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Early season conference match-ups highlight college hockey weekend

Week one is in the books and Wisconsin is the new top-ranked team after sweeping Mercyhurst to improve to 4-0-0 on the season. Arguably the most exciting series of the week began last night, with No. 3 Boston College taking down No. 4 Minnesota Duluth, 4-3. Game two is scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. on ESPN3, so if you’re looking for an excuse to avoid work, here’s your chance.

But as we move into the weekend, here are three series to keep an eye on as conference play gets underway. (Note: RV stands for receiving votes, as the USCHO Women’s Hockey Poll only ranks the Top 10 teams)

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(RV) Ohio State (2-0-0) vs. No. 4 Minnesota (1-1-0)

Friday 7:07 p.m. CT/Saturday 3:07 p.m. CT

Ohio State is coming off a sweep of RPI as the Buckeyes head into WCHA play against No. 4 Minnesota. Kassidy Sauve picked right back up where she left off in 2016-17, turning aside 46 of 47 shots through the two contests, while offensively, the new additions for the Buckeyes made an immediate impact. Freshman Tatum Skaggs was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week following a four-point (three goals, one assist) effort against the Engineers. Linemate Charly Dahlquist, who transferred in this summer after North Dakota shut down their program, tallied two assists and was a +5 in her Buckeye debut.

The Gophers were surprised in their home opener, losing to Merrimack, 4-3, before bouncing back the following night. Minnesota has owned the all-time series against Ohio State (70-8-4), but last season was more tightly contested. Even though Minnesota went 3-0-1, all three Gopher wins were decided by one goal. Nine players registered a point against Merrimack last weekend with freshman goaltender Alex Gulstene picking up her first win in her first collegiate start (she replaced Sidney Peters in Game 1 as well). The series against Ohio State will be a good indicator of where each team is at early on this season.

(RV) Merrimack (2-1-0, 1-0-0 WHEA) vs. New Hampshire (0-0-0)

Friday 7:00 p.m. ET/Saturday 4:00 p.m. ET

Merrimack, who’s only in its third season, has already gotten off to one of the best starts in the country. After beginning the season with a road win against WHEA opponent Boston University, the Warriors went on the road again and came away with a win against the aforementioned Gophers. Merrimack picked up the win after trailing 3-1 early on by scoring the next three goals and getting a career-night from sophomore goaltender Lea-Kristine Demers, who made 54 saves. Six different Warriors have scored so far this season, and Merrimack will need to keep up that consistency in the home-and-home series against New Hampshire.

The Wildcats have yet to play a game this season, and will get thrown into the fire of conference play immediately against a confident Merrimack squad. New Hampshire leads the all-time series against the Warriors 5-1-0, including sweeping all three contests last season. Coach Erin Hamlen will be looking for more offense this season and will have to find it without the Wildcats leading scorer from last season, Jonna Curtis. Senior defensemen Amy Schlagel and Julia Fedeski, who were both drafted in the NWHL, scored 23 and 22 points respectively and will anchor the blue line while continuing to chip in offensively. 

No. 8 Northeastern (0-1-1) vs. (RV) Boston University (0-1-0)

Friday 7:00 p.m. ET/Saturday 2:00 p.m. ET

Northeastern kicked off its season against the defending champs, Clarkson, and earned a tie opening night before falling in Game 2. Senior captain Shelby Herrington scored the lone goal in Friday’s 1-1 tie, while chipping in an assist the following night. But offensively, the Huskies will need to find more ways to get Denisa Krizova the puck in space. The Czech Republic native is 10th on Northeastern’s all-time scoring list with 139 career points, but was held scoreless in the series against Clarkson.

Boston University is looking bounce back from its opening night loss to Merrimack, and what better way than a home-and-home against fell Boston rival Northeastern? The Terriers have never started 0-2-0 in its 12-year history, and like the Huskies, will need to get its superstars going in order to avoid history. Senior Victoria Bach registered an assist on Boston’s lone goal against Merrimack, but the sharp shooter, who has scored 20 or more goals in all three years at Boston, will be looking to find the back of the net against a Husky team she’s had success against in the past (14 points in 14 games). Erin O’Neil, who started only eight games last season, is back as the starter this season and made 30 stops in the opener.

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