NCAA Roundup: UMD's Penalty Kill Success, Friendship Series, and More

A new year, a new roundup! Let's see how things are shaping up as we get closer to March.

NCAA Roundup: UMD's Penalty Kill Success, Friendship Series, and More
Princeton celebrates a goal against Providence during the Friendship Series in Belfast, Northern Ireland, this past weekend. (Photo by William Cherry/@snappercherry, featured on Twitter/X by @Friendship_Four)

Happy New Year, NCAA fans, and welcome to another roundup. It has been a wild first few days of 2024, with action across the nation and even overseas, so let's see how things are shaping up as we get closer to March.

Princeton, Providence Face Off in Belfast for Friendship Series

In case you (like me) didn't know, Boston, MA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, are actually sister cities, meaning they have a long-standing cultural and commercial partnership. This agreement was reached back in 2014, and the Friendship Four (the men's version) grew out of that in 2015. The women's Friendship Series began in 2018–19, starting with a faceoff between Clarkson and Northeastern, then followed up with a series between Quinnipiac and Merrimack in 2019–20.

This very cool history was truncated in 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic limiting travel, but the series returned in 2024 with a matchup between the Providence Friars and Princeton Tigers over the weekend of Jan. 5–6. Princeton swept the two games, winning decisively on Friday 6–1 and capitalizing on a late power-play goal Saturday to seal a 2–1 final. Issy Wunder and Sarah Fillier showed up big for Princeton, with Wunder tallying three points and Fillier four on Friday, while they combined for the tying goal Saturday. Sarah Paul also had a great weekend, including the tally on the skater advantage with just two minutes to go in the third on Saturday.

Providence, meanwhile, lost big in the faceoff circle (31–24) and sputtered on special teams on Friday, going 0-for-2 on the PP and 3-for-5 on the penalty kill. They played a better, tighter game and actually outshot the Tigers on Saturday, 33–24, but couldn't solve Princeton goaltender Jennifer Olnowich (29 saves).

The Friars will look to regroup on the road against Vermont this coming Friday and Saturday, while the Tigers will travel to Dartmouth and Harvard and look to build on their win streak. (For more on the Friendship Series and this past weekend, check out both @pcwhockey and @princetonwhockey on Instagram, as there's some fun content from the trip on both accounts.)

Bonus News: Fillier was named ECAC Player of the Month and Hockey Commissioners Association National Player of the Month in December, in an announcement that probably shocked no one who's actually watched her play. The Team Canada forward had nine points in four games last month, including an unreal hat trick against LIU where she scored in every possible situation (ES, PP, and SH).

RPI Snap Winless Streak Against Vermont

It's been a topsy-turvy year for Rensselaer. After starting the season with an undefeated streak, they hit an abysmal 1-10 run to end the 2023 calendar year, in which they scored three goals or more just once and ended up below .500 to start 2024.

The Engineers did, however, manage to stun a nonconference opponent this past weekend, sweeping Vermont by identical 5–1 scores on Friday and Saturday. Grad student Amanda Rampado stood tall in net with 56 combined saves (28 per game), and freshman Aylah Cioffi had an especially strong game Friday night with three points (2 G, 1 A) in the third period. Altogether, 15 different RPI players hit the scoresheet in some fashion this past weekend, giving the Engineers a much-needed lift in the standings (9-11-3 overall) as they head into their remaining slate of games, all of which feature ECAC Hockey opponents.

As for Vermont, this puts the Catamounts sub-.500 heading into their stretch of games remaining. They have a better shot in Hockey East than RPI does in the ECAC when it comes to coming out on top against their own conference rivals, but with HEA being a very messy conference this year, who knows what to expect.

Minnesota-Duluth Coming up Big on the PK, Still Looking for More

The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs have been a bit of a sleeper, both in the WCHA and nationally. It's tough keeping up with arguably the toughest conference in the nation, but UMD has managed to do it for the most part, and a big chunk of that is due to their special teams work. While the power play has been modest (about 15 percent), their penalty kill has been superb, allowing just five goals on 59 opportunities and killing 26 (!) in a row through their latest matchup with eighth-ranked Quinnipiac, whom they tied 2–2 on Saturday after dropping a close one 2–1 on Friday.

The frustrating thing with UMD is that they have the capacity to win more, but they haven't been able to execute or preserve leads when given the chance. For instance, Saturday's game could well have been a 2–0 shutout win but for a brief breakdown that led to the Bobcats' two-goal rally to force overtime. This team is fairly young, so I think it'll just come down more to getting that experience and really focusing on the back end of the ice. With some big matchups coming up down the stretch (including two more each against Ohio State and Wisconsin), they'll have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Bonus News: Bulldog commitment Caitlin Kraemer made history Saturday with her 17th goal for the Canadian U18 team, making her the all-time goals leader for the program. That bodes super well for not just her future success, but also the success of UMD and of the senior team should she make it (I think she should). Awesome stuff.

Check out the most recent and PairWise rankings.

Scores — January 5-6, 2024 (click here for earlier dates)

Friday, Jan. 5:

Minnesota 5, UConn 3

Colgate 7, St. Lawrence 3

Wisconsin 6, Merrimack 1

Cornell 3, Clarkson 2 (OT)

Yale 2, Mercyhurst 0

Union 2, Penn State 1 (OT)

Stonehill 3, Post 0

Sacred Heart 2, LIU 1

Franklin Pierce 3, Saint Michael's 1

Brown 4, RIT 1

Northeastern 6, Holy Cross 1

St. Anselm 6, Assumption 2

Minnesota State 6, Lindenwood 1

Saturday, Jan. 6:

Minnesota 3, UConn 1

Wisconsin 6, Merrimack 1

Clarkson 1, Colgate 0

Cornell 3, St Lawrence 1

BC 3, Maine 2

Mercyhurst 2, Yale 0

Penn State 6, Union 2

Stonehill 4, Post 0

Brown 3, RIT 0

Minnesota State 4, Lindenwood 3

Franklin Pierce 4, Saint Michael's 0

St. Anselm 4, Assumption 2

(LIU/Sacred Heart's second game of the weekend was postponed; makeup date TBA)