Saturday, June 12, 2010

Women's Hockey - Introducing the 2010-2011 Engineers

With the Class of 2014 announced a few weeks ago, let's take a moment to review the additions, subtractions, and returnees that will make up the 2010-2011 Engineers. With several top players departing after their senior seasons, the heat is on for the incoming freshmen to provide an immediate contribution and the returning players to step up their game to fill the void.

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Forwards
Departed: Rossli Chace, Whitney Naslund, Allysen Weidner, Allison Wright

Returning: Kendra Dunlop, Ashley Gaylord, Laura Guillemette, Alisa Harrison, Taylor Horton, Kristen Jakubowski, Sydney O'Keefe, Clare Padmore, Audrey Stapleton, Jill Vandegrift

Recruits: Missy Mankey, Toni Sanders, Jordan Smelker

Losing Naslund and Wright to graduation is a severe blow as the Engineers lose 53 points (23.6% of their total) between the two, and another 18 with Weidner's departure. The departing seniors as a whole represented 41.7% of RPI's scoring last season, and it will be up to the incoming forwards to give a shot in the arm to a team that has lost much of its punch. Expect Alisa Harrison and Kendra Dunlop to lead the charge for the Engineers as the third and fourth leading scorers from last year's team, and the top two returning.

Recruits Missy Mankey (Coon Rapids, MN/Minnesota Whitecaps/Hopkins HS), Toni Sanders (York, PA/West York HS Boys/Susquehanna Rapids U19), and Jordan Smelker (Anchorage, AK/Team Alaska U19) will round out the roster and each has their own contribution to offer.

Coach Burke commented on Mankey's speed and all-around utility, stating she is a player the Engineers would be able to use in numerous situations. Sanders, who split time between a high school boys hockey team (tallying 46 points) and an Girls Under-19 team where she had 62 points (44 more than the next leading scorer) should have no problem being a physical presence with a great shot. Smelker attended US player development camps, was named HS girls hockey player of the year twice by the Anchorage Daily News, and was all-conference three years straight. Coming into RPI with a 4.0GPA and interest in math and science, she's also no slouch in the classroom and it wouldn't be surprising to see her end up in one of RPI's more difficult majors.

In RPI's official release regarding the incoming class, it was noted that 9 forwards would return for the upcoming season, and 6 of the top 10 scorers from last season. If you count the above we have 10 supposedly returning forwards, meaning one won't be back. If we discount the 6 remaining top scorers (Castignetti, Dunlop, Harrison, Horton, O'Keefe, Vandegrift) we're left with one of Gaylord, Guillemette, Jakubowski, Padmore, or Stapleton leaving. With Jakubowski earning the team's Most Improved Player award, averaging over 50% on faceoffs, it would be surprising not to see her return.

Gaylord, though listed as a forward, was utilized as a 3rd-pair defenseman for the latter part of last season after Janessa Haller left the team unexpectedly in January. Gaylord played just a handful of the 20 prior games at left and right wing before taking on the defensive role, and saw relatively little ice time at the defensive position. After playing only 3 games the season before last, best guess is that she will be the player that does not return; with two skilled defense recruits arriving she would likely not be needed on the blue line. However it's all speculation until the official roster comes out.

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Defensemen
Departed: Laura Gersten

Returning: Amanda Castignetti, Katie Daniels, Andie Le Donne, Sierra Vadner

Recruits: Logonaimanufaalava (Nona) Letuligasenoa, Madison Marzario

Few players had as large an impact on last year's team as captain Laura Gersten. ECAC Student-Athlete of the Year, co-Bill Cahill Award winner, Sarah Devens award winner, and scorer of the 5OT goal that pushed the Engineers past Quinnipiac in the playoff quarterfinals, the captain was the keystone of the Engineers and will be sorely missed.

It is fortunate for the Engineers to have not lost any additional defensemen as their ranks were already thin, playing all the defensemen on the roster plus a forward for the latter half of the season to fill out six slots. Additions to the team this year include a girl with perhaps the longest name in college hockey, Logonaimanufaalava Letuligasenoa (Fairbanks, AK/North American Hockey Academy) and Madison Marzario (Prior Lake, MN/Shattuck St. Mary's).

Letuligasenoa, who goes by Nona for the sake of everyone's sanity, was a top varsity softball player in addition to her performance on the ice. Marzario, listed at 5'9", has a big shot and will add some physical presence to the defense according to Coach Burke. Aggressive and ready to jump up into plays, expect her to help with the forwards' difficult task of restoring lost scoring to the team

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Goaltenders
Departed: None

Returning: Kristen Burney, Shannon Ramelot, Sonja van der Bliek

Recruits: None

There's not a whole lot to say here. Sonja van der Bliek was a rock in net last year with a .924sv% and 1.85GAA. Now the recipient of ECAC Goalie of the Week Honors five times, most recently the Engineers 3-game playoff win over Quinnipiac where she stopped 98 of 101 shots, for a 0.61GAA and .970sv% on the weekend in nearly 300 minutes of hockey. Van der Bliek holds many of RPI's goaltending records already after only three seasons, including games played, games started, wins, minutes played, and shutouts.

Expect Shannon Ramelot to play a few more games this season as well in preparation for van der Bliek's departure following her senior season. Although she only played in four games in 09-10, Ramelot posted an impressive .925sv% and 2.08 GAA with a 1-0-1 record last season.

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Outlook

Scoring is going to be the big question mark for the Engineers in 2010-2011 as they attempt to somehow replace the loss of the players that truly led the team's charge into Division I. If players like Harrison and Dunlop can step up and fill some of the void while the recruits pitch in from day one, this could be less of an issue than expected. But if we don't see strong performances out of each of the veterans, we could see van der Bliek put under a lot of pressure to keep RPI in games. Although Gersten's departure hits hard, fans can look forward to two incoming defensive recruits, which should allow Coach Burke a little more flexibility in putting a full complement of defensemen on the ice for each game.

With many of the teams in the ECAC picking up solid talent this offseason, competition will once again be stiff in league. A middle-of-the-pack finish in the 6th-8th place range looks likely as the talent level across the league improves. It's getting hard to find a "sure win" in the ECAC anymore and you can expect some serious competition between teams to fill in the 8 playoff spots by the end of the season.

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