The Mercyhurst College women’s hockey team only lost six games last season. Unfortunately, the final loss came in the Division I National Championship game.
This year, the Lakers are on a mission to prove that appearance was not a fluke, and that they can rise to that level without their best player.
As far as the first part is concerned, the Lakers are primed to make another deep run into the NCAA postseason.
As seven-time defending College Hockey America champions,
Mercyhurst was the obvious choice for leading the conference poll. In addition, six players earned preseason honors: juniors Jesse Scanzano, Vicki Bendus, Ashley Cockell and Melissa Lacroix, and sophomores Bailey Bram and Hillary Pattenden.
Scanzano was also named CHA Preseason Player of the Year. Then again, predictions are more often than not a load of hot air, so facts and stats are where this preview will be based.
And the fact is, Meghan Agosta is gone. The offensive mastermind of the last three years has gone to play for her country in the Vancouver Olympics, and the Lakers are without their captain. At first glance, this single blow could cripple the team and put them easily out of the running for a national championship bid.
However, this is not such a terrible scenario. Considering NHL analogies are endless for this writer, this can be related to the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2007-08. Captain Sidney Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain midway through the season, possibly putting the Pens out of a playoff spot.
Fortunately, Evgeni Malkin took over the team and the league, going on a four-month tear of excellence that truly established him in the NHL. But, I digress.
The Lakers can easily do the same thing. More than a few players have been chomping at the bit to show off their true skills, and perhaps Agosta’s departure could be just the thing to unleash all this talent. Scanzano immediately comes to mind, but Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram could also have breakout seasons.
Aside from Agosta leaving, Mercyhurst also lost Valerie Chouinard and Haylie McMeekin to graduation, and Geena Prough transferred to Wisconsin, the team that defeated the Lakers in the national championship game last spring.
In Chouinard, the Lakers lose a talented leader who consistently put points on the board. McMeekin transferred from Quinnipiac in 2007 and contributed 50 points in 58 contests in her two years here. Prough bloomed at Mercyhurst, potting 25 points as an offensive defenseman with a heat-seeking wrist shot that could find the top shelf from 45 feet.
To replace them, head Coach Mike Sisti has recruited six new freshman players. Jessica Christofferson and Lauren Jones will play forward, Stephanie DeSutter and Samantha Watt will shore up the back line, and Stephanie Ciampa and Kelci Lanthier will tend goal.
All players look solid, coming from many different leagues.
However, I look for DeSutter to make a difference out of the gate. She scored 16 goals and played to a +66 at Culver Military Academy, which is downright stellar for a defenseman.
What’s the overall prediction for the women’s hockey team? They will win the CHA again, as it’s relatable to the Washington Capitals’ stranglehold over the Southeast division of the NHL.
After that, heart and soul will determine how far the Lakers go into the national stage. However, I think they will grit it out and be able to make it to the Frozen Four for a second straight year.