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PSU Women’s Ice Hockey to face defending champs in opener

Panthers begin new era under coach Ashley Kilstein

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A new era begins for the Plymouth State University women's ice hockey team this weekend when the Panthers open the season under new head coach Ashley Kilstein.

            Kilstein and the Panthers have the unenviable task of meeting the defending national champions in their debut, facing off against Norwich University this Friday in Northfield, Vt., in an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Women's East Conference game.  PSU completes the weekend trip to Vermont with a Saturday afternoon matinee (3:00 p.m.) at Saint Michael's College.

   
  Head Coach Ashley Kilstein
   

            The Panthers will be back at home for their next seven games, beginning the following weekend, Nov. 18-19.  PSU will host Castleton State College on Friday at 6:00 p.m. and New England College Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Hanaway Rink, now in its second year as the home of the Panthers. 

            The top eight teams in the ECAC East will advance to the conference tournament beginning the last Saturday in February, with the champion being crowned the first weekend in March and receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.

            The Panthers are now in their sixth season as a varsity sport and fifth year in the ECAC Women's East Conference. 

2011-12 PSU Women's Ice Hockey Outlook

            Coach Kilstein has 20 returning players on this year's squad, along with five newcomers.  Kilstein realizes she has taken over a program that has struggled since turning varsity in 2006, and plans to improve one shift at a time.

            "We have a group of kids who have a do-or-die fight in them," said Kilstein.  "They have a thirst for success, and they want to do well to prove they can do it.  We're going to worker harder than any team in the league.  When it comes to those 50-50 situations with the puck, it's who outworks the other, and I know this team has the ability to both execute and succeed in those battles."

            Kilstein says the squad has a real sense of camaraderie, given the tough seasons they endured together. They've set attainable goals for this season that started on day one.

            "I've asked them to give 100 percent of their effort in every situation," said Kilstein.  "We're taking it game by game, period by period, and focusing on every shift.  We want to work hard so that we're there in the third period and looking as fresh as we did in the first."

            The Panthers have a solid group of returning forwards, led by seniors Bri Davis and Jaimie Camara.  Davis led the team in scoring last season while Camara was the team scoring leader in 2008-09.  Sophomore Jamie O'Brien has also looked good in preseason, according to Kilstein, and the top newcomers look like freshmen Kate Banys and Kelsey Cosby.

            KIlstein says she is also waiting for the return of senior Molly Blaine., who has been out with an injury, and sophomore Alyssa Audet, who missed preseason while playing on the PSU field hockey team.

            There are four returning defenseman that could form the core of the blue-liners, according to the coach -- senior Abby Van Wormer, junior Montana Heinlein, and sophomores Tasha Wyatt and Stephanie Newmark.  Freshman Jenny MacArthur looks like the top newcomer on defense.

            Sophomore Ali Ponte returns after starting all but one game last season.  She is being challenged for the starting job by senior Nicole Provencher and sophomore Nicole Crandle.

            "This team is going to surprise some people," said Kilstein.  "They've been craving structure and discipline and that's exactly what they're getting.  If we can fix a lot of the little things, that will really help us.  We'll be nipping at people's heels.  Norwich was picked to repeat as champions, but we have no plans to repeat our finish from last year."

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