Plattsburgh begins defense of NCAA, NEWHL titles

Plattsburgh begins defense of NCAA, NEWHL titles

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – The Plattsburgh State women's ice hockey team looks to maintain its spot atop NCAA Division III in 2019-20 after claiming its fifth national championship in the last six years and its seventh overall in 2018-19.
 
Plattsburgh State, which has been picked as the preseason favorite in the Northeast Women's Hockey League (NEWHL) and is ranked No. 1 in the Preseason USCHO.com Division III Women's Top-10 Poll, played to a 29-2-0, 16-0-0 NEWHL record last season. The Cardinals enter the 2019-20 season on an 18-game winning streak, including a 5-0 win over SUNY Cortland in the NEWHL Tournament championship game and a 4-0 win over No. 2 Hamline University in last season's national championship game.
 
"We hope to have the same kind of effort we had last year throughout the course of the season and get off to a good start," 17th-year head Coach Kevin Houle said. "One of the special attributes about last year's team was their work ethic – they never took a day off, never took a game off. You can have all of the talent in the world, but if you don't compete and work hard every day, then you're not going to be as successful as you want to be. The group last year was relentless and played hard at all times. Hopefully that is something that will carry over into this season. I think we have a great bunch of women back and a good group coming in as well. We'll see what happens."
 
Houle enters the 2019-20 season with a 397-50-25 career coaching record through his first 16 seasons as head coach at Plattsburgh State.
 
Forwards:
Plattsburgh State returns 11 forwards from last year's squad, including five double-digit goal scorers. Leading the group is junior Annie Katonka (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Penguins Elite) (31-23--54, 2018-19 goals-assists--points), who led NCAA Division III women's hockey in goals scored and ranked second in points. For her performance, Katonka was named CCM/AHCA First-Team All-America, All-USCHO First Team, a two-time D3hockey.com National Team of the Week selection (Jan. 13 and Feb. 21, 2019), All-NEWHL First Team and a four-time NEWHL Player of the Week. Katonka is an alternate captain in 2019-20.
 
The other returning forwards who reached double digits in goals in 2018-19 are: sophomore Taylor Whitney (Livonia, Mich./Little Caesars) (11-14--25), junior Kaitlin Drew-Mead (Niagara Falls, N.Y./Buffalo Bisons) (12-12--24), sophomore Nicole Unsworth (Milwaukee, Wis./East Coast Wizards) (11-13--24) and junior Abby Brush (Mount Prospect, Ill./Chicago Young Americans) (11-13--24).
 
Also returning in the forward group is junior Madison Walker (Denver, Colo./Lansing Spartans), who tallied seven goals and five assists for 12 points last season. A player, who makes an impact on both ends of the ice, Walker is a team captain in 2019-20.
 
In addition, senior Sarah Wolf (Fairport, N.Y./Boston Shamrocks Elite), senior Jen Manning (Marlborough, Mass./Massachusetts Spitfires), sophomore Moe Tsukimoto (Sapporo, Japan/Northwood School), sophomore Sara Krauseneck (Saginaw, Mich./Northern Cyclones) and sophomore Holly Schmelzer (East Amherst, N.Y./Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles) return at the forward position.
 
Freshmen Tatem Cheney (Ottawa, Ontario/Ottawa Lady 67's), Emma Faso (Clarence Center, N.Y./Buffalo Bisons) and Ivy Boric (Newport Beach, Calif./Anaheim Lady Ducks) are additions to the forward group for 2019-20.
 
Defensemen:
Plattsburgh State returns five defensemen from last year's team, including senior Hannah Kiraly (Glendale, Ariz./Northern Cyclones) (3-18--21) who earned CCM/AHCA Second-Team All-America, All-USCHO Third Team, D3hockey.com National Player of the Week Honors (Feb. 10) and First-Team All-NEWHL plaudits in 2018-19.
 
Sophomore Sierra Benjamin (Palm Coast, Fla./Northwood School) (2-16--18) also returns as a blueliner after being named to the All-USCHO Rookie Team in 2018-19.
 
Junior Erin McArdle (Macomb, Mich./Belle Tire) (3-22--25) led all Cardinal defenseman in both assists and points last season. McArdle, who was an AHCA Krampade All-American Scholar in 2018-19, will serve as a team captain in 2019-20.
 
The returners at defense are rounded out by sophomore Hanna Rose (Chaumont, N.Y./Northwood School) (8-9--17), who led Cardinal blueliners in goals scored and was named an AHCA Krampade All-American Scholar in 2018-19, and junior Emma Killeen (Watertown, Conn./The Gunnery). 
 
The Cardinal defense in 2019-20 is filled out by junior transfer Maggie Blair (Wallace, N.C./University of Maine) and freshman Kendall Wasik (Novi, Mich./HoneyBaked).   
 
Goaltenders:
Plattsburgh State has three goaltenders who are competing for playing time after Kassi Abbott (Medford, Mass./Boston Shamrocks Elite) graduated following last season.

Sophomore Ashley Davis (Winterville, N.C./Northwood School) returns after backing up Abott last season. In her freshman campaign, Davis made 27 saves with a 1.000 save percentage in four games played.
 
Joining Davis in the goalkeeping corps are freshmen Chloe Beaubien (Colorado Springs, Colo./Ontario Hockey Academy) and Lilla Nease (Lake Forest, Calif/Anaheim Lady Ducks).
 
Captains:
McArdle and Walker have been named captains for 2019-20 with Katonka as alternate captain.
 
"We have a group of leaders we believe in," Houle said. "They were voted by their teammates for a reason – for the way they play, the way they carry themselves and the way they lead in the locker room. They all work hard and they have specific skills they bring to the team in terms of playing and leading." 

Schedule:
Plattsburgh State's 2019-20 schedule consists of 18 NEWHL games and seven non-conference contests. The Cardinals will also play two exhibition games.
 
Plattsburgh State took the ice for the first time this season with an 8-1 home win over the Ottawa Jr. Lady 67's in an exhibition game on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
 
The Cardinals are slated to begin regular-season play with a two-game NEWHL series at Buffalo State on Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2, in Buffalo, N.Y. Plattsburgh State then returns home for a key non-conference matchup with No. 9 Norwich University on Wednesday Nov. 6. Prior to the game with the Cadets, Plattsburgh State will unveil its 2018-19 national championship banner.
 
Plattsburgh State returns to NEWHL competition, hosting Oswego State for a two-game series (Friday-Saturday, Nov. 8-9). The Cardinals are at SUNY Potsdam on Wednesday, Nov. 13, before returning home to face SUNY Canton as part of Rock The Red Day on Saturday, Nov. 16.
 
The Cardinals play Bishops' University in a home exhibition game on Wednesday, Nov. 20, before facing No. 8 University of Wisconsin-River Falls in the Panther/Cardinal Classic at Middlebury College on Saturday, Nov. 30, followed by a matchup with either No. 3 Adrian College or No. 10 Middlebury on Sunday, Dec. 1.
 
Plattsburgh State returns to conference play with a home game against Potsdam (Wednesday, Dec. 4) and at SUNY Cortland (Friday, Dec. 6) to wrap up the calendar year.
 
The Cardinals play at Norwich as part of the Norwich East-West Hockey Classic on Sunday, Jan. 5, before meeting either Adrian or No. 4 Elmira College on Monday, Jan. 6.
 
Returning to NEWHL play, Plattsburgh State hosts Morrisville State College (Wednesday, Jan. 8) and Buffalo State (Saturday, Jan. 11). The Cardinals play at Oswego State on Wednesday, Jan. 15, before facing Canton in a home-and-home series on Friday, Jan. 17 (vs. Canton) and Saturday, Jan. 18 (at Canton).
 
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, Plattsburgh State hosts Middlebury in non-conference play, before playing at Potsdam on Wednesday, Jan. 29 and hosting Cortland for a two-game set on Feb. 7-8 (Friday-Saturday).
 
After hosting Elmira for their final non-conference game on Friday, Feb. 14, Plattsburgh State concludes NEWHL regular-season play with a two-game series at Morrisville State (Friday-Saturday, Feb. 21-22).
 
The top four teams in the final conference standings qualify for the NEWHL Tournament, which has its semifinal round set for Saturday, Feb. 29, and its championship game slated for Saturday, March 7. The NEWHL Tournament champion earns the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.