ECAC college hockey preview: Quinnipiac looks to improve on last year’s historic run

Five NWHL draft picks highlight players to watch in the ECAC

The Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) sent three teams – Princeton, Clarkson, and Quinnipiac – to the Women’s NCAA Championship Tournament during the 2015-16 season. While Princeton fell to eventual-champion, Minnesota, Clarkson defeated Quinnipiac to take on Boston College in round two. Clarkson, making their fourth straight appearance in the tournament, fell 3-2 but finished their season ranked second in the ECAC division and fifth nationally. Quinnipiac finished first in the division and fourth nationally, celebrating their most wins in program history (30).

Quinnipiac forward Taylar Cianfarano,  a rising junior, finished her season with the most points in the ECAC with 52. Cianfarano was followed closely by Clarkson’s Cayley Mercer (49 points) and Princeton’s Karlie Lund (39 points).

Three players from the ECAC were drafted in the first round of the CWHL 2016 draft - Clarkson’s Renata Fast, Harvard’s Emerance Maschmeyer, and Dartmouth’s Stacey Laura. Another five players were selected in the NWHL’s first round during the 2016 draft. Princeton’s Kelsey Koelzer was selected first overall and will return to finish her senior year at Princeton during the 2016-17 season after finishing her junior year second in scoring with 33 points, while ranking second in the country amongst scoring defenders.

Quinnipiac University

The QU players and coaching staff had a season filled with firsts: the most wins, goals, and assists in team history, to name just a few of their accomplishments. The Bobcats finished their season 30-3-5 for the most wins in program history. Despite a 1-0 loss to Clarkson in the first round of the NCAA finals, QU women’s hockey finished first in the ECAC conference finals with a 1-0 win over Clarkson. Individual players also broke many long-standing records. Notably, goaltender and rising senior Sydney Rossman set the program record for fewest goals allowed (35), lowest GAA (0.90), and most wins (30). Rossman’s .949 save percentage was the second highest in program history and her 16 shutouts are now tied for the most in program history, as well as the third most in NCAA women's ice hockey history. Rossman was named the ECAC hockey goaltender of the year, among other accolades.

Rossman is in good company with teammates Taylar Cianfarano and Melissa Samoskevich, two returning players from the 2015-16 roster. As the top returning scorer, Cianfarano, a rising junior, lead the team with 28 goals and 24 assists. She was named the ECAC player of the year and forward of the year along with being named All-ECAC Hockey First Team. Fellow rising sophomore Melissa Samoskevich was named Quinnipiac’s women’s ice hockey player of the year as well as being named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Month in October 2015.

Despite the loss of graduating players Cydney Roesler and Nicole Kosta, who were both drafted to the NWHL Connecticut Whale, head coach Cassandra Turner is enthusiastic about the returning and incoming talent. Incoming freshman Kenzie Prater from Hudson, Wisconsin, for example, was named to the under-22 National Team along with teammates Cianfarano and Samoskevich. The forward is a former three-time high school All-Conference player (2013, 2015, 2016) and is only one of six incoming talents that Quinnipiac is excited to add to their 2016-17 roster.

Clarkson University

Clarkson made their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, where the Golden Knights finished their season second in the ECAC with a 30-5-5 overall record during the 2015-16 season. Graduates Erin Ambrose, Renata Fast, and former captain Shannon MacAulay will continue to lace their skates after being drafted into the CWHL. Selected in the first round of the 2016 CWHL draft, Ambrose, Fast, and MacAulay are three of five players from the 2015-16 Clarkson roster drafted to the CWHL.

With the loss of these notable graduates, the Knights will be looking to 15 returning skaters, including their top four scorers from the 2015-16 season, and five incoming freshmen. "Although we had a fantastic season this past year,” said head coach Matt Desrosiers, “our returning players are focused and committed to working hard to achieve our goals.” With an offense ranked 12th in the nation, the team will be looking for another great season from top scorer and rising senior Cayley Mercer. Mercer finished the 15-16 season with 50 points (25 G and 25 A) and was voted Clarkson’s Most Valuable Player, as well as being named First-Team ECAC Hockey All-Star. Along with Mercer, forward Genevieve Bannon will be returning to the team after a career high season of 11 goals and 27 assists, finishing the season with the second most points. Assisting the strong offense, rising junior Shea Tiley will return between the pipes after earning ECAC Hockey Goaltender and Rookie of the Year honors following a .939 save percentage, a 1.40 goals against average, and nine shutouts in 38 games.

Complimenting the returning players are four new skaters and one goalie looking to make an impact on the team. Before signing with Clarkson, incoming forward Michaela Pejzlova boasts an impressive resume with the U15 Czech National Team, U18 Czech National Team, and Olympic Czech Senior Team, to name a few of her accolades. Coach Desrosiers stated that it will be up to the returning players “to help the freshmen make the transition to college hockey seamless.  With the tremendous character and commitment of our core players that we have returning, we are confident the freshmen will flourish under their leadership."

Princeton University

Princeton fans will want to keep on eye on defenseman and team captain, Kelsey Koelzer (#11). Koelzer, a rising senior, was drafted first overall in the 2016 NWHL draft by the New York Riveters after finishing the 2015-16 season second in scoring with 33 points, while ranking second in the country amongst scoring defenders. Given such impressive statistics, it is no surprise that Koelzer was named a first-team All-America selection and Patty Kazmaier top-10 finalist as well as receiving the ECAC Defender of the Year and the Ivy League Player of the Year awards in 2016. Koelzer helped her team finish the 2015-16 season third in the ECAC and win the Ivy League championship. The Tigers also earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, where their season ended with a loss to eventual-champion Minnesota.

After losing five graduating seniors in 2016, the Tigers are excited for forward Jaimie McDonell who was selected by Brampton in the 2016 CWHL draft. McDonell led her senior class in scoring during the 2015-16 season with seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. McDonnell also received the Unsung Hero Award from her team, which is presented annually to a player voted by her teammates to be the team's unsung hero during the season.

Despite the excellent talent leaving the team in 2016, the 2015-16 top scorer will return to the ice as a sophomore. Karlie Lund finished the season with 39 points on 17 goals and 22 assists. She also led the team in game winning goals with five in 33 games. Lund was named both ECAC and Ivy League Rookie of the Year and was also a finalist for the ECAC Best Forward of the Year award. A first-team and all-rookie selection for both leagues, Lund was a three-time ECAC Rookie of the Month selection and six-time Rookie of the Week honoree.

Adding six new, talented players to the roster for the 2016-17 season, head coach Jeff Kampersal stated, “Our team has added character, competitiveness, smarts, height, and skill.  We are looking forward to starting the next journey in September.” One new member of the team, goaltender Steph Neatby, is a former member of the U18 team that won a silver medal at the 2016 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship. Neatby was also named to Canada’s National Women’s Development Team along with teammate and rising sophomore Stephanie Sucharda. As a freshman defender, Sucharda played in all 33 2015-16 season games and was an ECAC All-Rookie Team selection as well as an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection. We look forward to seeing both of these women on the ice with the rest of their talented cohort in October.

Colgate University

Finishing their season fourth in the ECAC, the Colgate women’s hockey team celebrated just their second trip to the ECAC semifinals. As the Raiders took on Clarkson and suffered a tough 5-2 loss, the team still celebrates a season of historic firsts; The 2015-16 season gave the Raiders a program-best 22 wins to go along with a .671 winning percentage. Head coach Greg Fargo notes that “this has been an incredible year for our program. We've come a long way. There weren't too many people who projected us to be here at the beginning but the group of 22 people in the locker room they did believe.” Despite losing three seniors to graduation – Ashlynne Rando, Nicole Gass, and Katelyn Parker – all ten of the team’s double-digit point scorers, including nine underclassmen, will return for the 2016-17 season with hopes of continuing to advance their program.

Among the players returning to Colgate next season is top goal scorer and rising sophomore Bailey Larson. Larson played 38 games during the 15-16 season and finished with 32 points from 10 goals and 22 assists. Her 32 season points tied her for seventh all-time in the Colgate records book.  Larson is joined by returning teammates Shae Labbe and goaltender Julia Vandyk. Both rising juniors were invited to attend Canada’s National Women’s Development Team selection camps this past August. Labbe at the forward position tied for third on the team with 26 points from 11 goals and 15 assists, while Vandyk in 16 starts as goalie posted a .917 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average.

To help compliment this already talented roster of players, Colgate has added four newcomers to their roster – Livi Altman (D), Liz Auby (G), Bailey Bennett (F), and Anonda Hoppner (F). The four incoming players, along with the returning skaters, look to continue to grow as a team and surpass the records set during the 15-16 season.

Harvard University

After an overtime loss to Colgate in the third game of the best-of-three ECAC quarterfinals, Harvard finished their season fifth in the ECAC with a record of 17-12-3. The Crimson’s 2015-16 season saw great defensive talent that the team hopes to continue after naming defenseman and rising senior Briana Mastel as the team’s co-captain for the upcoming season. Mastel finished the season with the most points out of the defensemen with 12 overall points from three goals and nine assists. Mastel will be sharing the role of captain with teammate Sydney Daniels. During her junior year, Daniels recorded 31 points from 21 goals and 10 assists making her the leading goal scorer and second leading point scorer for the 15-16 season. Daniels was also named All-Ivy League first team and All-ECAC Hockey second team along with being drafted by the New York Riveters during the 2016 NWHL draft.

With five graduating seniors, the blueline will miss Michelle Picard as she looks to continue her career with the New York Riveters of the NWHL. A 2014 Olympic silver medalist with the United States in Sochi, Russia, Picard ended her Harvard career with 53 points on nine goals and 44 assists. Picard will be joined on the Riveters with fellow graduate and teammate Miye D’Oench who finished her Harvard career 15th on the all-time Harvard career points list with 122, scoring 64 goals to go with 58 assists. Another graduate, goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer has signed with Calgary in the CWHL after earning silver with Canada at the IIHF World Championships and ending her college career as Harvard’s all-time career saves leader with 2,538 saves.

After a strong season that earned the Harvard Crimson six wins over ranked opponents in the 15-16 season, six freshmen will join the team to add to an already impressive roster.

Harvard is slated to take the ice at Fenway Park on January 10, 2017 against Boston College as part of the Frozen Fenway series of games. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Denna Laing Fund. Head coach Katy Stone stated that “Harvard women's hockey is thrilled to be a part of such a special event at Fenway Park.”

St. Lawrence University

Thanks to a backhand goal by first-year player Justine Reyes during overtime of game three of the best-of-three ECAC quarterfinals against Princeton, the Saints advanced to the semifinals. Unfortunately, the Saints suffered a loss against Quinnipiac but finished their season with a strong 17-15-6 record. Looking ahead to the 2016-17 season, the team announced that rising senior and defenseman Kirsten Padalis will assume the position of Captain with fellow seniors Alex Moore and Brooke Webster serving as alternate captains. Webster finished the 2015-16 season as the leading scorer with 12 goals and 25 assists for an impressive 37 points. Webster’s performance follows her previous success as the team’s leading scorer during her sophomore year and the leading scorer among ECAC rookies in conference games during her debut freshman year. The Saints will also see the return of rising junior and forward Kennedy Marchment, who earned the second most points following Webster. Marchment’s sophomore year ended with 29 points from 11 goals and 18 assists. Marchment’s impressive second season with the Saints is no surprise after her breakout rookie year when she was named the team’s Rookie of the Year. Both Marchment and Webster will contribute to the Saints’ strong offensive play with more talented players such as Padalis and Moore defending the blue line.

Despite losing eight players to graduation, the five top point earners will return to the team for the 2015-16 season along with rookie goaltender and rising sophomore Grace Harrison. During her first year with St. Lawrence, Harrison mounted an impressive .214 average, .916 percentage, and made 445 saves during 21 games with only 41 goals against. The Saints start their season on September 24, 2016 with a home game against McGil University.

Cornell University

Ending the 2015-16 season sixth in the ECAC with a record of 13-14-4, Cornell has added seven incoming freshmen to their roster. With six new forwards and one new defensemen, the Big Red look to the incoming class to help bolster their talent and win the program’s 5th ECAC hockey championship and carry the team to their 6th NCAA tournament appearance. The seven new players will join an impressive roster of returning players, such as Hanna Bunton who led the team in points. Bunton, a forward and rising senior, finished the 2015-16 season with 27 points from 13 goals and 14 assists.  Bunton tied as the leading goal scorer with graduating senior Jess Brown. Brown totaled 19 points from 13 goals, a career high, and six assists. She also led the team with four game winning goals during the 2015-16 season.

Despite losing Brown to graduation, Bunton will be joined by two more leading point earners from the 2015-16 season – Kaitlin Doering and Micah Hart. Doering finished the season with 18 points from seven goals and 11 assists while defenseman Hart led the team in assists with 17. Hart completed her rookie season by being named to the Division I All-USCHO Rookie Team.

Cornell’s program is also celebrating 2016 graduates Cassandra Poudrier’s and Taylor Woods’ selections in the 2016 CWHL Draft. Poudrier, former team captain and defenseman, was selected 10th overall by the Montreal Les Canadiennes while Woods was chosen by the Brampton Thunder with the third pick in the fifth round (23rd). Poudrier now adds to the total of six Cornellians who have been chosen in the top 10 of the past four CWHL Drafts.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The RPI Engineers were edged out of the ECAC quarterfinals by Quinnipiac University in double overtime to end their season eighth in the ECAC with a record of 10-17-7. The tough fought battle against QU highlighted the exemplary goaltending talents of rising sophomore Lovisa Selander who faced 68 shots during the game. As a first-year rookie, Selander impressed her teammates as well as the ECAC. Selander was selected as the female freshmen athlete of the year by the RPI athletics program and was selected as the ECAC goaltender of the week four times during the season as well as being named an ECAC goaltender of the year finalist. Selander played in 33 games and started in 31, finishing the season with an impressive 1058 saves in 1960:13 minutes of play. Selander’s on-ice time gives her the third most minutes played in school history.

The Engineers hope to see another great season from their young goaltending talent as they lose their two point leaders, Alex Gruschow and Mari Mankey, to graduation. Gruschow has signed with the New York Riveters (NWHL) for the 2016-17 season after playing 133 games with RPI. Gruschow finished her college career with 46 goals and 47 assists and remained the team’s point leader in all four years at RPI. She ranks third in the school’s Division I point list and second in goals.

With two important losses on offense, the Engineers look to their third leader in points, Katie Rooney, to continue her strong play during her senior year. The forward scored three game winning goals during the 2015-16 season and finished the year with 11 goals and six assists. Rooney was also named the ECAC player-of-the-month in February, 2016. Returning talents, such as Rooney and Selander, will be joined by seven incoming freshmen – three defensemen and four forwards. On the seven new players, head coach John Burke commented, “We are thrilled to have these seven outstanding women join our RPI family. We know that they all will have an immediate impact on our program and community.”

Yale University

Finishing ninth in the ECAC, Yale University Women’s Hockey will return to the ice for the 2016-17 season with five of their top seven leading scorers along with their starting goaltender and all but one defenseman. With an overall record of 10-17-2 during the 2015-16 season, Yale will lose five graduating players, such as leading scorer and former captain Janelle Ferrara. With 12 goals during her senior year, a career-high, Ferrara was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection and received three awards from Yale’s hockey program for her various contributions as a leader and player.

Rising senior Krista Yip-Chuck will assume the role of captain in Ferrara’s absence. Without missing a single game during her time at Yale, Yip-Chuck was voted captain by her teammates for her leadership abilities. In a comment on the upcoming 2016-17 season, Yip-Chuck is enthusiastic for the return of many talented players as she assumes her new leadership role:  "As a team, we are very excited for the new opportunity we have this season. My class and all of the returning players are hungry to come back and reassert ourselves as a competitive threat in the ECAC. This past season's seniors were a tremendous source of both leadership and talent, and will no doubt be missed. But I think with both the experience gained and individual growth made by a number of the girls, we are in a good position to be very successful moving forward. I am excited to see what lies what ahead this year."

Yip-Chuck will be joined on the 2016-17 roster by the team’s leader in points, defenseman Mallory Souliotis, and the second leader in points, Eden Murray who recently attended Hockey Canada’s Women’s Development Team Selection Camp. After ending their season with a tough loss to Clarkson and missing the playoffs, the Bulldogs look to continue improving with a talented roster of returning players as well as five incoming freshmen.

Dartmouth University

After a tough first round loss to St. Lawrence University in the ECAC tournament, Dartmouth is looking to the 2016-17 season with new head coach Laura Schuler and seven incoming players. Dartmouth finished tenth in the ECAC with a 19-10-2 record. As three out of five point leaders graduate from the 2015-16 roster, the team will look to second overall leader in points, Kennedy Ottenbreit (20 PTS) and returning defenseman Hailey Noronha who led the defense with 10 points. Despite the team’s many graduating players, the program celebrates the selection of former forward and co-captain, Laura Stacey, third overall to the Brampton Thunder of the CWHL. Stacey led the Big Green with 23 points on 10 goals and 13 assists during the 2015-16 season and wrapped up her college career by being named All-Ivy First Team, Academic All-Ivy, ECAC Hockey Third Team All-League, and ECAC Hockey All-Academic.

As coach Schuler makes her debut as head coach for the Big Green women’s team, she adds coaching talents Chriss Cobb and Courtney Sheary as assistant coaches. Cobb brings seven years of NCAA coaching experience to the program along with Sheary’s experience as a player at the University of New Hampshire. The new coaching talent welcomes seven incoming freshmen that coach Schuler states are passionate about hockey and the Dartmouth community.  Dartmouth will get their season started on October 16, 2016 with an exhibition game against McGill and eagerly look for another chance to take on St. Lawrence on October 28, 2016.

Brown University

Brown finished their season 3-23-3, placing them 11th overall in the ECAC standings. After falling 3-0 in their final season game against St. Lawrence, the Bears look to incoming talent and new leadership to help improve their standings in the 2016-17 season. Rising senior and new captain Maddie Woo finished the 2015-16 season as the team’s leader in points with 15 from six goals and nine assists. As a junior, Woo recorded three multi-point games and set career-highs in assists and goals.

Woo is one of five point leaders to return to the roster for the 2016-17 season, including assistant captains Sam Donovan and Bridget Carey. Donovan, a rising junior, finished the season with 14 points while Carey tied for second in goals (6) and third on the team for overall points (11). The returning players are joined by nine incoming freshmen – five forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. Head coach Robert Kenneally states, “"It is my pleasure to welcome these nine student-athletes to Brown and the women's hockey program. This is a group that the coaching staff will be counting on to help lead the Bears to success over the next four years.” Brown will look to improve their record and have another chance to play St. Lawrence, the team that ended their season, in November, 2016.

Union College

Union finished their season with a disappointing 0-28-6 record and 12th overall place in the ECAC. Despite their loss streak, the team is optimistic about the upcoming 2016-17 season with a new coaching staff and a large incoming freshmen class. Six forwards, two defensemen, and three goalies will join the 2016-17 roster along with new head coach Josh Sciba and assistant coaches, Whitney Colbert and Mitch Baker. Sciba joins Union from Colgate where he was an assistant coach. Sciba has brought both Colbert and Mitch, with their experience as both coaches and student student athletes, to help build the program to improve their overall standings in the new season.

While point leader Kathryn Tomaselli graduated in 2016, the second leader in points, Jacyn Reeves will return to the roster along with team captain Alli Devins. Devins performed impressively during her junior year as a multi-faceted player, serving in both forward and defensive roles when needed and working to keep her team optimistic during a difficult season. "Obviously, it was very hard losing," Devins said. "You have to find the day-to-day things that make things better. You have to focus on each practice, one day at a time. You can't look too far ahead, or too far behind. As players, we all hoped that every season would get better. The last two years were not as great as we expected." With a new coaching staff and a young roster of talented players, Union looks to improve their standings starting with a home game against Concordia University on September 24, 2016.