The 2012-13 SUNY Potsdam women's hockey team enters its fifth varsity campaign after reaching new heights in 2011-12. Led by Head Coach Jay Green, the 2012 ECAC West Coach of the Year, and assistant coach and former Bears captain Courtney Laughlin, the Bears went a program best 12-10-3 (7-8-3 ECAC West), reached the postseason and won their first playoff game.
To sustain the success of last season the Bears will have to overcome the losses of several of their top scorers and they'll have to do it away from the friendly confines of Maxcy Ice Arena. Potsdam lost three of its top six scorers to graduation last season in Annmarie Lewis (17g-15a-32pts), Breanna Roy (9-20-29) and Caitlin Manahan (8-11-19). Lewis and Roy left at the top of the Bears' all-time scoring list.
“No question we've had some losses that will be tough to overcome,” said Green. “However, we feel in terms of skill level that we have a more balanced lineup this season as well as a few more extra bodies which will be helpful.”
There will be some travel involved in every game and practice for the Bears this season as Maxcy is closed for major renovations and will reopen next season. The team will play its home games at Clarkson University's Cheel Arena and practice at Zappia Community Center in Norfolk, N.Y. While the arrangement won't be always easy, Green says his players understand and appreciate the sacrifice for a major upgrade to Maxcy.
“It's a bit of an inconvenience this season to have to play our games at Cheel and practice in Norfolk, but the sacrifice is well worth what lies ahead and all of our players understand that,” Green said. “Adversity is good. It's an opportunity to grow as a person and understand that everything can't be convenient for you all the time. I'm sure they will adapt to that.”
While three of the Bears captain's from last season graduated, leadership is in no short supply on the current roster. Junior defenseman Brittany Lucky gets a promotion from assistant to captain and she will be joined by senior defenseman Katie Komsa. Senior defenseman Brittany Westlake and junior forward Jenn Crawford will serve as Potsdam's assistant captains.
At forward, Crawford and sophomore Izzy Fayerman are the Bears top returning scorers and are expected to continue to improve. Crawford (10-11-21) tied for the team lead with four power-play goals and scored two game-winning goals, including the decisive tally in Potsdam's playoff win at Elmira. In her freshman campaign, Fayerman scored seven goals and assisted on 14 others. Three of her goals came on the man-advantage and she also netted one game-winner.
“We're looking for continued scoring from Izzy and Jenn,” said Green. “And we expect continued development from our other returning forwards.”
Also back up front for Potsdam are senior Nadine Cunningham and sophomores Emilee Hazelden and Alexandra Holowka. Last season, Cunningham saw time in 22 contests and recorded an assist. Hazelden arrived in the second semester and recorded two goals and two assists for four points, while playing in 14 contests. Holowka played in all 25 games last year, totaling five goals and two assists for seven points.
Six new faces join the offensive ranks in 2012-13. Most notable is junior Division I transfer Amanda Lucky. Lucky, Brittany's twin sister, saw action in 72 games for the Clarkson Golden Knights over the past two years and is expected to bring some offensive punch to the Bears.
“We hope Amanda Lucky will make up for some of our lost offense,” Green said. “She's a very skilled player that plays with a lot of passion.”
Green says the other five freshman forwards are a little more of a mystery.
“It remains to be seen as to who will rise to the top as our strongest new offensive player,” Green added. “Sally Mooney displays the higher skill level, but every forward that we have here possesses the skills and work ethic to become contributing players.”
Joining Mooney are Sarah Nelson, Kakia Ashley, Rachel Grefke and Natasha Allen. The six sets of fresh legs give the Bears the needed depth they went without last season.
Brittany Lucky and Westlake return to anchor Potsdam's blue line corps and Komsa will make the switch to defense this season.
“Brittany Lucky is a key player on the penalty kill and the power play,” Green said. “We'll be looking to her to continue directing the defense. Katie Komsa will be moved from forward to the defensive position to stabilize the defensive corps. Brittany Westlake is just a steady, consistent defenseman that kills penalties.”
Three freshmen will join the four veterans this season. Kristen Domanski and Katie Marsman, who Green refers to as the “Twin Towers”, and Heather Silcott, who will all play a roll for the Bears this year.
“We have some solid experience returning on defense and we have some very skilled young defensemen,” said Green. “Domanski and Marsman are both big and strong and we expect them to be solid for us. Heather Silcott possesses speed and is a player along the lines of Brittany Lucky.
The Bears greatest strength season will be between the pipes as they return two battle tested goaltenders in senior Jen Conophy and junior Dawna Salvarinas. Last season, Conophy made 15 starts, posting a career-best 8-5-2 mark with a 3.10 goals-against-average, .908 save percentage and a shutout. Conophy was at her best in the postseason as she stopped 46 shots in the Bears' playoff victory over Elmira. Salvarinas had a strong season as well. She started 10 games with a 4-5-1 record, a 3.09 goals-against average, a .903 save percentage and a shutout. Both goalies will continue to split time and cement the back end of Potsdam's defense.
The goal for this addition of the Bears is the same as always: make the playoffs. Green believes it a very realistic objective.
“Obviously we hope to sustain last year's success and hopefully exceed it,” Green said. “We feel we have the players to accomplish that, it's just a matter of getting it done.”
The Bears open the season with a seven-game road trip, beginning at Salve Regina at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. Potsdam opens its home slate at Cheel Arena on Dec. 1 against ECAC West foe Cortland at 7 p.m.