NCAA Matchup of the Week: Clarkson vs Northeastern in Belfast

Northeastern and Clarkson are playing the first ever NCAA women’s hockey games outside North America

This exciting non-conference matchup in Belfast, Northern Ireland is one of our last (yes, I know about the Beanpot). It’s also the first time NCAA women’s teams have met outside the United States, and so there’s plenty of buzz.

Northeastern is 13-2-2 on the season while Clarkson is 14-4-0. They are third and fourth in our last poll and third and fifth in USCHO. This two-game series in Belfast is their only meeting of the season.

Puck drop is 10:30 a.m. eastern time on Saturday and 8:30 a.m. eastern time on Sunday.

Nathan Vaughan: I have no option but to pick an NU sweep. That, or be very sad on my birthday, and I don’t want that. I could see a tie in the second game; Clarkson is too good to just toss aside. The big questions are whether Bugalski plays or not, and which version of her shows up: the one that’s only a few wins away from the program record or the one that lost to Holy Cross.

Clarkson has arguably the best top line in the country but NU’s top line is no slouch. The Huskies are led by two freshmen which could either burn them or make them shine greater. Personally I’m going to go with a greater shine. The Huskies’ depth will be what wins them this series.

William Whyte: So many narratives going into this game. Will Clarkson's offence, which looked shaky the last few games before Christmas, be back on track? Has Northeastern's offensive output been slightly inflated by a weaker schedule? Will Clarkson's greater experience in the big games give them an advantage, as coach Matt Derosiers anticipates?

Will Northeastern's track record in non traditional market games help them? Will this be the weekend that Coach Flint at Northeastern will stop playing the goalie tandem and rely on Aerin Frankel for what are two very big games? How are Kassidy Sauve's hips? Will coach Desrosiers put his top line of Giguere/ Gabel/ Pejzlova back together or leave Pejzlova with Cianfarano? Will Northeastern get an advantage from the fact that they have two star players who are used to being jetlagged all the time and Clarkson only has one? Will the teams' performances be affected by the fact that the games are happening in a country where they're all legal drinking age?

I don't know. My gut says that Clarkson have the advantage up front and especially on the blue line and Northeastern have the advantage in net. I'm saying the first game is a 2-2 tie and the second is 5-3 Clarkson, but I'm not sure about this one at all.

Grant Salzano: Who would ever have guessed coming into this season that Northeastern would have come on so strong? We’re well past the point of small sample sizes at this point, so the Huskies are for real, thanks in no small part to two of the top freshman in women’s hockey. Clarkson, on the other hand, has turned out to be something of a “BC-Lite” -- not bad, but definitely not meeting its lofty preseason expectations.

If you took the names off the jerseys and looked just at the records, you’d surely assumed that Clarkson was the top-three team and that the Huskies were on the NCAA tournament bubble. But that’s not the case. Northeastern is, to me, the undisputed better team of the two until proven otherwise. I’m guessing we aren’t going to see a sweep with all the pomp and circumstance of going overseas, but I do like the Huskies to come away with the series win. I’ll take NU 4-2, 2-2.

Valerie Fox: I think a huge part of this series is who shakes off the rust of a long break better. Clarkson hasn’t played since December 8 and Northeastern since December 2, so for me the first game will be about getting their legs back into gear and back into a game rhythm (and a transatlantic flight certainly doesn’t help). I think that situation favors Northeastern a bit more, as I feel they’re a bit quicker naturally. I think they’ll take the first game and the second game will be a tie. But don’t doubt Clarkson, this series will be close, must-watch hockey.

Eleni Demestihas: I agree with Val, the long break is going to play a role in this. However, I think if Northeastern has their legs back properly, they can beat Clarkson. Clarkson is great, but Northeastern, I think, has a good chance of shutting down their monster of a first line, and once they’ve accomplished that, they should be okay.

Northeastern also has one of the best goaltenders in college hockey right now in Aerin Frankel, which absolutely doesn’t hurt, at least for one game (maybe for both). Sauvé is great on the other end, too (with a 1.80 GAA and .929 SV%) but Frankel has the edge, at least statistically, with a 1.00 GAA and a .964 SV%.

KRACH: Our trusty calculator made available to us by Grant Salzano gives Northeastern a  61.51 percent of winning.

GRaNT: The Grant rankings, created by Grant Salzano, can gives score predictions and predicts Northeastern should outscore Clarkson 3 to 2 (3.24 to 2.10).