Lindenwood closes gap in CHA

Players on the 2012-2013 All-USCHO D-I Women's teams (Nicole Hensley) (Tim Brule)
Nicole Hensley returns with some experience on the U.S. Development Team (Lindenwood Athletics)

Lindenwood Lady Lions
USCHO prediction: Sixth
Coaches’ prediction: Fifth (tie)
Last season: Fifth (10-21-2, 7-11-2 CHA)

The names
Lindenwood graduated its first group of varsity recruits in the spring, so this season begins a new cycle for the program. The Lions’ had lost several players from that initial group along the way, so the graduating class is not as large as is usually the case for new programs, with only four graduates.

Gone are program mainstays Jordyn Constance, Katie Erickson, and the top scorer in program history with 68 points, Alyssa West. But Shara Jasper is back for her senior season after tying Constance for the points lead with 27.

Goaltender Nicole Hensley is also a rising senior, after having the spent the summer competing with the United State Development Team.

This is the second season for coach Scott Spencer, who led the team to a program-record 10 victories. He adds a class of six freshmen, four of whom were teammates at Pursuit of Excellence, where Spencer was the director for two years prior to moving to Lindenwood.

The numbers
Hensley faced 945 shots as a junior, by far the fewest of her career.

The team’s goals allowed continues to drop, from 182 in its first year, to 151, to 121, and down to 102 last season.

While the Lions need to continue to hunt for offense — they only scored 57 times — a further reduction in tallies allowed can bring more victories within range. Sometimes, it’s easier to find several kids willing to battle defensively than one pure goal scorer.

The prognosis
Will the Lindenwood victory total continue to rise? The CHA is a unique case, in that it has such a high percentage of new programs at the same time. While those teams will continue to get stronger, the improvement can’t translate into more wins for everyone. Across college hockey, there is a finite number of wins to be had.

My estimate is that Lindenwood will be better in the program’s fifth year, but some team still has to finish last. As RIT demonstrated last season, that isn’t necessarily the end of the world come playoff time.

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