PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's ice hockey team begins its third season as a varsity sport this weekend with a pair of Eastern College Athletic Conference Women's East Division road games in Vermont.
The Panthers, now in their second season in the ECAC Women's East, are looking to move up in the conference standings this winter. They will skate in the season opener on Friday (Nov.14) at Norwich University (7:00 p.m.) in Northfield, Vt., and stay in Vermont for a 2:00 p.m. face-off Saturday (Nov. 15) at Castleton State College.
PSU will actually play its first five games on the road before the home opener at Waterville Valley Ice Arena on Dec. 6 against the University of Southern Maine.
A highlight to this year's schedule is a mid-season trip to Minnesota. The Panthers will visit the College of St. Catherine, Augsburg College and Bethel University for three non-conference games in early January.
The ECAC Women's East is divided into three divisions this season. PSU is in Division C with Southern Maine, New England College, and Saint Anselm College. Norwich, MIT, Saint Michael's and Castleton are in Division B, and Manhattanville, Holy Cross, UMass Boston, Salve Regina and Nichols College comprise Division A. The three division winners and the next five teams based on winning percentage will advance to the conference tournament the first week in March. The tournament champion receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2008-09 PSU Women's Ice Hockey Outlook
The Panthers should be a much-improved squad this season, according to third-year head coach Heather Hoffay. The team has 11 skaters back from last season and are joined by 13 talented newcomers for what Hoffay thinks will be a stronger Panther team at both ends of the ice.
"I think we will surprise a lot of people," said Hoffay (right). "We have solid goaltending and now have more people who can put the puck in the net consistently. Our freshman class is very offensive-minded and our new defensemen are adding to the offense as well."
PSU's top returnees are at the defensive end of the ice in senior goalie Lindsay DeLorie (Holliston, Mass./Newton Country Day) and senior defenseman Amanda Kreamer (Lynn, Mass.) DeLorie posted a solid .889 saves percentage last season while leading the nation in saves. Kreamer is an offensive defenseman and continues to be a leader for the younger players, according to Hoffay.
DeLorie will get the bulk of the playing time in the Panther goal, but freshman Nicole Provencher (Guilford, Conn.) and sophomore Lauren Bonanni (Ridgefield, Conn.) are available as back-ups.
There should be several new faces along the Panther blue line, as Kreamer, junior Courtney McKay (Exeter, N.H.) and sophomore Ali Stevenson (North Marshfield, Mass.) are the only returning defensemen. Hoffay says freshmen Abby VanWormer (Marstons Mills, Mass.), Nichols Eustis (Falmouth, Mass.), Molly Irving (Marlboro, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury), Ally Baribault (Middle Haddam, Conn./Hebron Academy) and Kaitlynn Bobb (North Smithfield, R.I.) are all skilled players who will have a chance to make an impact.
Sophomore Elizabeth Murray (Woburn, Mass.) heads the returning players on offense after leading the team in scoring last year. Sophomore Mollie Metcalfe (Orleans, Mass./Nauset Regional) returns to her natural offensive position after playing defense last season. Junior Amanda Arponen (Plymouth, Mass.) and sophomore Ashley Goodridge (Stratham, N.H.) should also be solid offensive contributors, says Hoffay, and junior Jill Gagne (Manchester, N.H./Memorial) and sophomore Jess Byrne (Kunkletown, Pa.), add depth to the offensive unit.
Hoffay is pleased with several of the newcomers on offense, including Danielle Shea (Billerica, Mass.), Brianna Davis (Framingham, Mass.), Jaimie Camara (Portsmouth, R.I.) and Tina Worley (Anchorage, Alaska). Freshmen Michelle Leonard (Hopkinton, Mass.), Molly Blaine (Concord, N.H./Tilton School) and Faith Howrigan (Fairfield, Vt./Bellows Free Academy) add depth to the roster.
Hoffay notes that with so many newcomers stepping into key roles, it may take a while for them to adjust to the college game.
"Everyone is working hard and looking forward to getting the season started," said Hoffay. "Everyone agrees that making the post-season is our number one goal, and it is very attainable."
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