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2019-20 NCAA Preview: CHA

Will Syracuse repeat as CHA champions?

Justin Berl

How Last Season Went

Last season, Robert Morris University landed at the top of the CHA standings with 29 points in 36 games played. They led the conference in goals for with 92. Mercyhurst was close behind with 26 points, followed by Syracuse, then Penn State, RIT, and finally Lindenwood, who won only seven of their 33 games played.

In spite of their third-place finish in the standings, Syracuse swept the CHA tournament and won their first ever CHA championship title, advancing to the NCAA tournament, where they lost in the first round against eventual NCAA Champions Wisconsin.

Top Team Predictions

Robert Morris retains their two top scorers from last season — senior Jaycee Gebhard, a Team Canada prospect, and sophomore Lexi Templeman. However, their top defender and third-highest scorer from last season, Maggie LaGue, has graduated (and will play in the PWHPA’s Dunkin’ showcase next month). That being said, goaltender Arielle DeSmet had a .920 SV% in her 10 games last season, and Team Canada prospect goalie Raygan Kirk is joining the team, so although RMU may suffer the loss of LaGue, they can still be counted on to end up near the top of the CHA standings.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 12
Mercyhurst senior Emma Nuutinen brings extensive international experience to the table.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Mercyhurst likely isn’t going anywhere, either. Senior and Team Finland Olympian Emma Nuutinen led the team in scoring last season, and she, along with Mecryhursts’s second-highest-scoring forward Summer-Rae Dobson, figure to only increase their point totals this year.

Dark Horse Team

Penn State appears to be poised on the edge of a couple potentially franchise-altering seasons. Their leading scorer from last season, Natalie Heising, has totaled 28 points in each of her first two seasons and will likely only improve in her junior year. Jenna Brenneman put up an impressive .927 SV% in her first season as a starting goaltender after transferring from Clarkson to Penn State last season, and if she can continue that trend the team should be able to play confidently in front of her.

They’re also retaining Team Sweden’s Jessica Adolfsson, who played three full seasons in Sweden’s senior professional women’s league (SDHL) with Brynäs IF and Djurgårdens IF. Her experience playing against older and more experienced women will certainly help her become a leader for Penn State over the rest of her NCAA career, whether or not that shows up on a stats sheet.

5 Players To Watch

Raygan Kirk

Raygan Kirk is a huge add for RMU this coming season. Her final year of club hockey, she had a staggering .961 SV%, and she has already won a gold medal with Team Canada’s u18 team, where she stopped 25 of 27 shots and was named the tournament MVP. If she can put up some solid numbers for RMU over the next few seasons, there’s no reason that she shouldn’t figure in Team Canada’s plans for the future.

Emma Nuutinen

Nuutinen enters her senior year with two Olympic games and a World Championship silver medal under her belt. She had 28 points in 30 games last season, and with the experience and confidence that she’s gained, she can likely be expected to meet or surpass that total this year.

Jaycee Gebhard

RMU senior Jaycee Gebhard set a program record last season with 51 points, eclipsing Brittany Howard’s 2015-2016 totals for both points and assists. She was shooting at a whopping 15.2% and if she continues on this way she’ll probably top RMU’s career scoring list (which would break another of Howard’s records). She led the NCAA in points scored on the powerplay and won almost 60% of her faceoffs. I’m fairly comfortable saying she’s the most dominant player in the conference.

United States v Sweden - 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship
Jessica Adolfsson has competed internationally with Sweden from the U18 level on up.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Jessica Adolfsson

Adolfsson is a 21-year-old sophomore with legitimate senior hockey experience at a league and international level. Though she only notched 12 points in her 35 games last season, her impact on the team and on the game is still significant. She was named to the CHA All-Rookie team and ranked third in freshman CHA defenders in scoring last season. Four of her goals came on the power play and she blocked 57 shots in her first NCAA season. Look for her to continue along those trends in her second season, potentially scoring even more.

Abby Moloughney

Sophomore Abby Moloughney was tied for second in scoring for last year’s Syracuse team with 22 goals, behind only Allie Munroe. Syracuse is losing both Munroe (to Djurgårdens IF) and Avery (to the Metropolitan Riveters), so Moloughney will very likely lead the team in scoring this season if she keeps it up. She was on the All-CHA Rookie team, the CHA All-Tournament team, and led the team in powerplay goals.

Abby Moloughney is the underdog Syracuse’s brightest star.
Cuse.com

5 Series To Watch

Sept. 28, 2019 - Syracuse v. Clarkson: Nothing but fun can be had when you pit two of the most physical NCAA teams against each other. Syracuse did not beat Clarkson last season, but they did take a Clarkson team with Loren Gabel on it to overtime, so you never know.

Oct. 11, 2019 - RMU v. Minnesota: RMU figures to top the CHA standings again this year, and Minnesota is, as usual, absolutely stacked. It’s always fun to see how the best team in one conference stacks up against the best team in another, and this might very well be that game.

Dec. 6, 2019 - Mercyhurst v. RMU: What will likely be a #1 vs. #2 or #2 vs. #1 showdown, and therefore a must-watch. ‘Hurst and Robert Morris have the most complete rosters in the conference, so this game will be a great matchup.

Jan. 10, 2020 - Lindenwood v. Penn State: Lindenwood may not climb the standings at all this year, but it will be interesting to see this matchup regardless. If Penn State is really on the up and up, they need to be able to pull off a convincing win, but Lindenwood might surprise them—and you.

Jan. 10, 2020 - Mercyhurst v. Syracuse: This is going to be a big day. As good as Mercyhurst was last season, they really struggled with Syracuse in the second half of the season (and in the postseason, where they lost 4-3). Syracuse had some notable graduating seniors last season, so Mercyhurst will be looking to get even, especially with the postseason looming.

How to Watch

CHA has its own streaming website, CHA Digital Network.