In just its third season since its “rebirth” and second as a varsity program, the SUNY Potsdam women’s hockey team made great strides in 2009-10. The Bears went 9-15-1 (6-11 Eastern College Athletic Conference West) last season, winning five more games than the previous year and earning a playoff spot. Fourth-year Bears head coach Jay Green says the team’s goal is consistent improvement.
“The objective of any program is to be progressive and improve every year. This coming season we have higher expectations,” said Green. “We’re hoping for 12 to 14 wins and a playoff spot, realistically a fourth or fifth place finish.”
Potsdam has a solid collection of 11 players returning in 2010-11, including its top seven scorers and an experienced goaltender. They will be joined by six talented freshmen and a battle-tested junior transfer.
“We have a well-established core group of players and I think we’ve done a pretty good job to complement them with the last two recruiting classes,” Green said. “Our junior class, in my opinion, is on par with the junior classes of the top teams in the league.”
The Bears’ captains are familiar faces. Senior forward Courtney Laughlin (Gabrills, Md./Princeton Tiger Lillies) and junior forward Stephanie Simons (Stratford, Ontario/Bluewater Hawks) will again serve as co-captains, while junior forward Annmarie Lewis (Newmarket, Ontario/Aurora Panthers) will wear the “A” once more. Green has a lot confidence in his team’s leaders.
“I can’t say enough about their qualities and maturity. Our captains have been here since our rebirth and they’re doing a great job,” Green said. “They’ve matured as people and leaders and have improved as players.”
Laughlin (3 goals-5 assists-8 points), Simons (10-15-25), and Lewis (9-11-20) will lead the five veteran forwards. Laughlin has served as the Bears’ captain since before the program returned to varsity status and has played in all 48 of its varsity contests. Simons led the team in scoring last season and was also at the top of the list with four game-winning goals. Lewis recorded a team-high five power play goals in 2009-10. Sophomore Katie Komsa (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario/Sault Ste. Marie AA Midget) (4-6-10) and senior Kristine Faffley (Westmoreland, N.Y./U-Mass Boston) (4-4-8) are back as well. Komsa was also a key part of Potsdam’s special teams, scoring three power play goals. Faffley is one of the most experienced Bears, having played in all 48 of their varsity games and participating in 26 with UMass-Boston as a freshman.
Among the four newcomers to the offense is junior transfer Caitlin Manahan (St. Albans, Vt./Elmira College). Manahan had nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 58 games with women’s hockey juggernaut Elmira College before joining Potsdam this season. Green believes she will be an important addition to the 2010-11 Bears.
“Caitlin Manahan is going to bring a lot of experience and a high level of skill coming from Elmira,” said Green.
The three freshmen additions are Jessica Silveira (Brampton, Ontario/Brampton Thunder), Emma Smetaniuk (Frankford, Ontario/Whitby Wolves), and Jenn Crawford (Burlington, Ontario/Stoney Creek Sabres). Green is excited about the skills the new Bears bring to the team.
“All three will provide depth and a skill level, which will improve our ability to compete with the top teams in the league. They all have the potential to be major contributors to the offense this season,” said Green.
Five defensemen are back on the blue line for Potsdam this year. According to Green, it’s a formidable bunch.
The junior class consists of Breanna Roy (Orleans, Ontario/Nepean Wildcats), Stephanie Malcolm (Hamilton, Ontario/Hamilton Hawks), and Brandi Atwell (Cornwall, Ontario/Cornwall Typhoons). Roy (9-12-21) and Malcolm (3-8-11) not only helped to anchor the defense, but were two of the Bears top four scorers last season. Atwell (0-1-1) was also a steady presence, playing in 24 contests. Sophomores Nadine Cunningham (Bow, N.H./St. Mark's Prep) (3-1-4) and Brittany Westlake (Georgetown, Ontario/Brampton Thunder) (0-2-2) round out the returnees. Both were tested as freshman, playing in 20 games or more each.
“In terms of our overall defensive core unit we’re probably more solid than we’ve ever been,” Green said. “There’s no question Breanna Roy is one of the top defenseman in the league. Atwell, Malcolm, Westlake and Cunningham are all very solid and dependable players.”
Two freshmen join Potsdam this season. Emma Fillman (Ottawa, Ontario/Ottawa Senators) and Brittany Lucky (Kanata, Ontario/Ottawa Senators) were already teammates in the P.W.H.L. before becoming Bears. The duo, in the words of Green, will “really stabilize our defensive core.”
Between the pipes, sophomore Jen Conophy (Glenmont, N.Y./Albany Ice Cats) returns and is joined by freshman Dawna Salvarinas (Mississauga, Ontario/Brampton Thunder). Green expects Potsdam to be very strong in goal this season.
“My objective as a coach is to have a tandem goaltending team where you can play either goaltender on any given night and I think we have that. Both Jen Conophy and Dawna Salvarinas are quality goaltenders and they’re probably going to split their time right down the middle,” Green said. “I really believe that maybe we have a tandem that’s among the top four teams in the league.”
In 2009-10 Conophy played in 13 games, posting a 2-2-1 record in six starts with a goals against average of 4.81 and a .899 save percentage. Salvarinas will battle for her fair share of ice time this season.
In addition to the usual challenging ECAC West schedule, the Bears will participate in the Rutland Herald Invitational on Jan. 7-8, as well as face four other non-conference rivals. Potsdam will square off against NESCAC rivals Middlebury and Hamilton and ECAC East foes St. Michael’s and Plymouth State.
Potsdam opens the season on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 13-14, when it hosts Buffalo State for two games.