We're about two months into the college hockey season, and, at least on the women's side, the landscape has changed significantly compared to last season and the beginning of this season. Preseason No. 5 Northeastern fell out of the rankings fairly quickly, while unranked teams in the preseason, especially St. Lawrence, have risen up the rankings and seem like legitimate contenders. Without further ado, let's get into it.
The ECAC is Legit
As it currently stands, the ECAC has seven of their twelve teams within the top 15 in the USCHO poll, headlined by Pairwise-number-one Colgate, who is ranked fourth in the country, number five Clarkson, number seven Quinnipiac, number eight St. Lawrence, who might be the biggest surprise in the country, and number nine Cornell; the ECAC also has Princeton ranked twelfth and Yale ranked fourteenth.
As of the time of writing, there's only four teams in the ECAC who are ranked below 20th in the Pairwise rankings: RPI is 25th, Union is 27th, Dartmouth is 28th, and Harvard is 33rd.
Last season, four ECAC teams made the 11-team tournament, with Colgate as the three-seed, Yale as the four, Quinnipiac as the eight, and Clarkson as the nine. However, none of the four made the Frozen Four, as Clarkson was knocked out in the first round, and the other three were defeated in the quarterfinals. As crazy as it may seem, this year's conference is even better.
…But the WCHA is Even Better
The WCHA currently holds the top three teams in the country, with Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota being ranked first, second, and third, respectively, and they have the other two teams in the top 10 that aren't in the ECAC, those being Minnesota Duluth (ranked sixth) and St. Cloud State (ranked tenth). That means that out of the eight teams in the conference, five of them are in the top 10 teams in the country, and six of the eight are ranked in the top 20 by the Pairwise rankings (St. Thomas is ranked 19th); however, the bottom of the conference is much weaker than the ECAC, as the bottom two teams, Minnesota State and Bemidji State, are ranked 32nd and 35th (out of 44 teams), respectively.
The CHA and Hockey East Conferences are Extremely Similar
Hockey East is probably the stronger of the two conferences, with three teams: Connecticut (12th), Boston College (14th), and Vermont (15th) ranked ahead of the CHA's top team, Mercyhurst (17th), in the Pairwise rankings. However, after Mercyhurst, the CHA is decently strong, with Penn State (18th), RIT (20th), and Robert Morris (22nd) following up the Lakers.
Both conferences had teams that were expected to be contenders in the preseason; for Hockey East, Northeastern was ranked fifth in the preseason and has fallen out of the top half of the country, and for the CHA, Penn State was ranked 11th to start the season and has fallen decently; as it stands, they are currently 8-7-1, though they have played one of the toughest schedules in the country.
The Hockey East could end up putting multiple teams into the tournament, but the CHA will likely be a one-bid league this year; regardless, both are significantly behind the ECAC and WCHA, in terms of their talent levels.
St. Lawrence: The Surprise of the Year?
The Saints garnered some votes in the preseason USCHO poll (seven, which would have placed them 20th in the poll, if it went down that far), and last season, they earned one point in the season-ending poll. They lost their starting goalie from last season, Lucy Morgan, to Minnesota (where she has a 5-0 record in her starts), as well as other key contributors in Shailynn Snow, Chloé Puddifant, Rachel Teslak, and Sophie Holden.
However, additions like transfers Sarah Marchand and Mae Batherson from Syracuse and breakout years from Abby Hustler and Anna Segedi, as well as the steadily consistent play of Julia Gosling, who has been one of the best players in the country this season, have all led to the St. Lawrence's ascension up the pecking order into being national title contenders. The Saints’ goaltending has to be mentioned, too, as Emma-Sofie Nordström, a sophomore who serves as the Danish national team's starting goalie, is only allowing 2.14 goals per game, and that includes two games against Ohio State this weekend, where she allowed nine goals total.
As it stands, St. Lawrence is on track to make their first NCAA tournament since 2017, and head coach Chris Wells’ fourth tournament appearance since he took over as head coach before the 2008-09 season. This St. Lawrence alum certainly hopes that happens.
As a Whole…
As a whole, this season has been an interesting one thus far. There have been some surprises, but other things (like the conference pecking order) have pretty much remained the same as they were expected to be.