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2020-21 NCAA Preview: Hockey East, part 2

How will Northeastern, Boston University, Providence, and Boston College fare this year?

Michelle Jay

Part two of our Hockey East season preview looks at the tops who finished in the top-four in last year’s conference standings.

Northeastern

Key Losses:

  • Matti Hartman, F: Notched 20 points as a senior last year and took on a good bulk of the faceoff work for the Huskies.
  • Codie Cross, D: Really solid D for the Huskies who put up 4 goals and 16 assists, to go along with a team-leading 74 blocks.
  • Paige Capistran, D: Capistran was a strong middle-pair D for Northeastern, tallying 11 assists last year.

Key Returners:

  • Alina Müller, Junior, F: Practically a lock for a Patty Kaz nomination year in and year out, she put up 27 goals, 39 assists, and 66 points in 38 games last year to lead the Huskies and Hockey East.
  • Chloé Aurard, Junior, F: The second half of Northeastern’s two-headed monster; she scored 21 goals, 28 assists, and 49 points as a sophomore.
  • Mia Brown, Junior, F: Had a strong sophomore season with 11 goals and 28 points, good for fourth on the team.
  • Katy Knoll, Sophomore, F: Jumped right into the offensive mix as a rookie, putting up 10 goals and 26 assists.
  • Jess Schryver, Sophomore, F: Ended the season on the Huskies’ top line and totaled 25 points as a rookie.
  • Veronika Pettey, Senior, F: Had a bit of a down year statistically but was still reliable offensively as a junior with 18 points.
  • Skylar Fontaine, Senior, D: An elite defender, she finished third on the team in scoring with 42 points from the blue line.
  • Brooke Hobson, Senior, D: Notched 15 points last season and a great complementary D to Fontaine.
  • Aerin Frankel, Junior, G: Arguably the best goaltender in the country last season, posting a .958 save percentage, 1.07 goals-against average, and 10 shutouts.

Season Outlook:

There’s almost no doubt that Northeastern is the team to beat in Hockey East; they’ll for sure see plenty of competition, but to me there’s a pretty clear line between the Huskies and the rest of the field (arguably nationally as well, not just within their conference). They have truly elite players in every role; there’s a very, very strong case to be made that Müller, Fontaine, and Frankel are the best hands down in the NCAA at their respective positions. Northeastern is coming off a three-peat of Hockey East Tournament championships, and they looked poised to bring home even more hardware in March before the NCAA Tournament was called off; they were my favorite to win it all.

The Huskies lose three important pieces to graduation, but with the depth and talent they have remaining on the roster, they should be able to absorb those losses relatively easily. Their top line can beat anybody, and they’ve got plenty of scoring behind Müller and Aurard, too. And they’re adding Maureen Murphy to the mix, a dominant goal-scorer who’s transferring in from Providence. They’re a dominant team that controls play heavily, and I expect we’ll see more of the same this season as they look to defend their Hockey East title.

Boston University

Key Losses:

  • Sammy Davis, F: Led the team with 17 goals, 24 assists, and 41 points as a senior.
  • Deziray De Sousa, F: A really solid secondary scorer, De Sousa turned in 8 goals and 20 points last season.
  • Natasza Tarnowski, F: Similar to De Sousa, Tarnowski was a really strong depth option for BU last season and chipped in 13 points.
  • Abby Cook, D: Led the defense in scoring and finished third overall on the squad with 30 points.
  • Abbey Stanley, D: Experienced defender with good possession skills who chipped in 9 points last season.
  • Breanna Scarpaci, D: Another important piece on the blue line; she led the team with 75 blocked shots.

Key Returners:

  • Jesse Compher, Senior, F: A truly elite forward option for BU. Missed the start of last season due to injury but posted 13 goals and 29 points in 26 games.
  • Nara Elia, Senior, F: Had a breakout junior campaign to finish second on the squad with 30 points.
  • Kristina Schuler, Senior, F: Finished her sophomore year with 21 points and gave the Terriers very good depth up the middle, winning 55.6% of her draws.
  • Julia Nearis, Sophomore, F: Put up 12 goals and 16 points for a very solid rookie performance.
  • Nadia Mattivi, Sophomore, D: As a freshman, ranked second among BU defenders with 13 points and finished with 40 blocks.
  • Corinne Schroeder, Junior, G: Put up a stellar performance in net as a sophomore, with a .943 save percentage and 1.54 GAA.

Season Outlook:

I had high hopes for the Terriers last season; I thought they had all the makings of a true dark-horse national contender. They were competitive all year long, but things didn’t pan out quite that way in the postseason. There’s reason for optimism this season but one major obstacle will be overcoming their losses on the backend. BU graduated five of their eight D, leaving them without much depth returning, but first-years Andi Calderone and Tamara Giaquinto should help right away.

Offensively, it hurts to lose Davis and some great secondary scorers in Tarnowski and De Sousa, but the Terriers still have a dynamic scoring threat in Compher to lead the way. Elia proved to be a consistent scoring option last season and the Terriers return a good amount of depth scoring; they’re also adding Catherine Foulem, who brings lots of skill and potential, and Lacey Martin, who’s been in the mix for USA Hockey’s U18 Select camps. They’re set in net, with Schroeder playing lights-out hockey and Kate Stuart a very capable back-up. Overall, they’ll need some adjusting, but I really like BU’s make-up this year.

Providence

Key Losses:

  • Maureen Murphy, F: Only skated in 11 games last season, but she’s been a top-notch goal-scorer throughout her career and had 7 goals and 11 points in 2019-20.
  • Meaghan Rickard, F: Finished fourth in scoring with 20 points (8 goals and 12 assists).
  • Neve Van Pelt, F: One of the team’s best faceoff options, winning 290 or 51% of her draws.
  • Whitney Dove, D: Led the team with 19 assists and finished second overall with 28 points from the back end. She also had 55 blocked shots to her credit.
  • Avery Fransoo, D: Had 14 points from the blue line, off of 2 goals and 12 assists.
  • Clare Minnerath, G: Started almost half the Friars’ games (17) and posted a .906 save percentage and 2.07 GAA.

Key Returners:

  • Sara Hjalmarsson, Junior, F: Enjoyed an excellent breakout campaign in 2019-20, leading the team with 17 goals and 28 points in 36 games.
  • Bailey Burton, Sophomore, F: Posted six goals and 14 points as a freshman.
  • Lauren DeBlois, Sophomore, D: Stepped in right away as a freshman to finish third overall in scoring with 23 points.
  • Sandra Abstreiter, Senior, G: Started most of Providence’s game as a junior and posted a .929 save percentage and 1.74 GAA.

Season Outlook:

The Friars had a really strong regular season last year, finishing third in the Hockey East standings, but were upended in the conference quarterfinals before they could do much damage in the playoffs. Last season, the Friars had one of the best team defenses in the league, averaging 23.61 shots on goal against per game. They’re losing some key players on the back end, and how well they fill those spots on the roster will be one of their biggest tests of the year. Rookies Claire Tyo and Brooke Becker are a couple of names who might need to contribute right away. Having an experienced goaltender in Abstreiter should help things defensively.

They weren’t the strongest offensive team last season, and losing Murphy as a transfer definitely hurts in that respect. But Hjalmarsson showed she can be a true offensive driver, and I think she can get even better. If they get contributions throughout the line-up, they should be able to hold a top-four spot in Hockey East.

Boston College

Key Losses:

  • Delaney Belinskas, F: Finished as the team’s third-highest scorer with 26 points, and topped the Eagles in goals with 20 in 35 games.
  • Lindsay Agnew, F: A good two-way presence who posted 7 goals and 15 points as a senior.

Key Returners:

  • Hannah Bilka, Sophomore, F: As a freshman, she was a major bright spot in the Eagles’ offense, leading the team with 37 points.
  • Kelly Browne, Junior, F: Tied with Bilka for first in assists with 27 and finished second overall with 36 points. Also stood out as a center on draws with 451 faceoff wins (52%).
  • Savannah Norcross, Junior, F: Posted 11 goals and 17 points as a sophomore.
  • Olivia Finocchario, Junior, F: Tied Norcross with 17 points on the year.
  • Cayla Barnes, Junior, D: Led the D with 23 points off of 6 goals and 17 assists, and put up a whopping 103 blocked shots to lead the team.
  • Alexie Guay, Sophomore, D: Finished top-five on the team in scoring as a rookie with 19 points.
  • Hadley Hartmetz, Sophomore, D: As a rookie, also made some significant contributions with 15 points.
  • Maddy McArthur, Junior, G: Posted a .913 save percentage and 2.51 GAA in 26 starts last season.

Season Outlook:

On the whole, BC was not where they wanted to be last season, and they’ll be looking to rebound this year in whatever games are played. The Eagles finished as one of four teams in the league last year with a negative goal differential per game; they’ll need to be better on both sides of the puck to get back to their usual place at the top of the standings. They also definitely need to see more consistent goaltending this season. Bringing Abigail Levy in as a transfer from Minnesota State certainly adds some competition to that position; between Levy and McArthur, they should be able to figure out a solution there.

As expected for a BC squad, they have some really talented players up front. Hannah Bilka and Kelly Browne were both point-per-game players last season, and Bilka in particular has an even higher gear she can reach, I think. I also think that there’s too much talent on the back end for BC to see another down year. Guay and Barnes are two of the best defensive prospects in the world; they both excel at driving play, and having two defenders with those attributes is usually a recipe for surefire success. I’d be surprised to see the Eagles drop below third.