The Takeaway: From Duluth to Belfast, Cup wins and friendly sweeps

Duluth’s Minnesota Cup win, Quinnipiac’s Friendship Series sweep, and more

In the latest edition of The Takeaway, we’ve got notes on the Minnesota Cup, the Friendship Series in Belfast, and how things are shaping up in the CHA, ECAC, and Hockey East.

5 Things to Know

Minnesota Duluth wins the second annual Minnesota Cup: Last season, the five Minnesota Division I teams established the Minnesota Cup to help fill in some scheduling gaps that popped up once the WCHA went down to seven teams. Instead of having to schedule games and budget for cross-country flights against teams from the eastern conferences for another weekend, the squads play a tournament against their in-state foes.

UMD, who hosted this year’s tournament, was crowned as champion after wins against Minnesota State and Bemidji State. St. Cloud State was the fourth team in this year’s field; the year after a team hosts, they’re rotated out, so Minnesota was the odd team out this time.

“Last year down in Minneapolis was a great showing,” Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell said. “We took the Gophers to overtime in game one and then had a pretty exciting game with Mankato. And then this year, hosting it and then winning it I think was awesome. Obviously for our players, any time you play in a tournament, you want to win it and to do that at home is so sweet.”

For Crowell, it was just the icing on top of a thrilling week for her as a coach. She led Team USA’s Under-18 squad to victory in a 3-on-3 overtime win against Canada to capture gold at the IIHF U18 World Championship. Her Bulldogs team then earned a 3-on-3 victory of their own over Minnesota State to advance to the Minnesota Cup championship game. In the final, Maddie Rooney shut out Bemidji State to seal the tournament win.

While it’s still early in the Minnesota Cup’s history, these games are already proven to deliver exciting, close match-ups that highlight the competitiveness of women’s hockey in Minnesota.

“We have bragging rights right now, and I think that’s fun,” Crowell said. “And I think the more that we can increase the competitiveness amongst our Minnesota schools, the better. Because if you think about it, a lot of the girls that grow up playing in Minnesota, a lot of them want to stay in the WCHA, and they’re looking at the five schools that are here to play at. So there’s a lot of pride on the line.”

Bobcats sweep in Belfast: The ECAC got the best of Hockey East this time over in Northern Ireland, with Quinnipiac sweeping Merrimack in the second annual Friendship Series. The Bobcats skated to a 4-2 win in game one and a 3-1 win in game two. The Belfast Telegraph has a recap of the weekend for your reading pleasure.

Lexie Adzija was a sure standout all weekend; she scored a goal for Quinnipiac in the opener and followed that up with a three-assist performance to close out the series. With 10 goals, 13 assists, and 23 points so far, she’s already surpassed the 18 points she had as a rookie last year.

Merrimack’s senior captain Mikyla Grant-Mentis was a bit quiet points-wise, and her production has slowed from her torrid pace in the first two months of the season, but she’s on the brink of history for Merrimack. After scoring shorthanded against Vermont this past weekend (as she does best), she is now just four points off the all-time points record for the program.

Yale’s big weekend at home: The Bulldogs are already seeing some nice improvements under first-year head coach Mark Bolding. Last season, they missed the ECAC playoffs, finishing ninth with a 7-12-3 record (8-18-3 overall). After weekend wins against then-No. 5/6 Clarkson and St. Lawrence, Yale is now 6-4 in the ECAC (9-8-0 overall) and looks to have a good chance at clinching a playoff berth. The Bulldogs are in sixth place and have games in hand over Harvard, Princeton, and Quinnipiac.

Yale has so far been buoyed offensively by its younger players. They’ve been able to build off of last season, when four of their top five scorers were freshmen, and their leading scorer, Rebecca Vanstone, notched 0.75 points per game. This season, they have seven players who are so far besting that pace, and six of those players are freshmen or sophomores.

Syracuse playing strong against conference foes: The Orange did not get off to a very strong start to the year, dropping nine straight games against some stiff competition, namely Clarkson, Northeastern, Boston College, Colgate, and Princeton. That was compounded by their woes at home. Syracuse started the season off 0-10 in home games, but they finally snapped that streak with a resounding 8-3 win against Mercyhurst, College Hockey America’s No. 1 team.

The Orange have fared much better against conference opponents, with a 5-2-1 record in CHA games. They split with Mercyhurst this weekend and are now holding down third place in the CHA standings. A talented defensive corps is helping to lead the way; senior captain Lindsay Eastwood leads the team in points, junior Jessica DiGirolamo leads the team in goals, and freshman Mae Batherson is tied for third in scoring.

Power shifting in Hockey East: Northeastern is once again the team to beat in Hockey East, having just finished off a regular-season series sweep of Boston College with a 7-0 win and 3-0 win this past weekend. I believe this is the first time since 2003-04 that the Huskies have swept BC in Hockey East play.

This has been one of the worst stretches in recent memory for Boston College, who dropped their sixth game in a row with those two losses against Northeastern. All six of those losses came against top-10 teams in the nation. The back-to-back losses to the Huskies also marks the first time since 2003 that the Eagles have been shut out for two games in a row.

Just like last season, Northeastern is dominating in all respects and is very solidly in contention for not only a Hockey East championship, but a national championship as well. With a star-studded roster, their offense sort of speaks for itself. The Huskies rank fifth in the country with 3.86 goals per game. Defensively, they’re even better. They’ve given up 20 goals all season; UConn has the second lowest total in Hockey East with twice that. Northeastern is one of just two teams in the country to be giving up less than one goal per game on average.

The season is far from over for Boston College, whose talent and leadership should not be counted out. And Northeastern still has four games left against BU and UConn, the third- and fourth-place teams in Hockey East, so there are no guarantees for them, either. But this weekend’s shutout performance by the Huskies signaled a pretty clear shift in power in Hockey East—at least for the time being.

Top Performers

Madison Itagaki, Sophomore, Defender, RIT: Itagaki posted two assists in RIT’s upset victory over Robert Morris. She’s also second in the CHA with 58 blocked shots this year.

Aerin Frankel, Junior, Goaltender, Northeastern: With 51 saves against BC this past weekend, Frankel became the first goaltender ever to shut out the Eagles in back-to-back games, as well as over the course of an entire season series. She was also named the Battle at the Burgh tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Danielle Serdachny, Freshman, Forward, Colgate: Serdachny is riding a seven-game point streak dating back to the end of November. Since the new year, she’s posted two goals, five assists, and seven points in four games.

Emme Ostrander, Sophomore, Goaltender, Franklin Pierce: Ostrander was in net for the Ravens in a 5-1 loss against Maine before the break, in which she stopped 55 out of 60 shots. She followed that up with a 43-save shutout performance against Saint Anselm to open the new year.

Dominique Petrie, Sophomore, Forward, Harvard: In five games played since New Year’s Eve, Petrie has posted eight goals, four assists, and 12 points.

Maggie Connors, Sophomore, Forward, Princeton: Connors made an excellent play to stay onside as time dwindled down, then scored the tying goal on that same possession against Harvard on Saturday to earn a tie. She had four points against the Crimson and Dartmouth this past weekend.

Don’t Miss It

Upcoming games to watch for:

Ohio State at Minnesota (Saturday, Jan. 18): The Buckeyes and Gophers are taking part in this year’s Hockey Day Minnesota festivities with an outdoor game. There’s rarely a dull matchup between these two squads and this should be another fun one between two top-five teams nationally.

Minnesota at Wisconsin (Friday, Jan. 24, and Saturday, Jan. 25): The Badgers will have an off weekend after dropping a game to Bemidji State, then welcome the Gophers to Madison for a pivotal series in the race for the WCHA crown. Minnesota earned a 4-2 win and a shootout victory earlier this season against Wisconsin.

Boston University at Northeastern (Tuesday, Jan. 28): The Terriers will look to avoid the season sweep against the Huskies. Northeastern held them to just one goal in the first two games they played this year, but it’s probably worth noting that Jesse Compher was out of the lineup. And the goaltending matchup in this one (Aerin Frankel vs. Corinne Schroeder) should be excellent.