The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team ended last season with a heartbreaking 2-1 double overtime loss to Neumann University in the ECAC West Quarterfinals. This ending seemed premature for a Laker team that finished with their best record in program history at 13-10-3.
“Losing in double OT to Neumann last year was just a killer,” sixth-year head coach Diane Dillon said. “We should’ve won that game; we deserved to win the game.”
With the 2010-11 season ending with such a tough loss, the Lakers are determined to make this season their best ever.
“The team is hungry,” Dillon said. “They’re hungrier than they’ve ever been, and that’s something you can’t coach…you either have it or you don’t.”
Last season the Lakers graduated five seniors including star goaltender Emi Williams. Her spot, as well as those of the other graduates, will not be easy to fill. However, Dillon said she has faith that the team’s five freshmen and one sophomore transfer can fit the bill.
“We look strong. We have some big skates to fill due to graduation for sure,” Dillon said. “We really need to fill some penalty kill spots. Some of the freshmen can certainly challenge for those roles.”
In addition to losing graduates, the Lakers also lost junior forwards Kristin Metzger and Alex Szypryt, whom were unable to play this year.
The freshmen class brings two new forwards to the team in Carly Marchment and Chelsey Draker. Sophomore transfer Emma Smetaniuk will also bring offensive power to the Lakers. Smetaniuk played last season at SUNY Potsdam and registered 10 goals and six assists.
Two new defenders also join the Lakers. Samm Reimer and Emily Marks will help to fill the gap that graduated defenders Brenna Weber and Meagan Big Snake once did. Reimer and Marks also bring size to a Laker team that is relatively small in stature.
“We got pushed around a little bit last year so we brought in some bigger players to help us with that,” Dillon said.
All of the new players are at least 5-foot-6-inches tall. This brings a lot of size to a team that is returning only six players above that height.
Freshman goaltender Bridget Smith, who stands 6-foot-2-inches on skates, will also join the team and challenge sophomore Catherine Cote for the starting position in net.
Cote is set to replace Williams as the Lakers starting goaltender, but Dillon said she will have to prove she deserves the spot.
Replacing a goalie like Williams might seem daunting to some, but Cote is ready for the challenge.
“She was the best, but I’m gonna be better than her,” Cote said. “I don’t want to be compared to her… I just want to win.”
In addition to the talent that the new players bring, the Lakers return their six top scorers from last season. Senior forward Mackenzie Lee will begin her second season with the Lakers after transferring from archrival SUNY Plattsburgh. Last season Lee led the team in goals (15) and points (24). Senior forward Kelly Collins also returns as an offensive force after finishing second on the team with 13 goals scored. Sophomore forward Megan Howe led the team in assists last season with 12 and will continue to fill the roll of playmaker this season.
Senior defender Kathryn Sbrocchi returns as captain, and senior forward Jillian Bergeron joins her as an assistant captain. Two sophomores, forwards Carly Henderson and Olivia Boersen have also been named assistant captains.
“I’m really excited for this year because our leadership is even better,” Dillon said. They’ve had a year of practice. (Now) they want to win.”
This season the Lakers have big goals, making the Frozen Four being the biggest of all. Although this may seem like a lofty goal for a team that has never won a game in the postseason, both Dillon and the captains believe they possess the tools to achieve that goal.
“They want to get to the national title game and with everything we’ve got here it’s definitely a possibility,” Dillon said. “The men can do it, so can we.”
Another goal for the Lakers is to solidify a spot in the top of the ECAC West. Last season Oswego State surprised the conference with a tie against Elmira College and a stunning win over previously undefeated and top-ranked Rochester Institute of Technology.
Dillon is looking for her team to place in the top four in the ECAC this season.
The Lakers are also looking to beat Plattsburgh, whom they have never been able to take points from.
One of the toughest games on the Oswego State schedule is a game against Amherst College on Dec. 10. Amherst won the national title in 2009 and 2010 and will play the Lakers for the first time ever this season.
Another challenging game on the Lakers’ schedule is its Senior Day game against RIT.
“RIT is gonna be gunning for us,” Dillon said. “We beat them on their Senior Day at their rink, now they come here for our Senior Day this year. So that’s going to be interesting.”
Sbrocchi and Bergeron said they are determined to make this season a winning one. It is the captains’ final season and last chance to go deep in the playoffs.
“This is the year, especially because me and Sbrocchi are seniors, this is our last year,” Bergeron said. “We’ve been working extra hard at preseason, we’ve got good rookies that came in so we are pushing everyone to reach their potential.”
Positive chemistry will also help the team succeed. Without drama in the locker room and on the ice the Lakers will eliminate problems that often plague female sports teams.
“There’s a lot of good chemistry this year,” Sbrocchi said. “Already on the ice we can see it in the captain’s practices, everybody’s gelling already and it’s only preseason. It sets the tone for this year and everybody’s on the same page which makes it that much easier to be captains.”
Dillon said she is confident that the team will have a successful year because they have the drive to win.