Preview and Picks for 2015 Women’s Hockey CHA Playoffs
3. Robert Morris vs. 6. Rochester Institute of Technology
Robert Morris lowdown: Although the Colonials are generally responsible and poised on the backcheck, thus habitually minimizing the opponent’s shooting quality, turnovers and higher-class adversaries alike can exploit them. Mackenzie Johnston’s sophomore surge has given her a team-high 21 points, though senior Maddie Collias (13 points) has created enough looks around the net to deserve leading production numbers herself. Point patroller Mikaela Lowater is always someone to monitor as well.
RIT lowdown: With 2.21 goals against per game, the Tigers trail only Mercyhurst for the CHA’s most efficient defense, and rank 13th in that category nationally. Four losses to those Lakers and a 6-1 shellacking via North Dakota are the prime culprits in “swelling” that GAA to where it is. But the offense, and especially the nation’s worst power play (7.9 percent) leave more to be desired.
Bottom line: Goaltender Ali Binnington, two defenders and four forwards comprise a senior class looking for one last crack at a head-turning finale with RIT. They and the rest of the Tigers set a timely tone on the penultimate weekend of the regular season, never trailing in back-to-back 2-2 road ties with these Colonials. If they can stifle RMU’s top six and keep the special-teams segments to a minimum, they should cultivate a richer reward on their return trip.
Prediction: RIT in three
4. Penn State vs. 5. Lindenwood
Penn State lowdown: A sturdy defense has been hurting for rewards in the wake of an arid stretch at the other end. PSU mustered all of four goals over its final five regular-season games, with only Laura Bowman and Shannon Yoxheimer tallying multiple points in that span. A general shortage of depth, especially when crossing into the defining phases of the campaign, places precarious pressure on goaltender Celine Whitlinger and company.
Lindenwood lowdown: Junior netminder Nicole Hensley is entitled to a fresh stock of conviction after backstopping last Friday’s 3-1 upset of Mercyhurst. Given that the next day’s game had no bearing on the Lions’ position in the final standings, head coach Scott Spencer was wise to give her a day off in preparation for her playoff vertebra role.
Bottom line: With relatively equal experience at this stage between these two benches, veteran presence figures to tip the scale. There has already been evidence of that in each team’s pseudo-playoff homestretch, wherein the Nittany Lions egregiously spilled their bid for a bye while Lindenwood broke out of the basement.
Prediction: Lindenwood in three
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