With the 2015-2016 campaign set to get underway on Saturday, head coach Diane Dillon and the rest of the women’s ice hockey team are confident they can improve on last year’s record with a change in the team’s culture and advance farther in the postseason after a second round exit last year. Oswego State finished 19-7-1 last year third in the ECAC West last year with a 12-5-1 conference record.
“We have to continue with what we started, pick up where we left off,” Dillon said. “We’ve been working on changing our culture just a little bit and emphasizing getting one percent better every day.”
The Lakers are poised to do just that. Only losing one senior this year and returning 21 players, they are in great shape to build off last season’s success. With the majority of the players being sophomores and juniors this year, the team is relatively young. Despite their youth, the Lakers still produced on a regular basis last year. This upcoming season should be even brighter for the Lakers’ young stars.
“We are now a team that is seasoned, we have a lot of seasoned sophomores and juniors, not to mention our senior leadership,” Dillon said. “Last year we had a lot of freshman on the team, we only have three this year. The team is pretty much intact and we are still young and very, very eager to take the next step in the ECAC West.”
The top three scorers for the 2014-2015 Lakers were all new faces in the lineup. Olivia Ellis and Andrea Noss, both freshman, put up 27 and 18 points, respectively.
Brianna Rice, a transfer student from Chatham University, was second on the team in scoring. During her sophomore season, she scored 12 goals, tied for the team lead with Ellis and tallied eight assists. These three players will be key to the Lakers’ success in the 2015-2016 season.
“[They will help] in so many ways, plain and simple, they aren’t freshman anymore,” Dillon said. “They’ve been here for a year, they know the routine, they know the expectations of a college student-athlete. Hockey wise, it’s the thing they have now something to prove. You hear about the sophomore slump and it is real because they aren’t going to be a surprise to anyone anymore.”
With a mix of young, yet experienced talent and the solid senior leaders the Lakers seem to have a greater chance to succeed this coming year. The four seniors, Tori Trovato, Jayme McCreary, Bailee Goodon and Lizzy Marks will play a huge role for the team on and off the ice. Second-year assistant captain, Lizzy Marks, will help lead this team with added experience from last year.
“With Tori and I, especially with our first year being captains, we had a lot to learn,” Marks said. “We made a lot of mistakes but mistakes that we definitely learned from and were able to think about and regroup for this year. We know what we are doing now, we have a vision of how to get there.”
The Lakers play extremely well at the familiar confines of the Marano Campus Center Arena. Last season they went 12-1-1 playing at home outscoring their opponents by a score of 45-13. They play Elmira and Plattsburgh, who both reached the NCAA finals last spring, each twice at home after playing them both twice on the road last year. This bodes well for them and they see the opportunity to finally beat those two powerhouse teams.
“I think the Campus Center has become extremely friendly to us,” Dillon said. “In the beginning, when we started the program, we couldn’t win at home to save our lives. Now, we have a very strong presence in our own rink and that’s something that is an intangible that you can’t really measure.”
Another reason the Lakers were successful last year was their ability to put away games in the final frame.
The Lakers scored 30 third-period goals and only allowed seven. The ability to play a full 60-minute game is huge and something the Lakers pride themselves on doing. The team is confident they can win games in the final period.
“You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low,” Dillon said. “You can’t play a 40-minute game and expect things to go your way. Early last season, I think we had the confidence that we could win games. We came from behind several times and once you do that a few times, you gain that confidence. We never panicked, we kept going. We kept thinking one shift at a time and executed what we had planned.”
Success on the penalty kill was another reason for the Lakers’ success last season. The Lakers killed 93 percent of penalties and with a similar roster they are set and ready to do the same. With only three freshmen on the roster, Dillon can already rely on so many familiar faces to help with the penalty kill.
“For a player on my roster if you get a number called to play penalty kill that means the coaching staff trusts you to do something,” Dillon said. “That’s one of the hardest jobs out there and so first and foremost it starts with trust and knowing that these players are going to go the extra mile to make things happen. It all starts in the net and it’s going to start with Tori.”
Trovato, a senior captain this year, will take over the starting goalie role. She went 5-1-0 with a 1.54 goals against average last year while backing up Bridget Smith. This season, the Fulton native will get the majority of the time between the pipes and use her past playing experience to back the Lakers and their quest for a championship.
“I’m going to take practice and everything basically the same mentality I’ve always had,” Trovato said. “You’re always giving 110 percent no matter what and I know I have Mariah [Madrigal] and Mikaela [Ditonto] who are two solid goaltenders chasing my tail the entire season so I have to be bringing my game each and every practice.”
The Lakers have the right mix of youth and experience, an exceptional starting goaltender and skill at all positions to compete once again. They have a chance to reach the 20-win more for the first time in program history.
Their season begins Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Marano Campus Center Arena against the Barrie Junior Sharks