clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2021-22 NCAA Preview: College Hockey America

A preview of the season outlook for each of College Hockey America’s five teams

Michael J. Okoniewski, Cuse Athletics

This summer, Robert Morris announced it was cutting its women’s (and men’s) hockey programs, dropping the number of teams in College Hockey America to five. The loss of an invaluable competitor in the Colonials remains a tough pill to swallow for the athletes, fans, and competitors alike who were affected by the team’s termination.

Ahead of the 2021-22 season, five teams remain in College Hockey America — here’s how their seasons are projected to go.

Penn State

Key Losses

  • Jessica Adolfsson, D — Penn State’s first player named to Sweden’s senior national team, departed the Nittany Lions after three seasons to play professionally with her hometown Linköping HC
  • Jenna Brenneman, G — Penn State single season record holder with 13 wins and four shutouts, set in 2018-19, missed last two seasons due to injury

Key Returners

  • Josie Bothun, So., G — Led the league as a freshman with a 1.44 GAA and .944 SV%, good for fourth in the NCAA among goaltenders with 10+ GS
  • Kiara Zanon, So., F — CHA points leader with 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 2020-21
  • Natalie Heising, 5th Yr., F — Second in scoring on the Nittany Lions with seven goals and 13 assists

Season Outlook

Penn State had a heck of a season in 2020-21, winning their first ever regular-season CHA title on the heels of some absolutely stellar freshman performances by goaltender Josie Bothun and 2020 U18 champion Kiara Zanon. The team topped College Hockey America with 72 goals for and limited their opponents to just 31 goals in 21 games.

While the loss of defender Jessica Adolfsson and netminder Jenna Brenneman will be tough for the Nittany Lions to overcome, they have a very solid group of underclassmen that have something to prove after the squad was shut down in the league semifinals last season.

Mercyhurst

Key Losses

  • Summer-Rae Dobson, F — Transferred to UConn, finished her four years at Merychurst with 86 points in 125 games
  • Rachel Marmen, D — Registered 31 blocks in 2020-21 and finished the season with 11 points (three goals, eight assists)

Key Returners

  • Alexa Vasko, 5th yr., F — Finished second on the team in points with a stat line of 5-9—14
  • K.K. Thiessen, 5th yr., D — Led Mercyhurst in blocks (43)
  • Sara Boucher, So., F — Led the Lakers in points last season with 12 goals and eight assists, along with a CHA-high four game winners
  • Jenna Silvonen, Jr., G — Finished the season with a .918 SV% and a 5-2-1 record

Season Outlook

Merychurst had a solid 2020-21 season, finishing third in the conference standings and losing a close game to Robert Morris to miss out on competing in the league final. Their offense was successful, generating 56 tallies through 20 games, and their blue line allowed only 42 goals against.

Looking ahead, the return of fifth years Alexa Vasko and K.K. Thiessen are both huge for the Lakers, along with the return of then-freshman phenom Sara Boucher. While the loss of Summer-Rae Dobson to the Huskies is going to be a tough pill to swallow given her scoring touch, the addition of a huge freshman class is sure to provide ample opportunity to boost the team’s offense.

Syracuse

Key Losses

  • Emma Polaski, F — Finished the season with a stat line of 5-4—9 over 19 GP
  • Kristen Siermachesky, D — Ranked second on the Orange in blocks (34) and finished with one goal and six assists

Key Returners

  • Jessica DiGirolamo, 5th yr., D — Finished the 2020-21 season with a team-leading 34 blocks and a conference-leading 4.91 SOG/GP
  • Allison Small, 5th yr., G — Faced a league-high 627 shots through 20 GP and concluded the season in second place in the conference with a .943 SV%
  • Abby Moloughney, Sr., F — Led Syracuse in points with nine goals and 14 assists

Season Outlook

Syracuse topped Penn State in last year’s CHA conference semifinals, earning a bid to the league final and missing out on the NCAA tournament by a single goal. They have a lot of success to build off of this coming season, but also a lot of work to do; in 2020-21, they finished firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of offense generated, but their defense was second only to Penn State’s with just 32 goals allowed.

The team is only made stronger by the return of fifth year defender Jessica DiGirolamo and goaltender Allison Small, both of whom played a huge role in Syracuse’s stalwart back end.

Lindenwood

Key Losses

  • Bailey Coyne, F — Tied for the team lead in points in 2020-21 with two goals and six assists
  • Hannah Alt, F — Finished the season with one goal and six assists for seven points, tied for second on the team

Key Returners

  • Annika Asplundh, Sr., G — Started 15 games and finished with a .918 SV%
  • Sierra Burt, 5th yr., F — Led the squad in 2020-21 with three goals and five assists for a total of eight points through just 10 games
  • Megan Wagner, 5th yr., F — Finished first on the Lions with 45 SOG through 17 GP
  • Teagan Heaslip, So., D — Led the team with 39 blocks

Season Outlook

The Lions finished fifth in last year’s six-team CHA, notching only two wins and one draw for a total of five conference points. Their performance in all other categories was mimicked by their placement in the final standings: in terms of goals for, Lindenwood only scored 24 through 17 games, while allowing, on average, more than three goals per game.

To succeed in 2021-22, the team is going to have to make offense a priority. The return of fifth years Sierra Burt and Megan Wagner is definitely a step in the right direction, but Lindenwood is going to have to work hard to contend with top dogs Mercyhurst and Penn State.

RIT

Key Losses

  • Tori Haywood, F — Led the Tigers with two goals and two assists for 4 points
  • Ellie Larson, D — 47 blocks finished first on RIT and second in CHA
  • Madison Itagaki, D — Finished third on the squad with 34 blocks and registered 2 assists in 2020-21

Key Returners/Additions

  • Taylor Sims, Sr., D — Registered 32 blocks, good for second on the team, and two assists
  • Hana Solinger, Sr., F — Finished second on the team with two goals and one assist

Season Outlook

RIT has had a rough go of it the past couple of years, and 2020-21 was no exception. The Tigers finished last in the conference in nearly every category — except, interestingly enough, penalties taken (only 57, good for the league’s low) and short-handed goals for (five, good for the league’s lead).

This coming season, the team needs to focus on limiting opponent chances and generating offense, both of which have been problems for them in the past. Second year head coach Celeste Brown has her work cut out for her, but the additions of sisters Jordyn and Kyla Bear could prove to be extremely fruitful for the Tigers.

All data courtesy of College Hockey America, EliteProspects, and respective program sites