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BUY OR SELL: Trading On The NCAA Women’s Hockey Exchange

Which teams are overrated and underrated going into the season?

There was actual, real-life hockey played this past weekend, and not just the exhibitions (in which BC acquitted themselves rather well). Providence, RPI, BU, Maine, St. Cloud, and Wisconsin dropped the puck on their regular seasons, marking a return to college hockey season after far too many months off.

This week also marked a return to the polling season, with USCHO and USA Hockey releasing their preseason polls. But there will be a third major poll breaking into the women’s hockey world this season with the introduction of the SB Nation Women’s Hockey poll.

SB Nation’s new women’s hockey site is expected to kick off next week, and while the “grand opening” will feature the week 2 poll, we do have the results of the week 1/preseason ballots.

Rank/Team (1st place votes)/Total
1 Wisconsin (15) 168
2 Minnesota (2) 155
3 Boston College 129
4 Quinnipiac 110
5 Clarkson 106
6 North Dakota 66
7 Princeton 64
8 Colgate 51
9 Northeastern 30
10 Boston University 22
ARV: Minnesota-Duluth 21, Bemidji State 9, Harvard 2, Syracuse 2

Let’s run down the list with BUY OR SELL – will a team’s stock rise between now and the end of the season, or fall?

1 Wisconsin (15) 168

The Badgers come into the season with huge expectations, losing comparatively fewer contributing players to the other contenders (namely, BC and Minnesota). Scoring wise, Wisconsin loses about as much as Minnesota does, but the Badgers were known for their defense – something that should continue into the new season.

Perhaps most importantly, Wisconsin returns what might be the best women’s hockey goaltender ever to strap on skates. For a program that cranks out all-world goaltenders like Reebok cranks out shoes, the Badgers probably have their best yet. Ann-Renée Desbiens put up better-than-video game numbers last season (33-4-1 record, .960 save percentage (!), 0.76 GAA (!), 21 shutouts in 37 starts (!?!?!?!?!?!)) and returns for her senior year in Madison.

Wisconsin is already #1 in the polls, but I think we’ll see them with all of the first place votes when all is said and done. BUY.

2 Minnesota (2) 155

It is clearly a two team horse race this season. The Gophers are defending champions, and while they lose Hannah Brandt and a host of other contributors (Best Kessel is finally gone for good), they are likely to reload and keep their pace far in front of everyone except Wisconsin.

Senior goaltender Amanda Leveille has graduated, and so the Gophers will need to break in a new backstop. That will probably be the difference between them and the Badgers, so I don’t expect Minnesota to have any first place votes by the time the season is out. As such, I’m forced to SELL.

3 Boston College 129

Ah, what a year last season was. We’ll never see a team like that at BC ever again.

That’s not to say there won’t be success and title runs, but no team in the history of Boston College athletics has ever laid waste to its competition throughout the year like the ’15-’16 BC Women’s Hockey team.

BC loses a ton, there’s no doubt. Relative to the top two teams, they were decimated with the loss of a few all-time program greats. The question is, how far do they fall? I do expect the Gophers and Badgers to duke it out at the top, but I also think the Eagles will probably drop below one or two of the strongest teams from the ECAC. A soft Hockey East schedule might help them in the Pairwise, but it won’t help them in the polls. SELL.

4 Quinnipiac 110

Quinnipiac has been the trendy pick for the ECAC this year after a couple strong seasons with a young, up-and-coming team. The Bobcats return two of their biggest names in last year’s top scorer Taylar Cianfarano and super freshman Melissa Samoskevich, but their core took a much bigger blow than a lot of voters realize.

Five of QU’s top eight scorers (which includes two defensemen – plus a third defenseman 11th on the team in scoring) graduated, leaving the Bobcats with one line of proven scorers and hopes that the freshmen class and some lower-line names can fill in the holes. One thing they do have going for them, however, is a strong senior goaltender, Sydney Rossman, which will help.

The Bobcats will go as far as their top line and goaltender will take them, but it would surprise me to see them earn home ice in the NCAA tournament. SELL.

5 Clarkson 106

Clarkson and Quinnipiac duked it out last season for weeks and weeks as the clear 4th and 5th place teams nationally. The last three head-to-head matchups went as a 1-1-1 split, with each team’s win coming by the score of 1-0. Quinnipiac took the ECAC title, but Clarkson won in the NCAA quarters for a spot in the Frozen Four.

Clarkson doesn’t lose quite as much – certainly not in terms of number of players – and so they’ll have fewer holes to fill. They also return a strong goaltender for her junior season, Shea Tiley. All that adds up to Clarkson, to me, getting the edge on Quinnipiac this year – and perhaps enough to jump ahead of the Eagles as well, into 3rd. BUY.

6 North Dakota 66

There is no earthly reason why North Dakota should be ranked 6th in anyone’s poll. How enough people at USCHO, USA Hockey, and SB Nation ranked the Fighting Hawks highly enough to be ranked 6th blows my mind.

North Dakota was one of the most top-heavy teams in the country last season. Only 6 of their skaters managed 10 points or more, and they lose four of them to graduation – plus three other skaters. On top of that, they lose one of the best goaltenders in the country, Shelby Amsley-Benzie, who managed to shut out Minnesota and Wisconsin three times last season.

North Dakota’s 9th place (!) poll ranking last season was buoyed by two wins and two ties to the Gophers and Badgers, and that is not happening this year. There is absolutely no way the Fighting Hawks are going to be ranked at the end of the season, let alone move up three spots to 6th. SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL!

7 Princeton 64

Princeton had a very good season in ’15-’16 and loses just a single skater out of their top 13 scorers – including none of their top four. They lose a great goaltender, Kimberly Newell, so that will keep them from really reaching full potential.

However, this is a roster that will be stacked with seniors. Seven of their top eight returners will be in their final season. That bodes extremely well for their prospects this year, but it will be now or never if they want to challenge for an NCAA title. Definitely BUY the Tigers at #7 – they will jump North Dakota at a minimum, and could even play their way a bit higher.

8 Colgate 51

Princeton and Colgate had very similar offseasons – almost their entire teams return for another season after already taking a big step forward last year. Colgate in particular had by far its best season in program history, and its first season with a winning percentage over .400 since ’08-’09 – all with its top 9 scorers as freshmen and sophomores.

Colgate also loses a senior goaltender, but freshman Julia Vandyk was splitting time already which will really help the their transition. The Raiders were already knocking on the door of the top 8 last year, despite the youth, and are a dark horse for the ECAC title this season. They are wildly undervalued at 8th in the polls. BUY, BUY, BUY!

9 Northeastern 30

Where oh where to put the Huskies?

Northeastern’s once-in-a-lifetime talent, Kendall Coyne, has graduated, leaving behind a good supporting cast. The question for the Huskies centers entirely around how much better Coyne made her team. There’s no doubt that those around her, including linemate and human morse code transmission Denisa Křížova, will face a sharp decline in production without their leader.

But, there’s talent there. They return former USA U18 goaltender Brittany Bugalski as a sophomore, and add not one but two U18 national team players (one American, one Canadian) in what is a surprisingly strong recruiting class. 9th is probably pretty close to reality for Northeastern, but I am inclined to BUY on the strength of that freshman class.

10 Boston University 22

Boston University had the opposite problem as Northeastern – instead of losing one superstar, they lost a host of talented players that added up to as much production (at least) as Kendall Coyne.

What BU has going for them this year is a pair of upperclassmen transfers: Nina Rogers from Minnesota and Mary Parker from Harvard. Parker, in particular, may lead the way for the Terriers this year. Going against BU, however, is that they have a lot of ground to make up between them and the top 10. BU was unranked at the end of the season, and was just 13th in the KRACH ratings. I find myself leaning toward a SELL here, with the caveat that there aren’t many around them with a case for making the top 10.

Also Receiving Votes:

Minnesota-Duluth should crack the top ten this year in their second season under new head coach Maura Crowell. BUY.

--Bemidji State has probably seen its clock strike midnight. They lose even more than North Dakota does and will struggle to reach .500. Don’t expect them to receive votes for very long. SELL.

--Harvard was right around where the Terriers were last season, and lost Mary Parker as a transfer to BU and the gem of the incoming freshman class, Caitrin Lonergan, to BC. Even so, they weren’t decimated to graduation, and might pop into the top ten once or twice. BUY.

--Syracuse? Cute, CHA writers. Eeking above .500 in the CHA does not a top ten team make. SELL.