POTSDAM, N.Y.—The SUNY Potsdam women's hockey team begins its 2019-20 campaign this weekend. The Bears square off with new Northeast Women's Hockey League rival Morrisville State on Friday at 3 p.m. before heading to SUNY Cortland for a 3 p.m. contest on Saturday.
Potsdam posted a 9-14-3 mark last season, including a 6-8-2 record in the NEWHL. The Bears claimed the second seed in the conference tournament and hosted the first playoff game in program history. The Bears said goodbye to second team All-NEWHL selection Rylie Murray '19, assistant captain Tatum Walber '19 and former NEWHL Rookie of the Year Samantha White, but they welcome five new faces to bolster the 14 veterans.
Senior defenseman Shelbi Thacker (Centerfield, Mich./Honeybaked) is back to captain Potsdam and senior goalie Alexa Pfeiffer (Sylvania, Ohio/Little Caesar's) will exchange her "A" for a "C". Two-time senior all-conference defenseman Delphine Léonard (Anjou, Quebec/Dawson College Prep) and senior forward Lucy Condon (Waterloo, Ontario/Waterloo Ravens) will serve as assistants.
The vast majority of the Bears' scoring returns. Senior forward Miranda Kolb (Watertown, N.Y./SUNY Cortland) led the team in scoring last season after transferring from Cortland with eight goals and six assists for 14 points. The performance earned her second team All-NEWHL recognition for the second straight season. Junior forward Natalie Wasielewski (Carnegie, Pa./Pittsburgh Penguins Elite) (6g, 6a) contributed 12 points to the offense and former all-conference defenseman Léonard matched her, continuing to showcase her talents as a two-way player. Sophomore forward Ellie Cleary (Buffalo, N.Y./Buffalo Bisons) is also back after her all-rookie campaign that saw her register seven points.
Junior forward Alexis Clark (Niagara Falls, N.Y./Buffalo Bisons), Condon and Thacker all had career years offensively with eight points each and look to build on those numbers this winter. Junior forward Emily Burke (San Jose, Calif./San Jose Jr. Sharks) and sophomore forward Stephanie Dunlap (Niagara Falls, N.Y./Bath, Mich./Meijer U19 AAA) scored some clutch goals in Potsdam's run last season and sophomore Allie Banas (Buffalo, N.Y./Buffalo Bison) should increase her production this year.
On the blue line, Léonard, Shelbi Thacker, junior Keira Thacker (Oakville, Ontario/Hamilton Hawks) and sophomore Abigail Lyon (Winthrop, N.Y./Lake Placid Rockets) will handle the heavy lifting. They helped limit opposing offenses to just 2.50 goals-per-game last season, third best in program history. As she has for the previous three seasons, Pfeiffer will see the majority of the time in goal. She posted a 7-5-1 (6-2 NEWHL) record a year ago along with a .929 save percentage and a 2.22 goals-against-average. Pfeiffer shutout Oswego on Feb. 16, for her 20th career-victory, tying her for the program's NCAA-era record. Senior Kayla McCabe (Watertown, N.Y./Syracuse Nationals) will see an expanded role in 2019-20, sharing time between the pipes with Pfeiffer. Over her first three seasons, McCabe has registered a 2.88 G.A.A. and an impressive .927 save percentage.
Freshman forward Kaylee Merrill (Wasilla, Alaska/Anchorage North Stars) crossed the continent to join the Bears and is expected to provide the offense with more firepower. Freshman forward Emily DellaNeve (Buffalo, N.Y./Buffalo Bisons) is the third Buffalo native to don a Bears jersey this season, while the rest of the newcomers are local. Freshmen Alex Quinn (Potsdam, N.Y./St. Lawrence Steel) and Makenzie Martin (Potsdam, N.Y./Potsdam High School) are from Potsdam and sophomore Iakonhnhiio Cook (Akwesasne, Ontario/Rideau St. Lawrence Thunder), a transfer from Wells College, is from Akwesasne.
Morrisville and SUNY Canton join the NEWHL this season, expanding the league to seven teams. The Bears will face each of their conference opponents three times this season, beginning with the Mustangs on Friday. Potsdam's six nonconference contests include five familiar foes. The Bears will face Saint Michael's College at home on Nov. 19 and in South Burlington on Feb. 4. NESCAC squads Hamilton College and No. 10 Middlebury College invade Maxcy Hall on Dec. 7 and Jan. 7, respectively. The Bears face the University of New England for the first time on Jan. 10, at home and Franklin Pierce University comes to Maxcy the following afternoon.
Video of all home games will be streamed live on potsdambears.com, while My Mix 96.1 FM will carry eight of the contests over the airwaves this season.