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Women's Hockey East Playoffs Start Today

Introducing: occasional updates on local women's hockey. It didn't end with USA/Canada!
Gretings, Chowder! I'm here on a temporary visa from BC Interruption to provide occasional updates on the local women's college hockey scene. Sarah & co. are also going to be covering the Boston Blades going forward. On the heels of a thrilling (if disappointing) women's Olympic hockey tournament, I hope there will be increased interest in the women's college game.

I'm even going to try to be unbiased. We'll see how that goes.

The women's Hockey East playoffs start tonight with the single-elimination quarterfinals. The four quarterfinal winners will advance to next weekend's semifinals and finals, to be held in Hyannis on March 8-9.

Your playoff preview:

#1 Boston College vs. #8 New Hampshire

The Boston College Eagles wrapped up a successful 25-5-3 regular season last weekend with a sweep of BU, continuing their climb up the national rankings to #5. With eight teams making the NCAA tournament, their spot should be secure. Their focus now turns to backing up their first ever regular season title with a conference playoff championship. BC carries into the postseason one of the most high powered offenses in the east, scoring 115 goals on the season. Haley Skarupa and Emily Field are two Eagles who could well be in contention for a spot on the 2018 Olympic team if they continue their electric play, and Andie Anastos, a freshman, has burst onto the scene with 35 points in her rookie campaign.

However, BC's downfall this year has been a few head-scratching upset losses, including a recent loss to UConn and a loss earlier this season to UNH. It's those Wildcats who BC will face tonight at Conte Forum in the quarterfinals.

BC will likely have their hands full with UNH tonight, as the 'Cats are much better than their 9-22-2 record would indicate. UNH has had a tumultuous year, with their coach controversially dismissed midseason after an altercation on the bench with a player. The wheels came off for UNH after that and they go into the postseason on a 10-game losing streak. However, they played BC tough in all three regular season matchups, and will likely do so again tonight.

#2 Boston University vs. #7 Providence

Defending Hockey East tournament champion Boston University was expected to take a big step back this season after losing a lot of players to both graduation and the Olympics (we all know who their most high-profile loss was to the Olympics... I'd rather not talk about it). However, they confounded those expectations early in the year, jumping out to first place in the league with a 15-3-1 record.

Then, on a Wednesday night in January at Walter Brown Arena, BU got thumped by BC. (Sarah was at that game with me; ask her about it.) That seemed to knock BU's season into a downward spiral; they're 6-9-0 since that game and have fallen completely out of the NCAA tournament picture. If they're going to make the tournament, they'll need to win Hockey East.

Their first foe is a team who's had an extremely disappointing season despite coming into it with real hopes for improvement. The Friars have stumbled to a 11-23 record and gave up 108 goals this year, the most of any team.

#3 Northeastern vs. #6 UConn

ALL OF THE HUSKIES! Northeastern's season has sort of been the opposite of BU's. Like BU, they were expected to take a step back due to losses to graduation and the Olympics, and they delivered on those reduced expectations early with a horrendous first semester. However, they've been making it rain since January, racking up an 11-1-1 record in their last 13 games, with the only loss coming in the Beanpot final to BC.

Because of the early season hole they dug themselves, NU sits at 18-13-2 on the year and has no chance of making NCAA's unless they run the table and win the conference playoffs. However, they have a very good chance to do so, and they start off with a very winnable game against 9-23-2 UConn. The Other Huskies have mostly been Hockey East doormats in their 12 years of competing in the league (the men's team doesn't join Hockey East until next year). However, they did spring a huge upset on BC two weeks ago, so perhaps they have another big upset in them.

#4 Vermont vs. #5 Maine

When BC coach Katie King-Crowley pegged Vermont as her dark horse pick for the season I didn't think much of it. Like UConn, Vermont has never really contended for hardware in women's Hockey East. However, the Catamounts made a huge jump this year and earned their first ever top-4 league finish with a 17-13-4 season. Vermont has a fairly well-rounded team, with scoring and defense both right in the middle of the pack, and they feature the league's third leading scorer in Amanda Pelkey.

Maine has made a step up from last year, in which they were outscored 133-66 and went 5-24-4. They still had a pretty poor season, though - 7-19-5 overall - and I suspect Vermont should win this one handily. Last year, Maine's goalie, Stephanie Ott, put up a 70 (!)-save performance against BC in the quarterfinals to push the Eagles to OT. Meaghann Treacy will likely have to do the same this year for Maine to win.


Go check out the games in person:

BC vs. UNH - 7pm tonight
NU vs. UConn - 7pm tonight

Vermont vs. Maine - 1pm tomorrow
BU vs. Providence - 3pm tomorrow