I’m going to do a series-by-series analysis for each quarterfinal matchup, not just UVM’s.
(1) Boston College vs (8) Vermont
Analysis: Welp. The doomsday scenario happened (BU and UConn both swept last weekend and UVM lost). So it’s off to Conte Forum, as UVM faces a team they haven’t beaten in the Plumer era, though they did come close last month (taking them to OT in the first game and leading in the third in the second before Toni Ann Miano put an end to that).
The first thing UVM needs to do to have a chance is get the offense going again. They’ve scored just three goals in the last four games. They’ll also need to play stupendous on D, which is something they did at Conte a couple weeks ago. And of course, Sydney Scobee is going to have to step up and be a money goalie. Basically: everything needs to go perfect. That’s how good BC is, even without Megan Keller and Cayla Barnes. I know UVM will give maximum effort – I’ve seen this team all season and know that they always give 100% – but will that be enough against this juggernaut who is on a collision course with Wisconsin for a national title showdown?
Prediction: Gaaah. My heart says UVM. I’ve seen how this team plays against big opponents, and they have a ton of heart, especially in high-stakes games. My brain would’ve agreed if we were playing Providence or even Maine. But BC is a different animal. You have to be better than perfect to beat them. I’ll give UVM a game, but BC probably will take the series.
(2) Providence vs (7) UConn
Analysis: So this is an interesting one. Providence has been pretty good all season, but they’ve stumbled late, with a 7 game winless funk from January 20 to February 11. That included an OT loss to these very Huskies at Freitas Ice Forum. UConn, on the other hand, has been on a tear lately, having lost just one game in the last month (the 1-0 loss to UVM at Pack the Gut). The Huskies’ D and goaltending has been solid, and the UVM series aside their offense has really heated up lately, while Providence’s offense hasn’t scored more than 2 goals in a game since January 13. That being said, the Friars have defended home ice well this season with a 11-4-1 record at Schneider Arena while UConn has won just three games away from Storrs this season. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: Providence is slumping but has home ice and a decent record at home, while UConn is hot but has been bad on the road.
Prediction: I think the form will hold up more than the home ice. UConn is rolling, and as much as I love Vermont native Madison Myers, I just think Annie Belanger is more likely to steal a playoff game. Huskies take it in three, and PC gets upset at home in round 1 for the second year in a row.
(3) Maine vs (6) Boston University
Analysis: Another interesting one where the high seed has struggled. Maine sat at 16-6-3 on January 13 and 9th in the national polls. Since then, they have gone a dismal 1-6-2, and have only scored more than two goals once in that stretch (the lone win, a 3-0 win over rivals UNH). They did sweep the season series over the inconsistent Terriers (who come in having won 5 of 7), but the playoffs are a different beast. That said, I’m looking forward to this battle of two of my favorite non-UVM players to watch in WHEA: Maine’s Tereza Vanišová and BU’s Victoria Bach. BU will be motivated by this being the last run for their dynamic duo of Bach and Rebecca Leslie, so there’s an underlying motivation, I guess.
Prediction: While Maine has slumped lately, goaltending wins you games in the playoffs. And in my opinion, Carly Jackson is a better goalie than Corrine Schroeder right now. I think Maine’s offense gets going again and they take the series in 3.
(4) Northeastern vs (5) New Hampshire
Analysis: This is as even as you can get for a first round matchup. Both teams are quite similar across most categories. Both have no one true star. Both have terrific freshman goalies. Both sit around .500. Both were better at home than on the road. Northeastern was a bit better offensively but UNH was better defensively. If there’s one playoff series to watch, it’s probably this one.
Prediction: It’s really a battle of “do you value home ice” vs “do you buy into defense wins championships.” I think home ice holds and the Huskies get it done in 3 with at least one OT game.