Boston College has been the class of Hockey East and one of the nation’s best teams for years, but who will challenge them in the conference this year? With Hockey East’s middle-of-the-pack teams all gaining steam, I think it’ll be a hard-fought battle for home ice in this year’s postseason tournament. As its existing teams get stronger, the league also welcomes Division I newcomer Holy Cross to the fold.
Boston College Eagles
Head Coach: Katie King-Crowley
2017-18 Record: 30-5-3 (19-2-3 WHEA)
Key Departures: F Kenzie Kent, D Toni Ann Miano, D Caroline Ross, G Katie Burt
Key Returners: F Daryl Watts, F Caitrin Lonergan, F Makenna Newkirk, F Willow Corson, F Erin Connolly, D Serena Sommerfield, D Grace Bizal
Key Additions: F Kelly Browne, F Savannah Norcross, F Lindsay Agnew, D Megan Keller, D Kali Flanagan, D Cayla Barnes, D Jillian Fey, G Maddy McArthur, G Kelly Pickreign
Breakout Candidate: F Lindsay Agnew. The Minnesota transfer competed with Hockey Canada’s U22 Team this summer, and could take a big step forward in terms of production with BC’s forward group.
3 Things to Know
- Watts was the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, becoming the first freshman ever to win the award.
- The Eagles have some worries in goal after the graduation of Katie Burt. She led the country with 1,038 saves, and posted a .933 save percentage while doing so. She also holds numerous records, including the NCAA career wins record.
- Boston College paced the country in goals per game last season with 4.08.
The Eagles are adding three Olympic gold medalists on defense (Keller, Flanagan, and Barnes) while retaining their top three scorers in Watts, Lonergan, and Newkirk. They’re also adding talent, most notably in Browne and Agnew. They just have a huge question mark in goal with Burt’s graduation; McArthur appears to be the answer for now, but her first weekend did not go as planned, as BC dropped two games to Minnesota Duluth. I fully expect this team to come together as the season goes on. There is a lot of skill and experience at both skater positions, and they should become dominant again. But hiccups in goal could cost them more than they’d like, as the Eagles have their eyes set again on that elusive national championship.
Head Coach: Dave Flint
2017-18 Record: 19-17-3 (11-11-2 WHEA)
Key Departures: F McKenna Brand, F Denisa Křížová, F Taytum Clairmont, F Shelby Herrington, D Lauren Kelly
Key Returners: F Kasidy Anderson, F Veronika Pettey, F Tori Sullivan, D Codie Cross, D Brooke Hobson, D Skylar Fontaine, G Aerin Frankel, G Brittany Bugalski
Key Additions: F Alina Mueller, F Chloé Aurard, D Gillian Foote, D Brooke Tucker
Breakout Candidate: F Codie Cross. The junior led the Huskies in blocks last year (60) while notching 17 points. I think she’ll do well as a veteran top-pairing D this year.
3 Things to Know
- Northeastern, who finished fourth in last year’s Hockey East standings, earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Hockey East championship, their first-ever postseason title.
- Incoming freshman Alina Mueller tied an Olympic record for the most goals scored in a game in the tournament’s history. She notched four goals against Korea.
- Frankel, as a freshman, was second in the league in save percentage with a .934 mark, only trailing UConn’s Annie Belanger.
There are a few reasons why it’s reasonable to expect some regression from the Huskies this year. They only finished fourth in the standings last year to begin with, and this season they lose Brand and Křížová, which is essentially all of their go-to scoring from last season. But Mueller is as dynamic as they come, and she’ll have an immediate impact on Northeastern’s offense in their stead. I also think they were hurt last year by some inconsistency in net. Bugalski started 22 games and posted a save percentage of .890. With Frankel getting more action, I think their record will improve.
Maine Black Bears
Head Coach: Richard Reichenbach
2017-18 Record: 19-14-5 (11-9-4 WHEA)
Key Departures: F Brooke Stacey, F Catherine Tufts
Key Returners: F Tereza Vanišová, F Michelle Weis, F Vendula Pribylová, F Lydia Murray, F Daria Tereshkina, D Alyson Matteau, D Brittany Kucera, D Anna Zíková, D Ebba Strandberg, G Carly Jackson
Key Additions: F Celine Tedenby, F Ali Beltz, F Liga Miljone, D Ida Press, D Nicole Pateman
Breakout Candidate: F Michelle Weis. The Danish forward collected 21 points as a freshman, and I think she has a fair amount of potential left to tap into.
3 Things to Know
- Last season, the Black Bears notched the most wins in a single year in program history with 19. It was their best season since 2011-12 (17-11-6).
- Maine has a lot of international flavor on its roster. Players from the United States, Canada, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Russia, Latvia, and Denmark will suit up for the Black Bears this year.
- Maine had the lowest shots on goal against per game last year in Hockey East with 26.42.
The Black Bears return a strong defense led by Matteau and boosted by Press and Pateman, two solid prospects. They also have Jackson in net, who gave them pretty solid goaltending last year. Their defense and goaltending should keep them in great position throughout the year, but I’m not sold on their offensive depth. I think Maine will go as far as Vanišová will take them in terms of scoring; she was sixth in the conference in points as a sophomore last year with 46, and brings a lot of skill to the table. There are some good pieces around her to give Maine a worthy top-six, and they should be a top team in Hockey East because of that. I’m just not sure if they can compete nationally unless they can show a little more firepower.
Head Coach: Matt Kelly
2017-18 Record: 17-13-7 (12-7-5 WHEA)
Key Departures: F Brooke Boquist, F Blair Parent, F Madison Sansone
Key Returners: F Maureen Murphy, Christina Putigna, F Cassidy MacPherson, Meaghan Rickard, D Avery Fransoo, D Kate Friesen, D Whitney Dove, D Rachel Rockwell, G Madison Myers
Key Additions: F Ciara Barone, F Caroline Peterson, D Sara Hjalmarsson
Breakout Candidate: D Whitney Dove. As a junior, I think she’ll take some steps forward. She’s reliable defensively and put up solid numbers in the offensive end, with 13 points last year.
3 Things to Know
- Matt Kelly is in his first year as head coach for the Friars. He replaces Bob Deraney, who was head coach since 1999. Kelly most recently served as Head Scout for USA Hockey.
- Providence had Hockey East’s best penalty kill in 2017-18, killing off 87.1% of their opponents’ chances.
- The Friars add an Olympian in Hjalmarsson. She competed for Sweden at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.
There are some things I really like about the Friars and some things I’m questioning about them. For one, they return their full defense, led by solid two-way defenders Fransoo and Dove; Hjalmarsson is a nice piece to add, too. Myers had a good year in goal, with a .927 save percentage and 1.98 GAA. Murphy is a talented player up front and is looking to improve on a 19-goal, 28-point rookie season, and Putigna and MacPherson should be leaders again, but there’s not a ton of depth behind them. Providence is also going through a transition with their coaching staff. I think they will follow up last year’s good form (the Friars were second in the league in shots on goal with 32.32, and third in shots on goal against with 27.54), but I don’t see them taking a big step forward just yet.
Head Coach: Chris MacKenzie
2017-18 Record: 16-14-9
Key Departures: F Leah Lum, F Theresa Knutson, F Justine Fredette, G Annie Belanger
Key Returners: F Natalie Snodgrass, F Morgan Wabick, F Briana Colangelo, F Catherine Crawley, D Taylor Wabick, D Kaylee Mee, D Jaime Fox, G Morgan Fisher
Key Additions: F Danielle Fox, F Viki Harkness, F Danika Pasqua, D Camryn Wong, G Samantha Carpentier-Yelle
Breakout Candidate: D Taylor Wabick. She was third on the team in blocks as a freshman with 47 while notching 10 points. I’m a fan of her skill on the blue line.
3 Things to Know
- The Huskies are looking to string together back-to-back above-.500 seasons since 2008-09 and 2009-10.
- Snodgrass had an excellent freshman year, and is one of Hockey East’s most dangerous players. She finished sixth in the conference in goals with 21, and scored 38 points total to lead UConn.
- UConn led Hockey East with the fewest goals against per game last season (1.95). They’re also not losing any key defenders.
The Huskies have a few significant losses to deal with up front, notably 30-point scorer Lum, but I expect their offense to recover with Snodgrass and Morgan Wabick able to handle more of the load as sophomores. Their low goals-against number was helped in large part by Belanger, and they’ll turn to Fisher in goal, who is on the right track so far this year with two wins against St. Cloud under her belt. I do think this is a team on the upswing, and if Turner can be an above-average goalie and players like Snodgrass, Mee, the Wabick twins, and Crawley all play to their potential, I think UConn will be in contention for a top-four bid in the conference.
Boston University Terriers
Head Coach: Brian Durocher
2017-18 Record: 14-17-6 (8-11-5 WHEA)
Key Departures: F Victoria Bach, F Rebecca Leslie, F Nina Rodgers, G Erin O’Neil
Key Returners: F Jesse Compher, F Nara Elia, F Mary Grace Kelley, F Natasza Tarnowski, D Abby Cook, D Abbey Stanley, D Breanna Scarpaci, D Reagan Rust, G Corinne Schroeder
Key Additions: F Courtney Correia, F Mackenna Parker, F Emma Wuthrich, D Alex Allan, G Kate Stuart
Breakout Candidate: F Jesse Compher. I love her game and I think she’s got a high ceiling after scoring 9 goals and 26 points as a freshman.
3 Things to Know
- Last season was Boston University’s worst since their inaugural season in 2005-06, and the first time since 2007-08 that BU was under .500.
- On the offensive side of the puck, the Terriers were more than competent, scoring 3.05 goals per game (second in Hockey East). Defensively, however, they gave up the third highest goals per game in the conference (2.70).
- Unfortunately, their offense takes a huge hit with the graduation of Bach and Leslie. They lose a combined 63 goals from those two, which accounts for 55.7% of the Terriers’ total goals in 2017-18.
The Terriers return a veteran D corps featuring two defenders who scored upwards of 20 points last season (Cook and Stanley). Schroeder is the team’s returning starter, and she was fine as a freshman with a .913 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA. But with Bach and Leslie leaving a huge hole in the offense, she’ll have to make some huge strides this year. I’m not sure if BU has enough talent returning to improve on last year’s record, especially with pretty much every other Hockey East team trending upwards.
New Hampshire Wildcats
Head Coach: Hilary Witt
2017-18 Record: 14-15-7 (9-10-5 WHEA)
Key Departures: F Carlee Toews, D Julia Fedeski, D Amy Schlagel
Key Returners: F Meghara McManus, F Taylor Wenczkowski, F Carlee Turner, F Nicole Dunbar, F Devan Taylor, D Marie-Jo Pelletier, D Tori Howran, D Jenna Rheault, G Ava Boutilier
Key Additions: F Tori Palumbo, F Lindsey Dumond, D Emily Rickwood, D Talli Warren
Breakout Candidate: D Tori Howran. She is the team’s leading returning scorer on the blue line, after tallying a goal and 13 points as a sophomore.
3 Things to Know
- Boutilier had an excellent rookie season in net, earning Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors at the end of the year. She posted a .929 save percentage while making a UNH-record 886 saves.
- The Wildcats lose their top two scoring D in Fedeski and Schlagel. Fedeski in particular is a huge loss; she scored 17 points and led Hockey East in blocked shots with 95.
- New Hampshire returns its top three scorers from 2017-18 in McManus, Wenczkowski, and Turner, all three of whom are juniors.
The Wildcats may struggle to fill in their defensive corps this year after two big losses on the back-end. But Boutilier is coming off of a great rookie year, and I think she’ll have a huge impact and keep them in games. UNH was very much a middle-of-the-pack team last year in Hockey East, ranking fifth or sixth in the conference in categories like shots on goal, shots on goal against, goals per game, and goals against per game. It might be difficult to improve on their defensive metrics, at least while they get settled, but if their offense can take a few steps forward, the Wildcats stand a good chance of competing for a higher seed, and potentially home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
Head Coach: Jim Plumer
2017-18 Record: 10-20-5 (7-13-4 WHEA)
Key Departures: F Kourtney Menches, F Mackenzie MacNeil, D Taylor Willard, D Amanda Drobot, G Sydnee Scobee
Key Returners: F Ève-Audrey Picard, F Alyssa Gorecki, F Saana Valkama, F Kristina Shanahan, D Taylor Flaherty, D Sammi Kolowrat, G Melissa Black
Key Additions: F Abby Cleary, F Theresa Schafzahl, D Maude Poulin-Labelle, D Sini Karjalainen, G Blanka Škodová
Breakout Candidate: F Ève-Audrey Picard. She led the Catamounts in scoring last season, but topped out at 14 goals and 25 points. With her skillset, I think she’s got higher potential.
3 Things to Know
- Jim Plumer became the winningest coach in program history last season, with 75.
- The Catamounts are losing their starting goalie via transfer, as Scobee elected to transfer to Minnesota. Black, a senior, only played in nine games last year; we’ll see if assumes control of the starting job, or if Škodová gets a chance as a freshman. They also have sophomore Sierra Natzke on the roster, though she didn’t see any action last year.
- Vermont had the worst shots on goal differential in Hockey East last season, getting out-shot by an average of 8.43 shots on goal per game.
Unfortunately for the Catamounts, it’s a packed field in the middle of the Hockey East standings this year. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see them improve to a .500 pace, I think they’ll need some very strong performances in net, and from players like Picard, to cover some ground and make up for their losses.
Head Coach: Erin Hamlen
2017-18 Record: 11-20-3 (6-16-2 WHEA)
Key Departures: N/A
Key Returners: F Mikyla Grant-Mentis, F Katelyn Rae, F Paige Voight, F Jessica Bonfe, D Paige Sorensen, D Dominique Kremer, D Felila Manu, G Léa-Kristine Demers, G Samantha Ridgewell
Key Additions: F Keisha Dicaire, F Gabby Jones, D Julia MacLean
Breakout Candidate: F Mikyla Grant-Mentis. The talented junior had 15 goals and 23 points last year and as Merrimack improves, I expect her to get more productive as well.
3 Things to Know
- Rae was named an Honorable Mention Hockey East All-Star last season after becoming the first Merrimack player to reach 30 points in a season.
- Merrimack had the worst penalty kill in Hockey East last season; they were the only team with a sub-80% success rate, with 72%. That’s one metric they can improve on to see some growth this year.
- The Warriors have some solidity in goal with Ridgewell; though she split last season with Demers, she finished with a .925 save percentage, good enough for sixth in the conference.
The Warriors will be hoping to get back into the Hockey East playoffs after missing last season, but with players like Rae, Grant-Mentis, Sorensen, and Manu all improving, they stand a good chance of competing for the eight spot. If Ridgewell can give them an even better season and move into the top tier of Hockey East goalies, their chances will improve that much more.
Holy Cross Crusaders
Head Coach: Peter Van Buskirk
2017-18 Record: 16-9-3 (D-I Independent)
Key Departures: F Kara Violette, F Emily Lissner, G Tessie Salatas
Key Returners: F Maeve Reilly, F Julie Matthias, F Katie MacCuaig, D Tori Messina, D Antonia Matzka, G Julia Pelletier, G Marcia LaPlante
Key Additions: F Rachel Moore, F Sommer Ross, D Emma Lange, G Sarah Street, G Jada Brenon
3 Things to Know
- This is the Crusaders’ first season as a member of Hockey East and their first season with a full Division I schedule.
- Last season, Holy Cross played DI opponents RIT and Harvard. They picked up a huge 2-0 win over the Crimson. Salatas pitched a 32-save shutout.
- The Crusaders had a representative at USA Hockey’s National Festival in August: assistant coach Katie Lachapelle. She won three straight gold medals with USA Hockey’s U18 Team as an assistant (2015, 2016, 2017).
As a first-year member of the conference, it’s pretty much expected that the Crusaders will finish at the bottom of the standings. But I think it’ll be interesting to see how many upsets they can pull off, especially against teams in the bottom half of the Hockey East standings. This will undoubtedly be a building year for the program; we’ll see where they can take things over the next few seasons.
Preseason All-Hockey East Awards
Player of the Year: Daryl Watts, F, Boston College
Best Defender: Megan Keller, Boston College
Rookie of the Year: Alina Mueller, Northeastern
Goaltender of the Year: Aerin Frankel, Northeastern
All-Hockey East First Team
Forwards: Daryl Watts (Boston College), Alina Mueller (Northeastern), Natalie Snodgrass (UConn)
Defense: Megan Keller (Boston College), Alyson Matteau (Maine)
Goaltender: Aerin Frankel (Northeastern)
All-Hockey East Second Team
Forwards: Caitrin Lonergan (Boston College), Tereza Vanišová (Maine), Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Merrimack)
Defense: Kali Flanagan (Boston College), Codie Cross (Northeastern)
Goaltender: Ava Boutilier (New Hampshire)
All-Hockey East Third Team
Forwards: Maureen Murphy (Providence), Makenna Newkirk (Boston College), Jesse Compher (Boston University)
Defense: Cayla Barnes (Boston College), Kayla Mee (UConn)
Goaltender: Madison Myers (Providence)