Game Day Skate: Windjammer and Nutmeg Classics; Boston College at Northeastern

2018 Windjammer Classic

This year’s edition of the Windjammer Classic brings Minnesota, St. Lawrence, and Syracuse to Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse. At 4 p.m. E.T. on Friday afternoon, Minnesota will take on St. Lawrence, and at 7 p.m., the host Catamounts face off against Syracuse.

As the No. 2-ranked team in the country, Minnesota is the favorite to come out on top this weekend, but the Saints could give them a good fight in the first semifinal. Their strong defense and good goaltending has carried them to an 8-5-1 record so far, with wins over Clarkson and Ohio State. St. Lawrence is giving up an average of  1.79 goals per game, eighth in the nation. Seniors Grace Harrison and Sonjia Shelly have split time in net, and Harrison in particular has turned in excellent numbers; she’s currently ranked third in the country with a .948 save percentage.

Without a ton of depth, the Saints need their best players to be their best players, and so far they’ve done just that. Senior forward Justine Reyes is leading the team in scoring with 12 points, and sophomore defender Skylar Podvey has established herself as one of the ECAC’s best offensive-minded blue-liners, turning in a team-leading five goals and 11 points. The Gophers’ offense features a bigger cast of contributors; they have 10 players scoring at a half a point per game or better, whereas St. Lawrence has five. Minnesota is also putting up nearly 40 shots on goal per game, so this should be a good match-up between their offense and the Saints’ defense.

Neither Syracuse or Vermont is at .500 for the season, but the Catamounts advanced to the Windjammer Classic title game in 2016 and 2017, so look for an inspired performance from the hosts on home ice. Vermont’s offense has not converted much at all this season. Junior Ève-Audrey Picard comes into the weekend with four goals; nobody else on the team has more than two. Senior Taylor Flaherty and freshman Maude Poulin-Labelle have been bright spots on the blue line, but the Catamounts just haven’t gotten enough contributions consistently to pose a true threat. They’re scoring less than two goals per game this year, and they’ll very likely need to do better than that to beat the Orange.

Syracuse doesn’t have a high-powered offense, either, but Emma Polaski has stood out with eight goals and 11 points in 13 games. They might not be scoring as much as they’d like, but their blue line gives the Orange an edge. Allie Munroe, Lindsay Eastwood, and Jessica DiGirolamo are all very active, two-way defenders who do a lot to help drive play. Syracuse has been hindered by troubles in goal this year, though, which puts even more pressure on the offense. Maddi Welch has played the bulk of the games for the Orange and posted a .860 save percentage and 3.09 goals-against average.

2018 Nutmeg Classic

The 15th annual Nutmeg Classic will also be played this weekend between host Yale, Quinnipiac, UConn, and Providence. The Bobcats and Huskies face off at 3 p.m. E.T. Friday before the Bulldogs take on the Friars at 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs earned a huge 5-1 win over Clarkson in their last outing and they’ll look to keep the momentum going against a strong Providence team. The Friars are backstopped by senior Madison Myers, who holds a .948 save percentage coming into the weekend. Forward Maureen Murphy is having an excellent sophomore season, with 12 goals, 10 assists, and 22 points. Rookie Sara Hjalmarsson has also been a player to watch for Providence.

The Bulldogs, on the flip side, don’t have a single player who’s scored double digits in points so far, although freshman Rebecca Vanstone has been solid. Providence ranks in the top-10 in the country in goals per game, goals against per game, and shots on goal against per game. It would take another big upset effort for Yale to match that level of efficiency.

Quinnipiac has had a really tough start to the season. They turned things around with a three-game winning streak over Yale, Brown, and Harvard a few weeks ago, but since then the Bobcats are winless in four straight.  Of their seven losses this year, five have been by one goal, and they’ve also settled for three ties. The margin of error has been slim for Quinnipiac this year, and that’s largely due to an inconsistent offense. While the Bobcats are giving up just 23.31 shots on goal against per game, they’re only generating 24.38 themselves. At some point, the team needs to get more out of Melissa Samoskevich and Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout, who have scored five and four points respectively. Sophomore Taylor House and freshman Lexie Adzija have led the way offensively instead, but that hasn’t been enough.

UConn has also been a bit perplexing this year; the Huskies started off with three straight wins but have dipped below .500 since then. Catherine Crawley has settled in well as a junior, and she leads the team in scoring with 13 points. Natalie Snodgrass and Morgan Wabick have also produced a lot for the team, and Taylor Wabick has been really good on the blue line. I’ve liked the Huskies’ mindset when I’ve seen them this year; they like to get the puck into scoring areas and get shots from there, instead of just shooting more often from lower quality areas. Quinnipiac’s defense will make it hard for them to do that, but if UConn capitalizes on a few breakdowns they’ll be in good shape.

Series to Watch

Boston College at Northeastern: This game won’t take place until Tuesday night, but it’s one of the most anticipated match-ups of the season. Northeastern, who is undefeated in conference play, sits in first place in the Hockey East standings, and BC is six points behind. The game features two potent offenses and several star players. The Huskies are led by rookies Alina Müller and Chloé Aurard, and Veronika Pettey and Kasidy Anderson are scoring a point per game, too. Defender Megan Keller leads the Eagles in scoring, and Daryl Watts, Caitrin Lonergan, and Makenna Newkirk are constant threats up front. Northeastern has an edge in goal; Aerin Frankel leads the nation with a .972 save percentage, but she’s splitting time with Brittany Bugalski. Freshman Maddy McArthur has settled in with a .940 save percentage and she’s played every game for the Eagles, but inexperience is a factor for her.

Harvard at Wisconsin: The sample size is smaller because the Ivy League schools start play so much later, but Harvard goalie Lindsay Reed is second in the nation with a .949 save percentage. Thanks to her play, the Crimson are only letting up 1.83 goals against per game, and they’ll desperately need to keep this a low-scoring series, as their offense can’t match the Badgers’ when they get rolling. Dominique Petrie has been good early on as a rookie for Harvard, and not surprisingly, Becca Gilmore is leading the way for the team, but it will not be easy to match Wisconsin line for line.

Minnesota Duluth at Clarkson: After getting swept by Ohio State last weekend, the Bulldogs badly need a rebound, as does Clarkson after falling to Yale. Maddie Rooney has been solid this year for UMD, with a .928 save percentage, but they’ll need her at her best against the Golden Knights’ offense, which is scoring more than four goals per game. Minnesota Duluth hasn’t scored more than two goals in a game since a 6-1 win over Bemidji State on Oct. 19. Against the Buckeyes last weekend, Ryleigh Houston, Naomi Rogge, and Ashton Belle were all held off the score sheet, and Anna Klein was the only Bulldog to score more than one point. It’ll be a tough task this weekend, but they need to find some more scoring if they hope to take down Clarkson.

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