PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's ice hockey team will drop the puck on a new era this weekend, beginning its first varsity season with a pair of games at Saint Michael's College in Winooski, Vt.
The Panthers and Purple Knights will face off Friday at 7:00 p.m. and again Saturday at 3:00 p.m. After three years as a club team and an affiliate in the athletic department, Plymouth State elevated women's hockey to a varsity program last February, hired its first varsity head coach in May, and was accepted into the ECAC Women's East Ice Hockey League last month, effective with the 2007-08 season.
PSU plays its first four games this season on the road before the home opener at Waterville Valley Ice Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 29, vs. North Country Community College (6:00 p.m.) The Panthers will play a 20-game slate this winter, including six games at Waterville Valley and one game in December at Laconia Ice Arena.
Plymouth State returns a solid core of players, with 11 veterans back from last year's squad which posted a 9-7-0 overall record.
2006-07 PSU Women's Ice Hockey Outlook
The Panthers have shown improvement each year during their growing stages, and are prepared to compete with varsity teams on the schedule this year, according to first-year head coach Heather Hoffay.
"The skill level on the team is higher, and I think we're better-rounded this year than in the past," says Hoffay (right), a Hamilton College graduate and former assistant coach at both Trinity and Wesleyan. "The younger players tend to be the stronger players, because they've been playing hockey longer. They were more likely to play it growing up, while some of the upperclassmen just started when they got here."
This year's schedule is a mix of varsity teams from the ECAC East Conference and former and current club teams, preparing the team for full-time Division III play next season.
"We want to use this year to get ready for next year, when we're in the ECAC East," says Hoffay. "We can be competitive this year and also see what next year is really going to be like."
Leading the group of returnees is senior co-captain Kelly Williams (Canaan, N.H.), who led the team in scoring the past two seasons. She scored 14 goals and added 16 assists in 13 games last year. Junior Molly Perron (Hartland, Vt.) and sophomore Kim Chandler (Andover, Mass.) are other returnees who should be regular contributors, while Hoffay says freshmen Alyssa Hovanec (Marlborough, Conn.) and Amanda Arponen (Plymouth, Mass.) look like the top threats among the newcomers. Chandler scored 10 goals in 10 games as a freshman last year, and Perron chipped in with seven goals.
The rest of the offensive spots should be filled by returning veterans -- senior co-captain Sam Turner (Pawling, N.Y.), senior Missy Fales (West Kingston, R.I.), and sophomores Ursula Volosevich (South Boston, Mass.) and Meryl Pye (Oak Bluffs, Mass.)
Hoffay says that freshman Kristen Leach (Smithfield, R.I.) should backbone the defensive unit. She will get support from a trio of returning veterans in junior Katie Barany (Middlesex, Vt.) and sophomores Amanda Kreamer (Lynn, Mass.) and Julie Robida (West Hartford, Conn.) Two other newcomers, freshman Courtney McKay (Exeter, N.H.) and junior Danielle Calligandes (Wolfeboro, N.H.) should also see ice time on defense.
The Panthers will look to sophomore Lindsay DeLorie (Holliston, Mass.) to hold down goaltending duties, with freshman Amanda Arvin (Concord, N.H.) starting out as the back-up.
"We have some good speed, and a couple of very strong defenders," says Hoffay. "We're practicing 5-6 days a week, compared to 2-3 days last year, and we're lifting a couple of days a week this year as well. Everyone is working really hard, and I think we have the potential to be strong. We need to keep working hard and not get discouraged against some of the stronger teams we'll be playing. They need to keep up the attitude and the level they've had through the pre-season."
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