The Takeaway: Pre-Preseason Edition

The 2019-20 season will bring change and growth to NCAA Division I women’s hockey

It’s already September, which means the start of the 2019-20 NCAA Division I women’s hockey season is nearly upon us. We’ll have plenty of preseason content for you at The Ice Garden, but first: we highlight some of the biggest changes we’ll see this year, including a new team, a new conference, new tournaments and showcases, and a new way of deciding games in the WCHA.

5 Things to Know

LIU is playing its inaugural season: We’ll have a brand new member of Division I women’s ice hockey this season with Long Island University joining the ranks. I profiled the Sharks last week for The Ice Garden. Among the topics of conversation with head coach Rob Morgan: players to watch, his desired style of play, and his blueprint for building an entire program from scratch.

A new conference is formed: With the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) receiving official recognition from the NCAA as a conference, we’ll also get a brand new Division I league this season. The NEWHA previously existed as a scheduling alliance between Division I and II independents Post, Sacred Heart, Franklin Pierce, Holy Cross, St. Anselm, and St. Michael’s. Until 2017, the latter four teams had competed as members of the New England Hockey Conference (Division III). That year, the NEHC decided to no longer include Division I and II schools in its conference schedule.

Last fall, the NEWHA schools announced that they would begin offering scholarships and follow Division I recruiting rules, with the intent of being recognized as a full Division I conference. Holy Cross joined Hockey East in 2018-19, but with LIU joining the NEWHA, the league will have six members, meaning it is on track to be eligible to receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22. All six schools need to remain in the conference for the next two years in order for the autobid to be granted.

That won’t change anything for this year’s NCAA Tournament, and as Grant Salzano reported for The Ice Garden last week, there’s a chance it may not happen for 2021-22, either. If the league is granted a qualifier, that means five of eight tournament spots will go to automatic bids, which is less than ideal. Expansion is definitely on the table, and you can read more about that in last week’s article.

NEWHA granted Division I membership, 2021-22 Tournament Autobid not yet guaranteed

Collaboration will be key to the NEWHA’s growth and success: In my chat with Coach Morgan, we spoke about the formation of the NEWHA, and the growth it symbolizes for women’s college hockey. As former Division I independents (and, in LIU’s case, teams that didn’t exist at all), these are programs that are all going to have to scale up to Division I, and it’ll take time to implement the necessary resources for that to happen in full. But one thing that’s clear: the conference’s members will prioritize cooperation and collaboration as they look to get this new league off the ground.

“Our athletic directors within the conference, we’ve sort of agreed that we’re going to grow this conference together,” Morgan said. “We’ve agreed to a timeline to how we’re going to grow the scholarships, so that one team can’t come in and just overpower everybody.”

Get ready for 3-on-3 hockey: With so much change happening across the NCAA women’s hockey landscape, it might’ve been hard to overlook one of the most exciting pieces of news this offseason. The WCHA will begin using 3-on-3 overtime as a way of deciding extra conference points in games, before going to a shootout.

If a game is tied and there is no score after the traditional five-minute 5-on-5 overtime period, then the game will officially go into the books as a tie and each team will receive one point. A five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period will then be played to determine which team receives the second conference point. If the game is still tied following both overtime periods, then a shootout will determine who receives the extra point.

Scoring lost and returned: Every team has to reckon with personnel losses from year to year, but the significance of those losses varies across the board. Based on offensive production lost, which teams are facing the biggest adjustments this season? (Note: Not every roster is finalized, so for some teams, only the expected scoring lost could be calculated).

Boston College’s lineup is going to look notably different, with 63.33% of their scoring lost to graduation or transfer. That’s the highest percentage lost in the country. Next in the top five are Merrimack (51.39% points lost), Colgate (48.95% lost), St. Cloud State (47.31% lost), and Clarkson (46.52% lost). The Golden Knights are probably in the best position to compensate for what they’re losing, with Caitrin Lonergan transferring in from BC, Rhyen McGill back from injury, and highly-touted rookie Gabrielle David coming in.

Minnesota Duluth is losing just 0.84% of its scoring from last season. Boston University is also losing very little of its production (7.79%), putting the Terriers in great position to contend for an NCAA Tournament spot with the Frozen Four coming to Agganis Arena in March. After UMD and BU, Union (11.11% points lost), Maine (11.87% lost), and UConn (12.09% lost) return the most production from 2018-19.

Here’s the total breakdown for percentage of goals and scoring lost from last year’s NCAA Tournament teams (asterisk denotes teams without a 2019-20 official roster posted):

  • Wisconsin: 38.71% goals lost; 38.86% points lost
  • Minnesota: 27.50% goals lost; 26.92% points lost
  • Northeastern: 23.66% goals lost; 19.53% points lost
  • Clarkson*: 53.85% goals lost; 46.52% points lost; starting goaltender (Kassidy Sauvé) graduated
  • Boston College: 59.09% goals lost; 63.33% points lost
  • Cornell: 20.18% goals lost; 17.88% points lost; starting goaltender (Marlène Boissonnault) graduated
  • Princeton: 12.07% goals lost; 14.77% points lost
  • Syracuse: 17.98% goals lost; 23.29% points lost; regular in net (Maddi Welch) graduated/

Don’t Miss It

Games to watch for:

We’ve got an exciting slate of showcases, non-conference games, and events this season. Here are some of the highlights to mark on your schedule:

  • Lindenwood’s brand new rink opens (Sept. 27-28): Technically, the Centene Community Ice Center opened this weekend, but the Lions will play their first games in their new home at the end of this month against Wisconsin.
  • LIU’s first Division I games (Oct. 4-5): The Sharks will take on the UConn Huskies at home in the program’s first-ever NCAA series.
  • Ice Breaker Tournament (Oct. 25-26): Buffalo’s HarborCenter will play host to an early-season tournament between Colgate, Connecticut, Mercyhurst, and Minnesota Duluth.
  • Country Classic (Nov. 29-30): NCAA women’s hockey is heading to the Ford Ice Center in Bellevue, Tenn., which is just outside of Nashville. Boston College and Harvard will face off against Minnesota and Wisconsin, for a four-game schedule over U.S. Thanksgiving weekend./
  • 42nd Annual Women’s Beanpot (Feb. 4 and Feb. 11): BU hosts the 2020 Beanpot after snapping its 38-year title drought in dramatic overtime fashion last year.
  • NEWHA Tournament: The league’s first postseason championship will take place from Feb. 17-23. It looks like first-round games will be played on Feb. 17 and 18, with the semifinals and championship happening the following weekend (Feb. 22-23)./