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Patrick Donnelly | NCAA.com | January 12, 2023

The top 5 women's college hockey storylines to watch in the second half of the season

Quinnipiac goaltender Logan Angers breaks down playing at Frozen Fenway 2023 and 3-1 win vs Harvard

After the first half of the season saw plenty of surprising results and brilliant individual starts, the women's college hockey schedule is ramping up again. 

As we come out of the holiday season and semester break, here are the top five women's college hockey storylines to watch in the second half of the 2022-23 campaign:

Can Ohio State repeat?

This topped our preseason storylines, and it's still a fair question to raise.

The Buckeyes have been nothing short of dominant so far this season, going 18-2-2 (13-2-1 WCHA) with wins over top teams like Minnesota Duluth, Colgate and Cornell. They've faltered only against Minnesota and UMD, two of their most formidable foes as things stand right now. 

POWER 10: Dominant Ohio State leads the first women's college hockey Power 10 rankings in 2023

OSU is one of the top teams from top to bottom in Division I, ranking among the best of the best in goals per game (4.55), goals against (1.82), power play (37.5 percent) and penalty kill (85.19). On top of the team metrics, Ohio State boasts some of the top individual players in the nation. Jennifer Gardiner's 35 (11g, 24a) points rank fourth in the NCAA, while Sophie Jaques' 16 goals are second. 

There have been seven repeat champions since the NCAA first held the women's hockey tournament in 2001. Minnesota Duluth won the first three championships. The three previous champions before OSU — Wisconsin, Clarkson and Minnesota — each repeated as well. Whether it's the stellar team play or dazzling individual seasons that we're saying, the Bucks look like they could be primed to go 2-for-2 in the national championship.

The race for the Patty Kaz

Speaking of individuals having great seasons, there have been no shortage of skaters putting up gaudy point totals or goaltenders standing on their heads around Division I. 

Jaques certainly has as strong of a case as any as a do-it-all blue-liner for Ohio State. One of the best professional prospects in the collegiate ranks right now, Jaques is among the best at driving offense both at even strength and on the power play, putting up 31 points (15g, 16a) in 22 games to lead all defenders. 

There's the nation's leader in points, Danielle Serdachny, with 41 points (15g, 26a) in 21 games for Colgate. Serdachny has found the scoresheet in all but one game for the Raiders this year, helping her team to one of the best records in the NCAA. 

PATTY KAZ: Click or tap here for the latest Patty Kazmaier Award watchlist

Other suspects include reigning winner Taylor Heise, the nation's leader in goals with 17 (38 points), Minnesota teammate Grace Zumwinkle (16-22--38) and four-time finalist Alina Müller (16-18--34 in 22 games for Northeastern). NU goaltender Gwyneth Philips (.957 SV%, 0.87 GAA, 6 SO) certainly has a strong case as well.

With plenty of players firmly in the mix as well as others who could emerge as the season rolls forward, the race for the top individual hardware is only beginning to heat up.

The races in the ECAC and WCHA

The top half of the ECAC standings is absolutely loaded this season, whether it's Quinnipiac, Yale, Colgate, Cornell, Clarkson (all in the top 10) or even Princeton. 

Those first three teams qualified for the national tournament last season, with Yale advancing to the Frozen Four, losing to the eventual champions in OSU. Each of them looks to have a chance at making a deep run again. 

Quinnipiac stands atop the conference with 30 points, while Yale (25) and Colgate (24) are each within striking distance. With each of those teams looking like true national contenders, the stretch run in the conference is definitely one to watch.

FROZEN FENWAY: Quinnipiac, Holy Cross each take home wins at Fenway Park

The WCHA is perennial gauntlet itself, claiming all but three national championships. This year, there's the reigning champion in Ohio State as well as top-10 powerhouses in Minnesota, Duluth and Wisconsin. St. Cloud State is even in the mix, barely, checking in at No. 14 in the poll and holding a big upset over Minnesota earlier in the season. 

Each of the first four teams mentioned made it to at least the second round of the tournament last year before UMD and OSU met in the title game. Similar to the ECAC, those four top teams have a case to make on why they could be considered favorites when the tournament rolls around. 

In the conference standings, the Buckeyes and Gophers are tied for first with 41 points with Wisconsin (37) and Duluth (27) trailing. The Badgers and Bulldogs have work to do, but beyond them, the battle between OSU and Minnesota is something to keep an eye on the rest of the way. 

Will anyone in Hockey East challenge Northeastern?

The Huskies are once again enjoying another season as the top dogs in Hockey East, consistently checking in among the best in the polls. 

With a 15-2-1 record in conference (19-2-1 overall), NU (47 points) is running away in the standings as they are 13 points clear of second place Vermont (33). Beneath UVM is Providence (33) and Boston College (30). 

RANKINGS: Click or tap here for the latest USCHO poll

Entering the season, the Catamounts and Friars were seen as the biggest threats to Northeastern's dominance, with BC and UConn having outside shots. So far, it's been the same usual story: a juggernaut Huskies team proving once again why they have been so good for so long, while the rest of the conference plays for second place and hopes to get catch them on a bad night in the playoffs. 

UVM and PC each have conference games in hand on Northeastern, so hypothetically, they could make up ground. But it may be too little, too late, going up against a Northeastern squad laying waste to its schedule. 

Can Princeton go on a run?

There were expectations for the Tigers entering the season, albeit moderate. Princeton ranked No. 10 in the USCHO preseason poll, following conference rivals in Colgate, Yale, QU and Clarkson.

They were returning one the game's top players in Sarah Fillier, who looks like she could be the heiress to Marie-Philip Poulin for Canada. Fillier had led the Tigers to the national tournament in each of her first two collegiate seasons in 2019 and 2020, finishing as a Patty Kazmaier finalist both times. After a dominant run with Canada in 2021-22 that saw her play a key role in gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships, Fillier seemed primed to return to a solid roster, looking to regain its form.

SCOREBOARD: Click or tap here for the latest scores around NC women's college hockey

Out of the gates, things didn't go as planned as Princeton lost three of its first four games and struggled against ranked opponents en route to an underwhelming 7-6-1 record (3-5-0 ECAC) in the first half of the season. The captain did her part with 9-9--18 in 14 games, but it still wasn't enough for the Tigers' results.

Right now, Princeton is enjoying a four-game winning streak, sweeping Mercyhurst before the break and taking care of Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend, thanks partly to a goal and two assists from Fillier.

They have Colgate and Cornell on the docket this week, teams that handed them losses in the first two games of the season, before matchups with Yale, Quinnipiac and Clarkson ahead of the end of the season. Fillier and the Tigers need to continue their recent form if they are to go on any sort of run through a tough schedule in the back half of the season.

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