New Rink, New Beginning?
The Plymouth State women’s hockey program hasn’t had much to cheer about entering its fourth season as a Division III varsity program.
The Panthers have won just one game in three seasons, but 2010-2011 could be the dawn of a new beginning for the program.
On Friday night, Plymouth State will play its inaugural game in Hanaway Rink, the Panthers’ brand new $16.4 million, 860-seat arena, which will house both the men and women’s hockey teams.
“The new rink demonstrates a new commitment to the hockey programs at Plymouth State by the administration,” Plymouth State coach Darcy Corson said. “You don’t build a $16 million rink to lose a lot of games.”
The state-of-the-art facility is designed to meet LEED Silver standards and uses cutting edge geothermal heating and cooling to maximize energy conservation. According to the school’s website, the rink is “True to PSU’s school colors and its commitment to the environment; it is genuinely ‘green’ ice.”
“The rink we were skating at before in Waterville was about 30 minutes away and made it tough for our students to get to,” Corson said. “They did a great job hosting us, but there is a just a different energy playing in your own rink on your campus.”
Corson, who now enters her second year at the helm of the program, has brought in 20 freshmen, including the team’s first Canadians, to help try and build the foundation for a winning team.
“All around, we’re bigger, stronger and have higher quality players,” she said. “We have 20 freshmen in and we should be a pretty different club this year. They are seeing the majority of the ice and come from winning programs. We’re making the transition between the speed of high school hockey and college hockey right now, but once we do, I think we’ll be alright.”
The Panthers dropped their season opener, 5-2, at Southern Maine last Saturday, which was a tremendous improvement over last year’s 16-0 loss to the Huskies.
“Being able to keep that game to three was a huge improvement over last year,” Corson said. “We’re looking forward to seeing them again later in the year once we have a couple more games under our belt and seeing how far we’ve come since.”
Friday night’s home opener doesn’t get any easier for the Panthers, as they will take on defending NCAA runner-up Norwich at 7 p.m. The Cadets are ranked fourth in the nation and are off to a 3-1 start this season. Norwich has won three straight since dropping its season opener to third-ranked Rochester Institute of Technology.
“Norwich has done what we hope to be able to do over the new few years,” Corson said. “They have a great program and Coach Bolding has done a great job. We hope to emulate what they’ve done in a short period of time and I think this year we’ll be able to give them a better game than we have in years past.”
In order to bring in a large recruiting class, Corson had to let some of the upperclassmen go to try and get the program going in the right direction.
“I think we’ll be putting a very different product on the ice this year,” Corson said. “It was a tough decision to let some of the kids go that have been here, but we weren’t really able to field a competitive team so having the new rink and new commitment to the program should be great for the future.”
Similar to pretty much every other week throughout the course of the season, there are a handful of matchups on the schedule that you can put your finger on as marquee games when it comes time to decide who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament.
The biggest one I came up with is Manhattanville traveling up Interstate 86 to take on Elmira in an ECAC inter-conference showdown.
Although the Soaring Eagles are off to a little bit of a slow start at, 2-1-1 with a tie to Oswego and loss to Norwich, Elmira has traditionally always been there at the end when it comes to the ECAC West, winning seven of the nine conference tournament championships.
If the ECAC East is looking to get two teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time, this matchup will be critical for Manhattanville to come up with at least three points in.
Even with Elmira’s offensive woes early in the season, the Valiants haven’t fared very well against the purple and gold over the years. Elmira leads the all-time series 10-3-2 and holds two National Championship victories over Manhattanville in 2002 and 2003.
Other key matchups to keep an eye on include Plattsburgh kicking off its league season by traveling to Neumann and the Ice Works Complex in Aston, Pa. for a pair of ECAC West games, and Utica hosting R.I.T. for a pair of games as well at the Utica Auditorium.