The Nepean Junior Wildcats capitalized on a number of Laker turnovers, defeating the Oswego State women’s hockey team 3-0 in an exhibition game on Saturday afternoon in the Campus Center Ice Arena.
Senior forward Amanda Ricker’s goal five minutes into the first period proved to be the difference maker, as the Lakers struggled to gain possession of the puck throughout the game. Ricker’s goal was the result of a Laker defender losing her balance and losing control of the puck in the defensive zone. Ricker took the loose puck and beat junior goalie Emi Williams stick side with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.
Saturday’s exhibition was the first game for the Lakers since a playoff loss to SUNY Plattsburgh on Feb. 28, and it showed, as Oswego State came out flat in the first period. The Wildcats dominated possession of the puck throughout most of the period, outshooting the Lakers 8-2. Nepean won the battle for loose pucks, often sending two or three Wildcats to out-muscle a single Laker player for possession of the puck.
"I think people were nervous," senior forward and assistant captain Jenna Kirkwood said. "We only started skating as a team last week so it’s hard to get everyone in shape in only a week’s time."
Nepean came into the exhibition having played 25 games already this season, sporting a 10-9-6 record. Nepean is not a college team but is instead a member of the Nepean Girls Hockey Association. They are an all-star team in Ontario, Canada and have been playing since Aug. 23 and therefore came into the game with the advantage of being game-ready. Their passes were clean, their skating was sharp, their defense was sound and their puck control was nearly flawless.
"It was a good measuring stick, which is why we bring in a team of this caliber [to play against]," head coach Diane Dillon said. "We knew going in that we would be challenged right away. I liked some of the spirit we showed, especially in the last four or five minutes in the game. What I was disappointed in was that it took that long to get it going."
The Lakers are still struggling with fundamentals, most notably their passing. Instead of passing the puck to a teammate’s stick, passes are either too far out in front of the intended target or are behind the intended target, hitting the blade of their skate. When passes are on target, the recipient can’t control the pass and the puck ricochets off the blade of the stick and into the possession of the opposing team.
"I think where we need to work on is the fundamentals, still," Dillon said. "We’re still trying to find that chemistry, find that timing and we’ll keep working on that and be ready for next weekend."
After a weak loft shot by Wildcats’ defender Olivia Cook found the back of the net in the second period for a two-goal lead, senior Jessica Jenkins took advantage of a turnover by junior defender and assistant captain Meagan Big Snake to put the game out of reach. In the Wildcats’ offensive zone, sophomore forward Morgan McNeil stole the puck from Big Snake and passed it to junior defender Keira St. Laurent, who found Jenkins in front of the net. Jenkins buried the puck past sophomore goalie Megan Amlinger for the three-goal lead.
The Lakers experimented with three different goalies throughout the game, but Dillon has stated that Williams will be the team’s starting goalie for the season. Williams played the first period, allowing one goal and stopping seven shots.
The Lakers open their regular season at home against Castleton State on Sunday, Nov. 1.