The Takeaway: Fast starts and top performances at the international break

Two undefeated teams remain as the Division I season ramps up

The first 2019-20 regular season edition of The Takeaway is here, and we’ve got the rundown on hot starts from a couple of Ivy League teams, some impressive performances outside of collegiate play, and other notable happenings in Division I women’s hockey.

5 Things to Know

Harvard opens with a bang: Harvard is off to a red-hot start (Crimson-hot? No?) to the season, with a 5-0-0 record and a win against top-10 Princeton this past weekend. They’re now ranked No. 9 in The Ice Garden’s poll. Junior forward Becca Gilmore is leading the way for the Crimson with 10 points so far, and they’ve got some good talent around her that looks poised to build on last year’s 12-15-5 record. Their sophomore class in particular seems ready to make a bigger impact this year, led by forwards Kristin Della Rovere, Dominique Petrie, and Anne Bloomer. Harvard also has a good amount of experience on defense, and 2018-19 ECAC Goaltender of the Year finalist Lindsay Reed in net.

It’s early yet, especially for the Ivy League, but the Crimson look like a team that could make a lot of noise in the ECAC. Their next game, a non-conference match-up across town against Boston University on Nov. 19, should be another good test.

College Hockey America’s established top two: It’s still early on in the season, but with the way things are shaping up in the CHA, it’s looking like we’ll see a fun race between Mercyhurst and Robert Morris for the league crown. Robert Morris is finally through with a ridiculously tough stretch of games; after playing Union to open the year, the Colonials faced off against Minnesota, Clarkson, and Cornell. They managed a tie against the Golden Knights, and showed to be competitive against the first two squads in particular; there’s plenty of insight on that from head coach Paul Colontino in this feature from USCHO. So far, the Colonials have won all six of their games against unranked opponents (Union, Penn State, and Lindenwood).

Mercyhurst, meanwhile, has jumped out to a 7-2-1 record, with the two losses coming against Colgate and Minnesota Duluth. The Lakers are currently tops in the CHA in a lot of team metrics, including goals per game (4.20), goals against per game (1.70), and shots on goal margin per game (+15.80). Their PK is also clicking, with a stellar 92% success rate. Mercyhurst plays Clarkson this coming week, which should be a good benchmark for where the Lakers are at before CHA play really ramps up.

Daryl Watts is still very good: Watts, the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, leads the country with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 12 games. Watts is in her junior season but transferred to Wisconsin after two years at Boston College. She wasted no time getting acclimated to the WCHA, and started the season off with a 25-point streak across eight games before Bemidji State finally held her off the board.

Cornell’s defense: The Big Red are off to a 5-0-1 start to the year and seem totally prepared to attempt to give up zero goals ever again. So far, they’ve held their opponents to one goal or less in each game. That includes this weekend, when they faced off against St. Lawrence and Clarkson with senior captains Micah Zandee-Hart and Kristin O’Neill away with Team Canada. Their penalty kill is ticking at 95.5%, which is absurd even by six-games-into-the-season standards. But Cornell has really been aided by the play of Lindsay Browning in net. Browning, a junior, has so far made a seamless transition to the starting role, with a sparkling .976 save percentage and 0.49 goals against average to go along with three shutouts.

Beyond NCAA play: If Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship is any indication, the future of Cornell’s defense is also very bright. The 2019 NWU18 tournament took place this past week in Winkler and Morden, Manitoba. Team Saskatchewan defender Ashley Messier, a 2020-21 Big Red commit, took home MVP honors, helping secure the province’s first-ever berth in the gold medal game.

This was originally intended to be the week of the 4 Nations Tournament, so there were quite a few teams out of action last weekend in anticipation of that. Although the tournament was canceled, Team USA and Team Canada held a joint training camp and two-game series in its stead. Princeton’s Sarah Fillier was a notable player up front for Canada, scoring a goal and an assist on the weekend. Fellow TIG writer Anne Tokarski gave a good rundown last month of the NCAA players on both rosters.

There was also the 5 Nations Tournament held in Russia between the host Russians, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland. The Czechs dominated the tournament, winning all four games and out-scoring the competition 16-2. Their roster is littered with talented young players, including some current NCAA players: Maine’s Tereza Vanišová and Vendula Přibylová and St. Cloud State’s Klára Hymlárová.

Top Performers

Amy Potomak, Sophomore, Forward, Minnesota: I’m assuming every hockey fan has seen this goal one million times already, but just in case you need to see it for the million and first:

Tera Hofmann, Senior, Goaltender, Yale: Hofmann is second in the country with a .962 save percentage and has also posted three shutouts in five starts.

Emma Maltais, Junior, Forward, Ohio State: She scored her 100th career point in a game against Bemidji State two weeks ago, and now sits within the Buckeyes’ top-10 all-time in scoring.

Hannah Bilka, Freshman, Forward, Boston College: Bilka has been outstanding so far for a BC team that came into the year needing some questions answered on offense. She was on a nine-game scoring streak before UConn snapped it on Saturday, totaling 10 goals and 18 points. She’s the nation’s second-highest rookie scorer, behind Clarkson’s Gabrielle David.

BC freshman Hannah Bilka is on fire

Emily Curlett, Junior, Defender, Robert Morris: Curlett is currently leading the country in scoring by a defender, with eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 12 games. She’s also tops in blocked shots with 61, and her seven power-play goals are driving one of the best PP units in the nation (28.8%).

Don’t Miss It

Upcoming games to watch for:

Minnesota Duluth at Ohio State (Friday, Nov. 15, and Saturday, Nov. 16): A prime WCHA match-up between two teams coming off of a bye week. Both teams are averaging over 30 shots on goal per game, and we should see two talented forward groups clashing. Maltais (OSU), Gabbie Hughes (UMD), Liz Schepers (OSU), Ashton Bell (UMD), and Tatum Skaggs (OSU) all rank in the top-25 in scoring nationwide.

Northeastern at Boston College (Tuesday, Nov. 19): Two of Hockey East’s best teams will face off in a midweek match-up. BC’s very young defensive corps, which has so far been strong this season, will have to manage one of the best forwards on the planet in Alina Müller and a highly skilled offense. The Eagles’ own offense, scoring 4.18 goals per game this season, will battle against a Northeastern defense that is yielding less than a goal per game.

Clarkson at Princeton (Friday, Nov. 22): The Tigers have two games between now and then, but this is already shaping up to be a big one for them. They’ve come out on the losing end of two match-ups already against ECAC opponents (Cornell and Harvard). This’ll be a good test for both teams who no doubt have their sights set on conference hardware.

Syracuse at Penn State (Saturday, Nov. 23): This will be Penn State’s first game in three full weeks. Right now, the Nittany Lions have the third-best record out of all six CHA teams, but Syracuse has played some tough competition. Though they weren’t able to pull out any wins, the Orange played Clarkson, Boston College, and Northeastern to within a goal earlier this year.