As DI women’s hockey became an established sport, the Eastern College Athletic Conference bloated with members and eventually split into eastern and western women’s leagues. Out of the eastern league five schools banded together under the Hockey East banner and formed the Women’s Hockey East Association (WHEA). With the addition of a sixth team, the WHEA started playing hockey in the 2002-03 season. Since then the conference has expanded to nine members, all of which are located in New England. Over the years the Women’s Hockey East tournament has also expanded, going from a four-team tournament in its inception to six, and then to the best eight in the conference, which is its current form.
Now for a brief overview of the WHEA’s teams and how they are doing as of the mid season break:
Boston College Eagles
Boston College has iced a women’s hockey team since the 1994-95 season. The Eagles first joined the ECAC in 1998, became a DI team when the NCAA took over for the 2000-01 season and were then shuffled into the ECAC Eastern the next year. They then broke away from the ECAC to be a founding member of the WHEA and still play in this league. BC has won the last three regular season championships and went 40-1-0 last season, only losing in the 2016 national championship game. The Eagles have made seven additional appearances in the NCAA tournament. As for the conference tournament, BC played in the ECAC East tournament, losing in the quarterfinals, and regularly make the Hockey East tournament where they have won two championships. Their coach, Katie King, is in her 10th season with BC.
This season the Eagles are 10-2-1 in conference and 12-3-3 overall. That makes them first in the WHEA and 6th nationally. This is unsurprising considering how the team dominated the league last season. BC must be eager to get back in action, as they were on a three game winning streak when their break started on December 7th and hadn’t lost a game since November 5th, which was to Boston University. Boston College plays again on January 4th against Syracuse.
Boston University Terriers
The Boston University Terriers are a fairly young team, but they have found a lot of success in that time. Starting in the 2005-06 season, BU has always played in the WHEA as a DI team. They have played in every conference tournament since the 2007-08 season, winning five championships, and have twice been the regular season champions. They played in six NCAA tournaments in a row and twice made it to the Frozen Four championship game, 2011 & 2013, but have never won. The Terriers’ coach, Brian Durocher, has been with the team for all twelve season of its existence.
BU is having a successful season going 7-3-0 in conference and 12-7-1 overall. They are ranked third in the conference as of the midseason break. The Terriers must have felt pretty pleased with themselves going into the midseason break after splitting a series with nationally second ranked Minnesota on December 10th. Assuming that the team is in similar shape once their season resumes it seems likely they will have another deep post season. Boston University resumes play on January 7th against Boston College.
Connecticut started an independent DI team the when the NCAA began managing women’s hockey, which was just in time for the 2000-01 season. At year later they joined ECAC East and when the original five teams split from the league to start the WHEA, UConn accepted an invitation to be the conference’s sixth founding member for the 2002-03 season. Since joining Hockey East the Huskies have had a variety of season rankings, the best of which was a second place finish for the 2007-08 season. While they have yet to win a conference tournament, they have make the post-season tournament and have played in two Hockey East championship games. UConn has yet to play in the NCAA tournament. Their coach, Chris MacKenzie, is in his fourth year with the team.
As of the break the Huskies are seventh in the WHEA with a record of 4-3-1, 9-6-3 overall. Unsurprisingly, considering their record from the first half of the season, the remainder of their regular season games is in conference. Based on this season’s performance it seems unlikely the Huskies will win any hardware in the postseason, but they could likely finish the season with more wins than ties and losses combined, which is always a nice goal. UConn will be back in action tomorrow on January 2nd against Northeastern.
Maine Black Bears
The Maine Black Bears have included a women’s hockey team since the 1997-98 season. They joined the ECAC the next year and when the ECAC split into eastern and western leagues, the Bears were shunted into ECAC East for the 2001-02 season. Maine was one of the five teams to band together to form the WHEA and started playing in that conference in the 2002-03 season. The Bears’ best regular season finish was in third place in the WHEA and they have repeatedly played in the conference tournament where they have successfully made it to the semifinals. They have never qualified for the NCAA tournament. Maine’s head coach is Richard Reichenbach, who is in his third season with the team.
So far this season Maine is 2-8-1 in conference and 6-12-1 overall. That ranks the Bears eighth in the WHEA. However, Maine has a reasonable chance for improvement, as they went into their midseason break with a four game winning streak and they beat Boston College in their last regular season meeting. If they finally found the team’s groove they’ll have a much happier second half to the season. Maine goes back in action on January 7th against Vermont.
Merrimack is newest team in the WHEA and one of the newest in women’s hockey overall. Forming as a club team for the 2013-14 season, they joined DI play and Hockey east last year for the 2015-16 season. They finished the season with a record of 5-26-3 overall, 3-18-3 in conference, and in last place for WHEA rankings. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors have yet to qualify for any post-season play. Erin Hamlen is Merrimack’s integral women’s hockey head coach and continues to lead the team.
Already this is Merrimack’s best season of NCAA hockey, as they have a record of 6-13-2 overall and 2-10-0 in conference. While that still leaves them in ninth place of the WHEA, they’re only a point behind Maine in the standings. With a little effort and luck they can finish the regular season in seventh or eight place, which would allow them to make the conference tournament. Even if the Warriors can’t make this happen and the three game losing streak they entered the midseason break continues onward, they should hold their heads high for they are making history. Merrimack’s trailblazing will continue on January 3rd when they host Vermont.
New Hampshire Wildcats
The New Hampshire Wildcats have a storied history dating back to the 1977-78 season. They participated in the very first ECAC tournament in 1985, went on to join the conference once it began a women’s division in 1993, and stayed in the ECAC through the 2000-01 season. During this time the Wildcats won three regular season championships with the ECAC and five tournaments. They also won the 1998 American Women’s College Hockey Alliance, which was the national women’s hockey title at the time. For the 2001-02 season New Hampshire was a part of the ECAC Eastern League, but chose to break away with four other teams to form the WHEA, which has been its home since 2002-03. As part of the WHEA, New Hampshire has won six regular season championships, four Hockey East tournaments, and appeared in five NCAA tournaments. However, of late the team has had a hard go of things, as the last time the team achieved any of these accolades was back in 2010.
Head coach Hilary Witt is in her third season with New Hampshire and is on course to have her best season yet. With a conference record of 6-6-1 and an overall record of 8-11-1 the Wildcats are ranked fourth in the WHEA standings. New Hampshire went into the midseason break on December 10th with a three game winning streak and if they can keep playing their own game they could finish the regular season with a higher ranking than they have in years. However, if they want another tournament championship, they’ll have to handily dispatch the rest of their conference rivals and figure out a way to nullify Boston College. New Hampshire starts the second half of their season on January 6th against Northeastern.
Northeastern’s women’s hockey began in the 1980-81 series. They played in the very first ECAC tournament in 1985 and joined the conference as soon as the ECAC started letting women’s teams in for the 1993-94 season. During this period they won three tournament championships and were once crowned regular season champions. Then for the 2001-02 season the Huskies were shunted into ECAC East, where they had a highly successful season, finishing in second place, and played in that conference’s tournament championship game. Northeastern was one of the five teams who joined together to create the WHEA and played in the new conference’s inaugural season, 2002-03. In the WHEA Northeastern have once finished the regular season as champions and played in two tournament championship games. The 2016 NCAA tournament was the first time the Huskies qualified. Dave Flint, Northeastern’s current head coach, is in his ninth with the team.
Northeastern had an excellent start to their season, as they went 7-4-2 in conference and 11-6-3 overall. That ranks them third in the Hockey East standings. While they entered their midseason break on December 4th after losing a series to Vermont, the Huskies just need to keep focusing on their own game and they should have an excellent second half to their season and perhaps this will be the year they finally take home a WHEA tournament championship. Northeastern resumes their season on January 2nd against UConn.
The Providence Friars first iced a team in the 1974-75 season. They were the first winners of the ECAC women’s hockey tournament in 1985 and later won an additional four tournaments. The Friars became members of the ECAC the first year they allowed women teams in 1993 and stayed with the conference until they were moved the ECAC Eastern League for the 2001-02 season, where the won the ECAC East tournament. Always ready to be a trendsetter, Providence was one of the original five to form and join Hockey East, whereupon the team won the first three WHEA tournament championships. They have twice won the regular season championship and played in the first round of the 2005 NCAA tournament. Bob Deraney has been the Friars’ head coach for nineteen seasons.
Providence has more wins in the first half of the season than they had in all of the last two seasons. So the team must be happy with a record of 9-10-1 overall. Their in conference record of 5-6-1 has them tied with Vermont for fifth place in the Hockey East standings and a likely goal for the season half of the season is taking fifth place outright. Providence is back in action on January 6th in a series against Cornell.
The Vermont Catamounts women’s hockey team went varsity for the 1998-99 season. They played as a DIII team in the ECAC until the 2001-02 season when they moved up to DI play. Vermont stayed with the ECAC until the 2005-06 season when they were welcomed into the WHEA. The Catamounts have typically always finished their season near the bottom of their conference rankings, however they managed to finish their 2013-14 season ranked fourth in the WHEA. They have played in the last four Women’s Hockey East tournaments, once making a semifinals exit, but have yet to play in the NCAA tournament. Jim Plumer is in his fifth year as Vermont’s head coach.
Vermont is on track for a great season. With a conference record of 4-2-3 they are tied with Providence for fifth place in the WHEA. However, unlike the rest of the conference the Catamounts have already leapt back into action, hosting Yale for a series on December 30th and 31st. Vermont came out with a tie and a win, which bumps their overall record up to 8-6-5. Having only 19 days for a midseason break must have given the Catamounts just enough time to rest and sharpen their claws without getting rusty. Vermont will spend the rest of the season playing in conference rivals, starting with Merrimack on January 3rd.