DURHAM, N.H. -- The University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team is one in transition. The Wildcats return just two seniors among 14 letterwinners, and nine newcomers join the fold for 10th-year head coach Brian McCloskey in the 2011-12 season.
The youthful UNH squad, which opens play Sept. 30 with the first of a two-game series at Niagara University, will be led by junior captains Katie Brock (Marblehead, Mass.) and Kailey Chappell (Pickering, Ontario), both of whom anchor the defensive unit, as well as sophomore captain Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario).
The top two point producers – and top three scoring forwards overall – return for another season with the 'Cats. Kristina Lavoie (Fonthill, Ontario), who established herself as one of the team's top scorers en route to garnering Hockey East All-Rookie Team recognition in the 2009-10 season, led UNH in game-winning goals, assists (11) and points (20) a year ago. She ranked second in both goals, with nine, and shots (95). Lavoie was third in plus/minus, fourth in shooting percentage and was one of two Wildcats to score a shorthanded goal.
Arielle O'Neill (St. Catharines, Ontario), a physical presence alongside Lavoie on the front line, proved to be one of New Hampshire's top point producers in her freshman campaign of 2010-11. She scored a team-high 11 goals, which included a team-leading three power-play goals, and also was the top 'Cat in shooting percentage. O'Neill ranked second in points with 19 and her eight assists tied for the third best mark on the squad. She was also second in plus/minus, third in shots (86) and was the other UNH skater who netted a shorthanded goal.
The #3-point producing forward from last season is junior Kristine Horn (Utica, Mich.), who ranked second in assists (10) and fourth in goals (five) in addition to third in points (15). Horn ranked fourth overall – and only behind Lavoie and O'Neill among returning players – in shots with 62.
Gifford is a shifty playmaker who tied with Horn for fourth on the team in goals (five). She also tallied two assists for a total of seven points, and Gifford ranked third on the team in shooting percentage. Hannah Armstrong (Newmarket, Ontario), another sophomore, recorded three goals and five assists for eight points and she tied O'Neill for the lead in power-play goals (three).
Emma Clark (East Barre, Vt.), a speedy skater and tenacious forechecker, tallied a career-high six assists last season to account for all of her personal best of six points. Clark – one of the two aforementioned seniors on this year's squad – was atop the team leaderboard in the plus/minus category.
Paige Goloubef (Oakville, Ontario) battled through injuries last year as a sophomore and recorded one point (1a) in 21 games. Katie Kleinendorst (Vestal, N.Y.) incurred an injury prior to the start of the 2010-11 season and sat out with a redshirt year. She skated in 29 games as a freshman in 09-10.
Four newcomers join the forward corps. Jenna Lascelle (Cornwall, Ontario) led Ontario Hockey Academy in scoring each of the last three years, and that included 87 points (34g, 53a) in 63 games in 2010-11. Heather Kashman (Edmonton, Alberta) comes from highly-successful Edmonton Thunder team that went undefeated through the regular season and captured the silver medal at last year's national tournament; one year earlier, they were the bronze medalists. Kayla Mork (Victoria, Minn.) led Breck School to third place in Minnesota state tourney and garnered all-conference and Hobey Baker Award recognition. Casey Stathopoulos (Waltham, Mass.), a walk on, participated at the USA Hockey National Development Camp from 2007-09 and was named the Division 2 Player of the Year at Southfield School.
UNH lost three defensemen to graduation following the conclusion of the 2010-11 season but a strong nucleus, led by junior captains Brock and Chappell, remains as a building block. Brock, one of eight 'Cats who skated in all 32 games a year ago, ranked second among blue liners and was fifth overall in plus/minus. She recorded four points, all on assists. Chappell, who brings a physical presence to the defensive unit, also finished with four points (1g, 3a).
Maggie Hunt (Naperville, Ill.) is a young but experienced blueliner who skated in 30 of 32 games as a rookie. Hunt ranked second among UNH defensemen – sixth overall – in shots (52) and tallied two goals and two assists for four points.
Bryanna Farris (Carleton Place, Ontario) is a junior who has skated as both a forward and defenseman, but a majority of her playing time has been on the blue line. In 26 games a year ago, she had two points on two assists.
A trio of defensemen joins the Wildcats. Caroline Broderick (Marblehead, Mass.), who has competed at USA Hockey National Development camps, captained the Ontario Hockey Academy team each of the past two years. Jess Ryan (Cloquet, Minn.) was a two-time Minnesota All-State Honorable Mention selection. Brynja Bogan (Germantown, Md.) led Northwest High School to the PVHA title and national championship tournament each of the past two seasons.
The 'Cats return half of their goaltending platoon in senior Lindsey Minton (Richardson, Texas). In 18 games (all starts) a year ago, Minton recorded personal single-season highs/bests in minutes (1073:20), saves (412), save percentage (.926) and shutouts (four). She finished with a GAA of 1.84, which is also her career number in that statistic.
The three other goaltenders on the 2011-12 have no collegiate experience. Jenn Gilligan (Maple Ridge, British Columbia) is expected to challenge Minton for playing time. Gilligan, who played scholastically at St. David's Catholic Secondary School, was named MVP of the K-W Rangers last year and played in the gold medal game of the U.S./Canada Cup. Also on the depth chart is Moe Bradley (Swampscott, Mass.), who was coached by former UNH goaltending standout Erin Hamlen at the Boston Blades. Leslie Ann McGowan (Durham, N.H.) joined the squad as a walk on last October and served as the backup while Kayley Herman was sidelined by injury.
Last weekend, the 'Cats defeated Ontario Hockey Academy, 6-1, in an exhibition game at the Whittemore Center. UNH recorded a 57-5 shot advantage as six skaters scored and a total of 13 recorded a point.
New Hampshire, after opening this weekend at Niagara, plays its home opener Oct. 7 (7 p.m.) against Colgate University and the Wildcats continue their three-game homestand Oct. 8 (5 p.m.) against Syracuse University.