Date Posted:11/06/2001, 8:00AM
In athletics, as well as life, high expectations are sometimes the biggest obstacle to overcome. So when an exciting, young hockey team posts a 16-5-3 record, returns nearly every scoring threat and its top goaltender, what do you expect? Well, for one thing, a number three ranking in the national preseason poll and a very exciting season ahead.
"Our goal is to get an NCAA bid in the first year of the tournament," says Head Coach Michele Amidon. "We've got a lot of obstacles. We're thin, we play in a tough conference, and we have a tough schedule. That being said, however, we have the best talent we've had in my six years here."
The Polar Bears boast one of most talented group of forwards in the nation, led by second-team All-ECAC performer junior Shelly Chessie (Fredericton, N.B.). Chessie posted 19 goals and 15 assists last season to pace the Polar Bears. Sophomore Jill McDonald (Hudson, Que.) takes to the ice after being named First-Team All-NESCAC in field hockey in the fall. She scored 15 goals and had 12 assists last year. Junior captain Beth Muir (North Chelmsford, Mass.) led the Polar Bears in assists, with 16, while classmate Ba Lanoue (Stockbridge, Mass.) had seven goals and 13 helpers. Senior captain Carrie Simonds (Belmont, Mass.) collected seven goals and 11 assists last year and is the lone senior on the team.
An exciting group of young forwards will provide support, including junior Quinn Kitchen (Edina, Minn.), sophomores Jess Burke (Arlington, Mass.) and Jen Pelkey (Cornwall, Ont.), as well as rookies Marissa O'Neil (Manchester, N.H.) and Jen Crane (Plymouth, N.H.) will all be counted on for ice time this season. P>
"We have a good core group of forwards," says Amidon. "We just need to put the puck in the net a little more. The test this season will be second sixty minutes of every weekend, the games on an afternoon after a night game."
The Polar Bears boast a young, but extremely talented, defensive unit that will look to shut down opposing offenses this winter.
"Our strength, without a doubt, lies in our defense," according to Amidon. "This season, we're going to try and get a little more offensive production out of them." P>
The leaders on the defensive unit are a pair of juniors from New Brunswick. Leah McClure (Rothesay, N.B.) and Alyson Lizotte (St. John, N.B.) will be the core of a defensive group that also features sophomores Kirsten Larsen (Dover, Mass.) and Sadie Wieschhoff (Brookline, Mass.). Rookies Katherine Dugan (Clifton Park, N.Y.), Kirsti Anderson (Glenville, N.Y.) and Cathie Quinlan (St. JohnÍs, Newfoundland) will all be depended on for a large amount of ice time this year.
The Polar Bears also have the privelege of returning a top-notch goaltender in Emily McKissock (Deedham, Mass.). "The strength of any team starts from the pipes out," says Amidon. "She's been a starter from day one with us, and we're going to be relying on her a lot this season."
McKissock was stellar last season, posting a 1.77 GAA for the year. Her .931 save percentage was also one of the best in the conference. Francesca Klucevek-Whalen (Duxbury, Mass.) will be McKissock's back-up this season, after seeing over 300 minutes of ice time last year.
"We're ranked third coming into the season," says Amidon. "But the veteran players know that just because we're ranked doesn't mean much. We only have 16 skaters, so our toughest competition is going to be the second game of each weekend. But our goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament and we'll see what happens. Since they're only taking six teams, we know we have to either win or reach the finals of the NESCAC Tournament. Either way, we're really excited to get started."