The first round of votes are in for women’s Division I ice hockey, and USA Hockey puts the Red icers at No. 2 in the nation. Cornell, with seven first-place votes, trails only the University of Wisconsin in the rankings, which earned nine first-place votes.
The end of the 2019-20 campaign had the new top two teams’ positions flipped, with Wisconsin coming in second to Cornell. Both teams recorded 28 wins in a COVID-19-shortened season.
After Cornell in the preseason poll came Northeastern University, The University of Minnesota and The Ohio State University to round out the top five.
Cornell lost six integral skaters to graduation, which might factor into Wisconsin’s narrow edge in the poll. Seven freshmen brought in this year will attempt to fill those big shoes if and when competition kicks off this season.
But the Red retains key players that will form a new core without last year’s seniors — a few returning icers are last year’s ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year senior Lindsay Browning, who started all 33 contests last season, senior forward Maddie Mills, who tied for leading the team with 41 points last year and junior forward Gillis Frechette, who was just behind Mills with 17 goals.
Though the Ivy League prohibited varsity athletic competition for the duration of the fall semester, the possibility remains that Cornell hockey could resume play after Dec. 21 — the college’s last day of final exams. Polling includes teams, like Cornell, that do not yet have plans to return to the ice, just as football AP polling included Big Ten and Pac-12 teams before their return to competition.
Fellow ECAC teams joining Cornell in the USA Today Top 10 are Clarkson at No. 6 and Princeton — which downed the Red in last year’s ECAC title game — at No. 7. Division foes also receiving votes, but not landing in the top 10, were Quinnipiac, Colgate and Harvard. These six squads represent half of all teams in the conference.
While the ECAC has not yet made public any official plans for hockey this season on a conference-wide level, Clarkson and Quinnipiac recently announced a series of four games beginning later this month that will technically not count towards in-conference records. The first two games will take place in Potsdam, New York Nov. 28 and 29 without fans in attendance.
Clarkson, however, has alluded to allowing fans into games during the 2021 portion of the season.
No. 1 Wisconsin, which plays in the WCHA, is slated to start games the same weekend as that Clarkson-Quinnipiac matchup. The Badgers will open their campaign at Ohio State.
With half of the ECAC’s teams coming from the Ivy League, which independently of the ECAC canceled athletics in the fall semester, it is unknown how the rest of the conference might proceed with the season.