ORONO, Maine — There will be a lot of new faces in the University of Maine women’s ice hockey lineup this season.
Third-year head coach Maria Lewis will try to replace three of her top four scorers and two defensemen who played 130 and 127 career games, respectively, but she is excited about the season, which gets under way this weekend with a two-game set at Quinnipiac University (Conn.).
“We’re a faster team and we have a little more skill from top to bottom,” said Lewis. “The thing we’re missing is experience.
“But we’ve made some nice steps moving forward and after we get these (newcomers) some games, hopefully they’ll help take us to another level,” said Lewis. “We’ve got a really good group. They have great character. They’re hard workers. They’re hockey players, not women who play hockey.”
The Black Bears have made dramatic strides the past two years.
They set a school record for Hockey East wins a year ago with 11 (11-8-2). They had never previously won more than nine league games in a season and had won a combined total of 13 league games in the four seasons prior to Lewis’s arrival.
Their 17 overall wins (17-11-6) tied a school record.
“I think this will be the strongest team we’ve had. We lost a lot of talent but we have a lot of talent coming in,” said senior defenseman and co-captain Chloe Tinkler. “The incoming class is real strong and the returnees worked real hard over the summer. We have a lot of speed.”
They will have to replace their second, third and fourth-leading scorers in All-Hockey East honorable mention Danielle Ward (14 goals, 17 assists), Myriam Croussette (11 & 13) and Dawn Sullivan (6 & 12), respectively.
But leading point-producer and second-team All-HE selection Brittany Dougherty (16 & 17) is back. She is one of 27 players who participated in the U.S. National Team camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., last spring. She didn’t make the World Championships team but earned valuable experience.
“She picked some things up by watching the players at the camp and she is applying them to her game,” said Lewis.
The Nos. 5 through 8 scorers are back in sophomores Tori Pasquariello (11 & 5) and co-captain Jennifer More (7 & 9), junior Missy Denk (9 & 5) and senior Brianne Kilgour (4 & 10).
Waterville sophomore Katy Massey (1 & 1) is also back and Lewis noted the walk-on who earned a roster spot last year and played in all 34 games “has taken a nice step.”
Junior Kayla Kaluzny (4 & 3) can play up front or on defense but is sidelined by a hand injury.
Sophomore transfer Hailey Browne, who had 3 & 2 in 34 games for NCAA tournament quarterfinalist Mercyhurst (Pa.) last year, and freshmen Audra Richards, Jillian Langtry, Abbey Cook, Shawna Lesperance and Rachel Bellio, are expected to make an impact up front..
Cook, Langtry, Lesperance and Massey scored in a 4-0 exhibition win over Dalhousie (Nova Scotia) on Sept. 30.
On defense, Ashley Norum (0 & 4) and Melissa Gagnon (2 & 10) and their combined 257 career games have departed but Tinkler (1 & 7) headlines the list of returnees along with junior Kelly McDonald (3 & 3) and sophomores Brittany Huneke (3 & 5), Jessica Hall ( 0 & 4) and Megan Menotti 0 & 1).
Promising freshmen Brooklyn Langlois and Kelsey MacSorley are also expected to contribute.
All-Hockey East honorable mention Brittany Ott ( 13-10-3, 2.34 goals-against average, .919 save percentage) returns for her senior year and has 80 career games under her belt. She is sidelined with mononucleosis.
Senior Kylie Smith (3-1-3, 2.30, .897), sophomore Megan Treacy and freshman Natalie Robinson will have to carry the load until Ott returns.