It’s said that the most important factor in real estate is location. The three most important factors in real estate are quickly rising in prominence in women’s hockey. Schools’ proximity to one another, and a desire by the NCAA to limit travel costs, can produce a tournament bracket come March where the top-seeded team is matched with the defending champion rather than the last team into the field.

That same fixation on gallons of fuel consumed can yield pairings nobody wants to see come September. How else can one explain reigning champ Wisconsin kicking off their latest campaign against Lindenwood of St. Charles, Mo.? The Lady Lions have become synonymous with excellent club hockey teams, and are now making the jump to NCAA competition. In taking on the Badgers in Madison on Friday and Sunday, they discovered that they skipped a number of rungs on the women’s hockey ladder.

The problem isn’t the scores of 11-0 and 13-0; Wisconsin is prolific enough on offense that they will light up a number of legitimate D-I teams over the course of the season. On Sunday, Lindenwood managed three shots on goal, while yielding 72. While I recognize that the Badgers’ defense can be stifling, they accomplished this feat without any of the six members of their blue line from their championship in March. This caliber of “competition” is a mainstay of women’s international tournaments; do we really need it in the college game as well? Personally, I’d rather teams just stay home and scrimmage if money is so tight that they can’t schedule better games than this.

Actual competition!

As the calendar turns from September to October, meaningful games start to appear on the docket. North Dakota, fresh off of 11-0 and 10-0 pastings of the University of Manitoba, travels to Boston University in a series that could be a preview of an NCAA matchup. The Terriers reached their first title game in March, while the Fighting Sioux were the team on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. UND lost only one senior and added a lot of depth, led by Finnish Olympian Michelle Karvinen. BU lost key seniors, including Olympic Gold Medalist Catherine Ward, but is reinforced by a strong recruiting class and Syracuse transfer Isabel Menard. Luckily, somebody decided to spring for the funds to pay for this trip.

The other marquee series of the coming weekend has the Quinnipiac Bobcats of the ECAC journeying to Erie, Pa., to face the Mercyhurst Lakers. The “Q” has a pair of franchise players in junior goaltender Victoria Vigilanti and sophomore forward Kelly Babstock. Mercyhurst lost a number of impact players to graduation and transfer, most notably four-time Kazmaier finalist Meghan Agosta and Kaz winner Vicki Bendus, yet they still have a lot of players that can produce.

The Patty picture

So what impact does last weekend’s action have on the naming of a Patty Kazmaier recipient come March? In my mind none, unless some contender suffered a serious injury. True, the national statistics show Badgers Brooke Ammerman and Brianna Decker at the top with seven points apiece. While both are talented enough to be legitimate contenders in the Kazmaier election, their seven points against Lindenwood were matched by teammate Kelly Jaminski; Jaminski produced zero goals and ten assists in her entire rookie season. I will take a snapshot of the current statistics leader board, so that in the future, I’ll know how many points and games to subtract when considering the resumes of Kaz candidates. Sorry, Dawn Sullivan, Myriam Croussette, and the rest of the Black Bears of Maine, but I feel the same way about points earned versus Sacred Heart. Next week, we should have some performances with more bearing on the Patty to consider.

  • Lenn

    As Lindenwood is in its first year at D-1 and an independent, scheduling was not going to be easy this year; not that it will get any better in the future.  Wisconsin probably did Lindenwood a favor by filling in a weekend series with them.  Give Wisconsin some credit.  Without games like these, many of the women’s teams would have no one to play.

  • Arlan Marttila

    I understand the scheduling from Lindenwood’s perspective, although they would be better served trying to get games in their first year with St. Cloud State, Gustavus Adolphus, or St. Thomas. IMO, Wisconsin has a greater responsibility to promote the game, and that is done when good teams meet good teams, producing good hockey. There are others available to serve as an orientation to new varsity programs.

    • Lenn

      First of all, St. Cloud St. is the only D-1 school you named.

      Second, this year, WI plays Lindenwood (independent), Rensselaer (ECAC; home-and-home series from last year), and BU (HE, whom WI beat in the national championship game last year).

      Third, last year, WI played Mercyhurst (CHA, another women’s powerhouse), Robert Morris (CHA), and Northeastern (HE).

      I think WI does a great job of balancing playing good teams and spreading games across all conferences.

      • Arlan Marttila

        Thanks for your comments.

        Lindenwood is already playing Minnesota State, Bemidji State, and Robert Morris, so I didn’t mention those teams. For the Lions, I think that a mix is optimal. In sport, one improves by competing against opponents that are better, because that forces one to grow, but only to a certain point. In hockey, it is important to also have possession of the puck at times to develop as players.

        WCHA teams like Wisconsin can play a maximum of six inter-conference games. Those six games are their only opportunity to demonstrate the strength of their league prior to NCAA tournament selection. Last season, the Badgers did play Mercyhurst, but for one game only. Their second-best opponent out of league was Northeastern — again, one game. They played RPI and RMU twice each, but those teams ranked in the bottom third. UMD played only two non-league games, both against UConn, a bottom half team, and won them easily. Those schedules were costly at NCAA selection time, as the two were matched for the first round. It hurt North Dakota dearly, because UND was the team that fell just short.

        I believe that Minnesota’s schedule should be tougher as well. This season, the Gophers play Union, Syracuse, UNH(2) and Harvard(2). None of them were top-ten teams last year. On the plus side, UW is playing BU for two, UMD has BC for two, and UND plays BU twice this weekend. WCHA fans may think that their conference is good enough that four teams deserve to get into the NCAA field, but the burden of proof rests with the WCHA teams, and those six games per team are their only chance to make a case. Too often in the past, teams like Bemidji State have had to do the heavy lifting of showing just how tough the WCHA can be.

  • Geez, so who was Lindenwood supposed to play?  Twenty games against Sacred Heart?  At least now they know how far they have to go.

  • Lenn

    Granted, the top-three WCHA teams should overall schedule better non-conference (NC) games.  But as you pointed out, they only get six of them (three series, if they played two games).

    And if you looked at the Frozen Four the past several years, the only non-WCHA teams to make it that far have been Mercyhurst, Cornell, BU and BC.  So if the top-tier WCHA schools only scheduled tough NC games, the pool would be limited.  Would those eastern schools be willing to schedule six of their NC games against the best of the WCHA?

    I still like the approach taken by WI; two tough games, and then spread the rest out across the other conferences.  If only the other WCHA teams were to do the same, I think the WCHA could make its case to be tough.

    Of couse, we do have the NCAA championship hardware to back up our claim.  :)

    • Lenn

      This was supposed to be in reply to Arlan’s last post.  I hit the wrong button.

  • collegehockeyfan

    uh oh, Big Ten is gonna have to try and beat this one too.

  • Thefightingman

    Wrong.  Go real WCHA Mavs!

  • Jaturenne

    Wow how does the Shephard family keeps thier jobs….Someone need sto tell me what they have on Mcleod. Oh yeah Mcleod is equally incompetent. 

  • Johnny1212

    At the top of your picks column you should divulge your season record.  For Fun! 

  • Guest

    Hi, my name is Chris Lerch, and I write about RIT…and then I write about RIT.  And then when I’m done, I write about RIT.