Preview and Picks for 2015 Women’s Hockey ECAC Playoffs
1. Clarkson vs. 8. Dartmouth
Clarkson lowdown: The defending national champions have defied their youth and their short bench (16 rostered skaters), hustling down the homestretch to usurp first place from Harvard on the final day of the regular season. Freshman Shea Tiley has seized the vacancy in net with an efficient 34-game ride that saw her confine the opponent to two goals or fewer 29 times.
Dartmouth lowdown: Until senior Gianna Guarino got the nod for her last home game, sophomore stopper Robyn Chemago had played every non-empty-net second of the season. In front of her, a recent tweak to the top six (left wings Lindsey Allen and Karlee Orland swapped lines) elicited a spike in offensive production. The Big Green have amassed 13 goals in their last four games after mustering only 10 within their previous six.
Bottom line: There is a slight experiential discrepancy between Chemago and Tiley, but the latter has enviable support from Clarkson’s core of holdovers. Quick releases and congestion on Chemago’s porch, especially when led by Clarkson captain Shannon MacAulay, can and should tip the scale in this matchup.
Prediction: Clarkson in three
2. Harvard vs. 7. Yale
Harvard lowdown: In an ironic twist, the team that imposed Boston College’s only regular-season loss in the Beanpot final brooked its primary blemish when it could have corralled first place in the ECAC. An unproductive weekend that saw a 1-1 draw with St. Lawrence and 1-0 loss to Clarkson closed an otherwise sound campaign. Recent U.S. Olympic coach Katey Stone has percolated a steady cohesion of seasoning, talent and depth in her belated 20th season behind the Crimson bench.
Yale lowdown: After suffering their most recent loss in the form of a 6-1 drubbing in Cambridge, the Bulldogs perked up for a season-best five-game winning streak. The highlight was a 3-0 shutout of intrastate rival Quinnipiac in the penultimate outing on the regular-season slate.
Bottom line: The sum of each party’s direction is conducive to a repeat pattern from when these programs met at the same site in last year’s quarters. The Bulldogs can subsist on their newfound conviction early on, but the Crimson will not take long to convert rightly incurred agitation to timely effectiveness.
Prediction: Harvard in three
3. Quinnipiac vs. 6. Princeton
Quinnipiac lowdown: No one in the nation limits negative scoresheet entries quite like Quinnipiac. The Bobcats average an NCAA-best 4.6 penalty minutes per night and are tied with Wisconsin and Boston College for the most efficient team defense, allowing a mere 1.12 opposing goals every 60 minutes.
Princeton lowdown: Goaltender Kimberley Newell’s value to the Tigers matches that of Quinnipiac counterpart Chelsea Laden’s to the Bobcats. Newell and a veteran-laden blue line have Princeton a pristine 7-0-0 when leading after the first period and 10-0-0 when safeguarding a lead after the 40-minute mark.
Bottom line: Seeing how neither side has seen many shootouts, and would not prefer any other scenario, one need not expect many red lights in their postseason tangle. The wild card will likely be a mix of Bobcats rookie sensation Taylar Cianfaro — she of a nation-leading eight game-winning goals — and a veteran crop salivating for redemption after last year’s mortifying 6-0 semifinal loss to Clarkson.
Prediction: Quinnipiac in two
4. Cornell vs. 5. St. Lawrence
Cornell lowdown: Like the Golden Knights and their national crown, the Big Red are defending their ECAC playoff pennant with a permanently short bench. The squad of 17 skaters caught fire in December after a wretched 3-6-0 start, but has logged less uplifting results of late. Cornell went 6-4-0 to close out the regular season, with two wins apiece against lowly Rensselaer and Union, plus two others that required overtime to complete.
St. Lawrence lowdown: Beginning with a 3-3 draw at Cornell’s Lynah Rink, the Saints went on a 10-2-2 tear over the final two months of the regular season. They are 4-0-2 on the road in that stretch, including the recent 1-1 draw at Harvard, and also blanked Quinnipiac at home, 3-0, the weekend prior.
Bottom line: Intangibles and international star power (i.e. senior and Canadian Olympian Brianne Jenner) can only carry a team so far for so long. That lesson is slowly taking shape for this installment of the four-time-in-five-years champion Big Red, and the Saints are in a prime position to punctuate it.
Prediction: St. Lawrence in three
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