PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The growth of women's ice hockey at Plymouth State University continues this weekend when the Panthers open the 2007-08 season with a pair of home games at Waterville Valley Ice Arena.
The Panthers will host Saint Michael's College on Friday, Nov. 16, and Norwich University on Saturday, Nov. 17, both games at 6:00 p.m. They are the first of 12 home contests this winter on the PSU slate.
Plymouth State enters a new era of women's ice hockey this season. After playing its first official varsity season last year as a Division III Independent, the Panthers move into the ECAC Women's East Conference this season. PSU will play 19 of its 22 games as league contests, including all eight encounters during the first semester.
Eight of the 12 teams in the ECAC Women's East Conference will advance to the post-season tournament the first week in March, with the champion receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. Manhattanville College is the defending ECAC Women's East champion, and Saint Anselm College is the 2007-08 pre-season favorite.
2007-08 PSU Women's Ice Hockey Outlook
The Panthers took their lumps last season as a first-year varsity program, but second-year head coach Heather Hoffay has added some reinforcements, and PSU is looking to continue the building process.
"We're more talented and skilled than last year, and our level of play is going to be much higher," said Hoffay (right). "We're also playing a much tougher schedule by being in the conference, so our improved play may not show up on the scoreboard right away."
Hoffay understands that playing in the ECAC Women's East is what the team needs to grow.
"We want to make the post-season, and that's an attainable goal," said Hoffay. "It's nice to have that post-season opportunity to play for and build our goals around."
The Panthers have nine veterans back from last year's team, including their top two scorers and their starting goaltender. Hoffay will look to the returnees to help bring along the newcomers.
"Our defense is very young," said Hoffay, "but we have a much more skilled offense than last year with a lot of speed and good stick skills."
Sophomore Alyssa Hovanec (Marlborough, Conn.), last season's leading scorer, and junior Kim Chandler (Andover, Mass.) are the top returning forwards. Senior captain Molly Perron (Hartland, Vt.), sophomore Amanda Arponen (Plymouth, Mass.) and junior Ursula Volosevich (South Boston, Mass.) will also be looking to contribute.
Hoffay is excited about the crop of newcomers at forward. Freshman Elizabeth Murray (Woburn, Mass.) is expected to make an impact, along with freshman Ashley Goodridge (Stratham, N.H.) and sophomore transfer Jill Gagne (Manchester, N.H./Memorial). Freshmen Jess Byrne (Kunkletown, Pa.), Lindsey Woliver (West Haven, Conn.) and Liz Sousa (Gloucester, Mass.) should also see ice time.
"The returnees are all very strong, and now that they have more people to play with, they'll be able to produce more offensively," said Hoffay.
Junior Amanda Kreamer (Lynn, Mass.) leads the Panthers along the blue line. She's a standout defensive player who can also contribute offensively. Junior Julie Robida (West Hartford, Conn.) and sophomore Courtney McKay (Exeter, N.H.) will also log plenty of playing time for the Panther defense. Freshmen Mollie Metcalfe (Orleans, Mass./Nauset Regional) and Ali Stevenson (North Marshfield, Mass.) will be looked to, with help from classmate Ashleigh McGuire (Warwick, R.I.)
Junior Lindsay DeLorie (Holliston, Mass.) returns to give the Panthers a veteran goaltender. She had a .903 saves percentage last season, facing more than 45 shots per game. Freshmen Lauren Bonanni (Ridgefield, Conn.) and Ulrika Ajnemark (Gothenburg, Sweden) will serve as back-ups.
"Lindsay is a solid all-around goaltender," said Hoffay. "She'll look better this year with the people she has playing in front of her, and hopefully she'll see fewer pucks."
Hoffay says the team is excited about the challenge this season presents.
"Because we're so young it might take some time to hit our stride," said the coach. "But hopefully we'll be able to skate with the teams we couldn't skate with last year."
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