2015 ECAC West Women’s Ice Hockey Championships Preview

No. 1: Elmira College has been the most dominant team not only in ECAC West play, but in all of Div. III as well. Behind the lethal one-two punch of Ashley Ryan and Ashton Hogan, who combine for an average of four points per game together, the Soaring Eagles have gone through the entire season with only a single loss and tie, respectively, finishing 23-1-1. The Soaring Eagles also finished undefeated in conference play, not allowing a single blemish in their 18 ECAC West games. Their only loss came to then No.1 SUNY Plattsburgh in the Cardinal/Panther Classic. Elmira is heavily battle tested too, having defeated No. 5 Norwich twice, No. 3 Middlebury once, and No. 2 SUNY Plattsburgh two out of three times. It comes into the playoffs dominant as ever, and are currently second in team offense and fourth in team defense. No team has been as commanding as Elmira and that should continue throughout the playoffs.

No. 2: SUNY Plattsburgh was the consensus No. 1 team in Div. III at one point during the season at one point. However, back-to-back conference losses against Elmira in late January put their first two, and only two losses on their season record. Last year’s national champions are still a very strong and forceful team, and still are ranked No.2 in the nation. They have defeated every ECAC West opponent they have faced, and have either defeated or tied powerhouse non-conference teams such as No. 5 Norwich, No.7 Gustavus Adolphus and No. 3 Middlebury, along with defeating No. 1 Elmira once. With a stout defense that is led by goalie Camille Leonard, who is first nationally in goals allowed per game (1.17), second in shutouts (6), and 10th in save percentage (.938), this Cardinal defense is sixth in team defense. Their offense has not skipped a beat all year either, and is first nationally, averaging over five goals per game.

No. 3: Oswego State at one point was making a very strong case to be recognized as a top 10 team in the nation. Coming off of a seven-game win streak, the Lakers headed to Elmira to play the top team in the nation, but lost both games by a total of 10-0. The Lakers have played the No. 1 team in the nation twice, SUNY Plattsburgh and Elmira College, but have only scored one goal in those four games, and have surrendered 19. Despite setting a program record for wins this season (18), the Lakers have proven that they are not yet in the discussion among the nation’s elite. Besides the top two teams, the Lakers have played a rather easy conference and non-conference schedule. The arrow for this team is pointing way up with a plethora of young talent from its classes of 2017 and 2018, yet the inexperience will ultimately be their downfall this postseason. If the Lakers do make some noise in the playoffs, however, it will be behind the strength of their goaltender Bridget Smith, as well as their nation’s-best penalty kill and recent efficiency on power play.

No. 4: Utica College brought its clutch gene with them last weekend as it tied and defeated Buffalo State to take the fourth seed in the ECAC West playoff bracket. The Pioneers will have to play Buffalo State again on Saturday, but will now have home-ice advantage.  Despite Utica’s .500 record in conference play, as well as overall, it has played well against tough opponents and has been competitive in almost every game. A team with a lot of experience led by a strong senior class also has a very good sophomore class with Gabrielle Schnepp, Emily Coope and goalies Gabrielle Abbott and Keira Goin. Although they are only 23rd in team offense and 25th in team defense, this team will play hard every game and have the potential to make some noise in the ECAC West tournament. The Pioneers have played both Plattsburgh State and Elmira as well as anyone has this year.

No. 5: Buffalo State started off the year very strong but struggled on the back end of its schedule and now head into the postseason lacking momentum. Needing to win only one game against Utica, they tied and lost, and now have to travel to Central New York to play them again. The Bengals rank 22nd in team offense, and 34th in team defense. Twenty-goal scorer Kara Goodwin, who is a threat to score anytime she has the puck, leads the offense. Other Bengals who could give Utica trouble are Erin Gehen and Nikki Kirchberger. The Bengals are 12th in penalty minutes but, on the other side, the Pioneers are second. If the Buffalo State can stay out of the penalty box and get the puck to Goodwin on power plays, they have a chance to steal a victory on the road.

No. 6: SUNY Cortland comes into the playoffs with a less than stellar record. The Red Dragons’ 6-10-2 in conference is nothing to be excited about. However, there is a little reason for optimism against their opponent, the Oswego State Lakers. The Lakers are coming off back-to-back losses, and SUNY Cortland defeated the Lakers earlier in the year. Oswego State defeated the Red Dragons, 4-0, in the first game of the series in November before SUNY Cortland took the finale on Saturday, 3-1. Although it was early in the season and much has unfolded since then, SUNY Cortland has a chance to pull off the upset as it did in the beginning of the season. If it can get a lead early and possibly breakthrough on a power play, which has been the strength of the Lakers, it can head to the semifinals against SUNY Plattsburgh.