Women’s hockey joins NEWHL, returns key players

The 2017-2018 Oswego State women’s ice hockey season is approaching and the expectations are high. After a 5-3 loss against Utica College in the ECAC West Championships, the team wants to push further and possibly win the league.

“We’re excited for the year, definitely,” head coach Diane Dillon said. “We had a good year last year, and we hope to take that further this year.”

This season, Oswego State, along with four other schools, will join the Northeast Women’s Hockey League after departing from the ECAC West. They will be joining SUNY Potsdam, Buffalo State, SUNY Cortland and rival Plattsburgh State. Instead of the two games per team, they will be playing each league team four times.

“We’re going to see them quite a bit. We’re going to have a good amount of film on them. We’re going to get to know each other,” Dillon said. “There are certainly some upsides to it. It’s going to change the game a little bit.”

Now, the team is leaving the offseason, looking to push any weaknesses they might have had last season. Dillon is also emphasizing making sure they can execute their game plan due to playing conference teams four times now.

“Everyone’s going to know each other’s systems,” Dillon said. “They put in the work over the offseason. We look good. Our testing numbers have been better than they’ve ever been.”

The team graduated several seniors this past year, bringing in a new batch of players. The team also lost Jacquelin White. She chose to move closer to her hometown, Royal Oak, Michigan. Her twin sister Julieann chose to stay in Oswego.

“It’s a family decision. Jacquelin was a great part of the Lakers, but she wanted to be closer to home,” Dillon said. “We wish her the best, but we’re going to focus on what we do have. We’re really excited to have Julieann. We’re excited what she’s going to bring to us this year.”

This season, after being named an assistant captain last year, senior Olivia Ellis was named the captain. A four-year member of the team, the Wilcox, Saskatoon, native is proud to be given the title.

“’I’m definitely honored to be named captain,” Ellis said. “I made sure this year we did a lot of cardio workouts.”

Dillon believes her team has a lot of strengths this season, despite having such a young roster. The team will be very strong top to bottom, according to Dillon. They hope to overcome last season and play through any mistakes they might make this season.

“We’re going to be young, but we’re going to play a much faster game,” Dillon said. “Other strengths include our goaltending. We’re going to be great on the backend. We’re going to go after it.”

Even though they have a young roster, the sophomore class had a lot of ice time last season as freshmen. The new class has also come from strong programs before, according to Dillon. 

The team has also added some top defenseman to round out their roster. They plan on being very aggressive by chasing both pucks and opposing teams.

“People are going to have to game-plan for us,” Dillon said.

One key player that the Lakers graduated last season was Kendall Appelbaum, who was classified as both a forward and defenseman. With a smaller roster this season, Dillon looks to have more players with a two-way playstyle.

“In college hockey, you have to be able to play defense whether you’re a forward or not,” Dillon said. “We expect that of all of our players.”

Dillon is looking to move forward after the loss to Utica College in the playoffs. They were not able to secure a home-ice advantage, which makes a victory in the playoffs a lot harder. According to Dillon, they did not finish the season.

“We didn’t produce when we needed to,” Dillon said. “It’s a long season, and we weren’t as prepared coming back for the second half. We just didn’t get the job done.”

On the injury report, senior Victoria Blake fractured a bone in her leg over the summer. She is projected to come back at the end of October, according to Dillon.

The team’s first game, an exhibition, is against the Toronto Midget Aeros of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League in Canada. This is the fourth time the Lakers are playing the Aeros. Most recently, the Lakers beat the Aeros last season 3-1.

“I’m looking for a compete level,” Dillon said. “From a coaching perspective, I want to see the little things we’ve worked on.”

The Aeros are in mid-season form, playing since August. According to Dillon, it will be a nice challenge since they have already been playing in the PWHL. But, she is excited to show the other team what college hockey is like.

“It’s going to be tough,” Dillon said. “They’re a physical team.”

The team faces the Aeros on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. before the regular season starts on Oct. 27 against New England College.

Photo: Alexandria Donato | The Oswegonian