Believe it or not, it’s already March, and that means hockey is getting ready to head into the offseason once again. Fortunately for us fans, it’s not quite time to say goodbye yet.
Through the month of February, the best teams in the game fought to secure playoff seeds and prepare for championship contention. Teams like Wisconsin, who has still only lost two games all season, stand at the fore, while teams like Syracuse and Boston University have quietly gained on the women at the top. But which was the best team of the month?
Vote for the team you think deserves to be named the NC Women’s Ice Hockey Team of the Month of February in the poll at the bottom of the page. You can vote up to once per hour until the poll closes Tuesday, March 7 at noon Pacific, so be sure to get your vote in on time and share it with friends so they can vote as well.
Take a look below at the nominees.
February Results: 5-0-3
Why Wisconsin Deserves To Win
Let’s not kid ourselves. This season, the Wisconsin Badgers have been the best team in hockey, and there isn’t much debate to be had. With just two losses on the season, both against teams currently ranked in the top five nationally, Wisconsin has been a wrecking ball.
With an average of 4.1 goals scored per game to an opponents’ average of 0.9, the Badgers are both offensively and defensively dominant. Three skaters have over 40 points so far this season, with Annie Pankowski’s 50 points leading the rest of the pack. In the eight games played in February, Pankowski has 16 points, which matches the February point total of her teammate, Sarah Nurse.
Netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens has been the best in goal by a wide margin, with 30 games started and just one loss on her record. Her save percentage is .963, and she is the only goaltender with a goals-against average of less than one (.693). In her past five games, Desbiens has allowed just a single goal, with four shutouts, including an 8-0 blanking of second-ranked Minnesota Duluth.
February Results: 5-1-0
Why Syracuse Deserves To Win:
After starting the season 0-4-2, Syracuse began picking up steam sometime in January. Now, with their record at 15-12-5, the Orange are riding a four-game winning streak as they head into the CHA Tournament.
Unlike Wisconsin, Syracuse doesn’t have a scorer in the top six of the nation. Their leading scorer has been Stephanie Grossi, whose 28 points in 32 games ranks tied for 55th nationally. But what puts the Orange over the edge is a spread-out offense. Five skaters have scored 20 or more points, with two more currently standing at 18 points on the season. A group effort is what makes this offensive force click, and in the month of February, it has been working tremendously.
Defensively, Syracuse does boast a netminder ranked in the top ten with Abbey Miller, whose 1.614 goals-against average puts her at number nine nationally. The junior ranks tied for third in the nation for shutouts with eight and has a .922 save percentage. In her past six games, Miller has three white-washes, with an average of 12 saves made in each.
While the Orange isn’t posting staggering numbers, they have been steady, and in hockey, sometimes that’s what makes the difference.
Conference: Hockey East
February Results: 6-1-1
Why Boston University Deserves To Win:
After a disappointing January, the Terriers came back stronger than ever in February with six wins and just a single loss and tie.
The difference-maker for BU has been scorers Victoria Bach and Mary Parker, who have both scored over 40 points in 35 games so far this season. With 11 points in eight games, Bach has continued to dominate offensively, leading her team to victory. Parker, who ranks second in the nation in goals scored with 24, also has netted 11 points in the month of February.
In eight games, BU has netted 36 points, and allowed just 22 thanks to netminder Victoria Hanson, who has amassed a 2.39 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 27 games played. Hanson has one shutout in the month of February. In the 5-0 win over Maine, the senior netminder posted 35 saves.
The Terriers opened the Hockey East Tournament in a best-of-three series against New Hampshire. They lost their only game of the month in the series’ opening contest, but managed to dispatch the Wildcats in the next two matchups. Next, BU will face Northeastern for the chance to play either Boston College or Vermont for the Hockey East title.
February Results: 6-1-1
Why Minnesota Duluth Deserves To Win:
The second-best team in the nation continued to prove their mettle in the month of February, racking up the wins while dropping their only loss to the only team that has been better through 2016-17, Wisconsin.
At the forefront of the team’s impressive run has been senior forward Lara Stalder, whose 53 points in 32 games puts her in the fifth spot in the nation’s leading scorers. Stalder has 10 points in her team’s past eight games, including multiple multi-goal outings. Her best performance came in her team’s 5-0 win over St. Cloud State in the first game of the WCHA quarterfinal round, when she netted a pair of goals plus an assist to help lead her team to the next round.
Defensively, Maddie Rooney has been stellar in net for the Bulldogs. In 34 starts, Rooney has lost just five games, accumulating a 1.647 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage, the latter of which ranks fifth in the nation. She is second only to Ohio State’s Kassidy Sauve in minutes played with over 2,039.
In their past eight games, the Bulldogs have tallied 22 goals while allowing 14. Ignoring their cringe-worthy 8-0 loss to Wisconsin, they’ve out-scored opponents 22-6. Riding a four-game winning streak, Minnesota Duluth’s next opponent is fourth-ranked Minnesota for the chance to play in the WCHA championship game.
February Results: 7-0-1
Why Clarkson Deserves To Win:
With just four losses all season, Clarkson has flown mostly under the radar as one of the teams to fear this year. Now ranked third in the nation, Clarkson is riding a six-game winning streak as they coast into the ECAC hockey Tournament. With a pair of decisive wins over RPI, Clarkson is poised take the title.
Leading up to the regular season finale, Clarkson earned wins against seventh-ranked Princeton, tenth-ranked Quinnipiac and eighth-ranked Cornell. In their eight games, they scored 28 goals and allowed just 12 in the same span of games.
Forward Cayley Mercer continues to dominate for the Golden Knights. The senior currently ranks tied for third on the scoring leaders board with 55 points in 36 games, and sits atop the nation in goals scored with 25 so far this season. Teammate Genevieve Bannon is twelfth-ranked in the nation with 45 points in as many games.
Netminder Shea Tiley has been a difference-maker for Clarkson with a 1.698 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.
As one of the most balanced teams in the country, Clarkson is ranked fourth in team offense and sixth in team defense with an average of 3.64 goals scored in each game and 1.64 goals allowed.
The Golden Knights continue to roll as they enter the ECAC Tournament with a good chance at taking the title.
Now it's your turn to vote…who is the February team of the month? Remember, voting closes Tuesday, March 7 at noon, Pacific.