October 27, 2011

Womens Hockey Team Hits Ice For Real This Weeked At Superior

 Second-year head Women's Hockey coach Steve DeBus doesn’t need to look at last year’s stat sheet to know what his team needs to do better in 2011-12. He’s been thinking about it ever since the end of last season. “We have to get more offense this year,” he said. “To do that, we simply have to get better at finishing plays off. We missed too many good scoring opportunities last year.”

The combination of eight of the team’s top 10 scorers from last year’s team returning plus a bevy of new faces causes DeBus to believe his team will improve from last year’s final mark of 4-16-3.

“We have several players who have a year under their belts now,” DeBus said. “That will make a difference. Last year, we had good spurts but we seemed to unable to make them last. Having a roster of 23 players creates competition and gives us more options this year.”

The first test comes this weekend when the Pipers invade Wessman Arena in Superior, Wisconsin to face the UW-Superior Yellowjackets. The teams play Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

 Interested fans can click here for a link to both games this weekend.

Haley Johnson (Jr., Bemidji, Minn.) led the team in scoring last year with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) and was the Pipers’ lone All-MIAC pick. She will be complimented by seniors Jessica Kraus (South St. Paul, Minn.) and Erin Kastner (Faribault, Minn.). The deeper roster will allow DeBus to rest his key players a bit more. Better rested players may lead to maximizing opportunities. “You simply have to score on good opportunities when you get them,” DeBus, a former NCAA Division I goalie said. “The players understand this. If you do that, you build confidence. If you’re confident, you win games. This goes hand in hand.”

DeBus is hopeful sophomore Jessica Hunt (Bemidji, Minn.) will be joined by newcomers like Corinne Henning (So., Saint Paul, Minn.) in the scoring parade. Henning was a top scorer at Culver Academy and will join the team when the soccer season ends.

Four returnees are back on defense. Billye Nelson (Sr., Warroad, Minn.) is a steadying presence on the blue line. Soph Megan Campbell (Grand Forks, N.D.) made strides last year and will be counted on to shoulder more responsibility. New face Ashley Maskel (Jr., Apple Valley, Minn.)  may step in and see action right away. “Like the offense, we’re improved there this year,” DeBus said.

In goal, Nicole Jones (Sr., Mora, Minn.), who had an excellent 2.24 goals-against average in 13 starts last year, returns. She may get pushed for the job by Caitlin Nosanov (So., Detroit, Mich.), who played five games last season and newcomers Sarah Schneekloth (Jr., Marshall, Minn.) and Sam Stark (Fy., Northfield, Minn). “Nicole was very good last year,” DeBus said. “But we are deep there. I’m very happy with our goaltending situation.”

The Pipers are hoping to get a fast start to the 2011-12 season. After opening at UW-Superior, they take a week off before heading into MIAC play. “We need to be ready right away,” DeBus said. “We can’t be playing catchup in February. But the players understand this. They have worked very hard in practice and this team has a good feel to it. I think we’re ready to move up in the league.”

After the Superior series, HU has two weeks to prep for their conference opener against St. Mary's in Winona. The teams will play here on Saturday, Nov. 12. Although the team will play most of its home games at Warner Coliseum on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, this game is at Drake Arena in St. Paul. Game time is 7:00 p.m.

In the annual coaches' preseason poll, Hamline was picked to finish in eighth place in the 10-team league. The conference preseason preview, which includes the complete poll, is linked here.