Integrating freshman into an established lineup can be a daunting task for coaches. Finding personnel that can immediately make an impact on the blue line is often a particularly difficult exercise. The following newcomers have stepped into their respective defensemen roles in a big way.
Kendall Appelbaum, Oswego: The 5-foot-9-inch Eden, N.Y., native, a graduate of the North American Hockey Academy, is tied for the team lead in power-play goals with three, and is among the top scorers on the Lakers with 3-2-5 numbers. Coach Diane Dillon’s squad currently ranks second in the nation with a goals-per-game-against average of 1.00. Appelbaum has meshed well with established defensemen, seniors Leslie Jarvis and Chelsea Hunt. Appelbaum was among three immediate contributors to the class of 2017 that includes forwards Ashley Lyman and Bridget Hamlin. Lyman is quite familiar with Appelbaum’s level of play, as both skated for the Buffalo Bisons of the NAHA. Oswego finished off 2013 winning five of its last six. Appelbaum registered her first career game-winning goal in a win over Canton on Dec. 7.
Paige Johnson, Wisconsin-River Falls: The Falcons have adequate offense to be competitive (4.08 points per game), which frees up Johnson to defend the fort. In that capacity, the Marshfield, Wis., defenseman has been a pleasant surprise for Joe Cranston’s 17th ranked defense. Johnson has just nine shots on goal through a dozen games, but has a plus-minus of plus-7, to go along with her six assists and one power-play score. Johnson has shown an early penchant to be front and center in high level contests. In the Falcons final game before the semester break, a 3-0 victory over No. 5 Gustavus Adolphus, Johnson was a plus-2 and added an assist on the insurance goal, while aiding in the Ashley Kuechle’s third shutout of 2013.
Jane Pagano and Cassie Hunter, Connecticut College: The departure of senior defenseman Molly Murphy, who suited up for 93 career games, was a significant loss to the Camels heading into the 2013-14 season, but head coach Kristen Steele, now in her 13th year in New London, received a double dose of skill in Pagano and Hunter, who have combined for five goals and three assists in eight games. Both players are tied for third in overall team scoring. The pair have recorded 11 penalties for 22 minutes to go along with one game-winning goal and a power-play goal apiece.