Coming off of a nearly perfect season, the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team is set to defend its NCAA Division III national championship as conference play begins this weekend.

PSUC head coach Kevin Houle’s team boasted an impressive 28-1-1 record en route to its championship season and hopes this season brings much of the same.

“Our goal as a team every year is to get to the national championship and win a title, so this year is no different than any other year,” Houle said. “Every year is a new year and every team is a new team. This is certainly a different team obviously, coming off of a national championship.”

PSUC senior captain Mia Favretto said the players share a similar mindset going into the season as they previously did, but she believes that there is some building to be done with the addition of new players.

“We’ve learned a lot in the past two weeks of our official practices, so applying that to our games and keeping the same intensity every game will be a challenge with the freshmen because it’s a long season,” Favretto said.

With the new season beginning, the Cards found themselves without six players who were lost to graduation. Among these players lost was last season’s Division III Women’s Player of the Year Sydney Aveson, who served as the goalie for the Cards during their historic championship season. In her career at PSUC, Aveson posted a 69-8-5 record with a .944 save percentage. Senior Ally Ross will be filling the spot between the pipes for the team.

Senior forward and assistant captain Shannon Stewart said that there will definitely be some big shoes to fill this season with the addition of eight new freshmen to the roster.

“They will definitely play an important role because we don’t have a lot of players and everyone is going to have a huge role,” Stewart said.

Houle agrees that the incoming class of freshmen is strong and expects them to contribute heavily to the team. He said that it is not only the new additions that will have to step up, but the underclassmen as well.

“We certainly want them to come in and play specific roles on this year’s team, and it’s up to them to go out there and earn those spots,” Houle said.

The Cards opened up last weekend with a 5-4 victory over Manhattanville College. PSUC saw goals from two of its new additions, Melissa Sheeran and Kayla Meneghin, both earning their first collegiate points. The team then battled it out against familiar foe and No. 2-ranked Norwich. PSUC led 1-0 until a late third-period goal from Norwich with 26 seconds remaining evened the score in a rematch of last year’s championship game.

This weekend, the Cards (1-0-1) face Neumann (0-2-0) in a pair of conference contests. Houle recognizes Neumann as a good hockey team that has the ability to sneak up and take a point or two.

“We certainly need to go down there and take care of business because if you lose to a fourth- or fifth-place team, that’s certainly going to set problems for you in terms of home ice down the stretch,” Houle said. “We don’t want to think too far ahead in those terms, but it’s certainly huge to get off to a good start in conference play.”

Houle said the Cards need to continue to improve on what they’ve been doing working on this season, such as their systems and consistency, in order to secure wins against Neumann.

Email Alex Reynolds at alex.reynolds@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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