The Takeaway: Top lines and tournaments of intrigue

A slew of holiday tournaments approach; big wins for UConn and Princeton

In this edition of The Takeaway, we cover the upcoming Windjammer Classic in Burlington, Vt., plus a couple of big wins from ECAC and Hockey East teams and outstanding performances from some of the NCAA’s best forward lines.

5 Things to Know

Vermont hosts the 5th annual Windjammer Classic: There are some noteworthy holiday-weekend tournaments coming up at the end of the week, including the Windjammer Classic, which is hosted annually by UVM. It’s one of the most exciting events of the season because it brings together teams from four different conferences: the WCHA, the ECAC, College Hockey America, and, of course, Hockey East.

Since year two, the tournament has been structured so that the two winners on Friday play for the championship on Saturday, with a consolation game also on the slate. I spoke to Vermont head coach Jim Plumer last week about how the Windjammer Classic has evolved over the years and what he’s found so enjoyable about hosting it.

“The first year that we had it, we had preset match-ups, so we didn’t have a championship game; with the last three years, we’ve had really good fields, and we’ve been fortunate enough and good enough to play in that championship game every year,” he said. “One of the selling points that I always try to use when I’m trying to get teams to come is you get a chance to play for a trophy in the middle of the season. I don’t care if it’s a dinky little trophy, like we have, or a big, beautiful championship trophy that you play for at the end of the season. I think it’s fun to sort of have that experience, and I know our kids have really enjoyed it.”

This year’s field includes Minnesota State, Clarkson, and Penn State. Vermont will play Penn State in one game, with Clarkson taking on Minnesota State in the other semifinal.

Clarkson’s defense shows some cracks: In Friday evening’s loss to Princeton, Clarkson gave up 47 shots on goal, the highest total since a 5-1 loss to Boston University on Oct. 23, 2010. (It should be noted that Clarkson was without top D Ella Shelton this weekend). Over the span of more than nine years since then, they’ve given up 40 shots or more exactly nine times (by my count), and only four times since the 2016-17 season. That’s a testament to both the Tigers, who had a big showing on Friday night, and the Golden Knights, who have set the standard for strong defensive play during Matt Desrosier’s tenure.

In their last four ECAC games, against Colgate, Cornell, Princeton, and Quinnipiac, the Golden Knights haven’t scored more than two goals. They lost the game to Princeton, tied both Cornell and Quinnipiac, and beat the Raiders. All in all, not the greatest stretch against the conference’s top teams, but Clarkson will have a chance to rebound in non-conference play at this weekend’s Windjammer Classic.

Princeton gets rolling with a five-game win streak: Speaking of Princeton’s strong showing: it was an especially good night for the Tigers’ top players. Their top line of Sarah Fillier, Carly Bullock, and Maggie Connors, along with top defender Claire Thompson, combined for 30 shots on goal in the win against Clarkson. That’s more than eight Division I teams had that same night.

Fillier scored both goals for Princeton in the win, and now has five goals and seven points in her last three games. The Tigers, meanwhile, have posted a five-game win streak since losing to Harvard the week of the joint USA-Canada camp. After losing to both Cornell and Harvard already this year, the game against Clarkson was as close as you can get to a must-win in November, and they answered the bell. Princeton is off this weekend, but holds the first-place spot in the ECAC for the time being–Cornell, Harvard, Clarkson, and Colgate all have three or more games in hand.

Wisconsin’s dominant top trio: It’s impossible to talk about productive lines this season without mentioning the Badgers’ Daryl Watts, Abby Roque, and Sophie Shirley, who are first, second, and third in scoring nationally. They’ve combined for 43 goals, 61 assists, and 106 points in Wisconsin’s 16 games.

Roque, who I highlighted last week as one of the most impactful seniors so far this year, is the most dominant center in the country in terms of faceoffs. She’s two off the national lead with 224 wins and has won 64.7% of her draws. Watts is averaging more points per game (2.56) than she did when she won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as a freshman. And Shirley is just six points away from matching her total as a rookie last season.

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UConn’s big showing against BC: In the past two weeks, the Huskies have played three games against Boston College, and won two of them. This is the first season since 2006-07 that they’ve taken two games from the Eagles, and they were a minute and change away from going to overtime in the third game on Saturday. Instead, Boston College’s Savannah Norcross came up with a goal with 1:11 left to win it, 2-1. It was a big result for the Eagles, who had dropped three out of four games after starting the season off 9-0-1.

So far, UConn is showing some significant improvements from last year. They’ve gone from being 23rd in the country in shots on goal margin per game (+0.42) to ninth this season (+11.21). They’re also getting strong individual performances from the top of the line-up. Last season, only four players were scoring half a point per game or better; so far this year, they have six, and two of them (Natalie Snodgrass and Catherine Crawley) are besting a point-per-game rate. Senior goaltender Morgan Fisher, who’s started the last five games for the team, has gone from a .912 save percentage to a .925.

BC still sits in first in Hockey East with 21 points, but they’ve played more conference games than any other team. UConn is tied for third with 11 points, and has games in hand on BC (five games), Northeastern (one game), and New Hampshire (three games).

Top Performers

Hallie Theodosopoulos, Senior, Forward, St. Cloud State: Theodosopoulos helped the Huskies mount a comeback against Wisconsin on Friday, though they fell just short in a 5-3 loss. She added another goal on Saturday to make it three on the weekend against her former teammate at UND.

Kenzie Harmison, Freshman, Goaltender, LIU: Harmison backstopped the Sharks to the program’s first-ever win streak, picking up two wins against Post and a shutout in the second game.

Kiki Radke, Senior, Forward, Bemidji State: Radke turned in a huge performance against Minnesota State this past weekend, posting two goals and two assists to lead the Beavers to a 5-2 win.

Jesse Compher, Junior, Forward, Boston University: She missed the first nine games of the season for the Terriers, but it didn’t take very long for Compher to get into midseason form. She had a four-point outing against UVM on Sunday and has five goals and seven points in her last three games.

Ava Boutilier, Junior, Goaltender, New Hampshire: Boutilier held down the fort for the Wildcats against Northeastern, making 35 saves in a 1-0 loss. She followed that up with a 45-save performance to help New Hampshire upset Harvard, 3-1, on Saturday.

Abbie Ives, Senior, Goaltender, Quinnipiac: Ives pitched shutouts in two of her last three starts, against RPI and St. Lawrence. She then helped the Bobcats earn a 2-2 tie against Clarkson, making 26 saves on Saturday.

Nara Elia, Junior, Forward, Boston University: Elia was the overtime hero for the Terriers against Vermont in their first tilt this past weekend. That was the fourth-straight game where she factored into the game-winning goal, after scoring against Yale and Harvard and assisting on the winner against Providence.

Michaela Boyle, Sophomore, Forward, Robert Morris: Boyle netted a hat trick in a 6-1 victory against Rensselaer this weekend, her second three-goal game of the season. That puts her in pretty special company at Robert Morris; Rebecca Vint is the only other Colonial to score two hat tricks in a single season. Plus, Boyle now has another record all to herself:

Don’t Miss It

Upcoming games to watch for:

Country Classic (Friday, Nov. 29, and Saturday, Nov. 30): The top two teams in the country, Minnesota and Wisconsin, head to Nashville to take on Boston College and Harvard.

Cornell at Princeton (Friday, Dec. 6): There’s a very good chance that first place in the ECAC will be on the line when these two Ivy League rivals meet in a couple of weeks.

Mercyhurst at Robert Morris (Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7): This will be the first meeting of the season between College Hockey America’s top two squads.