No. 1 Boston College and No. 2 Wisconsin each clinched conference crowns this past weekend. Fourth-ranked Quinnipiac’s next point gives the school its first-ever women’s ECAC regular-season hockey title.
Sandwiched between No. 2 and No. 4 is Minnesota, which has been bolstered by the recent return of U.S. Olympian and 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Amanda Kessel from a concussion injury that kept her off the ice all of last season.
What’s it all mean?
Mostly, that as unbeatable as Boston College has been in running its record to 32-0, the Eagles have company in the elite bracket come tournament time.
BC is threatening to become just the second team in women’s hockey history to finish a season unbeaten. If it runs the table BC will finish 40-0, one less victory than Minnesota’s historic 2012-2013 title team that finished 41-0.
Each of the teams mentioned above have been backstopped by some incredible goaltending.
Wisconsin played to its ninth sellout Saturday night and is led by Ann-Rene Desbiens’ 16 shutouts. The WCHA title is the Badgers’ fifth since 2006, and what bodes well for them is the first four conference titles each led to national title game appearances.
BC goalie Katie Burt has 12 shutouts, and Quinnipiac’s Sydney Rossman has 13 for the Bobcats.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s senior goalie Amanda Leveille has seven shutouts for the Gophers.
Statistically, they are the top four-ranked female goalies in the country.
North Dakota, Northeastern, Bemidji State, Boston University and Clarkson are among those who will have a say in ending stellar seasons, but it will be a Cinderella run to get through those big four and earn the national title.
In like a Lyon
Yale goalie Alex Lyon is heading into March on a roll. He has taken over the goaltender lead for best goals-against average (1.47) and save percentage (.944) after turning back all 36 shots in 3-0 win over Colgate on Friday and 20 more in 3-2 win over Clarkson on Saturday.
North Dakota’s Cam Johnson dropped to second in goals-against at 1.6 after Denver’s sweep over North Dakota last weekend. He also dropped into a three-way tie for second in save percentage (.937) behind Lyon and with RPI’s Jason Kasdorf and St. Lawrence’s Kyle Hayton.
Hayton was soaring before suffering an injury in Friday’s 4-3 overtime win against Quinnipiac, turning back 33 shots in the Bobcats’ only ECAC loss this season. Teammate Arthur Brey made 18 saves in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Princeton.
Should Hayton be available this weekend, Friday’s St. Lawrence-Yale game will be one of the best goalie matches of the season.
Bobcats still rule PairWise
Sam Anas has gone streaking for Quinnipiac,which may have dropped to third in ASN’s Elite Eight, but remains atop the PairWise rankings for the 17th consecutive week. This despite splitting two overtime games this past weekend and losing their first ECAC game to St. Lawrence.
Anas has been key to the Bobcats’ success. Of the junior forward’s 20 goals and 18 assists, 12 of the goals and nine assists have come in his current 13-game scoring streak.
He had a goal in Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to St. Lawrence and an assist in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Clarkson, also in overtime.
The Bobcats have one of their toughest road trips of the season this season when they travel to New York to take on RPI and Union on back-to-back nights.
Weird goal, great goaltending
But … mix in a hotter-than-hot goalie and one of the flukiest goals of the college hockey season and you get Minnesota State and Alabama Huntsville fighting to 1-1 and 3-3 ties.
Junior Matt Larose turned in one of the best goalie performances of the season by stopping 83 of 87 shots over the two-game series. UAH had 38 shots on net. His 49 saves in the 1-1 tie Saturday were the most in the WCHA this season.
As for the fluke goal, it came when Minnesota State had pulled its goalie for an extra attacker on a delayed penalty. A pass in the UAH zone deflected off a stick and dribbled all the way back into the Mavs’ open net.
Minnesota State still leads the conference with 33 points and is 15-10-7 overall. UAH, the WCHA’s last-place team is 6-17-5 overall.
The Mavs could have used the weekend to distance themselves from the pack. Instead, they hold a four-point lead over Michigan Tech and Bowling Green with Ferris State just five points off pace.
Video of the self-inflicted goal was tweeted by @NCAAIceHockey:
— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) February 13, 2016
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Irish eye Hockey East title
The Friars (21-5-4, 12-3-3 conference) trail Hockey East leader Notre Dame by three points.
Notre Dame is 18-5-7 overall and 14-2-2 in conference play with a 7-2-4 road record.
The Friars are 10-1-2 at home and coming off the coach Nate Leaman’s 100th career victory at Providence They are also 8-2-1 in the last 11 games.
Notre Dame has been even hotter at 13-1-3.
Gophers back on top
The Gophers (16-13-0 overall) are 11-3-0 in Big Ten play and their 33 points are one better than Michigan’s 32. The Wolverines (18-4-5) are 9-2-3 with two shootout wins in conference play.
Neither team plays in conference this weekend, which sets up a great showdown Feb. 25-26 when Minnesota hosts Michigan at Mariucci Arena.
One reason the Gophers are in the title hunt is they are 4-0 against Ohio State.
And they’re showing some resiliency.
After giving up the game-tying goal with less than a second remaining in regulation during Friday’s game, Justin Kloos scored his second goal of the night for a 5-4 overtime win 3:25 into OT.
It was the third consecutive overtime game between the two teams, all won by Minnesota.
Kloos has nine goals of the past 10 games.
Zink joins elite company
Zink is the first River Hawks’ defenseman to record a hat trick in 1996.