Clarkson Wins Back to Back National Titles…and I See it in Person


There’s watching your team win a title, and then there’s watching your team win a title live.

Then there’s watching your team win a title live THAT. WAY.  Three straight overtime games, a grand total of 40:59 of overtime, three spectacular overtime goals.  Elizabeth Giguere throwing down her gloves and stick with AUTHORITY.  A tearfully happy Loren Gabel skating the trophy right over to the glass to celebrate with her father.  Everything Shea Tiley…

Let’s rewind.

I left Seattle, WA at about 1 AM Friday morning and landed in Minneapolis at about 6.  I got to my hotel at around 7-7:30 and slept five to five and a half hours before going down to Ridder to watch the red carpet entrances, returning briefly to my hotel, and heading back down as soon as the arena opened.

Ridder Arena is a pretty sweet building, combining a spacious interior and lots of seats for women’s hockey with simple design.  As the Gophers have been monumental, testaments to their history were everywhere.

The arena was clearly meant to make a Big Deal out of women’s hockey, and it showed.

Clarkson vs. Ohio State

I’m glad they didn’t make one team wear white because the color matchups were fantastic with Ohio State wearing their reds and Clarkson wearing their best jersey.  The yellow jersey was, I believe up until the ECAC Tournament this season, the only one they hadn’t won a trophy in, capturing both previous National Championships in green and last year’s ECAC Tournament in white.

Watching games in person is different for me.  Usually I have a couple videos open along with box scores and stats pages.  I also have the higher camera view instead of being in rows 5, and 1 for the Frozen Four and Championship respectively.  That said, it also gives the opportunity to see things I normally wouldn’t, movement away from the play, who is trying to get shots in behind the ref’s back and (most importantly) what is happening with the puck in greater detail.

I’ve seen people saying Ohio State was the better team than Clarkson (hey Nadine Muzerall), and while they had more shots, I felt like the teams were fairly even.  I gave a slight edge to Clarkson because I felt like they were getting slightly more chances even though Ohio State was getting slightly better ones.  Ohio State was also giving more shifts to their best players while Clarkson stuck with their strategy of rolling three lines for most of the game, rarely taking advantage of the TV timeouts to get their top line more icetime.

The game was also extremely physical which I felt favored Clarkson overall.  The refs weren’t calling anything except the most obvious penalties and they let a lot of things go.  Clarkson is a crafty team and takes advantage of that better than anyone.

And by the way, the penalty that saw Ohio State’s goal waved off was an obvious penalty.  It happened right in front of me with Maddy Field throwing a body check on Rhyen McGill and knocking her to the ice as she skated up to cover the point shot that ultimately went in.  I also contest that Field is, as Coach Muzerall said, bigger and stronger than McGill (they’re the same height, and while Field might have some weight advantage, McGill has more scrap), but she’s passionate about her team and she can say what she wants.  No one fines you for saying stuff from your couch.

Sitting down the ice I had about the exact same look Loren Gabel did on the game-winning goal and I was out of my seat as soon as the puck touched her stick.  She doesn’t miss that shot.

Who else?

Wisconsin vs. Colgate

If you asked me before the game, I probably would have predicted a Wisconsin victory.  I was thinking something along the lines of 4-2 while hoping it didn’t end up more like 4-0.  But I also had a bit of a feeling about Colgate.

If I were to describe the Raiders in one word, it would be “weird.”  Colgate is a weird team with a weird style, a weird roster build, and they often have weird results.  Sometimes they just give up setting up on the power play and go for fast breaks.  Often they’ll try to make a pass to the opposing blue line from behind their own net.  They’ll throw a puck all the way down the ice over everyone’s head and let their players chase it and risk an icing.  Their D join the play with abandon.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin plays “conventional” hockey about as well as you can play it outside of Potsdam.  (And even the Knights have some uniqueness to their play style.)  So it basically became Wisconsin’s ability to set up, cycle the puck, and pile up shots versus Colgate dumping it out and going for broke on the counter attack.

Wisconsin fans had a lot to say about the officiating, but they deserved almost all of the called penalties, and a whole lot more.  They probably should have received at least one major.  They play a great game skill wise, but couldn’t quite break down Colgate’s strategy, or keep their composure as the physical play mounted.  Colgate did a great job of bringing the best of their game while cleaning up the worst of it.  That’s why they won.

Clarkson vs. Colgate

Throughout the tournament, a lot of teams had to do a lot of things to succeed.  Ohio State had to shore up their defending away from home.  Colgate had to play more disciplined and not get out of position.  Wisconsin had to be more creative and aggressive.

But Clarkson just had to be Clarkson.  They had to play well (as they did not in the Mercyhurst game), but outside of that I don’t think they really needed to make any adjustments.  Coach Matt Desrosiers echoed this in one of the press conferences saying that they don’t alter their playing style based on other teams, outside of tactical in-game adjustments.  So what was the Clarkson strategy?

Keep it simple.  One of the best things no one really says about Clarkson’s elite talent is that they know when to make the simple play and when to make the creative play.  The top line doesn’t get hell-bent on passing or carrying the puck in.  They don’t always try the fancy move to beat a defender.  It’s a tough skill to learn to take the short, easy pass when you have the hands of Elizabeth Giguere or Michaela Pejzlova or the speed of Loren Gabel.

Pass well.  One of the reasons Clarkson is so good is because they are the best passing team in the country.  Their vision and their knowledge of where each other are on the ice is simply unmatched.  They are close-knit and know each other extremely well.

Ride the horse that got you there.  Throughout the tournament Clarkson never really deviated from the strategy that was successful all season long.  They continued to roll three lines throughout the tournament, even during overtime and never wore out their forwards.  They didn’t shuffle lines or defensive pairs.

The Championship game was very Clarkson hockey.  They used a combination of speed and passing to get on Colgate early.  The Raiders are a good team and they had their second period counter punch, but by someone’s count on Twitter, the high quality scoring chances through three periods were 24-13 in favor of Clarkson.

My seat was in Shea Tiley’s end for the overtime, but I walked around to the Clarkson shooting end because I felt it was only a matter of time and I wanted to celebrate with the pep band and the Clarkson faithful, and the parents, and get an up close view of the celebration.

And celebrate we did.

I believe Colgate head coach Greg Fargo summed up Clarkson’s victory with “a great player made a great play” which I think is exactly how you want to see a Championship end, especially in overtime.

Clarkson wins the 2018 National Championship.

Who else?

A happy Larry Gabel pounds on the glass as Loren is beside herself with joy.

Taking a bow or catching her breath?

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2018 NCAA Championship: And Then There Were Two

I thought for sure we were careening towards a Clarkson – Wisconsin rematch, but Ohio State and Colgate had other ideas.  I don’t know what the Buckeyes did to fix their 7-7-2 road record, and their 3+ goals per game allowed road defense, but it obviously worked.  The Golden Knights struggled with the Buckeyes’ speed and stickhandling, and though they were held off the scoresheet, Ohio State had their fair share of chances.

Still, I felt that Clarkson was just a tiny bit better overall and that either the 2nd or 3rd lines would pop one in, or they’d grind Ohio State down and allow the top line to take advantage.  It was the latter.  A perfect saucer pass from Giguere and a one-timer by Gabel and it was over in a heartbeat after a long 70+ minutes.

The other game…man was it weird.  There is no team quite like Colgate, who loves to make long stretch passes to forwards way ahead of the play, or have their defenders go racing up ice with abandon.  It can lead to them getting caught out of position, and while there was some of that against Wisconsin, they did a good job recovering.

What they didn’t do was possess the puck, being pretty okay with their strategy of taking their chances with the fast break.  It worked out for them (even though a number of those breaks were on the power play).

The Matchup

It’s Clarkson’ discipline, passing, and positioning versus Colgate’s tendency to play creative, at times chaotic, hockey.  Colgate showed today that they can beat a team that plays more disciplined than they do, and Clarkson showed that they can sometimes struggle against that creativity.  Still, the track record is in the Golden Knights’ favor, and Colgate played an entire overtime more than they did.

Players to watch

Olivia Zafuto, D, Colgate – Once again I felt that the quick Colgate defender was the best player on the ice, and a big reason why Wisconsin’s shooting galleries so rarely turned into goals.

Elizabeth Giguere, F, Clarkson – The freshman forward has been around the net so many times with the puck, but been unable to pile up the points.  She had 9 shots on goal today to go with her 7 against Mercyhurst for 16 across two games.  She feels due to break out.

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2018 Frozen Four Preview

In lieu of All the Rankings this week, I will dive into the Frozen Four matchups, which I will be attending in person.  Be sure to check my tournament preview for a more general description of each team.

  • #1 Clarkson vs. #6 Ohio State
  • #2 Wisconsin vs #3 Colgate

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2018 NCAA Tournament Preview

In lieu of All the Rankings this week, I will look ahead to the NCAA Tournament matchups.  As the selection committee focuses on saving costs in addition to bracket integrity, we don’t have a traditional bracket, but we come pretty close and have some satisfying matchups.  For a more detailed discussion on bracketology, head over to BC Interruption.  The committee only ranks the top four teams, but I’m adding the remainder based on their PairWise finish so we can see the slight skew to the matchups.

  • #1 Clarkson vs. #8 Mercyhurst
  • #4 Boston College vs #6 Ohio State
  • #2 Wisconsin vs #6 Minnesota
  • #3 Colgate vs. #7 Northeastern

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The 2018 WHEA Tournament

For those that don’t know, the WHEA quarterfinals consist of a best of three series played over one weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun) at the arena of the better seed.  The Semifinals and Finals will be held at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena this season.

The matchups are as follows:

  • #1 Boston College vs. #8 Vermont
  • #2 Providence vs. #7 Connecticut
  • #3 Maine vs. #6 Boston University
  • #4 Northeastern vs #5 New Hampshire

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USA Women Win Gold – Brief Thoughts on the Run

We all saw it, lived it, loved it.  Team USA defeated Canada in the shootout to claim gold for the first time since the 1998 Nagano games.  This isn’t going to be a recap, this is just going to be my thoughts as a follower of women’s hockey, but someone only moderately well-informed on international play.

Oddly enough, I don’t feel like the team played to their potential.  Whether it was some odd roster and coaching decisions (Alex Carpenter, Blake Bolden, Megan Bozek), whether it was the skill of their opponents, or whether I’m just wrong, something just looked off to me.

I felt throughout the tournament like the team didn’t use the extra space on the ice well.  Rather than using their team speed and skill to open up passing lanes, they seemed to just drift to the outside into worse shooting positions.

They also attempted a lot of long cross-ice passes (particularly in the offensive zone) that I found questionable due to the sheer time it takes the puck to move from point A to point B.  People said the line combinations were a little odd, and I don’t know enough to comment, but based on what I’m used to, the passing chemistry really didn’t appear to me until late in the gold medal game.

That said, I felt like the U.S. really came together in overtime and I was surprised they didn’t score.  The opportunities were somewhat weak, likely due to player fatigue, but it was a lot of the United States having possession in the Canada zone, Canada clearing the puck, and the US easily resetting for another go.  Canada was probably pretty gassed by the time the shootout rolled around and I wonder how much of a factor that was.

I felt that the shootout favored the US as a more skilled team and that turned out to be true, especially as the game was won by the US, first on a great skill move to score by Jocelyne Lamoreaux-Davidson, and Maddie Rooney stopping a less skilled attempt to shoot five-hole.

Whatever the case may be, the result was certainly good.

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The 2018 ECAC Tournament

For those that don’t know, the ECAC quarterfinals consist of a best of three series played over one weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun) at the arena of the better seed.  The Semifinals and Finals are held at the home of the top seed, which is once again Clarkson.

The matchups are as follows:

  • #1 Clarkson vs. #8 Yale
  • #2 Colgate vs. #7 Harvard
  • #3 Cornell vs. #6 Princeton
  • #4 St. Lawrence vs #5 Quinnipiac.

Clarkson vs. Yale

As one might expect, Clarkson pretty well dominated Yale during their season series, sweeping the Bulldogs and only allowing one goal.  The big guns dominated for Clarkson, with Loren Gabel hitting 2-3-5, Michaela Pejzlova hitting 1-2-3, and Elizabeth Giguere hitting 2-2-4 in goals, assists, and points.  Grace Skarzynski had the lone goal for Yale, unassisted.  All goals in the series were scored at even strength.

What to expect:

Yale can do a decent job of slowing teams down, as evidenced by the final score and shots total in the second game.  That’s probably going to be their MO, and to take advantage of power play opportunities.  Clarkson has difficulty staying out of the box sometimes, and it disrupts the flow of their game.

The X-Factor:

Gabel, Pejzlova, and Giguere notched all the points, but Cassidy Vinkle put eight shots on Yale netminders this season.  Look for veterans Vinkle, Amanda Titus, Rhyen McGill, and Kelly Mariani to make their presence felt.


Clarkson in 2

Colgate vs. Harvard

Colgate did the opposite of Clarkson, playing the close game first before blowing Harvard out.  They were lucky to win that game too as four third-period penalties led to a 15-4 shots advantage in the period.  In the second game the Raiders made no mistakes, winning shots 15-7, 19-6, and 14-9 across the three periods.  Jessie Eldridge and Shelby Perry led the Raiders with three points each.

What to Expect:

Colgate’s scoring runs deep and they rely on contributions from across their lineup.  Ten skaters had 20 or more points on the season with Eldridge and Perry leading the way.  They’ll relentlessly attack Harvard and look to wear the Crimson down.

The X-Factor:

Colgate defender Olivia Zafuto popped in 10 goals on the season.  Her and Lauren Wildfang make up the Raiders’ talented top pairing.


Colgate in 2

Cornell vs. Princeton

The Tigers are probably the team everyone wanted to avoid, inconsistent, but capable of a high ceiling.  They beat Clarkson in the back end of their series and blew out Cornell as well.  Eleven skaters notched points in the second game for Princeton.

What to Expect:

Princeton is a team that wants to race end to end and pile up shots.  Cornell is a team that wants to slow the game down and grind out wins.  The Big Red were able to more effectively apply their strategy in both games, though it did little to help them in the second.

The X-Factor:

Princeton’s defense.  The Tigers have spent times this season icing just four defenders.  It didn’t slow them down against Clarkson towards the end of the season, but in a three-game series, it could be the decider.


Cornell in 3

St. Lawrence vs. Quinnipiac

Speaking of grinds, these are two teams that want to slow things to a crawl and make you earn every inch.  SLU split their points evenly between Justine Reyes, Nadine Edney, Hannah Miller, and Kennedy Marchment.  Melissa Samoskevish had two goals for the Bobcats.

What to Expect:

Pressing, lots and lots of pressing.  Part of the reason both teams suppress shots so well is that they’re constantly on the puck when it’s on their opponent’s stick.  It can lead to bad passes and the puck pinging around the neutral zone.

The X-Factor:

Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout.  Melissa Samoskevich led the team in points, but the four-named sophomore forward was constantly on the lips of the announcers in the games I watched.


St. Lawrence in 3

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