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NCAA Fantasy Hockey T-minus one week: Exhibitions coming!

It’s kind-of hockey, and it’s almost here!

Lake Louise Pond Hockey Classic Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Final rosters for the Ice Garden’s NCAA Fantasy Women’s Hockey league are due by midnight Eastern Time Sept. 28 to tigFantasyHockey@gmail.com, so this week we’ll take a look at any last-minute information you might want to use to update your team. Remember, once the league starts, you’re limited to one trade a week!

With the season rapidly approaching, there are two more opportunities to evaluate your selections: the Canadian and American national team selection camps, and the round of exhibition games that are due to happen next weekend.

National camps

Both the USA and Canada traditionally run end-of-summer national team camps to select the national team for the coming year, to compete in Four Nations in November and the World Championship in April. (There’s often a little roster turnover from one tournament to the other.) For NCAA players, the selections to camp often don’t bear a close relationship to how the players have done in the previous NCAA season; selections are made on the basis of stats, but also the eye test, how the player has performed in previous camps, coach-to-coach relationships, and so on.

USA National Team Evaluation Camp

There were 38 players invited to the National Team Evaluation Camp and 15 NCAA players (apart from those who are already on the national team, who are known quantities). You can get the entire roster here. On the cost spreadsheet, I’ve highlighted in blue the players invited to camp who weren’t on the 2017-18 senior national team at some point. I won’t list them all here, but the selectors clearly feel that Natalie Buchbinder (Wisconsin, fantasy cost 12.9 points) and Sydney Brodt (Minnesota-Duluth, 17.1 points) have serious upside. The selection of Claire DeGeorge (Bemidji, 23.3 points) is intriguing as well — forwards on weaker teams in the WCHA often struggle to score, and maybe they think DeGeorge will flourish in a more open game, or maybe they think she has a good year coming. At the top of the list for overlooked US players are Makenna Newkirk (BC), Olivia Zafuto (Colgate), and Justine Reyes (St. Lawrence), who may be even more motivated this year to prove the selectors wrong.

USA Hockey didn’t provide stats or post updates from national camp, so we don’t know how any of the NCAA players did. Do better, USA Hockey!

Whatever the opposite of ‘questions in net’ is

Emma Polusny from St. Cloud State is the only NCAA goalie, other than Maddie Rooney, invited to USA camp. She was a freshman at St. Cloud last year and played more games towards the end of the season than at the start, ending with about 58% of team minutes played. Ordinarily this would make it seem like she was positioned to be a full starter next season ... but in this case the other St. Cloud goalie is Janine Alder, the Swiss National team’s backup goalie, and the reason Polusny started so many games in February is that Alder was playing in the Olympics. Good news for St. Cloud! But bad news for any fantasy manager who’s hoping to see an uptick in minutes for either goalie next season. It seems a good bet that Polusny will see a ton of minutes in her senior year after Alder graduates, though, so store that information away for 2020-21. And watch the first few St. Cloud games to see if one goalie is getting the majority of the time.

Canadian National Team Fall Festival

There were 52 players invited to the Canadian Fall Festival (roster here), and as with the US, 15 of them are NCAA players who weren’t on the senior team. I’ve highlighted those players in red on the costs spreadsheet. Four of those are available for less than 20 points, if you think the Canadian selectors know something the FACTS don’t: Kati Tabin (Quinnipiac, 16.4 points), Emma Buckles (Harvard, 16.4), Allie Munroe (Syracuse, 17.3), and Ève-Audrey Picard (Vermont, 19.3).

Unlike the US, the Canadians published play-by-plays from all the games in the festival. The players of interest to us who scored were:

  • Sarah Fillier (Princeton, 2G 1A)
  • Jaime Bourbonnais (Cornell, 1G 1A)
  • Loren Gabel (Clarkson), Emma Maltais (OSU), Allie Munroe (Syracuse), Sarah Potomak (Minnesota), Josiane Pozzebon (Clarkson), Sophie Shirley (Wisconsin), Kati Tabin (Quinnipiac) — all 1A

This seems to have been a breakout performance for Fillier, who’s probably worth your consideration at a cost of 25 points. Note that Princeton’s first competitive game isn’t till Oct. 19, so you may consider trading for her the previous week. Princeton also have an exhibition against Kunlun Red Star on Oct. 7 — watch for signs of stardom from Fillier in that one.

The strangest oversight from the Canadian roster is surely Elizabeth Giguere, a rising sophomore at Clarkson. You can’t look at her heroic overtime effort to win Clarkson the national championship and tell me she failed the eye test. Giguere, like Newkirk and Zafuto from the US side, is going into this year with something to prove.

National camp implications

The Four Nations Cup runs Tuesday Nov. 6 to Saturday Nov. 10, so NCAA players selected for the US, Canada, Finland, or Sweden national teams will not play that weekend — missing any games their team has scheduled and so playing fewer games this year than their team as a whole. Of course, the Four Nations Cup has been scheduled for quite some time, and as a result, none of the big four teams (BC, Clarkson, Minnesota, Wisconsin) have scheduled any games for that weekend either. The US and Canadian rosters will probably be announced at the end of the camps, with the Finnish and Swedish rosters probably coming closer to the tournament. I’ll provide an update when we have more information, but right now the players who might be at greatest risk to miss NCAA games for Four Nations include Fillier (Canada, Princeton), Bourbonnais (Canada, Cornell), Dunne (USA, OSU), Maltais (Canada, OSU), and Vilma Tanskanen and Emma Nuutinen (Finland, Mercyhurst).

Nostalgia corner: In 2014, the first Four Nations after the previous Olympics ended on Saturday, and BC were playing a very good Vermont team on Sunday. Somehow, BC’s Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa, Dana Trivigno, Emily Pfalzer, and Megan Keller, and Vermont’s Amanda Pelkey, won Four Nations in the mountains of British Columbia on Saturday and then flew through the night to arrive at BC in time for the Sunday game, which BC won 4-2 despite some players looking a little tired. And that weekend BC learned a very important scheduling lesson.

Exhibitions

The coming weekend’s games are all here, and all exhibitions; in other words they don’t count for the rankings. In general there are two kinds of exhibitions: exhibitions against mid-ranking Canadian university teams — and occasionally high school teams — that don’t teach us much; and exhibitions against NWHL or CWHL teams, which are considerably more interesting. In the latter category, this weekend we have:

  • Boston Pride (NWHL) v Northeastern - Saturday
  • Minnesota Whitecaps (NWHL) v Minnesota-Duluth - Saturday
  • Markham Thunder (CWHL) v Mercyhurst - Saturday
  • KRS Vanke Rays (CWHL) v UConn - Saturday
  • KRS Vanke Rays (CWHL) v Colgate - Sunday

Low-cost players who score well in those games are worth considering. It’ll also be a good opportunity for star goalies Aerin Frankel (NU), Rooney (UMD), and Julia Vandyk (Colgate) to kick off the rust, and perhaps more interesting — since coaches often give all their goalies a period in goal in the exhibitions, no matter what the opposition — a chance to see how much the loss of their stellar senior class has made Colgate take a step back.

Also in action against less strong teams are Minnesota State, Penn State, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, St. Cloud State, and Union (Saturday); RIT, RPI, and Minnesota (Sunday); and St. Lawrence (Tuesday). In these lower-prestige games, you may be able to work out if a lower-scoring player from last year will be on a line with higher-powered players this year, but frankly my experience of these games is that you learn virtually nothing about who’ll be good in the coming season.

Housekeeping

Thank you to all of you who’ve submitted a team so far. I will not be making any of the teams public until after the Sept. 28 deadline, because if a manager has a particular pick they’ve arrived at through their own research, it’s not fair to draw attention to it. Please continue to join, and if you’ve already submitted a team, feel free to change it any time up to the deadline.

To submit a team, send the following to tigFantasyHockey@gmail.com:

  • Team Name
  • Manager Name (real or fake; you can ask not to have this published if you prefer; you may include Twitter handle)
  • Team picks (no more than $600 cost total per the cost sheet; no more than three players from any school)

After the first weekend of proper games, it may take me a day or two to get the spreadsheet going so it properly updates — this is because some of the raw data I’ll need won’t be available on the stats site until the games have actually been played. I’ll ask for your patience in advance on this one. My experience with (smaller, private) leagues in past seasons has been that Google Sheets has been robust and the Hockey East stats site has been reliable, so we should be able to overcome any teething issues and everything should be running automatically once the Ivies have played their first games in mid-October, if not before.