CANTON — For the second time in the past four years, the Clarkson and St. Lawrence University women’s hockey teams will meet in an ECAC Hockey semifinal. But today’s game will be different than the last matchup.
SLU (5-6 overall) will host Clarkson (8-9-1) at 5 p.m. and the winner will advance to Sunday’s championship game, which is scheduled for 2 p.m.
If top-seeded Colgate wins its semifinal, also at 5 p.m. today, at home against Quinnipiac, Colgate will host Sunday’s game. If Colgate loses, the winner of today’s Clarkson/SLU game will host the championship game.
When Clarkson and St. Lawrence met in the semifinal in 2018, Clarkson was the favorite. The Golden Knights were defending national champions, playing at home, and beat the Saints 4-2 in Cheel Arena, with Patty Kazmaier winner Loren Gabel clinching the win with a late empty-net goal.
This time, SLU comes in with the momentum, having earned home ice today by sweeping Clarkson in a three-game series last weekend.
“I’m hoping we treat it like one more time we get to get together and play the game we love,” said Saints assistant Mare MacDougall Bari, who has coached the team along with assistant Ted Wisner the past two weekends while head coach Chris Wells was in COVID-19 quarantine. Wells is expected to be behind the bench today.
“We understand how grateful our players feel to be doing what they are doing right now,” MacDougall Bari added. “Whether it’s the first time you are playing a team, the fourth time, or the 100th time, if you are playing when so many of your fellow competitors are not playing, you aren’t going to take it for granted. Appleton is such a special arena. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls earning home ice in the playoffs and the opportunity to take that next big step at home.”
Eight of the teams in the conference, including defending regular-season champion Cornell and tournament champion Princeton, did not play this season. The four teams playing this weekend represented all of ECAC Hockey this season and of the four, only Colgate completed its full 12-game schedule.
SLU opened the season later than the other three teams as its players did not arrive on campus until the start of the second semester.
The Saints played its first game, a nonconference contest, against Clarkson on Jan. 20 at Cheel Arena, and SLU was blown out, 8-1.
After losing two more games against Colgate, to start 0-3, sophomore forward Julia Gosling returned to the team. Gosling had started the year in Canada trying out for the Canadian national team. Since her return, the Saints have gone 5-3, including last weekend’s sweep against Clarkson.
Gosling, who has totaled six goals and three assists in nine games, is one of three finalists for the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year award.
Clarkson also played an unusual schedule, meeting Colgate a total of 10 games, including six nonconference matchups.
The Golden Knights were starting to come into form, winning four of five games, including three against the Raiders, when a COVID-19 outbreak on campus paused their season for two weeks. Last weekend was their first time playing in 19 days.
“I think we have to get our special teams going a little bit,” Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers said. “We got a couple power-play goals (last weekend), but I still think we’ve got to put a little more pressure on them on the power play. Obviously our penalty kill has to do a job. They’ve been scoring a few goals on their power play. We have to focus on shutting them down.”
Clarkson is led by defending Patty Kazmaier winner Elizabeth Giguere (9 goals-13 assists), as well as graduate student Caitrin Lonergan, a transfer from Boston College who leads the team with 14 goals. Both are among the 10 finalists for this year’s Kazmaier award, and Lonergan is also one of the three finalists for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year.
The Golden Knights bring more experience to the postseason than the Saints. The senior class has won two ECAC Hockey Tournaments, a national championship and played in two Frozen Fours.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Clarkson co-captain Meaghan Hector said. “We know what it takes. It’s just a matter of our leadership pushing those (younger) girls, showing them what it takes. It starts in practice and it starts in the locker room with preparation, making sure everyone is on board.”