D-III West Preview

Here come the Bears

This season, Potsdam State will become the 46th Division III women’s team to participate in NCAA hockey. After playing last season as a club team, Jay Green’s Potsdam Bears will take to the ice Friday October 24 where they will be thrown right into the fire and face the two time defending national champion Plattsburgh State Cardinals.

“We wanted to start out with one of the best,” Green said. “Plattsburgh will certainly give us a gauge of where our program is and what we need to work on more right off the bat.”

Potsdam will be the tenth team to join the vaunted ECAC West conference, which is regularly considered one of the toughest, if not the toughest conference in the country.

“The ECAC West is probably the strongest conference in the nation,” Green said. “The Plattsburgh, Elmira, RIT trio is the class of the nation and overall top to bottom it is the toughest in my opinion and from what I’ve heard from others.”

Even with the tall task of trying to compete in the tough ECAC West conference, Green is cautiously optimistic that Potsdam can be successful as a first year program.

“We want to be a playoff team in our first year,” Green said. “Obviously we will need some luck and we’ll have to play well and continue to get better throughout the season but making the playoffs has been the goal from day one.”

One factor Potsdam does have going for them is they will have a two year starting goaltender in Hilary Hitchman that has already faced every team in the ECAC West mending the pipes for them. Hitchman, originally from the Potsdam area transferred back to her hometown this season after starting in goal for Oswego State the past two seasons. Hitchman was 7-12-1 last season with a 2.59 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.

“Having Hitchman is a huge asset,” Green said. “We’re very excited to have her and hopefully she continues to play well like in Oswego and provide us some veteran leadership on a team full of freshmen.”

The Bears inaugural roster consists of 18 players with 16 of them being freshmen mostly from New York and Ontario. Green took the recruiting model of his collegiate coach; Barry Smith of Elmira College in the 1970’s when their men’s program was just getting started.

“I told the girls that we needed kids that wanted to be a part of something special,” Green said. “Instead of being a third or fourth line player at some of the other schools, I told them they had the opportunity to be a part of our power play and penalty kill and help establish our program.”

NCHA Season Preview

Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers

Coach: Ann Ninneman (42-10-4, 3rd season)
Last year’s Record: 22-3-2
Last year’s NCHA Record: 14-2-2 (2nd)
Coaches’ Projection: Second
My Projection: First

Key Losses: D. Jamie Lewandowski, F. Katy Lankey
Key Returnees: F. Nicole Grossmann (20-17-37), F. Dana Carothers (14-9-23), D. Sarah Phillips (4-9-13)
Newcomers to watch: F. Erika Greenen, from Chicago Mission; F. Erin Marvin, from Mounds View, MN; D. Sam Scheving, from Warroad MN.

Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjackets

Coach: Dan Laughlin (97-31-9, 6th season)
Last year’s Record: 23-6-1
Last year’s NCHA Record: 15-2-1 (1st)
Coaches’ Projection: First
My Projection: Second

Key Losses: F. Stacey Anderson, D. Gina Baranzelli
Key Returnees: F. Lindsey LeGree (16-14-30), F. Jamie McClintock (11-13-24), G. Melissa Kunzelman (0.93 GGA, .959 Save %)
Newcomers to watch: No Report

Wisconsin-River Falls Falcons

Coach: Joe Cranston (130-89-17, 10th season)
Last year’s Record: 17-9-2
Last year’s NCHA Record: 11-6-1 (3rd)
Coaches’ Projection: Third
My Projection: Third

Key Losses: D. Kacie Anderson, D. Renae Bergh, D. Jessi Dyslin, F. Jenna Scanlon.
Key Returnees: G. Cassi Campbell (1.75 GGA, .932 Save %), F. Stefanie Schmitz (7-20-27), F. Jamie Briski (15-14-29), F. Jessica Thompson (6-13-19)
Newcomers to watch: F. Emma Nordness, F. Amanda Ryder, F. Katie Flanagan

Wisconsin Eau-Claire Blugolds

Coach: Mike Collins (75-114-16, 9th season)
Last year’s Record: 12-14-0
Last year’s NCHA Record: 9-9-0 (4th)
Coaches’ Projection: Fourth
My Projection: Fourth

Key Losses: None
Key Returnees: F. Kristen Faber (12-9-21), Michelle Stohr (6-5-11), Beth Dittrich (3-10-13) and Lauren Havard (5-5-10)
Newcomers to watch: Jackie McKay, Lynne Erspamer, Katie Ward and Morgan Pieper

Finlandia Lions

Coach: Heather Reinke (0-0-0, 1st season)
Last year’s Record: 5-12-2
Last year’s NCHA Record: 2-10-2 (6th)
Coaches’ Projection: Sixth
My Projection: Fifth

Key Losses: Danielle Syrowik and Ashley Leitch
Key Returnees: F. Katelyn McLean (12-11-23); F. Kendra Benson (3-13-16) and F. Emily Conrad (5-4-9).
Newcomers to watch: Shannon Miller from NW Selects; Allison Lee from Traverse City, MI; Katie Herron from Madison Capitols

Lake Forest Foresters

Coach: Carisa Zaban (34-31-5, 4th season)
Last year’s Record: 12-12-4
Last year’s NCHA Record: 7-8-3 (5th)
Coaches’ Projection: Fifth
My Projection: Sixth

Key Losses: Ryann McCarthy, Courtney DeHoey, Kerry Gotowka
Key Returnees: Courtney Bean (3-8-11), Jamie Sauer (1-3-4), Alyssa Wintermute (2.43 GGA, .915 Save %)
Newcomers to watch: Melissa Kravich, Jessica Dare, Kim Herring

Concordia (WI) Falcons

Coach: Jim Ingham (0-22-3, 2nd season)
Last year’s Record: 0-22-3
Last year’s NCHA Record: 0-17-1 (7th)
Coaches’ Projection: Seventh
My Projection: Seventh

Key Losses: Jackie Drews
Key Returnees: D. Jaime Athens (4-6-10), Sarah Luberda (3-8-11) , F. Amber Cmejla (8-7-15)
Newcomers to watch: Sarah Smith, Alyssa Isaackson, Hilary Christiansen

Adrian Bulldogs

Coach: Melisssa Lomanto (0-0-0, 1st season)
Last year’s Record: 11-11-2
Independent- No report

The biggest news in the NCHA this year is the addition of the automatic bid for the conference tournament winner. The Pool B bid no longer will exist and instead there will be five conference tournament winners and then two at-large (Pool C) bids that will determine the final two spots in the seven team NCAA Tournament.

Contrary to popular belief, Adrian is not a member of the NCHA this year. They are in the second year of a two-year scheduling agreement with the NCHA teams. They could be added to the conference next year.

The general consensus is that there are two tiers in the NCHA this season. The trio of Wis.- River Falls, Wis.- Superior, and Wis.- Stevens Point are the powerhouse three that will compete for the league title. Then, Lake Forest, Wis.-Eau Claire, and Finlandia will all be competing for the fourth position.

I’m picking Stevens Point this year because they return basically everyone from last year’s squad. They lost just three games last year and Superior lost their top two goal scorers.

MIAC Season Preview

Gustavus Adolphus Gusties

Coach: Mike Carroll (197-51-11, 10th season)
Last year’s Record: 25-3-0
Last year’s MIAC Record: 18-0-0 (1st)
Coaches’ Projection: First
My Projection: First

Key Losses: D. Laura Vannelli, F. Molly Doyle
Key Returnees: F. Melissa Mackley (4-14-18), F. Mari Gunderson(17-6-23), D. Jenny Pusch(6-10-16), D. Kirstin Peterson (3-15-18), D. Sara Yungner, F. Jessie Doig (8-8-16)
Newcomers to watch: F. Allie Schwab, G. Danielle Justice, G. Emily Klatt

St. Thomas Tommies

Coach: Tom Palkowski (21-6-0, 2nd season)
Last year’s Record: 21-6-0
Last year’s MIAC Record: 14-4-0
Coaches’ Projection: Second
My Projection: Second

Key Losses: Ashley Rheinhardt
Key Returnees: G. Lauren Bradel (1.32 GGA, .945 Save %), F. Jackie Carroll (13-24-37), D. Alicia Behr (4-3-7), D. Kristine Beese (8-10-18)
Newcomers to watch: Amy Zimniewicz & Jamie Tiede to give us some firepower up front & Jaci Lang & Meghan Parker to fill out a solid core of defensemen.

Hamline Pipers

Coach: Garnet Asmundson (39-76-12, 6th season)
Last year’s Record: 14-10-2
Last year’s MIAC Record: 8-7-3
Coaches’ Projection: Fourth
My Projection: Third

No Report.

Concordia (MN) Cobbers

Coach: Ace Gregg (19-23-4, 3rd season)
Last year’s Record: 10-12-2
Last year’s MIAC Record: 10-6-2
Coaches’ Projection: Third
My Projection: Fourth

Key Losses: D. Ceara Bergsrud , F. Lisa Graham
Key Returnees: Alyssa Dahl (7-11-18), Brit Vander Kooy (1-5-6), Julie York (1.65 GGA, .937 Save %), Maddie Haroldson (2.26 GGA, .927 Save %)
Newcomers to watch: Emily Sell, Kit Hollway, Allie Bonde, Katelyn Dold, Becca Kent

Bethel Royals

Coach: Charlie Burgraff (17-26-5, 3rd season)
Last year’s Record: 11-12-2
Last year’s MIAC Record: 8-9-1
Coaches’ Projection: Fifth
My Projection: Fifth

Key Returnees: G. Beth Spurrier (2.70 GGA, .919 Save %), Bethany Murphy-Autumn (11-23-34), Sandra Felten (20-12-32)
Newcomers to watch: D. Anna Carlson (Roseville MN) D. Rachael Geng (South St Paul MN) D. Paige Lemieux (Fargo North, ND) F. Mikaela Mahoney (Buffalo, MN)

St. Catherine Wildcats

Coach: Brad Marshall (10-56-6, 4th season)
Last year’s Record: 9-13-3
Last year’s MIAC Record: 6-10-2
Coaches’ Projection: Eighth
My Projection: Sixth

Key Losses: None
Key Returnees: F. Michaela Michaelson,(12-9-21)), G. Mel Gerten (.926% save, 2.81 GAA), D. Meghan Lange (0-3-3), F. Aryn Ball (10-5-15)
Newcomers to watch: F. Cassie Rooney, Wayzata HS; D. Bridget Braastad, Blaine HS; F. Kelsey Abrahamson, Simley HS, F. Katie Lawler, transfer from Eau-Claire

St. Olaf Oles

Coach: John Bazzachini (36-40-2, 4th season)
Last year’s Record: 8-16-1
Last year’s MIAC Record: 5-12-1
Coaches’ Projection: Sixth
My Projection: Seventh

No Report.

St. Mary’s Cardinals

Coach: Terry Manor (25-41-9, 4th season)
Last year’s Record: 5-15-3
Last year’s MIAC Record: 5-11-2
Coaches’ Projection: Seventh
My Projection: Eighth

Key Losses: Val Rodriguez
Key Returnees: Katie Cachey (5-5-10), Ingrid Klockars (7-2-9), Madison Sienko (4-2-6)
Newcomers to watch: Alex Braun, Stevie Fiek, Madeline Lenz

Augsburg Auggies

Coach: Jill Pohtilla (164-136-28, 14th season)
Last year’s Record: 4-16-3
Last year’s MIAC Record: 4-11-3
Coaches’ Projection: Ninth
My Projection: Ninth

Key Losses: D. Jackie Keller, D. Emily Merhar
Key Returnees: F. Tiffany Magnuson (12-11-23), G. Toni Menth (3.44 GGA, .912 Save %)
Newcomers to watch: – Brya Erickson (D, New Brighton, Minn./Irondale HS) Amanda Gullickson (F, Prior Lake, Minn.) Kali Holst (F, Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka HS)

St. Benedict Blazers

Coach: Patrick Michaud (6-33-7, 3rd season)
Last year’s Record: 4-16-2
Last year’s MIAC Record: 4-12-2
Coaches’ Projection: Tenth
My Projection: Tenth

Key Losses: D Maggie Kinney, G Amanda Plumm
Key Returnees: F Patty King (6-4-10), D Steph Kendrick (4-6-10) and G Abbie Helminen .905 save percentage
Newcomers to watch: G Lauren Herzog (St. Paul United), F Amie Ernst (MN Thoroughbreds), F Kerri Graske (Stillwater HS) and Rachel Welz (Wisconsin Wild).

The MIAC essentially can be summed up as a two-horse-race. St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus have been the class of the MIAC for years and this year should be no different. I’m giving the Gusties the edge though because they seemingly always are the ones to just edge out St. Thomas. However, I fully expect the Tommies to push Gustavus Adolphus to the brink this year.

After that, things get real blurry for the conference. You can basically start picking names out of a hat but Concordia, Hamline, and Bethel should be the chief challengers for the third through fifth spots.