(Courtesy of The Daily Telegram and sports writer Matt Sisoler)
ADRIAN, Mich.--The Adrian College women's hockey team came within 21 seconds of a national title last season.
This year, despite graduating five of the team's top seven scorers and both starting goalies from last year, coach Chad Davis is still confident in his team's ability to get back to the national stage.
"Our plan is to reload with the new players coming in, and our goal is to win a national championship," Davis said, "so we wanna get off to a strong start, we wanna get into conference play, and we want to do all of the things we've done in the past: just play good hockey and give ourselves a chance to win a conference championship and play for a national championship."
Last year, Adrian won a program-record 19 straight games, took its third straight Northern Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and postseason championships and won back-to-back overtime games in the NCAA Division III national tournament, before falling to top-ranked Plattsburgh State, 5-4 in overtime in the national championship game.
Plattsburgh State was the only team the only team that beat the Bulldogs in their run to a 28-3 overall record.
Replacing their top line of Kaylyn Schroka, Kristin Lewicki and Sarah Shureb, which contributed a combined 183 points last season, isn't going to be easy, but the Bulldogs do bring back junior forward Brooke Lupi, who was fourth on the team in points scored last season, tallying 21 goals and 22 assists in 30 games.
On defense, Adrian also lost Sydney Smith and Lexie Tzafaroglou to graduation, but the Bulldogs have players waiting in the wings to get their shot to prove themselves. Senior Kristi Zink, junior Shelly Czarnowczan and sophomore Kelly O'Sullivan are a trio of defensemen whose experience could immediately prove valuable.
The Bulldogs were able to get a couple of transfers, headed up by Jacquelin White, who tallied 15 goals and 13 assists last year as a freshman at Oswego State, and Victoria Harshman, who played last year at Division I Robert Morris.
"The dynamic of the team changes every year," Davis said. "Obviously, with our top line graduating, Brooke (Lupi) will be naturally looked at as a go-to player...
"... We'll find our success in different way, and I feel that we have the parts to do it, and we're looking forward to seeing it this weekend."
Goaltenders Jade Walsh and Brooke Gibson, who played in all 31 games for the Bulldogs last year and posted a goals-against average of 1.57, are gone to graduation, as well. Newcomers Kate Turner and Mia Glasgow are looking to put themselves in a position to be the top goalie for Adrian this season.
"Each player's different and their experiences are different," Davis said, "and I think we're pretty confident in both of them going into the season."
Davis' new assistant coach is a familiar face. Hannah McGowan, who played on the team for the first four years' of Davis' tenure at Adrian, returns to help her former coach this season after Shawn Skelly switched to be the assistant coach on the men's team.
"(Hannah)'s such a huge part of building the program and getting it to where it's at and the culture," Davis said. "She's been on the inside of the room as a player. She can really relate to their on-ice experiences, and they have a lot of respect for what she was able to accomplish here, and even after she played here, so it's a perfect storm for her to come in."
Adrian opens its season 7 p.m. Friday against Northland in the return of the Bulldog Bowl tournament and plays the winner of Norwich and Wisconsin-River Falls at noon Saturday.
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