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Cult classics: The NCAA’s fall tournaments

The Country, Nutmeg, and Windjammer Classics are coming up fast, and we’ve got your one stop shop for all things NCAA fall tournaments

Maddie Rooney, Minnesota Duluth Al Saniuk

It’s November, and you know what that means: time for some good, old-fashioned tournament-style play in the NCAA. While these games aren’t likely to boost a team’s position in the standings too much, it’s still a fun opportunity for out-of-conference opponents to meet ahead of the postseason — and for players to face off against their old teams.

Country Classic

The first ever Country Classic in Nashville, Tenn., will bring together two teams from the East Coast - Boston College (HEA) and Harvard (ECAC) - and two teams from the WCHA - Minnesota, Wisconsin. The weekend isn’t a tournament, per se, as there won’t be championship or consolation games, but rather a collection of games in neutral territory between teams who rarely meet.

It will be the first and only time this season that Wisconsin junior Daryl Watts will face her old team, the Boston College Eagles. At the rate both teams are going, Saturday’s match-up is one you won’t want to miss. Despite the Eagles having lost three of their last five games — they fell twice at the hands of UConn, and were shutout by #4 Northeastern — the team has thrived with superstar underclassmen like Hannah Bilka and Kelly Browne, both of whom are in Hockey East’s top five for scoring.

Meanwhile, Harvard enters the weekend hoping to hit the refresh button after two straight losses to non-conference teams. The Crimson sit in a four-way tie for fifth place despite playing the second fewest number of conference games. That being said, they have the highest goals per game average — 5.00 — and are led in scoring by Anne Bloomer and Kristin Della Rovere. Though the Country Classic will be a non-conference match-up for all teams, Harvard is still looking to rebound from its last couple of losses. It’ll be a tough go-around for them with their first match-up against a red hot Wisconsin.

Minnesota is arguably the hottest team coming into the tournament. After downing Wisconsin at the beginning of the month, the Golden Gophers have won or tied every single game — both against conference rivals and in their D-I/D-III match-up with Hamline. From every angle, the team is thriving; a productive offense combined with a steadfast and reliable defense, backed by one of the most solid goalies in the WCHA, makes Minnesota a formidable opponent and the team to beat in the Country Classic.

Coming into the tournament on a four game win streak is Wisconsin, who has taken every game handily since their shootout loss to Minnesota. Granted, the teams Wisconsin has faced are at the bottom of the conference standings, so their schedule has provided them a slight advantage heading into the tournament, but a win is a win and Wisconsin is definitely rolling. Watts, who currently leads the WCHA in scoring, looks to bring her point streak to five games as she heads into the tournament.

Country Classic Schedule

Date Time Teams How to watch
Date Time Teams How to watch
Fri., Nov. 29 1:00 PM CST Boton College vs. Minnesota Listen
Fri. Nov. 29 4:30 PM CST Harvard vs. Wisconsin No stream available
Sat., Nov. 30 1:00 PM CST Boston College vs. Wisconsin No stream available
Sat. Nov. 30 4:30 PM CST Harvard vs. Minnesota Listen

Update: All four games will be live streamed on LiveBarn.com. Use “ford-pred” to get a 10 percent discount.

Nutmeg Classic

The 16th annual Nutmeg Classic descends upon Hamden, Conn., once more and features teams from three different conferences: Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA), Yale and Quinnipiac (ECAC), and UConn (Hockey East). The weekend is set up with conference-style play, with the winners of Friday’s match-up meeting in a championship game Saturday afternoon.

Minnesota-Duluth skids into the weekend with only one win (a 3x3 overtime thriller vs. in-state rival Minnesota) in the past four games. They’re ranked fourth in the WCHA, bolstered largely in part by USA Hockey products Gabbie Hughes and Sydney Brodt, and the spectacular goaltending of Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney. Minnesota-Duluth will face Quinnipiac on Friday, and the fate of their match-up will decide the rest of the weekend for the team.

Yale’s senior goaltender Tera Hofmann has dominated the ECAC so far this season, allowing the third fewest goals against (8) and posting a fairly solid win percentage over her six total games (.667). The rest of the team hasn’t fared as well, getting shutout twice in the last three games (all losses) to conference rivals. With formidable opponents in goal, the Bulldogs’ offense is really going to have to get going this weekend to have a bid at the Nutmeg Classic Championship.

Meanwhile, Quinnipiac has fared remarkably well for a team that began the month with a five game losing streak. The Bobcats managed to shut out St. Lawrence and draw #7 Clarkson in their last two appearances, gaining them valuable points in the conference standings. All of their players sit just out of the top five in almost every statistic — Sarah Coutu-Godbout comes in tied for eighth in goals scored (6), but ranks fourth in shots (52); Lexie Adzija is ranked ninth in points (12).

UConn currently sits with a slight edge in the three-way tie for third place in Hockey East conference standings due to a scheduling quirk that has them playing only nine games to BU’s 10 and New Hampshire’s 12. The Huskies have fared well in their last six games, winning four and tying a fifth against Vermont. Junior and USA Hockey product Natalie Snodgrass sits just out of range of the top five scoring leaders, with 16 points to her name. She also ranks second in shots on goal with 77 to Alina Mueller’s 85.

Nutmeg Classic Schedule

Date Time Teams How to watch
Date Time Teams How to watch
Fri., Nov. 29 1:00 PM EST UConn vs. Yale Watch
Fri., Nov. 29 4:00 PM EST Minnesota Duluth vs. Quinnipiac Watch
Sat., Nov. 30 1:00 PM EST Consolation Game Watch
Sat., Nov. 30 4:00 PM EST Championship Game Watch

All four games will be streamed on ESPN+.
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Windjammer Classic

The Windjammer Classic, hosted by Vermont, is the only tournament this season to feature teams from all different conferences. Minnesota State (WCHA) meets Clarkson (ECAC) and Penn State (CHA) squares off with Vermont (Hockey East) on Friday, each in a bid for the championship game on Saturday.

Minnesota State enters the tournament near the bottom of their conference standings, with only two wins (both against St. Cloud State) and two ties (both against Ohio State) under their belts. Despite being outscored 15-5 in their last four games, freshman Kelsey King leads charge for the Mavericks, with 12 points in 16 games. Despite allowing 40 goals, Minnesota State’s defense has been dominating, with Mavericks defenders securing three of the top five spots in shot blocks. With everything said and done, it’s still going to be a tough go around for the team’s defense what with their match-up against Clarkson on the tournament’s first day.

The Clarkson Golden Knights, as many women’s college hockey fans are aware, have dominated the scoresheet in the ECAC since the beginning of the season. Though they’re currently ranked #7 nationally, they sit in the #2 spot in their conference and boast three of the conference’s points leaders. Clarkson is backstopped by Marie-Pier Coulombe, who has had a quietly impressive season thus far, with a .938 save percentage and a 1.43 goals against average. Despite beating Mercyhurst twice, the Golden Knights lost to Princeton and tied Quinnipiac, both teams who have struggled throughout this season.

Things are not looking too hot for the Nittany Lions, who have lost five of their last six games and have only nine goals to their name over that period. Despite a somewhat lacking offense, Penn State is third in the CHA behind Mercyhurst and Robert Morris. In terms of individual stats, goaltender Chantal Burke is second in save percentage and has a goals against average of 1.98. There are very few offensive standouts for Penn State at this point in the season, with a trio of players coming in at the 8 point mark.

Coming into the weekend’s tournament with three losses and a tie to their name is Vermont, whose defense, though fairly solid, could use some work. Over the past ten games, the Catamounts have allowed 27 goals, which is roughly the average for their 8th place spot in the standings. Finnish import and defender Sini Karjalainen is tied with UConn’s Snodgrass for sixth place in scoring, and boasts a remarkable 8 points on the powerplay. Karjalainen is the most offensively productive defender in Hockey East, topping even Boston College’s Cayla Barnes by one point.

Windjammer Classic Schedule

Date Time Teams How to watch
Date Time Teams How to watch
Fri., Nov. 29 1:00 PM EST Minnesota State vs. Clarkson Watch
Fri., Nov. 29 4:00 PM EST Penn State vs. Vermont Watch
Sat., Nov. 30 1:00 PM EST Consolation Game Watch
Sat. Nov. 30 4:00 PM EST Championship Game Watch