Like a chemist mixing in potions, HU women's hockey coach Steve DeBus is approaching the 2012-13 season-opening series with Wisconsin-Superior at Vadnais Heights Sports Complex with his eyes wide open.
The teams play Friday night at 7;15 p.m. and re-convene Saturday at 3:00 p.m. "We'll be doing some mixing and matching," DeBus says. "There's a learning curve for the new players and we need to be aware of that. But we're really looking for is a steady effort. We need to be consistent in both ends of the ice."
The Pipers had a streak when they lost just once in a nine-game spread and finished 8-15-2 last season. That was a significant bump from the year before when they won just four games.
An infusion of a dozen new players (many of whom come with solid credentials) has DeBus and his staff looking for more improvement this season. Thus, this weekend's series -- plus a non-conference game next weekend against St. Catherine's -- constitutes a three-game tryout prior opening MIAC play in two weeks.
"We're looking for solid efforts from everyone -- shift in, shift out," DeBus said. "If we get that, good things will happen."
The Pipers return their top three goalscorers from last season in Corinne Henning, Jordan Verleye and Haley Johnson (pictured celebrating an OT win over Marian last season). Henning, a member of the HU women's soccer team that has a game Saturday, will not play this weekend. That gives an opening for one of the many new faces to step up and strut their stuff.
There are 13 first year players onthe final roster.
Four defenders return. (One of them, Sam Berger, who also saw time up front, is also with the soccer team). Sarah Schneekloth, who split time in goal last year with the graduated Nicole Jones, get the starting nod for Friday's game.
But DeBus cautions that what you see on Friday night may look a lot different the next afternoon. The Pipers have only been on the ice for 10 official days of practice and there is still much to be learned.
The Pipers and Yellowjackets split last year in Superior. UWS took a 5-1 opening game win with HU rallying for a 3-2 decision the next afternoon. UWS went on to finish 17-8-3 and advance to the NCHA Women's Semifinals before being eliminated by Adrian.
A live stats feed of both games will be available by clicking here.
The Pipers were picked for ninth place in the annual coaches' pre-season poll. The complete league preview and poll results can be read by clicking here.