This season, Hockey East adds a 10th team: Holy Cross. The four-year college is based in Worcester, Mass., and will play on their campus.
Boston College pretty much ran away from the conference during the regular season, amassing 41 points to the next-highest 29 of Providence College. Maine was a solid third, followed by Northeastern, University of New Hampshire, Boston University, UConn, Vermont, and Merrimack to round out the standings.
When it came to the playoffs, though, it was a bit of a different story. No. 7 UConn topped No. 1 BC in the semifinals, while No. 4 Northeastern beat No. 3 Maine to set up a 7 v 4 WHE championship. Northeastern went on to win their first Hockey East tournament win.
The conference win earned Northeastern a berth in the National Championship Tournament, while BC gained an at-large bid and the fourth ranking. Both teams fell in the first round, with Northeastern losing to Colgate and BC shockingly losing to Ohio State to end the Hockey East season.
Top team predictions
It goes without saying, Boston College is still the top team in Hockey East.
Let’s start with their captains: Makenna Newkirk, Kali Flanagan, and Megan Keller. Newkirk had 61 points last season, putting her at seventh in the nation. She stepped up on a team that was definitely hurt by Olympic centralization. Flanagan is one of the most underrated players in college hockey, perhaps because she’s a defender — though her new Olympic gold medal has certainly put a spotlight on her. Then there’s Megan Keller who is, well, Megan Keller. Need we say more about her?
Returning is Caitrin Lonergan, who made a name for herself last season. She had 75 points last season, tying for second in the nation. Of course, reigning Patty Kazmaier winner Daryl Watts is back for her sophomore season. Add in Cayla Barnes, who will restart her freshman year after being a late call up to the US Olympic team, and the Eagles could possibly soar to new heights this season.
The one question: their goaltending. Who will fill the large hole Katie Burt left in the crease?
Northeastern is posed to be extremely interesting this season, due in large part to the freshmen they added: Swiss phenom Alina Müller and French national team player Chloé Aurard. Müller has proved herself on the international stage already as a two-time Olympian. In 2014, she won silver with Switzerland, becoming the youngest player to ever medal at the Games. She scored seven goals this past Olympics. Aurard’s French National Team played their way up to win a promotion for 2019 to the Division I Group A at Worlds this spring. Aurard was a point-per-game player in the 2018 tournament.
The Huskies split their crease last season between now-senior Brittany Bugalski and now-sophomore Aerin Frankel, after Bugalski struggled a bit. Frankel excelled and was named MVP of the Hockey East Championships.
Five players to watch
Alina Müller, freshman, Northeastern University
Müller is pretty much always a player to watch whenever she steps on the ice. She scored four goals in one Olympic game! But it will really be interesting to watch her play in Hockey East, where she’ll face off against the likes of Boston College’s Cayla Barnes (see below), Daryl Watts (also, see below), and other Team USA Olympians. Since Switzerland is in Group B, we’ve yet to see how she fares against most of those players, but bet on her continuing to stand out ... and only get better.
Cayla Barnes, freshman, Boston College
Barnes was a last-minute addition to Team USA’s Olympic camp, so she will be restarting her freshman year of college this season. The 19-year-old defender excelled at the U-18 level and played well at the Olympics. Paired frequently with veteran Kacey Bellamy, Barnes had no problem adjusting to game play. Joined by fellow Team USA Olympians Keller and Flanagan, Barnes should fit in well and help bolster a crazy-talented BC team.
Daryl Watts, sophomore, BC
Speaking of a crazy-talented BC team ...
Last season, Watts flew onto the college hockey scene. She became the first freshman to ever win the Patty Kaz Award. She had 42 goals and 40 assists for 82 points in 32 game, leading the nation in goals and points. She was on Canada’s U-22 Series team. Before she started at BC she won two silver medals at U-18 Worlds. There’s honestly no telling what Watts will do.
Natalie Snodgrass, sophomore, UConn
Sophomore Snodgrass is probably overlooked in Hockey East, considering who she’s up against and the fact that she plays for UConn. But she’s one to watch among the future of women’s hockey and Team USA. She’s a two-time gold medalist at U-18 Worlds. The Minnesota native had 38 points in 38 games as a freshman, leading the Huskies. She was most recently named the U-22 Series team.
Jesse Compher, sophomore, Boston University
Like Snodgrass, Compher could easily get overlooked in a stacked Hockey East. But the sophomore at Boston University is definitely one to watch. Her resume looks similar to Snodgrass’ in international play, having also been a member of the two-time gold medal-winning Team USA at U-18 Worlds. She was also on the U-22 Series team. She had 26 points in 37 games last season.
Five series to watch
BC at UMD — Sept. 28 – 29
The first weekend of play features a non-conference match up between Hockey East and WCHA. Also, it’ll be mighty fun to see Maddie Rooney square up against her Team USA teammates.
Holy Cross v BC — Oct. 26
Here’s the first chance to see the newest Hockey East member in conference play at home. It is slightly unfortunate it’s against BC, but it’s a good moment for Holy Cross nonetheless.
UConn v BC — Nov. 1
The Eagles have long struggled the most against UConn. Plus add in Snodgrass who had a fantastic freshman season, and this will be a fun game to watch.
Northeastern v BC — Nov. 27
This is our first chance to see Müller and Aurard take on the numerous Team USA players of Boston College. The conference matchup is at the (historic) Matthews Arena, a much smaller, more intimate venue than the BC’s home, Conte Forum.
Beanpot — Feb. 5 and 12
The best Tuesdays of the year are Beanpot Tuesdays! This year’s tournament is hosted by Harvard. BU will take on Northeastern and Harvard will play BC in the first round.