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The Takeaway: LIU wins the NEWHA championship in their inaugural season

Playoff season is already well under way in NCAA Division I women’s hockey

The LIU Sharks celebrate their NEWHA championship with the trophy held high. Mark Bolton

Here’s a rundown of the postseason so far in NCAA Division I women’s hockey, the matchups to come this weekend, and notes on the top performers of late.

5 Things to Know

A NEWHA champion is crowned: If you’re going to start a program from scratch and lay the groundwork for the future, you might as well aim as high as possible. That’s essentially what Long Island University did, and they hit their target this weekend. In their inaugural season, the Sharks upset the No. 1 and the No. 3 seeds in the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance to take home their first championship.

After taking down Saint Michael’s, fourth-seeded LIU moved on to the semifinals against top-seeded Sacred Heart. They won that game, 3-0, to move on to the NEWHA title game. In the other semifinal, No. 3 seed Saint Anselm and No. 2 seed Franklin Pierce played the longest game in NCAA Division I women’s hockey history with five (!) overtime periods. The Hawks’ Madison Sprague finally scored to snap a 1-1 tie at the game’s 147:24 mark. LIU won the final, 1-0, off a goal by Paula Bergström.

Patty Kazmaier Top-10 nominees announced: The full list of Top-10 nominees for the 2020 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award: Cornell’s Jaime Bourbonnais and Lindsay Browning, Princeton’s Sarah Fillier, Northeastern’s Aerin Frankel and Alina Müller, Clarkson’s Élizabeth Giguère, Ohio State’s Emma Maltais, and Wisconsin’s Abby Roque, Sophie Shirley, and Daryl Watts.

Bourbonnais is the only defender on this list but it’s no surprise to see her here. She leads Cornell’s entire team and all blue-liners nationally with 38 points in 29 games. Browning and Frankel are the two goaltender nominees, and Browning, notably, is the only player with a sub-1.00 goals against average (0.80). Wisconsin’s Ann-Renée Desbiens won in 2017 with a 0.71 GAA and .963 save percentage. I’ll be curious to see if we get a goaltender or defender in the top three.

This is already an exceptional list of players, but senior Jaycee Gebhard of Robert Morris is a pretty head-scratching omission to me. I would also personally have a lot of time for Gabbie Hughes but I trust we’ll see her as a nominee in future seasons.

ECAC playoff matchups set: Three conference tournaments are slated to begin this coming weekend. In the ECAC, we’ll have No. 1 Cornell against No. 8 St. Lawrence, No. 2 Princeton against No. 7 Quinnipiac, No. 3 Clarkson against No. 6 Colgate, and No. 4 Harvard against No. 5 Yale. This is one of the strongest playoff fields we’ve seen, regardless of conference, and it’s a pretty wild one at that. Quinnipiac is the ranked No. 10 nationally but will face off against the conference’s two-seed.

The Big Red have dominated all season long and did not lose a single game in conference play, so it’s expected that they’ll come into the weekend as tournament favorites. I do still think this is probably the most “up in the air” conference tournament we’ll get this year. It isn’t hard to envision all four of these quarterfinal series getting pushed to three games, or to see a low seed or two playing in the semifinals.

Hockey East playoff matchups set: In Hockey East, we’ll see No. 1 Northeastern take on No. 8 Vermont, No. 2 Boston University take on No. 7 Maine, No. 3 Providence take on No. 6 New Hampshire, and No. 4 Boston College take on No. 5 UConn.

The Huskies are a heavy favorite, but I think BU has a good chance of pushing for a title here and there’s a lot on the line for the Terriers. Their chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament are precarious at best without an autobid, and BU will play host to the Frozen Four later this month. I’d look for the Terriers’ power play (24.4% success rate) to make a difference in this tournament.

WCHA playoff matchups set: In the WCHA, Wisconsin gets a bye to the semifinal after finishing first in the regular season. No. 2 Minnesota will take on No. 7 St. Cloud State, No. 3 Ohio State will take on No. 6 Minnesota State, and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth will take on No. 5 Bemidji State.

The Bulldogs are the most intriguing team to me. If they can get past a stingy BSU team in the quarterfinals, they’ll have a chance to make some waves at the WCHA Final Face-Off. They rained on basically everyone’s parade to close out the regular season, beating Minnesota, sweeping Ohio State, and tying Wisconsin. But they also tied Minnesota State down the stretch. With their offensive firepower, the Bulldogs have the potential to go toe to toe with anyone.

Top Performers

Élizabeth Giguère, Junior, Forward, Clarkson: Giguère has eight goals in her last four games. If you’re wondering if that’s a typo, it’s not. She’s actually scored 10 goals in her last six games and had a four-goal night against Dartmouth last Saturday.

Carly Bullock, Senior, Forward, Princeton: Bullock had a senior weekend to remember, notching a hat trick and a two-goal game to close out the regular season.

Emme Ostrander, Sophomore, Goaltender, Franklin Pierce: Ostrander was outstanding even in defeat for the Ravens, making 79 of 81 saves in that five-OT semifinal game against Saint Anselm.

Kenzie Harmison, Freshman, Goaltender, LIU: Harmison was perfect in the NEWHA Tournament, pitching three-straight shutouts and stopping 85 total shots to help the Sharks win the title.

Micah Zandee-Hart, Senior, Defender, Cornell: Zandee-Hart ended the regular season on a high note with two goals, eight assists, and 10 points in her last four games, including a four-point night against Yale back on Feb. 15.

Summer-Rae Dobson, Junior, Forward, Mercyhurst: Dobson came up big in the Lakers’ series against Robert Morris two weeks ago, scoring two goals and three assists to help them stay in first place. She posted another two-goal, three-point game against Syracuse last weekend.

Sammy Davis, Senior, Forward, Boston University: Davis closed out the regular season on an eight-game scoring streak with six goals, six assists, and 12 points.

Britta Curl, Sophomore, Forward, Wisconsin: Please just enjoy this shot and ensuing celebration to give Wisconsin the extra point in 3-on-3 overtime in front of over 14,000 fans at the Kohl Center.

Don’t Miss It

Upcoming games to watch for:

Robert Morris at Syracuse (Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29): With only one weekend left in CHA play, there’s still plenty to be decided as far as seeding. RMU only trails top-seeded Mercyhurst by one point. But Syracuse, sitting in the third, can overtake the Colonials for the two seed and a coveted bye to the semifinals if they can sweep this weekend.

Yale at Harvard (Friday, Feb. 28, Saturday, Feb. 29, and Sunday, March 1 if necessary): The Crimson have home ice for this quarterfinal series, but the Bulldogs swept both regular-season meetings between these two squads. Both of these teams have proven that they can upset their fellow ECAC opponents, so it’ll be interesting to see who stays alive after this weekend and if they can stir the pot come conference championship weekend.

UConn at Boston College (Friday, Feb. 28, Saturday, Feb. 29, and Sunday, March 1 if necessary): The Huskies won the season series against BC, two games to one, but their overall records are very similar. It’s been a tough year for the Eagles to this point, but there’s still something to play for here. If they can stop UConn from scoring in bunches, they stand a good chance of advancing to the semifinals.