Date Posted:11/14/2002,  8:00AM

Women's Ice Hockey 2002-03 Preview

BRUNSWICK, Maine - After years of standing on the doorstep, the Bowdoin College women?s ice hockey team broke the door down in 2001-02. Posting a school-best 23-5-1 record and winning the NESCAC Championship, the Polar Bears defeated arch-rival Middlebury in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, reaching the NCAA Semifinals in the first-ever Division III Tournament. After being ranked third in the national preseason poll, the question for Michele Amidon and her team in 2002-03 is not only how to duplicate last year?s success, but how to take the next step in search of a National Crown.

?Last year we built a strong foundation and understanding of what it takes to be a national-contending program,? according to Amidon. ?We had an incredible 2001-02, and achieved all of our goals. This season we have set higher standards, but similar goals.?

The Polar Bears have a huge advantage in the fact that they return all but one player from last year?s squad. In fact, Bowdoin returns their top eleven scorers from last season and 122 of the teams? 125 goals scored in ?01-?02.

The leaders of the offense are as strong a one-two punch as there is in the nation, as senior forward Shelly Chessie (Fredericton, N.B.) and sophomore defender Kirsti Anderson (Glenville, N.Y.) return to chagrin of goalies in the region. Chessie racked up 22 goals and 28 assists in 28 games last season for the Polar Bears, while Anderson ? the reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year- totaled 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists from the blue line.

A legion of forwards will provide Amidon with the luxury of depth that few other coaches have. Junior Gillian McDonald (Hudson, Que.) is a three-time All-NESCAC goalie in field hockey in the fall, but in the winter trades in the pads for skates and scored 16 goals last season for Bowdoin. Sophomore Marissa O?Neil (Manchester, N.H.) was the second-leading scorer on the field hockey team this fall and scored 13 goals on the ice last winter.

Joining the group up front will be forwards Ba Lanoue?s (Stockbridge, Mass.) 24 points, Beth Muir?s (North Chelmsford, Mass.) 18 points and Jen Pelkey?s (Cornwall, Ontario) 16 points from last year. Also returning at forward are senior Quinn Kitchen (Edina, Minn.), juniors Jess Burke (Arlington, Mass.) and Britney Carr (Conway, N.H.), along with sophomore Jen Crane (Plymouth, N.H.). First-years Nicki Young (Medford, Mass.), Kelsey Wilcox (Cumberland, Maine) and Monica MacLellan (Dieppe, N.B.) will also look to fight for playing time this winter.

?We lost one great player to graduation and picked up six strong first-years,? says Amidon. ?Last year we were stopped short of winning a national championship due to a lack of depth. This year we have depth of talent and experience.?

Defensively, the Polar Bears will be strong again this year as every defender returns from last year?s squad. Bowdoin gave up a mere 1.3 goals per game last year and it all started with the stellar play of goalkeeper Emily McKissock (Dedham, Mass.). The senior netminder stopped 93% of opposing shots last year and collected seven shutouts and is Bowdoin?s career leader numerous categories, including wins (30) and career goals-against-average (1.74).

Three other goaltenders will fight for time this season, as first-years Cat MacEachern (Berwick, N.S.) and Nathalie Morgan (Dieppe, N.B.) will join veteran Francesca Klucevek-Whalen (Duxbury, Mass.) in the battle for playing time in net.

The defenders will be strong again, as Anderson will be joined by seniors Leah McClure (Rothesay, N.B.) and Alyson Lizotte (St. John, N.B.). Juniors Sadie Weischhoff (Brookline, Mass.) and Kirsten Larsen (Dover, Mass.) will be counted on for leadership, along with sophomores Cathie Quinlan (St. John?s, N.F.) and the team?s leader in penalty minutes (36 last season) Kate Duglin (Clifton Park, N.Y.). First-year Rebecca Selden (Hibbing, Minn.) will look to get ice time on defense this season for the Polar Bears.

The Polar Bears will open their season at home on November 22 and 23 against Wesleyan and Trinity before heading the play in Utica College?s Tournament on November 30. There they will play top-ranked and reigning national champion Elmira in what should be one of the games of the year in women?s collegiate hockey. Other highlights of the upcoming season include home games against NESCAC rivals Colby (Feb. 12) and a season-ending weekend at home against Williams (Feb. 21) and Middlebury (Feb. 22) that will likely decide NESCAC Tournament seeding.

?This year?s schedule has us jumping right into tough play,? according to Amidon. ?we will be tested early on, but those challenges will help us set the tone for the remainder of the season."