Two weeks of the Division III women’s hockey season are already in the books for some schools and once again RIT is off to a fast start in 2011-12. The Tigers unofficially won the East/West Hockey Classic for the second straight year, besting Manhattanville and Norwich and then kept rolling this past weekend with two convincing wins over Utica.
The Tigers’ offense continues to roll despite the loss of Laura Hurd Award winner Sarah Dagg and two other All-Americans in Katie Stack and Traci Galbraith.
Even though Dagg and Stack got much of the press and accolades last season, neither of them were RIT’s top scorer in 2010-11. That honor belonged to now sophomore Kourtney Kunichika who is flourishing in the limelight. Kunichika was named to the East/West Classic All-Tournament team and currently leads the country with four goals and six assists for 10 points in four games played.
Kunichika’s brilliance is just a small sampling of the large youth movement that has swept D-III women’s hockey at the start of this season. The top four scorers (points-per-game average) in the country are all freshmen currently. St. Scholastica’s Nina Waidacher leads the nation right now averaging 3.00 points per game (2-4-6). Augsburg’s dynamic freshmen tandem of Sara Rajewsky (1-4-5) and Rachel Hennessy (4-1-5) each are averaging 2.50 points per game. Gustavus Adolphus’ Carolyn Draayer has four goals and one assist as well to complete top four.
On top of that, Marian freshman Amanda Waigand leads the country with seven tallies already in just four games this season for the Sabres. Defending national champion Norwich is even seeing a significant impact from a freshman with Kaycie Anderson leading the way in the early going with five goals and one assist for the Cadets.
After having four top-10 matchups the first weekend at Norwich’s Kreitzberg Arena for the second annual East/West Hockey Classic it was pretty tough for this past weekend to try and stack up as far as marquee matchups.
River Falls enacted a bit of revenge on Adrian after the Bulldogs ended the Falcons’ undefeated season last year in the NCHA finals. UWRF took a pair of league contests from Adrian to make an early statement to the rest of the NCHA that once again River Falls will be a force to be reckoned with.
Earlier today the new USCHO.com Division III poll was released and to no surprise on my end, RIT reclaimed the top spot in the poll after defeating previous No. 1 Norwich two weeks ago in a rematch of the 2011 National Championship game. The Tigers spent 11 weeks at No. 1 last year.
Norwich followed up at No. 2, followed by Middlebury, Plattsburgh and River Falls to complete the top five. Gustavus Adolphus, Amherst, Elmira, Trinity and Manhattanville rounded out the top 10.
One of the biggest headlines from this past weekend came from Plattsburgh after the Cardinals needed a furious four-goal third period comeback to rally to tie Neumann 5-5 after the Knights led 5-1 early. Neumann has always been a team knocking on the door and trying to break up the ECAC West powerhouse trio. The Knights came oh so close to shocking the world but an extra-attacker goal by Teal Gove with 14 seconds to play saved face for the Cardinals and they were able to salvage a point.
Manhattanville has also found a rough go of it so far in 2011-12 after the Valiants won the ECAC East Tournament for the first time since 2008 last March and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. They lost their head coach in the offseason to their men’s program and now are off to a 1-3 start so far. Granted, the two losses to RIT and Elmira are certainly nothing to shake your fist at but this past weekend dropping a game to St. Anselm makes a little bit of a cause for concern in Valiant Country.