Sunday, September 19, 2010

Women's Hockey - Around the ECAC (Part II)

On Friday, we took a look at the first third of the Engineers’ ECAC schedule, consisting of St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Princeton, and Quinnipiac. While that presented a fair cross-section of the league as a whole, today’s teams finished in the bottom three of the ECAC last season. Let’s have a look at them – Yale, Brown, and Union.

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Yale
  • Last Season's Record: 10-16-3, 8-13-1 ECAC (10th)
  • Key Players: Samantha MacLean (D, Sr), Bray Ketchum (F, Sr), Aleca Hughes (F, Jr), Jackee Snikeris (G, Sr)
  • Key Losses: Caroline Murphy (F, 8-3-11), Alyssa Clarke (D, 3-6-9)
  • Last Season vs. RPI: 4-1 RPI (11/13/09 in Troy), 4-3 Yale (1/16/10 in New Haven).
  • 2010-2011 games: 11/12/10 in New Haven, 2/5/11 in Troy.
  • 2010-2011 Preseason Coaches’ Poll: 10th
Although Yale missed the playoffs last season, things don’t look altogether bleak for the Bulldogs this year. Goalie Jackee Snikeris had a good 09-10 season, posting a .927%, 2.47GAA on the year, and returns for her senior season. Seven of Yale’s eight top scorers return for another go, and they will need to find the net early to see success. In ECAC games where Yale scored first last season, they were 8-1. When surrendering the first goal, they went 0-12-1. Yale returns half of its top defensive pairing in junior Samantha MacLean. The other half, Alyssa Clarke, was one of two defensemen to graduate. A large incoming class of eight freshmen will replenish the roster, but with 17 returning players, youth really shouldn’t be an issue for this Bulldog squad.

Yale will be led by a new head coach in 2010-11, as Hillary Witt departed at the end of the 2009-10 season after eight years behind the bench. The Bulldogs made the ECAC playoffs six times in those eight seasons, and Witt was named ECAC Coach of the Year in 2002-2003. She will be succeeded by Joakim Flygh, a nine-year assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth and Harvard, who has seen his teams make the NCAA tournament five of the past six seasons, and amass a combined .701 winning percentage over those years. Flygh brings to Yale a renewed commitment to success on the ice, and should be expected to start moving Yale back up the standings in the coming seasons. This could mean trouble for the middle of the pack, as the last 4 playoff spots should become even more contested than they already are. Remember that Dartmouth and Yale were both within 3 points of making the playoffs last season, so just an extra win here or there could be the difference that ends up shaking up the bottom of the playoff field.

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Brown
  • Last Season's Record: 3-21-4, 1-18-3 ECAC (11th)
  • Key Players: Laurie Jolin (F, So), Alena Polenska (D/F, So), Erica Kromm (D, Sr), Samantha Stortini (D, Sr), Paige Pyatt (D, Jr)
  • Key Losses: Nicole Brown (F, 1-7-8), Sasha Van Muyen (F, 7-1-8)
  • Last Season vs. RPI: 1-1 tie (11/14/09 in Troy), 2-0 RPI (1/15/10 in Providence).
  • 2010-2011 games: 11/13/10 in Providence, 2/4/11 in Troy.
  • 2010-2011 Preseason Coaches’ Poll: 11th
Brown has been in a real funk the past several seasons, missing the playoffs four years in a row after being a fixture in the top half of the ECAC standings since the early ‘90s. There has been speculation about a rift between head coach Digit Murphy and her players, as several players have left in the past few seasons before graduation, however Brown has issues that go beyond coaching (financial and administration support for the program being seen as major ones) that could well be contributors. Whatever the root problem, the result has been a mediocre on-ice product, something that comes as a shock to fans and supporters that were used to the Bears teams of yesteryear.

On the ice, the Bears return their top four scorers as well as starting goalie Katie Jamieson, who finished last season with a .911% and 3.21GAA. 4 players graduated but are being replaced by seven incoming freshmen, so there should be some competition for ice time in the coming season, always good for a team. The recruiting class is solid but not outstanding; it’s doubtful they’ll have the impact the Bears need to move out of the bottom third of the league this season.

Last season, RPI outshot Brown handily in two games, but walked away just with a 2-2 tie (one of just four non-losses for the Bears) in one and a 2-0 victory in the other. Despite Brown's several bad seasons in a row, they regularly put up a good fight against the Engineers; don't be shocked to see the Bears challenge the Engineers again this season.

*****

Union
  • Last Season's Record: 5-28-1, 1-20-1 ECAC (12th)
  • Key Players: Marissa Gentile (F, Sr), Perri Maduri (D, Sr), Alana Marcinko (G, So)
  • Key Losses: Jackie Koetteritz (D, 4-1-5)
  • Last Season vs. RPI: 2-0 RPI (12/5/09 in Schenectady), 5-0 RPI (12/6/09 in Troy).
  • 2010-2011 games: 12/3/10 in Schenectady, 12/4/10 in Troy.
  • 2010-2011 Preseason Coaches’ Poll: 12th
We’re not going to sugar coat things here – Union has had no success on the ice since elevating to Division I from the ECAC East in 2003-2004. They’ve finished in last place every season since and amassed an impressive (for all the wrong reasons) 2-140-4 conference record in 7 seasons. In our last podcast, Ken Schott from the Schenectady Daily Gazette mentioned that head coach Claudia Asano believed this could be the season the Dutchwomen make the playoffs for the first time – they’re going to have to win more than one game before that happens.

On the bright side for Union, they graduated just one senior in 2010, and so return a stronger and more experienced squad, if nothing else. Union is going to need to find some serious offense if they intend to compete in their ECAC games, as they scored more than one goal just twice in ECAC play last season, in a 3-0 win over Brown and a 6-3 loss to Princeton. For comparison’s sake, they were shut out 12 times in those same 22 ECAC games. Sophomore starting goalie Alana Marcinko, who posted a respectable .908%, 3.14GAA last season (facing an average of 34 shots per game), returns as well. If Union is to make any strides in the ECAC, expect it to start from the net out. Like Lundy Day before her, Marcinko keeps the games from getting out of hand – it will be up to the rest of the team to start putting the puck in the net in order to win some games.

Perhaps the real story this offseason was Union’s addition of former Harvard standout, Patty Kazmaier Award winner, and three-time US Olympian Julie Chu as assistant coach. Chu previously coached at Minnesota-Duluth, where she was an assistant coach to the 07-08 Bulldogs team that won the national championship. While coaching changes, especially assistants, frequently don’t yield results immediately, this addition sends a message that Union is starting to get serious about their women’s program. Expect Chu, who is already a legend in women’s hockey at age 28, to add serious name recognition to the program and increase Union’s odds at landing more talented players.

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With seven teams down and four to go, check back on Wednesday as we round out the ECAC with a look at Dartmouth, Harvard, Cornell, and Colgate. On Thursday we’ll wrap up the preseason coverage with a birds-eye view of the league, review of the coaches’ preseason poll, and our thoughts on how things will shake out by the end of the season.

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