Forward Riley Calhoun (10) advances the puck past a group of University of New England defenders at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Oct. 21.
By Michael Purtell
A USCHO.com preseason poll has the Plattsburgh State Cardinals women’s hockey team listed as the third best DIII program in the nation heading into the 2023-24 season. The Cards are ready to prove they are number one.
The Cardinals fell 2-3 last year in the NCAA semifinals in a double overtime thriller against Gustavus Adolphus College. The loss has made Plattsburgh’s returning athletes hungry for another run at the championship under Head Coach Kevin Houle, who is entering his 21st year in the position.
“I definitely think it’s in the back of everybody’s mind. It’s something we’ve mentioned in the beginning of the year because it’s a driving factor for us. It’s the reason we’re here, it’s the reason we want to win,” Alternate Captain Julia Masotta said.
Plattsburgh will look to make another NCAA finals appearance and lead the newly formed SUNYAC women’s hockey league in the same way it dominated the NEWHL through its five years. The Cardinals haven’t seen the finals since 2019, when it won the NCAA title.
The Cardinals have handpicked their captains, whom they will look toward to guide them to their goal. That captain will be defenseman Kendall Wasik, with forward Masotta, forward Ivy Boric and defenseman Mattie Norton acting as alternate captains.
The captains look forward to extending what Houle calls great leadership from seasons past.
“There’s always that role when you are named captain. You’ve got to hold yourself to that standard. You’ve got to be a leader. You’ve got to on and off the ice be accountable for your actions. You’ve got to show people what it’s like to be a Cardinal, especially here on campus,” “C” Wasik said. “Gotta show other young people, especially young freshmen, show what it’s like to be a Cardinal on and off the ice.”
There are 16 forwards suiting up for the Cardinals, 10 are returning from last year’s roster: graduate student Masotta, sophomore Emma McLean, junior Riley Calhoun, graduate student Tatem Cheney, sophomore Molly Riggi, senior Mae Olshansky, graduate student Boric, junior Bridget Orr, senior Ciara Wall and sophomore Grace Yarkosky.
Forward Grace Yarkosky (92) takes control of the biscuit against the Ottawa Jr. 67’s at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Oct. 25.
Joining the forwards are six first-years: Lilli Bills, coming from Castle Rock, Colorado; Sydnee Francis, coming in locally from Canton, New York; Ava Mataliano, coming from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan; Zsofia Pazmandi, who joins the team internationally from Kaposvar, Hungary; Emily Kasprzak, coming from Niagara Falls, New York; and Dani Longuemare, from Pembroke, Massachusetts.
On the other end of the rink, seven defensemen are listed on this year’s roster, with five returning from last year, including sophomore Aizah Thompson, graduate student Wasik, junior Norton, sophomore Taya Balfour and sophomore Su-An Cho.
Two first-years round out the defensemen: Maeghan Forsyth from Billings, Montana and Adriana Urban from Monroe, New Jersey.
Two goalies are listed. Graduate student Lilla Nease returns to the ice and first-year Chloe Lewis from Monson, Massachusetts will be tasked with shutting out opposing offenses.
The roster has featured three goalies for the last three seasons, and complications in the preseason have led to only Nease suiting up for the exhibition matches. Houle is unfazed and has confidence that both his goaltenders will succeed throughout the season. He specifically cited Nease’s experience as a starter throughout her collegiate career as proof.
Nease averaged a 1.36 goals against average and a .937 save percentage over 19 appearances last season. The Cards were 17-2-0 in those contests.
Overall, the roster saw nine players leave in the offseason: Sara Krauseneck and Sierra Benjamin, who now play for Skellefteå AIK in Skellefteå, Sweden; Nicole Unsworth, Holly Schmelzer and Ashley Davis, who spent their eligibility; Rivers Morris, who transferred to Endicott; Jordan Kowalski, who transferred to Utica; Chloe Beaubien, who transferred to Elmira; and Lily Stumm, who is not listed on this year’s roster.
The nine incoming first-years have some big shoes to fill, but Houle has no doubt in their ability to contribute for the Cardinals.
“We expect a handful of them to be impact players. We’re going to need them to be for sure,” Houle said. “We’re young, and we lost some key players last year, and certainly in the last couple years, so it’s definitely going to have to be some production from our new players.”
The SUNYAC league will not feature any new teams from NEWHL despite the new name. Plattsburgh State will compete with Buffalo State, Canton, Cortland, Morrisville, Oswego, and Potsdam. The Cardinals will see each team three times this season, competing in 18 conference games total.
The season will come to a close with back to back matches against Cortland, which was the only team to defeat the Cardinals in the entirety of the NEWHL’s existence. Look for some fierce competition Feb. 16 and 17, 2024, on Cortland’s ice.
The Cardinals will travel to Middlebury Vermont Nov. 25 for the Panther/Cardinal Classic, where they will play the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to appear in the championship game against Middlebury or Endicott.
Plattsburgh State will travel to Northfield, Vermont to compete in the Norwich East-West Hockey Classic Dec. 10. It will play Norwich University for a chance to appear in the championship game against Elmira or Nazareth.
The SUNYAC tournament will begin Feb. 24, 2024.