Breaking Down the BU Women’s Hockey East Opponents

By: Caroline Fernandez and Joe Pohoryles

Image from BU Athletics

With the release of the Hockey East schedule yesterday, the Boston University Women’s Hockey team will play a total of 22 games this season, all in-conference. Here’s a closer look at each team in the league:

University of Maine

The University of Maine Black Bears (2019-20 15-14-8, 9-11-7 HE) ended their season ranked seventh in Hockey East, but they cut BU’s season short in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

The Black Bears were in the top half of the league offensively, scoring 61 goals in conference play. The top scorer, freshman Ida Kuoppala, finished with 33 points from 19 goals and 14 assists, placing her fourth in Hockey East in goal scoring. Maine will return forwards Liga Mijine, Ali Beltz and Celine Tedenby. All are returning to Alfond Arena for their third year with more experience on the ice.

Maine will be losing their second best skater in forward Tereza Vanisova. In her four years with the Black Bears, she broke the school record for all-time career points with a total of 143. 

Along with Vanisova, the Black Bears are losing Carly Jackson in net. Jackson ranked fifth in Hockey East with a 2.04 goals against average (GAA) and .931 save percentage. The team will look to freshmen Anna Larose and Jordan Mattinson to take over Jackson’s spot. Larose wore a “C” for North Wright County, finishing with a 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage. Also vying for the starting position is Mattinson who ended her season with the Etobicoke Dolphins of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). With the Dolphins, Mattinson sported a 1.18 GAA and .942 save percentage.

The Terriers met the Black Bears five times last season, winning the first two games, tying the next, and ultimately losing the last two in the Hockey East Quarterfinals– a testament to Maine’s development throughout the season.

University of Vermont

The University of Vermont Catamounts (2019-20: 10-18-8, 7-14-6 HE) finished just behind Maine in the Hockey East rankings, putting them eighth in the league. 

Vermont had the third-best power play in Hockey East, falling behind BU and Maine. Offensively, Vermont’s top five point-scorers will be returning to the ice this season. Forward Theresa Schafzahl tied for first on the team with 29 points (13g, 15a), followed by defenseman Maude Poulin-Labelle who earned 29 points from 12 goals and 17 assists. Tied for second in points with a total of 24 were Corinne McCool (13g, 11a) and Sini Karjalainen (5g, 19a). 

The Catamounts are also returning starting goaltender Blanka Skodova, who ended her season with a 2.56 GAA and a .893 save percentage. Joining the UVM team is Jessie McPherson who spent the last three seasons with the Cambridge Rivulettes of the PWHL. With the Rivulettes, McPherson had a 1.27 GAA and a .945 save percentage, making her a candidate for the starting position. 

The Terriers swept the Catamounts in all three games last season.

University of New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire Wildcats (2019-20: 18-15-4, 12-12-3 HE) finished fifth in the Hockey East rankings with the third-best defensive team in the league.

Like a lot of Hockey East teams, the Wildcats graduated their top four point scorers last spring. Leading the way was forward Meghara McManus who finished with 27 points (17g, 10a), followed by defenseman Tori Howran (2g-20a-22p), and redshirt senior captain Taylor Wenczkowski (7g-14a-21p).

The Wildcats will be adding five new forwards and three defensemen this season, most notably forwards Ciara Wall and Avery Myers. Wall led her team at Worcester Academy to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) semifinals, and Myers was the second leading scorer at the 2017 USA national camp. 

In net, UNH will get back three netminders for the 2020-21 season. Redshirt junior Ava Boutilier will likely spend the most time in the crease, with a 1.75 GAA and .942 save percentage last season.

The Wildcats will need to add some depth offensively, but will return experienced players to the net. The Terriers fell to the Wildcats in their first meeting last season but went on to shut them out twice in February.

Providence College

The Providence College Friars (2019-20: 18-14-4, 15-10-2 HE) finished immediately behind the Terriers for third place in the league. 

The Friars are returning key players Sara Hjalmarsson and Lauren DeBlois this season, along with Sandra Abstreiter who started in net last year. Hjalmarsson tied for 10th in goals in conference play in 2019-20, totaling 28 points from 17 goals and 11 assists. She also competed for Team Sweden in the 2019 Winter Olympic Games in PeyongChang. Sophomore Lauren Deblois ranked eighth in Hockey East scoring among defensemen with 23 points (6g, 17a).

Providence has graduated Whitney Dove, who ranked second in defenseman scoring. In her senior year, Dove captained the team’s power play and helped the Friars secure a spot as the fourth-best defensive team in the league. In her fourth year, Dove totaled 28 points (9g, 19a), which tied for team-best.

Sandra Abstreiter will be returning to Providence this season, joined by sophomore Katrina Broccoli and freshman Mireille Kingsley. Abstreiter posted a 1.74 GAA and .922 save percentage, while Kingsley will be coming to the Friars having finished her season with the Mississauga Hurricanes of the PWHL with a 1.92 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

The Friars have added three forwards, three defensemen and one goalie for the 2020-21 season. Incoming defenseman KC Brooks won the Hobey Baker Award for high school hockey and also received USA Hockey America’s Showcase Most Valuable Player award in 2019. 

Providence met BU three times last season, winning one game and losing the other two.

Northeastern University

The Northeastern Huskies (2019-20: 32-4-2, 14-3-0 HE) are a favorite in the national polls, currently sitting third after Wisconsin and Cornell in the US College Hockey Organization’s pre-season rankings. The Huskies had a dominating season in 2019-20, finishing first in Hockey East, and they added extra hardware with a victory in the Beanpot and the Hockey East tournament championship.

The Huskies are stacked both offensively and defensively, returning forwards Alina Mueller, Chloe Aurard, Mia Brown, and Katy Knoll, and defensemen Brooke Hobson and Skylar Fontaine. Of the top point scorers in Hockey East last year, Northeastern made up four of the top seven players with Mueller leading the way.

Mueller, the junior out of Winterthur, Switzerland, tied for second nationally in points with 66 (27g, 39a). Mueller was the Hockey East Player of the Year and the second-fastest Northeastern player to reach the 100-point mark, behind Kendall Coyne. She led Hockey East in points, goals, assists, short-handed points, short-handed goals, and game-winning goals. Mueller was one of the three finalists for the 2020 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. Mueller is the youngest player in Olympics history to win a medal, when she earned bronze with Team Switzerland in 2014, and was named ‘Best Forward’ in 2018 in PyeongChang.

Chloe Aurard ranked 11th nationally, with 49 points (21g, 28a). Aurard was named Beanpot MVP in 2019-20 after recording five points in the Beanpot Semifinals and Finals. Meanwhile, goaltender Aerin Franklin posted an otherworldly 1.07 GAA and .958 save percentage to lead the nation last season. Now a senior, she will yet again be the toughest goaltender the Terriers have to go up against.

BU fell to Northeastern in all four matchups last year, including the Beanpot Finals. 

University of Connecticut

The UConn Huskies (2019-20: 19-18-2, 13-12-2 HE) made it all the way to the Hockey East championship last season, making a surprise run as the fifth seed before falling to Northeastern. The run to the finals truly came out of nowhere; after finishing just above .500 in Hockey East play, the Huskies dropped their final three games of the regular season, two of them coming against BU.

Top scorer Natalie Snodgrass (16g-17a-33p) returns for her senior season, and senior twins Morgan and Taylor Wabick round out the returning 20-point scorers. The Wabicks totaled 21 points each, with Morgan, a forward, netting eight goals to go with 13 assists, and Taylor, a defenseman, contributing six goals and 15 assists.

Forwards Catherine Crawley and Briana Colangelo were top three on the team in scoring last season and have both graduated, while starting netminder Morgan Fisher graduated as well. Samantha Carpentier-Yelle appeared in 12 games as a sophomore last season, posting a 7-3-0 record and three shutouts. She allowed just 18 goals on 255 shots.

UConn boasted the second-best penalty kill in Hockey East last season, killing 90.3 percent of penalties. In a truncated season where every goal will be crucial, that advantage on the PK could be huge for the Huskies if they carry it over from last season.

BU won all three games against UConn last season.

College of Holy Cross

The Holy Cross Crusaders (2019-20: 5-23-5, 5-20-2 HE) finished ninth in the Hockey East standings last year. With a relatively young roster, the Crusaders struggled to generate offense, averaging a league-worst 1.00 goal per game as only two players totaled double-digit points on the year. 

Things weren’t much better on defense, as the Crusaders allowed 3.63 goals per game, the worst rate in Hockey East. With the least successful power play (7.4 percent) and second-worst penalty kill (81.3 percent), special teams did not provide a boost either.

On the bright side, the Crusaders return nearly all of their top contributors. Top scorer Rachel Moore (3g-9a-12p) has graduated, but the next 10 highest scoring players will all be back. 

The team also added six freshmen, highlighted by forward Millie Sirum, who scored five points (2g, 3a) in five games with the Norwegian National Team in 2019, and goaltender Madison Beck, who has experience with Team Canada in the U-18 World Championships.

Holy Cross will be a more experienced team this season, but will have to improve significantly across the board before they can expect to make any waves in the Hockey East standings. BU swept the Crusaders in all three games last year.

Merrimack College

The Merrimack Warriors (2019-20: 5-24-5, 2-20-5 HE) finished at the bottom of the Hockey East standings last season. Ironically, BU gave Merrimack two of their seven “non-loss” games in Hockey East play, tying them 2-2 on Oct. 11 and tying them again 1-1 on Jan. 24.

Last year’s team was carried offensively by forward Mikyla Mentis-Grant (20g-13a-33p). The Hockey East Second Team All-Star led the team in nearly every major offensive category and graduated as a program legend, finishing her career with the most career points (117), assists (61) and second-most goals (56) in program history.

Last year’s next-highest scorer, Dominika Laskova (4g-13a-17p) returns for her senior season, and the rest of last year’s top five scorers return with the exception of Kate Bukolska, who is forgoing her senior season to begin playing professionally in her native Czech Republic.

Despite finishing at the bottom of Hockey East, Merrimack finished in the middle of the pack on the power play with a 14.4 percent success rate, though much of that success can be attributed to Mentis-Grant. It will be up to the returning roster to pick up the slack on special teams.

Boston College

The Boston College Eagles (2019-20: 17-16-3, 14-11-2 HE) finished fourth in Hockey East last season, but return eight of their top 10 scorers from last season, including Hockey East Rookie of the Year Hannah Bilka. Adding in a solid freshman class, the Eagles are poised to do some damage this year.

The Eagles were just behind BU and Northeastern when it came to scoring during league play last season, averaging 2.81 goals per game. Unlike their crosstown rivals, however, they were in the bottom half of Hockey East when it came to keeping opposing pucks out of their net. They were seventh in the league with 2.56 goals allowed per game.

Junior forward Kelly Browne joins Bilka as one of the top scorers in Hockey East coming back this season. Browne posted 36 points (13g, 23a) compared to Bilka’s 37 (14g, 23a) as both were named to Hockey East All-Star Teams (Bilka-Second, Browne-Third).

Junior netminder Maddy McArthur returns as well after posting a 2.51 GAA and .913 save percentage across all competitions last year.

BU won two out of three regular season matchups and also defeated the Eagles 4-0 in last year’s Beanpot Semifinals.

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