankel, F Annie MacDonald, F Keiko DeClerck, D Stephanie Sucharda, G Stephanie Neatby
Key Additions: F Sarah Fillier, F Maggie Connors, F Kayla Fillier, D Mariah Keopple, D Chloe Harvey, G Cassie Reale
Breakout Candidate: F Sharon Frankel. As a freshman, she was an effective player and secondary scorer with 5 goals, 5 assists and 10 points. She was also a reliable center, winning 59% of her faceoffs (293-204).

3 Things to Know

  • Princeton handed eventual national champion Clarkson one of its four losses last season, shutting out the No. 1 Golden Knights 2-0 at Hobey Baker. (The line of Bullock, McDonald and Frankel was highly involved in that game, scoring both goals.)
  • Bullock was fourth in the ECAC in goals in 2017-18 with 24. The only three players ahead of her were Clarkson’s trio of Gabel, Giguère, and Pejzlová.
  • Princeton proved to be pretty efficient at generating offensive chances last season. The Tigers were third in the ECAC with 32.41 shots on goal per game.

Season Outlook

There’s a lot to like about this Tigers’ squad, despite their .500 record last season. They have several key players at every position that could make a big impact, starting with Neatby in net. The junior is a former USCHO Rookie of the Year and ECAC Goalie of the Year after posting a ridiculous .950 save percentage as a freshman; she’s a major game-changer for Princeton. They have quite a few options up front with Bullock, Frankel, MacDonald and Sarah Fillier, and Sucharda will eat up big minutes on the blue line. Fourth in the conference is my bet for the Tigers, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see them compete tightly with Cornell and Colgate.

Quinnipiac Bobcats

Head Coach: Cassandra Turner
2017-18 Record: 16-17-3 (12-9-1 ECAC)

Key Departures: F T.T. Cianfarano, F Raquel Pennoyer, D Alicia Barry
Key Returners: F Melissa Samoskevich, F Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout, F Kenzie Lancaster, F Brooke Bonsteel, D Anna Kilponen, D Kati Tabin, D Kate MacKenzie, G Abbie Ives
Key Additions: F Lexie Adzija, F Courtney Vorster, D Zoe Boyd, G Logan Angers
Breakout Candidate: F Brooke Bonsteel. She had 10 goals as a rookie, second on the team, and I think she’s in great position for a breakout year.

3 Things to Know

  • All four of the key rookies listed above were members of Canada’s bronze-medal-winning squad at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championships.
  • Perhaps the most notable loss on the roster is Cianfarano, a former ECAC Player of the Year. She only skated in two games last year, however. The Bobcats return all but one of their top-10 scorers from 2017-18 (Pennoyer).
  • As is the norm for a Quinnipiac squad, the Bobcats were at the top of the ECAC in shots against per game, ranking fourth with 23.25. Defense should again be the strong suit for this year’s team.

Season Outlook

Not having Cianfarano available last season was a huge blow to the Bobcats’ offense, but Samoskevich is a legit talent, as is Coutu-Godbout. I really liked Bonsteel’s game last season, and with Adzija and Vorster, they should have some nice depth overall. On defense, Tabin was on Canada’s Development Team roster as well as their evaluation camp roster, and Kilponen could be the best shutdown D in the conference. Ives was solid in goal as a rookie with a .921 save percentage and 1.78 GAA, but playing in the ECAC, she’s going up against dominant goalies basically every night. She’s got a good chance to be the team’s go-to in net again, and if she takes a step forward, this squad could show a lot of improvement. I’m not sold on their offense but they have a few big pieces in place; I’m not sure if it’s enough to jump up into the top four in the league, though.

St. Lawrence Saints

Head Coach: Chris Wells
2017-18 Record: 20-11-4 (14-6-2)

Key Departures: F Kennedy Marchment, F Hannah Miller, D Amanda McClure
Key Returners: F Justine Reyes, F Rachael Smith, F Kayla Nielsen, F Nadine Edney, D Skylar Podvey, D Lydia Grauer, D Amanda Butterfield, G Sonjia Shelly, G Grace Harrison
Key Additions: D Stephanie Voge, G Grace Smith
Breakout Candidate: D Amanda Butterfield. She led the team with 90 shot blocks last season as a sophomore.

3 Things to Know

  • Reyes is the team’s leading returning scorer and their catalyst on offense. Last season, she finished tied for seventh in the conference with 40 points on 17 goals and 23 assists.
  • It looks like the Saints might have a starting goalie battle between two seniors, which is fairly rare. Shelly had a .923 save percentage and 1.88 GAA last season in 16 starts, while Harrison had a .909 save percentage and 1.94 GAA in 19 starts. Shelly went 10-5-1, and Harrison went 10-6-3.
  • Butterfield’s 90 blocks led the entire conference last season, and ranked her third in the country.

Season Outlook

There are definitely things to like about this Saints team. Reyes is one of the ECAC’s biggest threats and should have a strong senior season, but there will be a lot of pressure on her with the loss of Marchment and Miller, who were huge parts of St. Lawrence’s offense last year. Podvey showed a ton of skill from the blue line as a rookie, and she could develop into a real two-way force with some experience under her belt. With goaltending being so strong across the ECAC, I’m not 100% sold on the Saints’ tandem being huge difference makers. They are easily a playoff team and could contend for a top-five spot in the conference if their offense bounces back even with Marchment and Miller gone.

Harvard Crimson

Head Coach: Katey Stone
2017-18 Record: 13-16-2 (10-10-2)

Key Departures: F Haley Mullins, F Val Turgeon, D Chelsea Ziadie
Key Returners: F Becca Gilmore, F Brooke Jovanovich, F Kat Hughes, F Keely Moy, D Kaitlin Tse, D Emma Buckles, D Ali Peper, D Kate Glover, G Beth Larcom, G Becky Dutton
Key Additions: F Dominique Petrie, F Anne Bloomer, F Maryna Macdonald, F Kristin Della Rovere, F Katie Tresca, D Kyra Willoughby, G Lindsay Reed
Breakout Candidate: D Emma Buckles. The sophomore had 3 goals and 10 points last season and led the team in blocks with 49, earning an invite to Hockey Canada’s Fall Festival earlier this month.

3 Things to Know

  • Gilmore was outstanding as a freshman for the Crimson last season. She was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team after leading the team in goals (16) and points (29).
  • The goaltending battle should interesting this year. There’s no reason to rush Reed, but she’s a two-time U18 gold medalist with Team USA. Last season, Larcom played the bulk of the games with 27 starts, but Dutton outperformed her statistically: a .937 save percentage compared to Larcom’s .904, and a 1.72 GAA compared to Larcom’s 3.01 GAA.
  • Harvard’s freshman class has a lot of experience at high levels of hockey, with three U.S. U18 alums (Petrie, Bloomer, and Reed) and two players who competed for their provinces at the Canadian National Under-18 Championships (Maryna Macdonald and Kristin Della Rovere).

Season Outlook

The Crimson have seen a dip in performance in recent years, with two sub-.500 seasons in a row, but I wouldn’t expect that to continue. Gilmore and Hughes showed a ton of promise as rookies, as did Buckles. Tse is a very good defender, and they don’t lose a lot on the blue line, either. They’ll get a good amount of depth scoring from their freshmen, and I think Petrie in particular should stand out. Perhaps the biggest question for Harvard is in goal, but they have several options to turn to if things aren’t working out. The top seven (including Harvard) of the ECAC is jam-packed right now, but they stand a good chance of competing with teams like St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac and moving up the standings.

Yale Bulldogs

Head Coach: Joakim Flygh
2017-18 Record: 10-17-4 (8-12-2 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Eden Murray, F Kaitlin Gately, F Courtney Pensavalle, F Emily Monaghan, D Mallory Souliotis
Key Returners: F Greta Skarzynski, F Emma Vlasic, F Jordan Chancellor, D Julia Yetman, D Saroya Tinker, G Gianna Meloni, G Tera Hofmann
Key Additions: F Claire Dalton, F Rebecca Vanstone, F Charlotte Welch, D Tabea Botthof, D Emma Seitz
Breakout Candidate: F Greta Skarzynski. She was the team’s leader in goals (14) and points (26) as a rookie and looks poised for an even bigger year.

3 Things to Know

  • The Bulldogs add a player with international experience at the senior level in Botthof. She represented Germany at the 2017 IIHF World Championships.
  • Only four players on the 2017-18 roster reached the 20-point mark: Skarzynski, Souliotis (graduated), Vlasic and Yetman.
  • Yale’s offense put up the third fewest shots on goal in the league last season with 726. They’ll have to generate more chances to move up the standings this year.

Season Outlook

Yale’s biggest problems are losing Souliotis on defense and their pretty significant lack of offensive totals from last season. Skarzynski looks like she could be on impact player, though, and they’re adding a fair amount of talent up front in Dalton, Vanstone and Welch. Botthof and Seitz could see a decent amount of ice time on the back end, and the Bulldogs had a successful goaltending tandem in Meloni and Hofmann. I can’t see them falling out of a playoff spot, but I’m not sure how much they’ll improve this year, either.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers

Head Coach: Bryan Vines
2017-18 Record: 9-19-6 (6-13-3 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Shayna Tomlinson, D Whitney Renn, D Amanda Kimmerle
Key Returners: F Jaimie Grigsby, F Sabrina Repaci, F Makenna Thomas, D Josefine Hansen, D Madeleine Burnett, G Lovisa Selander
Key Additions: F Lilli Friis-Hansen, F Aliyah Lance, D Delaney Weiss
Breakout Candidate: D Madeleine Burnett. She had 53 blocks as a rookie to go along with 4 goals and 8 points.

3 Things to Know

  • Selander was recently named to the Preseason All-ECAC Team. As a junior last season, she posted a .932 save percentage and 2.22 GAA, and earned an invite to Sweden’s national team camp over the summer.
  • RPI is losing their leader in scoring and faceoffs with Tomlinson’s graduation. She was tied for the team lead in points (20) and ranked second in the conference with 464 faceoff wins.
  • In Bryan Vines’ first year as head coach, the Engineers earned two wins over Princeton, and a win over Mercyhurst, who went on to the NCAA Tournament.

Season Outlook

RPI is losing two big players in Tomlinson and Renn, but Selander is a huge difference maker in net for this team. She is capable of stealing a few games and keeping them in more than a few others. They are right on the bubble of the ECAC playoffs and Selander could push them into a playoff spot.

Union Dutchwomen

Head Coach: Josh Sciba
2017-18 Record: 7-22-5 (5-15-2)

Key Departures: F Katie Laughlin, D Caitlyn McLaren, D Brandy Streeter
Key Returners: F Katelynn Russ, F Cheyenne Harris, F Haley Shugart, D Arianna Kosakowski, D Megan Ryan, G Coco Francis
Key Additions: F Grace Heiting, F Maia Martinez, F Cassidy Michalicka, D Katie Sonntag
Breakout Candidate: G Coco Francis. She put up a very respectable .918 save percentage while facing 778 shots in 25 games played in her rookie season.

3 Things to Know

  • Though they’ve spent many seasons on the outside looking in at the ECAC playoff picture, the Dutchwomen put together one of their best seasons last year, tying a program record for winning percentage.
  • Notable results from last season include a win over Harvard, a tie against Maine and a tie against Cornell, who was an NCAA Tournament-caliber team.
  • Katelynn Russ ranked just outside the top-10 in the ECAC in goal scoring last season; she was tied for 11th with 16 goals as a sophomore.

Season Outlook

I think Union still has a few more steps to take before they can notch a .500 record and compete for a playoff spot, but there are some encouraging signs. Francis showed promise in goal as a rookie and as she progresses, she should be able to keep them in more games. They don’t have the depth to make a real run this season but I think we’ll see them build off of last season and earn a few more ticks in the win column.

Dartmouth Big Green

Head Coach: Laura Schuler
2017-18 Record: 5-19-3 (3-16-3 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Morgan Turner, D Hailey Noronha
Key Returners: F Christina Rombaut, F Kate Landers, D Tess Bracken,  D Caroline Shaunessy, G Christie Honor
Key Additions: F Jessica Forcey, F Sara McClanahan, F Chloé Puddifant, G Taylor Stadeli
Breakout Candidate: F Christina Rombaut. She was third on the team in scoring as a sophomore.

3 Things to Know

  • Head coach Laura Schuler was away from the team last season, after coaching Canada to a silver-medal finish at the 2018 Winter Olympics. She’ll be back behind the bench for Dartmouth this season.
  • Last season, the Big Green finished with the fewest wins in program history, so they will be looking to be more competitive this year.
  • Dartmouth is bringing in some international flair/pedigree with its rookie class: Lotti Odogna played for Hungary’s Under-18 Team, and Jessica Forcey won bronze with Canada’s U18s at the 2018 U18 World Championships.

Season Outlook

The Big Green were pretty consistently a winning program prior to 2012-13 but since then, they’ve had a bit of a rough go. They are adding a couple of nice pieces this year, but Dartmouth is still a few impact players away from competing again in the ECAC. They remain outside of the playoff picture for 2018-19.

Brown Bears

Head Coach: Carisa Wahlig
2017-18 Record: 2-27-0 (1-21-0 ECAC)

Key Departures: F Sam Donovan, F Samantha Swanstrom, D Cynthia Kyin
Key Returners: F Sena Hanson, F Kaitijane Blumberg, D Cara Najjar, D Maybelline Beiring, G Calla Isaac
Key Additions: F Shay Maloney, F Tina Paolillo, D Jacquie Tam, G Hayley Kliczko
Breakout Candidate: F Sena Hanson. She is the team’s leading returning scorer after a 12-point sophomore season.

3 Things to Know

  • This will be head coach Carisa Wahlig’s first year behind Brown’s bench. She comes to the Bears after 13 years at Lake Forest College (Division III), where she is the program’s all-time winningest coach.
  • 2017-18  marked the fewest number of wins for Brown since Digit Murphy’s last season as head coach, back in 2010-11. The Bears have not had a winning season since 2005-06.
  • Najjar, a senior, was sixth in the conference in blocks per game last season with 2.03. She totaled 59 on the season.

Season Outlook

The outlook isn’t bright for last season’s 12th-place ECAC team. Carisa Wahlig will be tasked with turning the program around, but they are still a ways away from that happening. Maloney and Tam are intriguing rookies but their roster desperately needs some star power. Unfortunately, they’ll likely spend another season at the bottom of the standings and out of the playoff picture.

Preseason All-ECAC Awards

Player of the Year: Elizabeth Giguère, F, Clarkson
Rookie of the Year: Sarah Fillier, F, Princeton
Best Defender: Olivia Zafuto, Colgate

All-ECAC First Team
Forwards: Elizabeth Giguère (Clarkson), Loren Gabel (Clarkson), Shae Labbe (Colgate)
Defenders: Olivia Zafuto (Colgate), Skylar Podvey (St. Lawrence)
Goaltender: Stephanie Neatby (Princeton)

All-ECAC Second Team
Forwards: Kristin O’Neill (Cornell), Carly Bullock (Princeton), Melissa Samoskevich (Quinnipiac)
Defenders: Micah Zandee-Hart (Cornell), Ella Shelton (Clarkson)
Goaltender: Kassidy Sauvé (Clarkson)

All-ECAC Third Team
Forwards: Justine Reyes (St. Lawrence), Michaela Pejzlová (Clarkson), Becca Gilmore (Harvard)
Defenders: Jamie Bourbonnais (Cornell), Stephanie Sucharda (Princeton)
Goaltender: Lovisa Selander (RPI)

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