2020-21 Women’s Hockey East Preview

We might have to wait until next calendar year for the NWHL, but women’s hockey is getting back under way this weekend. Given Pride fans tend to be located in the vicinity of the best college hockey conference in the country (you heard me), why don’t we walk through a preview of Women’s Hockey East for 2020-21?

Junior Alina Mueller has thoroughly dominated the NCAA in her two seasons across the pond. What else could she possibly do next?
Photo Credit: Mark Lorenz, Boston Globe.

1) Northeastern

Losses: D Codie Cross (Buffalo, 9th Overall/New Hampshire – PWHPA), D Paige Capistran (Boston, 30th Overall), F Matti Hartman

Incoming Players: F Molly Griffin (BB&N), D Lily Yovetich (Ottawa), D Abbey Marohn (Culver Academy), F Maureen Murphy (Providence College), F Ani Fitzgerald (Toronto), F Peyton Cullaton (Redshirt), F Andrea Renner (Injury Redshirt)

The Huskies are three-time defending Hockey East champs for a reason, and they lost only 3 players off of their roster from last season. They lost two of their best defenders, both of whom are playing professionally this year, but somehow actually got BETTER. They gain a bonafide star in Providence transfer Maureen Murphy (#19, 2021), which honestly shouldn’t be allowed at this point, they are already too good with superstars Alina Mueller (#1, 2022) and Chloe Aurard (#7, 2022) up front. Sophomores Peyton Anderson (#27, 2023) and Katy Knoll (#13, 2023) had excellent freshman campaigns, and should continue to improve this season. They have one of the deepest forward corps in the entire league, and that doesn’t account for how good their back end still is. Lauren MacInnis (#45, 2021) started coming into her own last year, and will be expected to step up and shoulder more responsibility this season, as will sophomore Megan Carter (#16, 2023). I haven’t even mentioned senior Skylar Fontaine (#4, 2021), who has a case to be the best offensive defender in the entire country, let alone the conference. In net, they return their full battery of goaltenders. Expect senior Aerin Frankel (#3, 2021) to once again carry the load for the Huskies, who should cruise through the regular season with their eyes firmly on the #1 Ranking in the entire country.

Jesse Compher missed a lot of time due to injury last season, but is fully healthy, and ready to prove that she is the best Compher sibling.
Photo Credit: BU Athletics

2) Boston University

Losses: D Alexandra Calderone (Concordia – USports), F Deziray De Sousa (Independent – PWHPA), D Abby Cook (Djurgårdens IF – SDHL), D Katie Shannahan, F Natasza Tarnowski (KMH Budapest – EWHL), F Sammy Davis (Boston, 1st Overall), D Breanna Scarpaci (New Hampshire – PWHPA), D Abbey Stanley

Incoming Players:  F Clare O’Leary (Tabor Academy), D Andi Calderone (John Abbott College), F Lacey Martin (Minnetonka), D Julia Shaunessy (Tabor Academy), D Madison Cardaci (Williston Northampton), D Tamara Giaquinto (Etobicoke/Appelby College), F Catherine Foulem (Ridley College)

BU lost some of the highest profile players to graduation this year; #1 Overall Pick Sammy Davis and defender Abby Cook are going to be very, very difficult to replace. The bigger question here is their defense. Italian sophomore Nadia Mattivi (#4, 2023) looked good as a freshman, but is going to be asked to handle quite a bit more responsibility this season. Apart from her, they are going to lean heavily on their incoming freshmen, particularly Madison Cardaci, to handle tough assignments right out of the gates. It will help to have strong goaltending, as senior Corinne Schroeder (#12, 2021) is one of the best in the conference, and Kate Stuart is no slouch as her backup either. However, the Terriers are going to have to outscore their opponents consistently to make up for those defensive shortcomings, at least early in the season. Luckily, they have a dangerous returning group. Senior Jesse Compher (#8, 2021) missed a decent chunk of last season due to injury – she’s fully healthy and that should terrify opponents. Sophomore Julia Nearis (#17, 2023) has future star written all over her, and an elevated role will only allow those talents to continue to flourish. Expect Nara Elia (#23, 2021) to dominate the netfront for BU, and give Compher the space she needs (which isn’t much) to be dangerous.

Captain Ava Boutilier finished last season hotter than any netminder in the league – can the Wildcats score enough to take the pressure off?
Photo Credit: Andrew Yourell

3) UNH

Losses: F Taylor Wenczkowski (Boston, 18th Overall), F Meghara McManus (Boston, 29th Overall), F Carlee Turner (Boston, UDFA), D Tori Howran (Connecticut, 7th Overall), F Nicole Dunbar, D Lexie Revkin, F Hannah Touzos, F/D Abby Chapman

Incoming Players: F Ciara Wall (Worcester Academy), F Avery Myers (Minnesota Ice Cougars), F Nicole Kelly (Brantford Collegiate Institute), F Chavonne Truter (Durham West), F Brianna Brooks (Durham West), D Kyla Bent (Rothesay Netherwood School), D Charli Kettyle (Nepean), D Brianna Legros (Etobicoke)

No, I don’t factor my inherent bias in here – I genuinely think this is a team that can do some damage. The Wildcats had 3 players get drafted in the NWHL this year, and a 4th sign as an undrafted free agent. Essentially, they lost their #1 defender and top forward line. However, the rest of the team is young and deadly. Their ace in the hole is their goaltending, as sophomore Nikki Harnett showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman, and redshirt-junior Ava Boutilier (#8, 2022) has the ability to completely take over a game at a moment’s notice. Junior Talli Warren (#40, 2022) and senior Maddie Truax (#49, 2021) are premier shutdown defenders, and junior Emily Rickwood (#47, 2022) started showing off some of her offensive flair last season from the back end. The Wildcats will have to rely on an infusion of youth up front to augment their scoring, but freshmen Nicole Kelly, Chavonne Truter, and Brianna Brooks all come in with extremely high expectations. Until the newbies can get their legs under them at the collegiate level, senior Grace Middleton (#84, 2021) and junior Lauren Martin (#44, 2022) will have to lead the attack for UNH, and will look to rising sophomores and budding stars Tamara Thiérus (#12, 2023) and Jada Christian (#31, 2023) to bury their opportunities at a high clip. Hopefully, redshirt-junior Paige Rynne (#100, 2022) is healthy, because she is a unique weapon that is for the Wildcats to deploy offensively. This is a team on the verge of breaking out – they may not be at Northeastern’s level this year, but they’ve been quietly building a powerhouse that should be a championship threat in the coming years.

Cayla Barnes already has an Olympic Gold Medal on her resume. She wants a Hockey East Championship as well.
Photo Credit: John Quackenbos

4) Boston College

Losses: G Molly Barrow, F Erin Connolly (PWHPA), F Delaney Belinskas (Metropolitan, 10th Overall/New Hampshire – PWHPA), F Bridget McCarthy, D Kate Annese, F Lindsay Agnew (KRS Vanke Rays – WHL)

Incoming Players: F Natalie Tulchinsky (St. Paul’s), D Maddie Crowley-Cahill (Kent), F Christina Klinoff (NAHA), F Olivia O’Brien (Phillips Andover), F Caroline Goffredo (Boston Jr. Eagles), D Sidney Fess (NAHA), F Gaby Roy (St. Paul’s), F Cecily Hetzel (Culver Academy), G Abigail Levy (Minnesota State), G Kelly Lavelle (BC Club in 2018-19)

BC is a befuddling program to me. They have a ludicrous amount of talent, yet the results have been rather inconsistent the last few years. Losing Delaney Belinskas and Lindsay Agnew hurts, but the majority of their stars still have at least two years of eligibility remaining, and they brought in some significant defensive help the last two years. Maddie Crowley-Cahill will make an immediate impact on the back end as a freshman, allowing superstar Cayla Barnes (#4, 2022) and impressive sophomores Alexie Guay (#21, 2023) and Hadley Hartmetz (#44, 2023) to breathe a bit more – Barnes was often playing more than half of the game this past year on the back end. Their offense has never been a problem – reigning NCAA Rookie of the Year Hannah Bilka (#1, 2023) should only continue to improve, and if possible, playing junior Kelly Browne (#10, 2022) on a separate line gives the Eagles two dangerous scoring lines. Expect juniors Savannah Norcross (#74, 2022) and Olivia Finocchiaro (#91, 2022) and sophomore Caroline DiFiore (#66, 2023) to supplement that offense extremely well. The big problem for BC the last few years has been inconsistency between the pipes. Juniors Maddy McArthur and Kelly Pickreign have shown flashes in the last two years, but overall, the Eagles are still trying to recover from the loss of Katie Burt. They are hoping a combination of Minnesota State transfer Abigail Levy and improvement from McArthur and Pickreign will lead them to the promise land, but I am still skeptical at this point.

Captain Natalie Snodgrass is an intriguing blend of natural goal-scoring talent and snarl, never shy about getting under the skin of her opponents.
Photo Credit: UConn Athletics

5) UConn

Losses: F Jessie Aney, F Leona Sim (SDE HF – SDHL), G Morgan Fisher, D Tristyn Svetek, F Briana Colangelo, F Catherine Crawley

Incoming Players: D Alexandra-Anne Boyer (Dawson College), F Kathryn Stockdale (Nepean), F Jada Habisch (Buffalo High), F Valérie Haché (Selects Academy), F Kate Klassen (Pacific), G Tia Chan (Burlington)

UConn lost some of their best players from last season but will rely on some crafty veterans to pick up the slack for them instead. Senior Natalie Snodgrass (#9, 2021) is an absolute star, and senior twins Morgan (#24, 2021) and Taylor (#25, 2021) Wabick had breakout seasons as juniors. Juniors Viki Harkness (#61, 2022) and Danielle Fox (#89, 2022) will have to continue to improve and step up to fill the void offensively, while sophomore Claire Peterson (#80, 2023) will be asked to take on tougher minutes in her second season. Between the pipes, I would expect freshman Tia Chan to come in and steal a heavy dose of the starts now that Morgan Fisher has graduated. I think Snodgrass and the Wabick twins will be able to shoulder the load for a decent chunk of the season – the question is, can the youth step up to fill the void?

Swedish power forward Sara Hjalmarsson uses her size and strength to dominate opponents at both ends of the ice.
Photo Credit: Stew Milne

6) Providence

Losses: F Maureen Murphy (Northeastern), D Whitney Dove (Buffalo, UDFA), F Kathleen McHugh, F Meaghan Rickard, F Neve Van Pelte (Buffalo, UDFA), D Avery Fransoo, G Claire Minnerath, Sonja Bjornson (Brown)

Incoming Players: F Maddy Coene (Selects Academy), F Lindsay Bochna (Etobicoke), D KC Brooks (St. Louis Lady Blues), F Chloe McNeil (Ottawa), D Brooke Becker (Stoney Creek), D Claire Tyo (Ottawa), G Mireille Kingsley (Mississauga)

This is a Providence team that was never the same after losing Maureen Murphy early in the season last year, and they lost most of their top end players to graduation as well. Whitney Dove was their clear #1 defender last season and losing two transfers in addition to their graduations has really hurt the depth of this Friar team. Senior Hayley Lunny (#67, 2021) will be asked to shoulder a lot of the offensive load lost from Murphy, with junior Sara Hjalmarsson (#17, 2022) already established in a defined scoring role. Senior Chloe Gonsalves (#94, 2021) and impressive sophomore Lauren DeBlois (#11, 2023) will be asked to take the defensive responsibilities of Avery Fransoo and Dove, and the Friars will need continued improvement from sophomores Bailey Burton and Isabelle Hardy to bolster their forward corps. In net, German junior Sandra Abstreiter will step into the starter’s role for the first time in her career and will need to improve her consistency if the Friars are going to be competitive.

Maude Poulin-Labelle has taken Burlington by storm as an underclassmen. What kind of impact can she have in her junior campaign?
Photo Credit: Brian Jenkins

7) Vermont

Losses: F Abby Cleary, F Ali O’Leary, F Allie Granato, F Ève-Audrey Picard, F Emma Katzman (Retired?)

Incoming Players: D Bella Parento (Kimball Union), F Maddy Skelton (North Wright County), G Jessie McPherson (Cambridge), F Tynka Pátová (Redshirt), F Natálie Mlynková (HTI Stars)

Vermont returns the majority of their top players, though losing Picard is going to hurt. Senior Kristina Shanahan (#35, 2021) and juniors Theresa Schafzahl (#24, 2022) and Corinne McCool (#29, 2022) are going to be the headliners on offense, with Schafzahl being one of the league’s more dynamic players. Sophomore Lily Humphrey (#63, 2023) and senior Val Caldwell (#75, 2021) will provide excellent scoring depth for the Catamounts. On the back end, they have two of the best in juniors Maude Poulin-Labelle (#18, 2022) and Sini Karjalainen (#26, 2022), but the depth drops off from there. Redshirt freshman Tynka Pátová will make her long-overdue collegiate debut this season, and Czech national team star Natálie Mlynková will join her fellow countrywoman in the lineup. Junior goaltender Blanka Skodova is solid if not unspectacular between the pipes, but Vermont’s downfall is how thin they are as a roster. They have far too many unproven players in the bottom half of their lineup, particularly on the blue line, for me to be confident that they will be able to be much more than a thorn in the sides of the top half of the conference.

Junior Carlie Magier has developed into an important weapon for the Crusaders’ attack.
Photo Credit: Mark Seliger Photography

8) Holy Cross

Losses: D Charlotte Abrecht, D Hannah Gillis, F Rachel Moore, D Victoria Young, F Sarah Stevens, F Maggie Hallisey

Incoming Players: D Vaia Graves (NAHA), D Grace Johnson (Blake), F Bryn Saarela (Williston Northampton), F Millie Sirum (Kent/Norwegian National Team), F Lilly Feeney (Phillips Andover), G Madison Beck (St. Paul’s)

This may be my gutsiest prediction, but I think Holy Cross pushes for and gets into their first playoff appearance as a Division I program this year. This could be seen as a result of increasing struggles from its competitors, but they started showing some signs of being a major player this past season, and didn’t finish last in the conference for the first time in program history. A few of their losses will hurt – Rachel Moore and Victoria Young were far and away the most experienced players on the roster last season – but I really like their incoming class of freshmen. Newcomer Millie Sirum, a long-time member of the Norwegian National Program has all the makings of a star, and junior goaltender Jada Brenon has flashed game-stealing ability in her career. Two-year captain and Austrian national team player Antonia Matzka (#93, 2021) is underrated on the blue line, but continued progression from junior Allison Attea and sophomore Kailey Langefels would go a long way to helping the Crusader defensive corps be successful. Junior Carlie Magier (#93, 2022) has had promising numbers in her first two seasons and will be asked to lead the attack this year for Holy Cross. This is a team that probably won’t get through the Northeastern buzzsaw in the opening round of the playoffs, but they aren’t a pushover anymore.

Sophomore sensation Ida Kuoppala was a goal scoring machine as a freshman – can she continue lighting the lamp for the Black Bears in Year 2?
Photo Credit: Maine Athletics

9) Maine

Losses: G Jillian Flynn, D Ebba Strandberg (Brynäs IF – SDHL), F Brittany Colton, F Tereza Vanišová (Boston, 12th Overall), F Vendula Přibylová, G Carly Jackson (Buffalo, 3rd Overall)

Incoming Players: D Olivia King (Taft), D Kennedy Little (Andover High), F Brooke Carriere (Toronto), F Katelyn Arman (Minnesota Ice Cougars), F Morgan Sadler (Mississauga), F Rahel Enzler (SC Reinach), D Elise Morphy (Shattuck), G Jorden Mattison (Etobicoke), G Anna Larose (North Wright County)

No team had more impactful losses this season than the Black Bears. They lost their clear #1 forward in Tereza Vanišová and their long-time starter in net in Carly Jackson to the NWHL Draft, and Swedish defender Ebba Strandberg is playing professionally in Sweden this season. They brought in a lot of young talent to supplement those losses, but I’m VERY concerned about their goaltending. Senior Loryn Porter is solid, but has never been asked to be the starter, and she doesn’t have any insulation behind her either. They will need sophomore Ida Kuoppala (#2, 2023) to continue the trajectory of her outstanding freshman campaign to make up for the loss of Vanišová, and juniors Liga Miljone (#23, 2022) and Celine Tedenby (#34, 2022) will need to step into more offensive roles this season. Junior Ali Beltz (#46, 2022) and senior Michelle Weis (#81, 2021) are solid depth scoring options. On the back end, junior Ida Press (#65, 2022) will be asked to shoulder a heavy load with senior Taylor Leech, while they will hope for resurgent seasons from seniors Darya Teryoshkina and Anna Ziková will improve their depth. Sophomore Ella MacLean (#39, 2023) had an impressive freshman campaign, and continued growth from her would be encouraging for the Black Bears. Overall, I am too worried about their goaltending and the offensive firepower they lost to think the Black Bears can be more than an 8th or 9th seed – I think the goaltending is what drops them out of the playoffs.

Sophomore Katie Kaufman will be asked to accelerate her development if the Warriors want to generate consistent offense this year.
Photo Credit: Merrimack Athletics

10) Merrimack

Losses:  G Léa-Kristine Demers, F Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto, UDFA), D Chloe Cook, F Kate Bukolska (HC Pribham, left after 3 years), F Jessica Jacques, D Lauren MacLean

Incoming Players: D Natalie Nemes (Tabor Academy), D Grace Karunakar (Durham West), D Bree Bergeron (Loomis Chaffee), F Ally Qualley (Breck), F Reagan Minor (Stoney Creek), D Raice Szott (Ontario Hockey Academy), F Carly Glover (Alaska All-Stars), F Hannah Conreliusen (Warroad), G Aries Mustoe (Oakville)

The Warriors had a dismal rebuilding season last year, and unfortunately for them, it doesn’t look like it will improve any time soon. Kate Bukolska left a year early to play in her native Czech Republic, while they lost goaltender G Léa-Kristine Demers and star forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis to graduation. Seniors Megan Fergusson (#79, 2021) and Dominika Laskova (#85, 2021) are going to be asked to cover holes up front that may be too large for them, though a strong sophomore campaign from Katie Kaufman (#91, 2023) would help tremendously. The defensive corps is a mess, with Lauren MacLean disappearing from the roster after a solid freshman season and losing captain Chloe Cook to graduation. Their hopes lie with incoming freshman and former Middlebury College commit Bree Bergeron to pick up some of the slack. In net, sophomore Emma Gorski will be thrust into the starter’s role whether she is ready for it or not, and there isn’t a ton of depth behind her. This looks like it has the makings of another long season in Andover.

What do you think will happen this year? Be sure to tune in to NESN for any of the 6 currently announced matchups between these teams:

DateAway TeamHome TeamTime
Friday, November 20thBoston CollegeUNH4:30 PM
Saturday, November 21stMaineHoly Cross1:00 PM (NESN+)
Saturday, November 21stUNHBoston College4:30 PM
Friday, November 27thProvidenceNortheastern1:00 PM
Saturday, December 5thMerrimackNortheastern2:00 PM
Sunday, December 13thBoston CollegeNortheastern2:00 PM
Hockey East will air 6 Women’s matchups on NESN or NESN+ prior to the end of the 2020 calendar year

All games will be available to stream for free through CBS Sports. Please see each team’s schedule for links and details. Vermont will be delaying their season by an additional two weeks, meaning the flex weekends are already coming into play for the schedulers. We can’t be in the buildings, but let’s be sure to support these ladies by tuning in to games as much as possible! Let me know if you think I’m wrong (questionable, but possible).

Enjoy this content? Be sure to follow @PrideDiehards on Twitter for tons of women’s hockey news and analysis!

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

PuckNerd

Find me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey for all of your women's hockey content!

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