2018-19 NCAA Preview: ECAC

Last season

The ECAC is probably the second-strongest conference in women’s hockey. Clarkson won the National Championship, making the Golden Knights back-to-back National Champions. It was their third title overall.

In the regular season, Clarkson and Colgate tied for first with 38 points and a record of 19-3, each. Colgate had been on the rise as of the past few seasons, and the 2017-18 season was definitely a breakout season for ‘Gate. Cornell hung with the two other “C” colleges all season finishing third in the conference with 32 points and a record of 15-5-2. St. Lawrence rounded out the top four, and the ECAC tournament.

In the tournament, Colgate and Clarkson faced off in the finals what would end up being a preview of the National Championship game. Clarkson overpowered, winning 3-0. Players from the Potsdam, NY team took all but one of the All-Tournament team spots — with Jessie Eldridge being the lone Colgate representative.

Colgate’s season earned them not only an at-large bid for the National Tournament but also a coveted ranking — 3. For their first trip to the tournament, it was big doings. They skated passed Northeastern in the first round then shocked many when they beat Wisconsin in the Frozen Four, proving that teams outside the “Big 4” can hang. This set up an all ECAC final as Clarkson defeated Mercyhurst and Ohio State en route.

The National Championship game went to overtime — the fourth game of the tournament to do so — before Clarkson prevailed, 2 - 1.

Top team predictions

At the end of last season, the picture wasn’t quite as clear as to who would take the top spot. Clarkson was set to lose a lot of talent: goaltender Shea Tiley and Savannah Harmon among them. And, then Kassidy Sauvé transferred to Clarkson for her final year of NCAA eligibility. That added some color to Clarkson’s picture for the 2018-19 season. They also added Taylar Cianfarano from Quinnipiac, a strong forward who puts up a lot of points.

Also, as Grant Salzano points out, Clarkson’s returning a strong team, with 140 of their 158 goals coming back. Look for sophomore Elizabeth Giguere and senior Loren Gabel to standout again.

One downfall for Clarkson is their lack of Olympians. While the National Team players aren’t the end all be all — and they did win the 2016-17 National Championship in a league where many teams had National Team members — the returning crop of players on other teams is especially strong.

Dark horse

Can the third place team last season, Cornell, be a dark horse? Or the National Championship runner ups, Colgate? Yes? Well, let’s call them the teams to watch this season.

Cornell is posed to have a breakout season, similar to Colgate’s last year. They return a strong team and also add back Micah Zandee-Hart, after she took last season off to centralize with Team Canada before being cut. Don’t sleep on the Big Red (Andy Bernard wouldn’t be too happy) and also don’t forgot because they’re an Ivy they won’t start play until Oct. 13 and 14 with two exhibitions.

Colgate, well Colgate is a team to watch this season because it will be interesting to see how they do after last season. They finished last season in the two spot in the USCHO poll, which was deserved after their season and their play in the tournament. But they dropped down to sixth this season. They graduated a decent chunk of their team as well, so it will definitely be interesting to watch them.

Five players to watch

Kassidy Sauvé, graduate student, Clarkson

As mentioned before, Sauvé transferred to Clarkson (from Ohio State) for her final year of eligibility. She fills Shea Tiley’s crease and will do a darn good job of it. Sauvé’s intentions are to continue her hockey career in Canada and the last few goaltenders for Clarkson have proved that tending their net is a great way to do so.

Loren Gabel, senior, Clarkson

Gabel was a Top-3 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier last season. Her point totals have only gone up over her first three years: 27, 42, 75. She tied for second in the league in scoring last season.

Élizabeth Giguère, sophomore, Clarkson

Last season, Giguere made a huge impact on Clarkson and the NCAA in general. Her 71 points put in fourth overall at the end of the season, not just amongst freshman but of all players. She only trailed the two tied for second — teammate Loren Gabel and BC’s Caitrin Longeran — by four points. Her 27 goals put her at sixth overall last season as well. Oh and she scored the winning goal in overtime of the National Championship game.

Micah Zandee-Hart, junior, Cornell

Zandee-Hart is back at Cornell after being gone last season as a late cut from Team Canada ahead of the Olympics. She’s a point-making defender. In her first two seasons, she notched 34 points in 62 games. She sees a lot of time on special teams as well, as part of both the power play and penalty kill units. Gaining Zandee-Hart back will definitely be a boost for Cornell.

Jessie Eldridge, senior, Colgate

Eldridge will wear the C for her final season at Colgate. At the end of last season, Eldridge proved to be clutch for the Raiders. She scored her first career hat trick in the ECAC semi finals before scoring with one second left to send Colgate to their first ECAC Championship game. She led the nation in game winning goals at eight, and led her team in goals (22) and points (45).