Home to the national runner-up, Northeastern, Boston is again one of the hubs for women’s college hockey. While the Huskies have returned a significant percentage of their roster, player shifts were a theme of the off-season. Here are five storylines to watch as the season begins in earnest this weekend.
▪ Will Northeastern make it to the national title game again?
The Huskies’ odds are excellent. They return almost every player from their 22-2-1 season a year ago that ended with an overtime loss in the national title game to Wisconsin. This is great for the program, but a mixed bag for some of the players.
Players like goaltender Aerin Frankel and defensewoman Skylar Fontaine were surprisingly left off USA Hockey’s Olympic Centralization roster, which will train in Blaine, Minn., this fall in preparation for February’s Beijing Games. Frankel, the reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner who led the nation in save percentage last season (0.965), was initially USA Hockey’s pick for the Women’s World Championship team, but was left off the centralization roster when it was named over the summer.
The decision by USA Hockey is Northeastern’s gain, as Frankel is easily one of the best goaltenders in all of college hockey. Fontaine leads a strong defense that was second in the nation on the penalty kill. Alina Mueller, the nation’s leading scorer with 38 points in 25 games, also returns, though she is expected to leave late in the season to join the Swiss Olympic squad.
▪ Will BC have a breakout freshman?
The Eagles, who finished 14-6 and made it to the NCAA Tournament last season, have a knack for developing young players. There is a lot of buzz around Abby Newhook, who got off on the right foot Thursday night with the overtime winner in the Eagles’ season opener against Penn State. The Tabor Academy product has participated in several Hockey Canada camps and fits in well with BC’s style of offense. If not Newhook, keep an eye on Jenna Carpenter from the highly regarded Detroit HoneyBaked program.
▪ Will BU’s offense rebound from Jesse Compher’s absence?
Compher has tallied 46 goals over her career with the Terriers, and her abilities landed her a spot on the US Olympic Team Centralization squad, meaning she won’t suit up in scarlet and white this season. However, the injury that limited her to just nine games last season, led BU to spread out its goal scoring. The Terriers return eight of the nine leading scorers from their 6-6 campaign. However, they will need to make strides on defense if they would like to return to their mid-2010s glory.
▪ How will Harvard fare after missing the last season of play?
The Crimson have not played a game in 18 months due to the Ivy League’s competition shutdown last season. When they do take the ice this fall, they will welcome 14 freshmen to their roster. Though acclimating that large a group to the college game might be daunting, Harvard returns several key players who can bridge the gap. One is senior forward Dominique Petrie, who was named to the ECAC Preseason All-League Team, led the Crimson in assists in 2019-20 with 23, and finished second in points with 35, and is especially stealth on the power play. Having a well-seasoned goaltender in junior Lindsay Reed, who made 40 or more saves in five games in 2019-20, will help as well.
▪ How will this offseason’s active transfer portal impact local teams?
This offseason’s transfer activity was unlike any other due to changes in NCAA rules, allowances for extra years of eligibility, and the surprising suspension of the program at Robert Morris. Though the activity surrounding the Boston-based teams was light compared to some others in the nation, there will be a few additions worth watching.
Maddie Mills joins Northeastern from Cornell, where she scored 20 goals and 21 assists in their 2019-20 campaign. For Boston College, Reading’s Michaela Boyle is a late addition to the roster after scoring 22 points for Robert Morris. At BU, RIT transfer Ellie Larson is a welcome addition to BU’s blue line.