his weekend's weather forecast for Canton, NY has the high at 75 degrees. Sounds like the perfect weekend to kick off the 2013-14 hockey season, as the St. Lawrence University women's squad welcomes the University of New Hampshire Wildcats for a pair of non-conference contests on Friday and Saturday, the earliest regular season games in the Saints' history.
St. Lawrence, which advanced to the ECAC Hockey Semifinals last year before falling to eventual champion Cornell, was selected fifth in the ECAC Hockey Pre-Season Coaches Poll. North Country rival Clarkson University topped this year's pre-season list, followed by Cornell, Harvard and Quinnipiac.
"We are looking forward to another competitive year in the league and feel like we're appropriately ranked," said St. Lawrence head coach Chris Wells, who is 99-67-21 entering his sixth season behind the bench. "There is going to be some exciting women's hockey in the North Country with both St. Lawrence and Clarkson fielding excellent teams that have the potential to play well into March."
St. Lawrence will rely on a solid group of upperclassmen throughout the 2013-14 season, including a quartet of seniors including Dayle Wilkinson, Mel Desrochers, Bailey Habscheid and Rylee Smith. Wilkinson and Desrochers will quarterback the Saints' defense, while Smith anchors the offense having earned her 100th collegiate point in last year's season finale.
The Saints will face the uphill challenge of replacing five seniors, including standout forward Kelly Sabatine and record-setting defenseman Brooke Fernandez. St. Lawrence will also be without Amanda Boulier this season due to a medical redshirt. However, a deep offensive pool that includes Habscheid, Ellie Williams, Jackie Wand, Margo Lund, Jessica Hon, Abbey McRae, Kayla Raniwsky, Jenna Marks, Kailee Heidersbach and Sydney Bell will look to step up their play to replace the scoring that was lost to graduation.
Defensively, the pairing of Wilkinson and Desrochers is joined by junior Jessa McAuliffe and sophomores Dom Korakianitis and Victoria Leimgardt. Junior Carmen MacDonald will look to add to her impressive resume this fall as she is slated to be the starting goaltender again, being backed up by the sophomore pairing of Giulia Mazzocchi and Mikaela Thompson.
"We expect a very productive year out of our upperclassmen," said Coach Wells. "They have championship experience in their tenure at St. Lawrence and know what it takes to compete against the best teams in the country."
Meanwhile, Coach Wells and his staff added three incoming freshman to the roster this season. This group includes forwards Alex Moore (5'11, Napanee, ON) and Brooke Webster (5'5, Aurora, ON) and defenseman Kirsten Padalis (5'7, Farmington, MI).
"Our incoming kids, albeit a small class, will be relied on early on in their careers and will gain valuable experience throughout our first six games," added Coach Wells. "All of the coaches in the league have done a great job recruiting as the conference boasts some of the best incoming freshman in the country."
The Saints will face a rigorous non-conference schedule that includes six games against pre-season nationally-ranked foes. Besides New Hampshire, a perennially contender in Hockey East, the Scarlet and Brown will see nationally-ranked No. 2 Boston College, No. 3 Clarkson and No. 7 Mercyhurst in non-conference games.
"Once again, I think we have one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in the country," said Coach Wells. "We expect the first six games to help us identify our strengths and areas that we will improve on heading into the conference schedule."
All of the St. Lawrence University women's hockey home games will be broadcast for free in HD. Live stats will also be provided.
St. Lawrence and New Hampshire will drop the puck on the 2013-14 season tomorrow, Friday, September 27 at 7:00pm. Saturday's rematch is scheduled for 3:00pm.