POTSDAM--Expectations are high for the Clarkson University Women’s Hockey team. Coming off their most successful season in the seven-year history of the program, the Golden Knights will look to continue the momentum generated from the 2009-10 campaign when the Green and Gold established themselves among the elite in Division I.
Guided by the head coaching of Matt and Shannon Desrosiers, now in their third-year at the Clarkson helm, assistant coach Matt Kelly, and volunteer assistant Carlee Eusepi the Knights return 14 letterwinners from last year’s squad which posted a 23-12-5 overall record and a second-place 14-5-3 ECAC Hockey mark. Clarkson narrowly missed out on the 2010 ECAC Championship Tournament title, falling in overtime to Cornell, and fell just one goal short of advancing to last year’s NCAA Frozen Four, as the Green and Gold lost at Minnesota, in another overtime heartbreaker, in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Looking to repeat and surpass last year’s achievements will be no easy task for Clarkson, which graduated a talented senior class last May. Despite the loss of the six talented veterans, including two of the program’s all-time leading scorers in Britney Selina and Genevieve Lavoie, and the Knights’ all-star defenseman Carlee Eusepi, the Knights are still a highly regarded team. Clarkson is picked for a second-place conference finish in the ECAC Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Leading the Knights this season is senior captain Courtney Olson (Brunswick, GA), a solid defensive-defenseman the past three seasons. Along with the veterans, the coaching staff will be looking for the heralded freshman class, comprised of six forwards, one defenseman, and one goaltender, to make a major impact and help fill the void left by the Class of 2010.
"Although we had a fantastic season last year, our returning players are far from satisfied which is hopefully a sign of great things to come," stated Matt Desrosiers. "It will be up to them, especially our leaders, to help the freshmen make the transition to college hockey seamless. With the tremendous character of our core players we have returning, this should not be a problem."
"We are extremely excited about our freshmen," remarked Shannon Desrosiers. "They bring with them a great mix of speed, skill, experience, and a sound work ethic that will complement our returning core. Each of them has had experience at the national level with their respective provincial teams and/or with Hockey Canada which should help make the transition to college hockey much easier. This group also possesses great character and leadership qualities as they have all been looked upon to lead their respective club, provincial, or national teams. Not only are they exceptional players on the ice but they are all great individuals off the ice. We feel very fortunate to have them with our program."
Another challenging schedule awaits the Knights in 2010-11. Along with the always tenacious 22-game conference slate in ECAC Hockey, Clarkson will compete against a formidable non-league schedule, featuring games against teams from the other three Division I conferences. The Green and Gold will play eight of their 34 games against teams that competed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Picking up where it left off last March, Clarkson will officially open the season by hosting the University of Minnesota in a two-game series at Cheel Arena. The Knights will battle the Gophers, last year’s NCAA Tournament foe, in Potsdam on October 1-2 in the first of 17 games at Cheel in 2010-11. Clarkson has posted a .692 winning percentage at home with an 80-32-13 record at Cheel through the first seven years.
The Knights will be strong between the pipes with an ECAC All-Star back for her senior campaign, a sophomore who has made solid improvement, and a promising rookie pushing for playing time.
Posting some impressive statistics in the crease the past two years, senior Lauren Dahm (Baldwinsville, NY) will look to close out her collegiate career with her best season yet. A second-team ECAC All-Star in 2009-10, Dahm ranked among Division I’s top goaltenders in all major categories, starting 39 games last winter. She posted a 1.59 goals against average (7th in the nation), a .932 save percentage (8th) and .654 winning percentage (9th) with a 23-11-5 record, including nine shutouts (2nd in the country). Selected to the 2010 U.S. Women's Under-22 Select Team, Dahm has played in 82 games for Clarkson and posts a 45-25-11 record with 19 shutouts. She holds a career .931 save percentage and a 1.55 goals against average.
Sophomore Kelsey Neumann (China Grove, NC), who started one game last season, gained valuable experience and confidence in her rookie campaign, but she will be pressed for the number two spot by a promising newcomer. Erica Howe (Orleans, ONT), a talented freshman, who came close to making Canada’s prestigious Under-22 team this summer, has the ability to become a standout collegiate netminder. Howe was the starting goaltender for the Ottawa Senators Intermediate AA team in 2009-10.
Four steady defensemen return from a blueline unit that was one of the best in the nation last season, allowing an average of just over 20 shots on goal. Along with Olson, junior standouts Katelyn Ptolemy (Dinsmore, SASK) and Danielle Boudreau (Whitby, ONT), and sophomore Hailey Wood (Lethbridge, ALB) give Clarkson a solid defensive core. The addition of strong two-way player, junior Kali Gillanders (Kyle, SASK) and promising freshman Vanessa Plante (Riviere-du-Loup, QUE) will also bolster the unit.
Olson has been an underrated performer in Clarkson’s zone since her freshman season. She was Clarkson’s inaugural Ron Frazer Award recipient last year. Named in tribute to Clarkson Women's Hockey's first coach, the honor is presented to a player who has proven to elevate her game in key situations and who has made significant contributions to the team’s success.
A mainstay on the Golden Knights blueline playing in every Clarkson game through her first two seasons, Ptolemy is among the best defensive-defenseman in the league and is called upon to shutdown opposing teams’ top forwards.
Honored as Clarkson’s Coaches Award winner in 2010, Boudreau is an unselfish team player who moved back on defense to help shore up the Clarkson blueline after skating at forward in 2008-09. She came to the forefront in the Knights’ strong postseason run, recording three points in the playoffs along with providing stingy defensive play.
The Knights, however, will miss the services of Eusepi, the ECAC’s Best Defensive-Defenseman last season, and the Green and Gold’s all-time top scoring defenseman (73 points) and career plus/minus leader (+58). Tegan Schroeder, a tenacious defender the past two seasons, also graduated giving Clarkson two significant holes to fill on the blueline.
The coaching staff feels that moving Gillanders, who will lose few battles in her own end, back on defense and the addition of Plante, who could emerge as a defensive stalwart in her rookie campaign, will help make up for the loss of the two veterans. Gillanders was the team’s sixth leading scorer with 13 points last season and made the most of her goals with all three tallies accounting for game-winners. Plante, who has also had experience with the Canadian National U-18 program, was an assistant captain for the Limoilou Titans in 2009-10.
The Knights lost plenty of firepower at forward with the graduation of three 100-point scorers who accounted for 298 points at Clarkson. Selina, the Knights’ all-time leading scorer with 148 points, and Lavoie, with a 110 career points, along with Dominique Thibault, who led the Green and Gold in scoring in her only season at the University with 40 points last year, were big producers up front. The graduation of Ashleigh Moorehead will also be felt on the checking lines. The coaching staff feels, however, that Clarkson has the ability to put up big offensive numbers with seven veterans returning, including two of ECAC Hockey’s most reliable snipers, and the infusion of talent from the freshman class.
Leading the veterans are senior Melissa Waldie (Newmarket, ONT) and junior Juana Baribeau (Amos, QUE), who both tallied 18 goals last season. Baribeau was the Knights’ second-leading scorer with 37 points in 2009-10, while Waldie recorded 30 points and led the team with 10 power-play markers and five game-winners.
Solid role players on the checking lines, seniors Daris Tendler (Verwood, SASK) and Caitlin Oleksa (Battle Creek, MI), juniors Gabrielle Kosziwka (Limehouse, ONT) and Brittany Mulligan (London, ONT), and sophomore Danielle Skirrow (Trenton, ONT) provide the Knights with an experienced nucleus at forward.
Tendler was a steady two-way forward, rounding out Clarkson’s double-figures scorers with 11 points (6-5) while boasting a +18 plus/minus rating. Kosziwka and Mulligan recorded 9 (7-2) and 8 (5-3) points, respectively. Skirrow was the lone rookie up front for the Green and Gold last season and posted seven points in her collegiate debut and will be looked upon to contribute more offensively this season. A three-year contributor, Oleksa, a recipient of Clarkson’s Booster Club’s Unsung Hero Award, provides leadership on and off the ice.
The six freshman forwards are expected to make an immediate impact. Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE), Amanda Lucky (Kanata, ONT), Carly Mercer (Exeter, ONT), Shelby Nisbet (Wiseton, SASK), Jamie-Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT) and Brittany Styner (Calgary, ALB) enjoyed impressive junior careers and have the potential to emerge as all-stars at the Division I level.
Rattray, who served as captain for the Ottawa Senators Intermediate AA team last year, participated with Ptolemy and Howe at Canada’s Under-22 Camp this past summer. Lucky served alongside Rattray as a team leader with the Ottawa Senators in 2009-10. Gagnon was team captain for the Dawson Blues, while Mercer served in the same role with the Bluewater Jr. Hawks. Nisbet, for the Swift Current Wildcats, and Styner, with Styner Edge School Mountaineers, also acted in captain roles last season.
Howe, Mercer, Nisbet and Rattray all were on Canada’s Under-18 team in the summer of 2009, while Howe, Mercer and Rattray helped to lead Canada to the Under-18 World Championship Gold Medal this past April.