HANOVER, N.H. - After an untimely end to the 2011-12 season on a knockout in the opening round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament, the Dartmouth women's hockey team is back and hungry for more in 2012-13.
Kicking off their season this Friday and Saturday on the road at Princeton and Quinnipiac, the Big Green hope experience will work to their advantage this weekend and throughout the year. The 2012-13 roster boasts 17 returning players, and with such a veteran squad on the ice, 10th year head coach Mark Hudak expects big things.
"We have 17 players coming back and nine of them are seniors," he remarked. "We're going to look to our seniors to provide guidance for the rest of the team. The entire senior class, including our two captains, has done a great job working together to provide a solid leadership group."
Those 17 players all remember what happened last season. After posting a solid 18-8-2 regular season record with a 14-6-2 ECACH mark, the Big Green looked strong heading into the postseason. But Dartmouth was met head-on by a red-hot St. Lawrence squad that happened to be playing its best hockey all year, and at the perfect point in the season.
The Saints came into Thompson Arena and stunned the Big Green in two games, knocking them out of the ECAC tourney and halting their hopes of continuing on in the postseason.
"Looking back, we had a pretty good year," Hudak said of the 2011-12 campaign. "At the end of the season, we were starting to make a step towards being more aggressive, going after it more. But I don't think we had peaked yet.
"I look at this year as an opportunity to continue to build off that," he continued. "We learned last year that we need to approach not only the games, but every practice and every shift with a sense of urgency. We need to finish stronger."
Hudak intends to ignite that hunger in his players through teaching a series of key performance indicators, or keys to success, for each game played. At the top of the list is one over-arching theme: his players must strive to be even - or better - in the first and last minutes of every period, not giving up until after the buzzer sounds.
If the Big Green can do that, they have a strong chance to secure a spot near the top of the conference standings, which could ultimately pave a road to a much longer post-season run.
Nine returning players and four freshmen make up this year's offense. With three of Dartmouth's top-four scorers returning and a talented group of newcomers thrown into the mix, we can expect the Big Green's offensive production to continue to perform at an elite level.
Last year's leading scorer, senior Camille Dumais is back in the lineup for her final season. A finesse player with a nose for the net, Dumais tallied 16 goals and 22 assists last season, becoming the 34th player in Big Green history to reach 100 career points.
Captains Reagan Fischer and Jenna Hobeika are also back for their final season in a Green and White sweater. Fischer, the league's best defensive forward for back-to-back seasons, is predictable and consistent but also capable of putting up points: she tallied 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points last year. Hobeika, known by her coaches as the 'Energizer Bunny', is a physical skater who goes hard all the time. Although not a huge scorer, she picks up points when it matters.
Seniors Sally Komarek and Ali Winkel, each of whom added eight points to the stat sheet last year, are both solid forwards capable of playing on any line. Classmate Jessica Gagner did a nice job on the third line last year and should exude the same consistency this season.
Four rookies join the Big Green offense as well. Catherine Berghuis is what Hudak refers to as the 'quintessential power forward,' with good stick skills and a go-getter attitude. Lindsey Allen and Laura Stacey are both big, strong players who should make an immediate impact. Stacey, who was selected as part of the Canada's National Women's U22 Development Team earlier this year, already has a nose for the net, finding it twice in the exhibition opener vs. McGill.
Lastly, Ailish Forfar, despite recovering from injury, is a skilled and smart player who we should see later in the season.
Seven members of the Big Green - five returners and two newcomers - will play behind the blue line. Leading the way is senior Sasha Nanji, whose offensive mind made her Dartmouth's fourth-leading scorer last year (12g, 12a). A clear offensive threat, she also has a strong plus/minus over her career.
Junior Lauren Kelly has battled injuries throughout her career, but when healthy, has great potential. Sophomore Morgan Illikainen is coming off a productive rookie year and should carry her strengths into the upcoming season.
Freshmen Zoe Brennan and Olivia Whitford hope to contribute to the Dartmouth defense as well. Brennan, a poised player who does all the little things right, will be relied upon early from the start. Whitford, who moves the puck and sees the ice well, is already pegged to play on one of the special teams units.
Junior Lindsay Holdcroft has a solid hold on the #1 goaltender position, starting in goal for her third straight year. Posting a 14-9-2 record last season and already securing her name in the Big Green record books, she'll be tough to unseat.
Dartmouth is getting ready to open its season against Princeton and Quinnipiac this weekend. Facing two completely different but equally challenging teams, both games should be tough for the Big Green, but Hudak feels confident about where his squad stands.
"If we go in and play our game, stay on the same sheet of music and play with energy, we should have two good games this weekend," he concluded.