Time may be running out for teams to pad their resumes ahead of the NCAA Division I women’s hockey championship, but that doesn’t mean the bracket is a forgone conclusion. Just look at the shuffling at the bottom of the USCHO poll.
Numerous high-profile matchups remain that will provide opportunities for those at the top to solidify their places and those still fighting to shake things up. Which games should you keep an eye on? These 11, for starters.
Providence at Merrimack — Feb. 1
Providence (17-9-0) and Merrimack (14-9-4) may be 14 points off Northeastern’s 36-point total atop the Hockey East standings, but they still tied for the most votes among teams just outside the USCHO top 10. Providence, currently on a three-game losing streak, beat Merrimack twice in November by scores of 5-3 and 3-1, and the two enter the matchup 12th and 13th in scoring margin, respectively.
Providence’s Maureen Murphy and Merrimack’s Katelyn Rae are among the nation’s most prolific scorers this season.
No. 5 Clarkson at No. 4 Princeton — Feb. 2
Princeton (13-2-5) hasn’t lost a game since it opened the season with back-to-back losses against Wisconsin. Clarkson (20-5-1) is on a six-game winning streak. The two sides haven’t faced each other yet this season, but this meeting and a rematch on Feb. 22 at Clarkson figure to factor significantly as the race for the Eastern College Athletic Conference crown winds down. Princeton leads the conference with 25 points and Clarkson is three points behind in third.
Clarkson’s Loren Gabel and her nation-leading 25 goals will face off against a Princeton defense that ranks third in terms of goals allowed.
Minnesota Duluth at No. 2 Minnesota — Feb. 2/3
Minnesota Duluth will face Minnesota for the fourth and fifth time this weekend when it travels to Minneapolis. The Gophers (24-3-1) picked up a couple wins in those first three meetings to hold the advantage against the Bulldogs (11-11-2). Minnesota Duluth had its season-long four-game winning streak snapped this past Saturday against Quinnipiac but could jump into the nation’s top 10 with two quality performances against Minnesota.
The Gophers’ offense leads the nation with 125 goals.
No. 3 Northeastern vs. No. 8 Boston University — Feb. 5
Boston University’s run for the 40th Women’s Beanpot title last year ended in overtime against Boston College, but its shot at the 41st opens against Northeastern. Boston College plays Harvard. Northeastern (19-3-3) and Boston (14-6-6) have already met three times this season with Northeastern grabbing two wins and two sides tying once.
Northeastern won back-to-back Women’s Beanpot championships in 2012 and 2013.
No. 6 Cornell at No. 5 Clarkson — Feb. 8
Cornell (13-2-5) beat Clarkson 3-1 earlier this season and now has a chance to go on the road and sweep the back-to-back defending NCAA champions. Cornell is on a five-game winning streak and its only two losses this season have come against Princeton and Brown. Clarkson’s allowed 12 more goals this season than Cornell but also scored 41 more.
Cornell holds a one-point advantage on Clarkson in the Eastern College Athletic Conference standings but both still trail Princeton.
Merrimack at No. 3 Northeastern — Feb. 8
Northeastern’s two matchups in the Women’s Beanpot sandwich this home game against Merrimack. The ranked Huskies could enter this matchup against the Warriors on a six-game win streak if they defeat UConn and BU to start February, but a win for Merrimack could propel it into the top 10. The two sides have yet to meet this season and will play two more times on Feb. 22 and 23, home and away, before the Hockey East conference tournament.
No. 10 Colgate at No. 5 Clarkson — Feb. 9
Clarkson will host Colgate (14-8-4) in a rematch of a Nov. 30 meeting that saw Colgate come out on top 4-1. The Raiders just suffered back-to-back defeats against Cornell, marking only the second time all season it has lost two games in a row. Now Colgate has a chance to ride the momentum of a three-game winning streak into Clarkson’s Cheel Arena, if it can take care of three winnable games. However, Colgate has scored 16 less goals and allowed 22 more than Clarkson this season.
Clarkson defeated Colgate in overtime to win the 2018 NCAA title.
Maine at No. 7 Boston College — Feb. 14/15
Maine is on the outside looking in for the race for the Hockey East conference crown. The Black Bears are further back than BU, Providence, Merrimack and UConn. However, Boston College is not. Boston College is six points back of Northeastern and needs to make the most of these two games against a team it has already defeated 4-1 on the road this season.
Maine does have a win in January against BU, though, and while it’s scored 17 less goals the season than Boston College, it’s also allowed six less.
No. 1 Wisconsin at Minnesota Duluth — Feb. 15/16
Minnesota Duluth lost twice against Wisconsin (23-3) back in October, by two goals each time, but has turned the corner in 2019 and is 5-3 in its last eight games. It’ll welcome a top-ranked Wisconsin squad to town that’s chasing Minnesota for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association crown and can boast of the third-best scoring margin in the nation — 2.54.
WOMEN'S 3 STARS: Gabel's record-setting week earns top honors
Minnesota Duluth has scored just two more goals than it has allowed, 63 compared to 61.
No. 9 Ohio State at No. 1 Wisconsin — Feb. 22/23
Ohio State (15-11) may not catch Wisconsin in the race to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, but the Buckeyes could enter postseason play with a lot of momentum if the Buckeyes step up against the Badgers on the road.
While Ohio State and Wisconsin split two games in mid-January in Columbus, the Buckeyes have lost five straight, including that series finale, and could slide out of the top 10 if their defense can’t return to form.
Ohio State has been outscored 30-10 during its five-game losing streak.
Providence at No. 8 Boston University — Feb. 23
Providence is five points behind third-place BU in the Hockey East standings. The Friars dropped two games in mid-January against the Terriers but if Providence can buck its current three-game losing streak and jump into the top 10, this regular season finale could have a lot more on the line than it may look like right now.