By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Fresh off the most successful season in school history, the Holy Cross women's hockey team returns to the ice full of promise and hope for the new season. Returning 15 players from last season's squad, the Crusader are looking to improve on last year's 24-2-1 record and repeat as ECAC Open champions. "We will start the season the same as any season - our goal is to be as good as we possibly can be," said head coach Peter Van Buskirk. "We work on three principals: work as hard as we possibly can, be as smart as we possibly can and play with a lot of spirit and enthusiasm. From there, if those are in place, our production will be as good as it can be."
Leading the team will be a senior class that has amassed a 55-20-2 record in its three seasons on the ice for Holy Cross. Van Buskirk will look to the seniors for leadership on and off the ice. "We had a very good group of leaders last year. Our captains provided direction along with terrific support," recalled Van Buskirk. "We lost Stephanie Couzin as a captain, but still have everyone else back. That returning leadership will keep us on track."
Van Buskirk can also expect big things from a core group of sophomores and juniors, including 2009 ECAC Rookie of the Year Stacey Hochkins. "Stacey has a lot of talent. She had a terrific year and she had some terrific support," commented Van Buskirk. "If the kids work with the principal of being enthusiastic, learning all the time and applying a good sense of intelligence to the game, the results will be there." Together the returners combined to score 99 of Holy Cross' 117 goals, the most in school history. The top two point scorers, goal scorers and assist leaders return to lead the offense, and the defensive wall that only allowed 37 goals and recorded seven shutouts, returns all but two players.
Holy Cross will kick off the season on Nov. 6 at ECAC opponent UMass-Boston and then host Salve Regina in the home-opener at the Hart Center on Nov. 7. Last season Holy Cross played the Beacons to a 4-4 tie in the fourth game of the season and then defeated them 6-2 in the rematch.
The remainder of the 2009 portion of the schedule is highlighted by games against Manhattanville on Nov. 13 and Norwich on Dec. 4. Last season, the Crusaders defeated the Valiants for the first time in school history in the second game of the season on Nov. 9 and then beat them again in overtime on Jan. 23. Last season, Holy Cross narrowly escaped Norwich, winning 3-2 on Nov. 21, but suffered its second loss of the season to Norwich on Feb. 13. "We will take one game at a time," said Van Buskirk. "Obviously, everyone pinpoints certain games that will stand out. Manhattanville will be a big game early, and Norwich will be our first big road trip."
Holy Cross will open the new year when it hosts non-conference opponent Colby on Jan. 5. The season heats up when Holy Cross welcomes St. Anselm to the Hart Center on Jan. 30. The Hawks handed Holy Cross its first loss of the season last year when they defeated the Crusaders 2-1. The Crusaders will look to defend their 2009 ECAC Open title at the ECAC Open Tournament on Feb. 27 and 28 at St. Anselm. "The league is very tight, very competitive," comments Van Buskirk.
Returning 7, Lost 3, Newcomers 4
An explosive offense returns this season for the Crusaders, as last season's 117 single-season goals are most all-time at Holy Cross. "One of the reasons for success last year out of the forward group was that we had balance," said Van Buskirk. "This year we are looking to continue that balance and put together three lines that make up the core of the team." Hochkins and junior Jocelyn Kratchmer will team up to lead the Holy Cross first line. Junior Christina D'Ambrogio and sophomore Nicola Garat return to lead the second line and Holy Cross will be able to have a senior line with Wendy Nobrega, Kathryn Kelley and co-captain Kathryn O'Connor. "We are in the good position of bringing back a good core of forwards that played last year." The Crusaders will have to shuffle the lines and fill the void felt by the graduation of Couzin, but newcomers Caroline English, Rebecca O'Quinn, Meghan Reynolds and Alyssa Ruhland are ready for that challenge. "All of the freshmen will contribute and compete for positions," said Van Buskirk.
Returning 5, Lost 2, Newcomers 1
"We have a solid core of defenseman coming back," said Van Buskirk. The defensive line will be headed by senior co-captain Lisa Wilson and senior Katelyn Doherty, along with juniors Emily Henry and Colleen Krmpotich. Sophomore Amy Pfund also returns to add support to a defense that finished the season ranked No. 2 in Division I in scoring defense, allowing just 37 goals in 27 games. Newcomer Mariah Napolitano will give the Crusaders some much needed depth.
Returning 3, Lost 0, Newcomers 0
Holy Cross returns its three top goalkeepers to the 2009-2010 squad, as juniors Monique Gallant and Lindsay Atkinson and sophomore Carly Dominick-Sobol return to guard the goal for the Crusaders. "Last year they all played well. Every year is different, so you never know what is going to happen, but at the same time they are all very competitive," remarked Van Buskirk about having the option of three goalies. The three net minders will all compete for time on the ice. "There is short leash on each one of them because the others are ready to go." That competition last season led the trio to combine to allow just 37 goals, the fewest in school history, and post seven shutouts, the second most in school history.