NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University women's ice hockey team enters 2018-19 coming off its most successful season in program history last year.
The Cadets went 27-1-3 and won their second NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey National Championship since the program's inception in 2007-08 with a 2-1 victory over Elmira College in Kreitzberg Arena.
Norwich tied the program record for wins and earned the right to host the championship weekend for the first time in program history. NU won its first national championship in 2011 with a 5-2 win over RIT. The Cadets have made a remarkable five national championship game appearances in 11 seasons.
Head coach Mark Bolding begins his 12th season at the helm of the program and is coming off winning his fourth American Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA) National Coach of the Year award.
"It makes for an awesome summer and great spring when you get to win a national championship," Bolding said. "Our veteran players were so critical as they provided leadership, hard work and goaltending to allow us to be successful. To win 2-1 in your home rink was something really special. Now it's time to get back to work though as we have a big target on our back this season."
The Cadets return a majority of their offense that led the nation with 5.61 goals per game last season, including the junior dynamic duo of Amanda Conway (Methuen, Mass.) and Sophie McGovern (Hermantown, Minn.). Conway led the nation with 34 goals and 59 points, while McGovern had 16 goals and 29 assists for 45 points.
Senior alternate captain Adrieana Rossini (Malden, Mass.) scored 21 goals and notched 23 assists for 44 points. Senior captain Bryn Labbe (Calgary, Alberta) had 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points while centering Conway and McGovern's line.
Junior Alyssa Hulst (Scarborough, Maine) scored 17 goals and tallied 13 assists for 30 points.
Norwich also returns its top three scoring defensemen from last season in sophomore Samantha Benoit (Bow, N.H.), as well as seniors Carly Menges (Novelty, Ohio) and Robyn Foley (Goulds, Newfoundland and Labrador).
"Having seven of the top nine scorers from last year back is huge coming into this season," Bolding said. "Conway, McGovern and Rossini all had special years last year and then we have the three defensemen back in Benoit, Menges and Foley, who all had great seasons last year. The lines have some continuity still in the tops six with only Sarah Schwenzfeier graduating. Right now we're hoping freshman Mady Johnsen (St. Charles, Mo.) can fill into that role."
In goal, the Cadets will have to replace Laurie King, who set new program records for career wins and shutouts, while backstopping Norwich to the national championship.
Sophomore Emily Lambert (Riverview, Mich.) returns and she'll be joined by two freshmen in Alexa Berg (White Bear Lake, Minn.) and Kate Winstanley (Lansdale, Pa.). Lambert went 5-0-0 with a 0.83 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in 363 minutes of action last year.
"Lambert is the most experienced goalie we have with the other two goalies being new," Bolding said. "They'll certainly all push to be a No. 1 and should provide for some good competition throughout the year. They're all capable, competitive and different goalies."
In total, Norwich returns 19 players from last year's squad and welcomes 10 freshmen with five forwards, three defensemen and two goalies in the recruiting class.
"We have a new group of older players that is trying to talk about what went well as a team last year," Bolding said. "They're pointing out systems, talking about work ethic and how important non-conference games while educating the new players. It's going well, but it will take some time for the new and the old to blend together to become one unit."
Norwich will welcome three new opponents to the schedule this season as the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) added three new teams in Suffolk, Johnson & Wales (R.I.) and Salem State. Former NU defenseman and member of last year's national championship team Kim Tiberi '18 is an assistant coach at Suffolk as the Rams begin their inaugural varsity women's hockey season.
"It's fun to have the new opponents with new rinks to visit," Bolding said. "It's exciting as a player and program to play new teams. I think right of the gate Suffolk should do well. Salem State on the men's side was a good rivalry back when I was playing so I'm hoping to see that continue to the women's side over time. Castleton, Plymouth State and UMass Boston really come at us with their best every time we play so they'll make us work for every league point.
The Cadets open the 2018-19 campaign with a national championship rematch at Elmira College on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. in Pine Valley, N.Y. Norwich will also travel to Plattsburgh State on Nov. 7 for two of its stiffest tests it will face all season.
"We have a pretty big task right off the bat with Elmira in a rematch of the title game," Bolding said. "Then, 10 days later we play Plattsburgh so two of our first four games are against two of the toughest teams you can find. It will be good for the new players to get cultured. Getting some results would be nice as those games prove to be huge in the long run when it comes down to NCAA seeding."