Women's Preview - Clarkson v. Vermont
Game on! That's right, six months have already passed, and that means it's hockey season. It kicks off tomorrow night at Cheel Arena when the Women's Hockey Team hits the ice to take on the Vermont Catamounts of Hockey East. Clarkson is coming off of an outstanding season which saw them ranked for the majority of the season, defeating several ranked teams, including a huge victory at Cheel in front of 1700+ against arch-rival St. Lawrence.
They took Harvard to three games in the opening round of the ECACHL playoffs, where the Crimson needed double overtime to escape the Golden Knights, allowing certain people to breathe a sigh of relief that contoversy was avoided. This year the Golden Knights will be able to surprise no one, they're here and they're loaded with veterans from a team that has the potential to make the NCAA Torunament in their first year of eligibiity.
Vermont on the other hand continued its streak of mediocrity, finishing last year with a record of 3-29-2 in a Hockey East conference that gets stronger year by year. Since the 2000-2001 season when they were in Division III, Vermont has not won more than six games all year. The Hockey East coaches echoed that trend when they picked Vermont to finish dead last in the conference. Enter new head coach Tim Bothwell, whose new staff now includes former Vermont men's coach Mike Gilligan, they're looking to make a statement this year that Vermont can play.
Clarkson can't take Vermont lightly. In their season opening series last year, Clarkson defeated Vermont by 3-1 and 2-0 margins. Not dominate by any stretch of the imagination.
Vermont returns 19 letterwinners to this year's squad, and adds 9 freshman to the mix. No player on the team scored more than seven points all last season. We'll likely see both Katie Nichols and Shivaun Siegl in net this weekend. Both have played well, but not well enough to win, with each allowing near three goals a game. They'll need help from an offense that only scored more than three goals only once last season.
Clarkson will likely not have to focus on the fast paced style breakout style that they have faced with the top-tier teams. Instead they'll be facing a mirror image of themselves several years ago. Vermont will need to play solid defense, have a strong goalie, crash the net and clean up the mess when the opportunities appear if they want a chance to beat Clarkson this weekend.
The Golden Knights will likely use this weekend to test new line combinations and allow All-American Kira Hurley to shake off any rust from the off-season. Hurley had a 1.29 GAA and 10 shutouts last season. If they can build a lead, backups Stephanie Hansen and Jessica Finley should see some time as well.
We should see the exceptional defense that has been played by the Knights over the past couple of years, but we also expect to see them breakout of the zone more often, trying to catch opposing teams on odd man rushes. Keep an eye on Ashley Shaidle and Brooke Beazer to connect often. The two had 55 points combined last season. Also be sure to watch Marie Jo-Gaudet. She made a huge impact during last year's Harvard playoff series, breaking into the zone on her own and making plays throughout the series, we should expect more of this style of play throughout the season from the Knights in general, but expect Gaudet to be making some noise right off the bat.
Clarkson did lose several promising young players over the summer, but Rick Seeley's new recruits should not only fill the gap left by their departures, but make the team stronger as a whole. We're excited to see the Clarkson debuts of Carlee Eusepi and Britney Selina in particular. All of Freshman have been highly praised by Coach Seeley and they should fit in well with the cohesive unit that has been built over the past three years.
With so many solid players on the team, we could probably go on and on about each of them but you'll see them all on the ice tomorrow. Bob Ahlfeld and Josh Bartell will be covering the game for Cool 95.3 and will be streamed over the Internet. If you're in Potsdam or on campus, be sure to head down at Cheel Arena for the start of what will hopefully be a very exciting season. Puck drops at 7:00 on Friday and 2:00 on Saturday.