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Clarkson women’s hockey team poised for successful 2012-13 season

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POTSDAM - Celebrating its 10th season as an NCAA Division I program, the Clarkson University women’s hockey team seems to have all the pieces in place to enjoy a very successful 2012-13 campaign.

The Golden Knights boast an all-star in goal to backbone a stingy defense and return last year’s top-three scorers to highlight the offense. Add in an influx of a talent from another promising freshman class and the Green and Gold will look to challenge for ECAC Hockey supremacy this winter and make a strong bid to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Guided by fifth-year co-head coaches Matt and Shannon Desrosiers, and assistant coach Matt Kelly, Clarkson returns 14 letterwinners from last year’s squad, which was one of the best in ECAC Hockey. The Knights skated to the program’s fourth 20-win season with a 22-10-5 overall record and placed third in the conference with a 15-5-2 ECAC Hockey mark. Clarkson graduated a hard-working five-member senior class last May, but five gifted freshmen will help overcome that loss.

Clarkson will need to be in top form this season as it faces perhaps the most challenging schedule in the program’s history. The Green and Gold will play 11 games against teams that made last year’s NCAA Tournament, including three match-ups against 2012 Frozen Four participants.

The Knights battle the Saints in Canton on Friday, October 5 for the first of four meetings against their North Country neighbor. A game in Potsdam against St. Lawrence follows on October 6 for the first of 17 regular-season games at Cheel Arena. Prior to Saturday’s game, former Clarkson and St. Lawrence players will play in an Alumni Game beginning at 12noon at Cheel.

Clarkson, which has qualified for ECAC Hockey postseason play in each of its first eight years in the highly competitive conference, opens the 22-game league campaign hosting capital district rivals Union College and Rensselaer in Potsdam on October 26-27.

Prior to the official start of the 2012-13 campaign, Clarkson will host Ottawa-PWHL this Saturday at 4 p.m. in an exhibition contest to begin the program’s 10th season.

GOAL

The ECAC’s Goaltender of the Year in 2011-12, junior Erica Howe (Ottawa, ONT) returns for her third year as the Knights’ starter in the crease. Selected as Clarkson’s Most Valuable Player, Howe was the key reason for the Green and Gold’s success last winter. Playing in all, but 47 minutes, Howe posted a .927 save percentage, 1.75 goals-against average (sixth in Division 1) and a .662 winning percentage. She tied for fifth in the nation in shutouts with seven through 37 games and allowed one goal or less in 16 contests as Clarkson boasted the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation (1.78 gpg).

Sophomores Emily Horn (Hamilton, ONT) and Jenna Boss (Little Canada, MN) contributed in back-up roles to Howe last season and gained valuable experienced throughout their rookie campaigns. Both will push for more playing time this winter. Horn played 41 minutes through two games and turned aside 10 of the 11 shots she faced. An unselfish team player, Boss was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic team.

DEFENSE

The Knights graduated two standouts on the blueline in Katelyn Ptolemy and Danielle Boudreau, but bring back five defensive stalwarts.

Hailey Wood (Lethbridge, ALB), one of only two seniors on the 2012-13 roster, will provide the veteran leadership on the blueline along with solid all-around play. A strong defensive player, Wood emerged as an offensive force last season and led the Clarkson defensemen in scoring with 24 points. She was among the Knights’ leading playmakers overall with 21 assists through 37 games. Wood’s posts an impressive +22 plus/minus rating through 110 career games.

Junior Vanessa Plante (Riviere-du-Loup, QUE) provides an intimidating presence in front of the net and will also lead the D-core with her solid all-around play.

Three sophomores are coming off solid rookie campaigns and should really come into their own this season after gaining a year of collegiate experience.

Jennifer Shields (Ingersoll, ONT), who was named Clarkson’s Rookie of the Year, made a big impression as a solid, stay-at-home defenseman who skated in 35 games. She was second for the Knights in plus/minus with a +14. Taylor Gedig (Kelowna, BC) and Daniella Matteucci (Fruitvale, BC), both strong, imposing players, made significant contributions to the Golden Knights’ stingy defensive effort, skating in 37 and 36 games, respectively.

Freshman Erin Ambrose (Keswick, ONT) comes to Clarkson with an impressive resume playing for numerous Hockey Canada national teams. She is among an elite group of 40 talented Hockey Canada players who have been selected to attend Canada’s National Women’s Team September Camp/Fall Festival. Ambrose served as team captain for her PWHL team the Toronto Junior Aero’s, Team Ontario and also Team Canada U-18’s in 2011-12.

A talented all-around athlete, Renata Fast (Burlington, ONT) will play a pivotal role on the Clarkson defense this winter. She skated last season for the Burlington Junior Barracudas (PWHL) and also participated at Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team selection camp this past August.

FORWARDS

Senior Danielle Skirrow (Trenton, ONT) and juniors Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT) and Carly Mercer (Exeter, ONT) powered the Knights’ offense last season and should be at the top of the charts again in 2012-13.

Skirrow emerged as a productive offensive force for the Green and Gold as the Golden Knights’ third-leading scorer last year during her third season. She was second on the team in goals with 17, and added 12 assists for 29 points. A top specialty teams player, Skirrow netted a team-high 10 power-play goals (tied for 7th in the nation) and also collected a team-high five game-winners.

After two productive seasons for the Knights, Rattray is ready to breakout and emerge as one of the top offensive players in the country. She averaged over a point per game in 2011-12 with a team-high 19 goals along with 19 assists through 33 games. Rattray tallied six power-play goals and four game-winners along with posting a +13 plus/minus rating. Rattray has an extensive background with Hockey Canada, and will participate, along with Ambrose, at Canada’s National Women’s Team September Camp/Fall Festival. She Participated with Canada’s U22 National Team at the 2012 Meco Cup in Fussen, Germany last January and the USA/Canada series this August.

Mercer continues to develop into one of ECAC Hockey’s most promising forwards. She was the Knights’ leading scorer last year after earning Clarkson’s Rookie of the Year honor in 2010-11. She tallied 40 points, including a team-high 26 assists, last winter and played a leading role on the Knights’ eighth-ranked power play (34-159, 21.4%) with eight goals on the man-advantage. Mercer also attended Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team selection camp this past August.

Three juniors have made significant strides in their careers and will be counted upon to be among the Knights’ most reliable players up front.

Brittany Styner (Calgary, ALB), who plays in all key situations for the Knights, recorded six goals and 17 assists for 23 points last winter and was among the team leaders in plus/minus at +13. Classmate Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE) came through with a solid sophomore season, skating in all 37 games as a strong two-way center. She tallied 12 points on four goals and eight assists and was strong on face-offs, winning 56% of her draws. Shelby Nisbet (Wiseton, SASK) has developed into a quick power forward. Playing in all 37 games last season, she scored five goals and seven assists along with posting a +5 plus/minus rating.

With a year of experience gained, sophomore Christine Lambert (Thetford Mines, QUE) will supply another key component to the Knights’ offense. She enjoyed a solid rookie campaign playing in 32 games and recording four goals and five assists along with a +7 rating.

Three freshmen bring in excellent credentials and will help make up for the loss to graduation of Juana Baribeau, Gabrielle Kosziwka and Kali Gillanders. Olivia Howe (Moose Jaw, SASK), Shannon MacAulay (Mt. Herbert, PEI), and Cayley Mercer (Exeter, ONT) have seen plenty of time for Hockey Canada on national teams and in selection camps, and will look to build upon those experiences at the collegiate level.

Howe played last season for the Notre Dame AAA Hounds where she served as team captain. She was the 2011 Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League scoring champion with 69 points (36-33) in 27 games. A three-year captain for the Warner Warriors (JWHL), MacAulay was also a member of Canada’s U-18 team that won gold at the World Championships. She also participated at Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team selection camp this past August. The younger sister of Carly Mercer, Cayley Mercer played this past season for the Bluewater Junior Hawks where she was the team captain. She led the team to both a PWHL championship and a Intermediate AA Provincial championship. Mercer, along with Ambrose and MacAulay, also won gold at the 2012 U18 World Championships this past January.

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