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Hockey East preview: BC looking for another strong run with happier ending

Northeastern, BC will have to rebuild after graduating key players

Michelle Jay / TheIceGarden.com

Last season, Hockey East teams continued to prove that they can compete with the traditional women’s hockey powers of the WCHA. Two of the Patty Kazmaier finalists, Alex Carpenter and winner Kendall Coyne, came from Hockey East schools and Boston College went undefeated until the NCAA championship game.

Boston College and Northeastern dominated Hockey East last season, going 40-1-0 and 28-9-1 on the season respectively. However, both schools will have to rebuild this season following the loss of their leading scorers. Patty Kaz winner Kendall Coyne, Northeastern’s leading scorer, graduated in the spring. Meanwhile Boston College will lose NCAA leading scorer Alex Carpenter, along with forwards Haley Skarupa and Dana Trivigno. However both teams are still returning enough core players that they, along with Boston University, should continue to be at the top of the Hockey East Conference.

Boston College

The Eagles had a 40-1-0 record last season, only losing in the NCAA championship game. They were undefeated in Hockey East play, and won both the regular season title and Hockey East Championship.

Players to watch in the upcoming season include Katie Burt, Megan Keller, and Makenna Newkirk. Burt, who will be a junior this season, recorded 13 shutouts last season and had a 1.23 GAA. Keller was third on the Eagles in points as only a sophomore last season, scoring 12 goals and recording 40 assists. Keller led the team with a +64 in 2015-16 and is BC’s top returning scorer. Newkirk was BC’s standout freshman last year. She was fourth on the team in points and third in goals. Newkirk was the Hockey East Rookie of the year.

Every player that BC graduated last year will have their loss felt. NCAA leading scorer Alex Carpenter and fellow offensive powerhouse Haley Skarupa will likely be the most missed, but the Eagles have also lost important players in forwards Dana Trivigno and Meghan Grieves, as well as defensemen Kaliya Johnson and Lexi Bender.

BC’s freshman class has 7 players: 5 forwards, a goalie, and a defender. Forward Caitrin Lonergan is BC’s most highly anticipated incoming freshman. Lonergan is a two time member of the USA U18 team and has received numerous accolades, including being named the 2016 NEPSAC Division I player of the year.

It’s tough to predict what BC’s toughest matchup will be this season; they were so dominant last season, but are losing many core players. The opening games against Minnesota-Duluth could prove to be a challenge for the Eagles - UMD put up a good fight against the Eagles last season, and BC could still be struggling to settle into a routine without Carpenter and Skarupa when they face the Bulldogs. Northeastern and BU should also continue to challenge BC.

Coach Katie Crowley told BCEagles.com that the coaches are, “very excited about the group of players returning and the freshmen joining our team.”

Northeastern

Northeastern was second in Hockey East last season, behind the unstoppable Boston College Eagles. The Huskies were 28-9-1 on the year and made it to the first round of the playoffs where they lost to BC.

Denisa Krizova, Hayley Scamurra, and Lauren Kelly are players to watch this season. Krizova was the leading sophomore scorer in the Hockey East last season and scored the seventh most points in the NCAA. She led the Huskies in GWG. Scamurra, an incoming senior, will be an important leader and offensive player for the Huskies. She scored 14 goals last season and recorded 29 assists. Kelly is a top defensive player that also has offensive potential. She led the team with 57 blocks, and also recorded 20 points.

Northeastern’s biggest departure is, of course, Kendall Coyne. Coyne won the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Award and was second in the nation in points only to Alex Carpenter ( Coyne played fewer games than Carpenter did). However, the return of Krizova should keep Coyne’s departure from hurting the Huskies too much.

Northeastern has 5 incoming freshmen: 3 forwards and two defenders. Matti Hartman is likely the team’s most notable incoming freshman. Hartman finished her high school career with 250 points and was the fastest player to reach 100 points in Hanover High history. Hartman was named New Hampshire Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and was a USA Today All-Star in 2016. Huskies fans will also be excited to see Bailey Coyne, sister of Kendall.

Northeastern should have a solid team next year, so there is no one match that stands out as “the toughest.” Boston University, Harvard, and Boston College gave the Huskies the toughest time last season, so those are the games to watch out for.

Coach Dave Flint told gonu.com that he is expecting the incoming freshmen to provide, “much-needed depth to our defensive corps."

Boston University

Boston University was third in Hockey East last season, trailing Boston College and Northeastern. BU had a 23-14-2 record.

BU players to watch in 2016-17 include Rebecca Leslie, Victoria Bach, and Sarah Steele. Leslie led BU in scoring last season as a sophomore, recording 49 points. Bach, also a sophomore last season, was only 1 point behind Leslie with 48. She led the team in goals with 22. Steele is a player to watch on defense. She scored only 3 goals last season, but was a defensive leader with 48 blocks and a +12. Steele had only 11 penalties, which is not bad for a tough defender.

BU is losing 8 seniors, but many of their top players are returning as juniors and seniors. Kayla Tutino, Rebecca Russo, and Sarah Lefort were all solid contributors on offense whose contributions and leadership will be missed. The three of them were the top scorers after returning juniors Rebecca Leslie and Victoria Bach.

BU has a six-member freshman class this year, along with new graduate student Mary Parker (Harvard) and transfer Nina Rodgers (Minnesota). Natasza Tarnowski is a freshman to look out for on BU’s team. Tarnowski led her previous team in scoring with 51 points. She played for Team Canada at the 2015 Summer Series against Team USA and recently led her team to gold at the U18 National Championship.

BU plays reigning NCAA champions, Minnesota, on December 9 and 10 at home. This will be BU’s toughest matchup in 2015-16 and is a great chance for Bostonians to see how the Terriers stack up against a WCHA women’s hockey powerhouse.

"This group of talented student-athletes will add to the program's tradition of excellence both on the ice and in the classroom,” Coach Brian Durocher told goterriers.com about the incoming class, adding, “they are an accomplished group of hard working young ladies that have experienced success throughout their playing careers."

UConn

UConn was fourth in Hockey East last season, 11 points behind third place BU. The Huskies went 17-15-5 on the year.

UConn players to watch in 2016 include Theresa Knutson, Justine Fredette, and Leah Lum. Knutson, Fredette, and Lum led the Huskies in scoring last season and will all be juniors this fall. Knutson led the team with a +19 and 28 points last season, and should continue to be the most important factor in the Huskies offense. Fredette recorded 26 points in 2015-16 and led the team in assists, picking up 18 helpers. Lum was UConn’s top scoring defender. In addition to Lum’s 23 points, she also had 33 blocks.

Goalie Elaine Chuli is UConn’s biggest departure. As their starting goaltender last season Chuli played in 26 games and had a .941 save percentage. Incoming junior Annie Belanger had a respectable .904 save percentage in 11 games last season, but Chuli will be missed considering UConn plays in a conference with some of the top offensive teams. Other notable departures include Brittany Berisoff, Leah Buress, and Margaret Zimmer. Buress in particular will be missed, as she was an important factor on offense (20 points) and defense (46 blocks). Fortunately for UConn, many of their top players last season were underclassmen who should continue to improve and contribute.

UConn’s 7 player freshman class will need to contribute to all aspects of the game if the Huskies want to challenge the top 3 teams in Hockey East. Catherine Crawley is one of UConn’s more exciting incoming freshmen. Crawley, a forward, played 3 years for Westminster and led the team in scoring all three years. She was team MVP for the 2014-15 season and was named to second team All-New England.

UConn has a tricky schedule this season that includes multiple in-conference games against Northeastern, BU, and BC. They also take on Quinnipiac in Connecticut on October seventh, which should be a tough matchup for the Huskies.

“We will have another challenging schedule ahead of us this season,” Coach Chris MacKenzie told uconnhuskies.com, “Hockey East is always a competitive league and this year will be no different.”

UNH

UNH was fifth in Hockey East in 2015-16, and was the highest ranked team to have a losing record in the conference. They were 8-16-0 in Hockey East play and 11-24-1 overall.

UNH returns leading scorer Jonna Curtis, along with core players Amy Schlagel and Marie-Jo Pelletier. Curtis led the Wildcats in goals, assists, and points. UNH will rely on the senior forward to provide them with significant offense. Schlagel led UNH defenders in points and was third on the team. She was an important member of the power play, scoring 4 power plays goals and she also notched two game winners. Pelletier, a sophomore, is one to watch on defense. She didn’t score any goals as a freshman, but she was second on the team in blocks (with 67) and was assessed only 7 penalties.

2016 graduate Sara Carlson is a major loss for the Wildcats - she recorded 19 points, was second on the team in assists, and led the ‘Cats with 69 blocks. UNH also loses Nicoline Jensen, one of their toughest players, and Margo Lund, who was a fairly consistent contributor with 11 points.

UNH’s freshman class has a few players that should be able to make an impact fairly quickly. Carlee Turner is one to keep an eye on. The recent North American Hockey Academy graduate forward competed at the USA National Development Camp from 2011-13. She was the 2016 JWHL Player of the Year and led her team in points. Her points total improved from 49 to 78 between her junior and senior years at NAHA.

In addition to tough Hockey East matchups, UNH is taking on top teams like Quinnipiac and Clarkson this season. QU and Clarkson will both be headed to UNH for the games, which gives Wildcats fans a great opportunity to watch top teams from outside Hockey East.

"This group of athletes will bring skill, speed and depth to our team,” Coach Hilary Witt told unhwildcats.com about the incoming freshmen, “We will expect a lot out of them from the start and have all the confidence in the world they will contribute immediately."

Vermont

Vermont came in sixth in Hockey East, with a fairly similar record to UNH. The Catamounts were 9-25-3 throughout the 2015-16 season.

Players to watch this season on the Catamounts include Taylor Willard, Saana Valkama, and Daria O’Neill. Willard is UVM’s lead returning scorer with 10 goals and 9 assists last season. Willard led the team with 6 power play goals and 3 game winning goals. O’Neill is Vermont’s top returning player in assists. She notched 11 helpers last season as only a freshman. Valkama, a sophomore from Finland, had 12 points last season including 8 goals. Her -2 was the best +/- on the team amongst players that saw action in most/all games.

The Catamounts are losing Dayna Colang this season, which is a big blow to a struggling team. Colang led the Catamounts in goals, assists, points, and shooting percentage. Luckily for Vermont, they were a young team last year and are only losing two seniors: Colang and defender Gina Repaci. Other players will need to step up if UVM wants to seriously compete, especially considering that they lost their top leading scorer.

Vermont has 4 freshmen in their incoming class - three forwards and a goaltender. They also have an incoming transfer from Union College, Melissa Black Catamounts fans should be excited about Canadian forward Eve-Audrey Picard. Picard missed the 2014-15 season due to injury, but she came back full force last season. She spent last season with the Saint-Laurent Patriots and was fifth in the league with 30 points in 23 games. During the 2014 U18 Women's World Championship, Picard had 5 goals in 6 games. Fans should also look out for Allie Granato, niece of both USA Olympian Cammi Granato and Wisconsin hockey coach, Tony Granato.

As with most of the lower ranked teams in Hockey East, matchups against top Hockey East teams like BU, BC, and Northeastern provide the greatest challenges on UVM’s schedule.

"We have been working really hard to identify the type of players who will thrive in our program,” Coach Jim Plumer told uvmathletics.com about the incoming UVM players.

Providence

Providence struggled last year, coming in seventh in Hockey East and winning only 6 games in conference. The Friars had a final record of 10-24-2.

Players to watch during the 2016-17 season include Brooke Boquist, Cassidy Carels, and Christina Putigna. Carels lead the team in points with 29, closely followed by Putigna with 28. Boquist was the Friars’ leading goal scorer, tallying 12 goals in 33 games. Boquist doubled her points from her freshman to sophomore years, and should be an important factor in Providence’s offense.

Providence graduated 5 seniors last season. None of the departures should drastically affect the team, although they will miss the consistency and leadership of the graduated forwards.

Providence’s incoming class includes 7 freshmen. Freshmen to watch for include Meaghan Rickard and Clare Minnerath. Rickard led LaSalle Academy to back-to-back state championships and one undefeated season, and helped Williston Northampton School go undefeated in the regular season as a senior. Minnerath, a goalie, was a finalist for Minnesota Senior Goalie of the Year Award last season. She recorded 7 shutouts and had a GAA of 1.28.

Providence struggled last season, and should continue to be around the middle/bottom of Hockey East next season. Providence had a particularly tough time against Northeastern, BC, and BU last season and those should be difficult matchups for the Friars again this season.

Maine

Maine was the eighth place team in Hockey East last season, with a 10-23-2 record.

Black Bears players that should make an impact this season include Brooke Stacey, Nicole Arnold, and Alyson Matteau. Stacey led Maine with 10 assists last season, and recorded 19 points total. Matteau was the top scoring defender for the Black Bears with 10 points. Half of Matteau’s goals (3 out of 6) were power play tallies. Arnold led Maine in +/- last season and was one of a handful of players to not have a negative (she had a +2 in 35 games). As a freshman, Arnold scored 6 points and had a game winning goal. If she can continue to improve offensively and defensively she could become an important core player for Maine.

Maine’s biggest losses will be Aurora Richards and Meghann Treacy. Treacy, last season’s starting goaltender, had a .921 save percentage despite her losing record. Her 2.64 GAA was significantly lower than Mariah Fujimagari’s 3.99. Richards was Maine’s leading scorer last season with 23 points in 35 games. She also led the team with a .122 shooting percentage and an impressive 44 blocks.

Maine has a whopping 10 incoming freshmen, so this should be another building year for them. They have some interesting international players joining the team that should be fun to watch, including two Czech players. Tereza Vanisova and Vendula Pribylova both hail from the Czech Republic, where they have represented their country in multiple U18 World Championships. Both women played on men’s teams in the Czech Republic.

In addition to many tough Hockey East matchups, UNH will face a challenge when they head to Quinnipiac in October to take on the Bobcats.

Merrimack

Merrimack won only 3 Hockey East games last season, putting them in last place. Their overall record was 5-26-3, but it is important to remember that they are a new team.

Merrimack’s top players to watch were all freshmen last year. Merrimack is a new team with younger players and they should improve a bit as their team ages up. Paige Voight, Katelyn Rae, and Paige Sorensen are all players to watch in particular. Voight led the team with 19 points, while Rae and Sorensen each had 18. Sorensen was the team’s assists leader with 11.

All of Merrimack’s top players are returning this season, which bodes well for their ability to improve. The Warriors will likely remain at the bottom of the pack as they continue to develop the team, but they should look better this season.

Merrimack’s 5 incoming freshmen could see significant ice time if they impress early in the season. Warriors fans should look out for Mikyla Grant-Mentis, a freshman forward. Grant-Mentis played in the PWHL and was second on her team in goals, assists, and points. During the 2015-16 PWHL Championship she had 6 goals and 6 assists in 11 games. Her father, James Mentis, was a top Canadian ball hockey player.

As a new team that struggled last year, no game will be easy for the Warriors. Like many Hockey East teams, Merrimack will face Quinnipiac this season, which will be a particularly challenging game.