Alexis Crossley and her University of New Hampshire teammates approached this season as a chance to return the Wildcats to Hockey East prominence, especially in the light of Olympic year departures throughout New England.
“We want to be in that top ten nationally, and make the NCAA Tournament,” said Crossley of her team's goals. “But we also need to take it one win at a time, and we want to make the Hockey East Tournament on the Cape.”
Through five games, the Wildcats are getting a good start on that plan. Their 3-1 win over preseason No. 1 Boston College last Wednesday lifted them to the tops of the league standings (though it is rather early in league play).
Crossley was a bright spot for last season's 14-16- 4 Wildcats, winning All-Rookie Team, Second Team All-Star, and All-Academic Team honors.
“I'd say I would like to have a similar year to last year,” said Crossley, who led her team in assists (16) and power play goals (5) in her freshman year. “I want to develop and learn to play the game simpler. I don't want to push myself as much, not pressure myself as much, and my teammates have helped me out with that.”
So far, Crossley has seen ice time in every game, and has scored two goals and an assist. Both tallies were on the woman advantage, and both came against one of College Hockey America's strongest teams, Syracuse.
The Wildcats play a set of out-of-conference games this weekend, as they travel to Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena. Crossley treats her non-conference games seriously, recognizing their benefits.
“Playing teams outside of our conference gives us a chance to see where those other teams are at, and where we want to be,” she said. “It helps us prepare for Hockey East play.”
UNH faces its schedule with a short bench, carrying only 20 skaters. But where they lack in players, they don't lack in their mental attitude.
“I honestly think this season we have a great mental attitude,” said Crossley. “We are going into each game with a positive attitude, and we are finding the good in every game.”
Crossley says this edition of the Wildcats are quite close, with how they celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving as an example.
“Our whole team celebrated it,” said Crossley, who made sure to tweet her love of the celebrations. “(Heather) Kashman's mom came down and made us turkey. Everyone contributed their own side dish, and even the Americans participated.”
Team of the Week
The Bobcats are ranked tenth in the nation in the USA Hockey polls, and their two win non-league weekend against the University of Maine demonstrated their firepower. Kelly Babstock scored five points, including a hat trick during Saturday's 5-2 win. Freshman Emma Woods is following in Babstock's skate strides scoring wise, and is now tied for second nationally in rookie scoring with 9 points (4g, 5a.) Chelsea Laden was strong in net, making 28 saves in her two starts. She has become the Bobcats go-to goaltender.
Player of the Week
Lauren Slebodnick (Manchester, N.H.), goaltender, Cornell University
The senior starter for the Big Red earned her first two wins of the season against Northeastern this weekend, marking her 52nd and 53rd career wins and her 16th career shutout. She made 44 saves over the two game series at Lynah Rink.
Game of the Week
Quinnipiac at Harvard, Friday evening
Harvard kicks off their regular season for the second year in a row hosting Quinnipiac. Harvard is 3-0 in season openers against the Bobcats, and beat them 2-0 last year. This could be an interesting battle to watch goaltending wise, with Emerance Maschmeyer looking to take the next step after a solid freshman season and Laden being a real bright spot for the Bobcats. Both netminders will have a lot to stop, between Quinnipac's Woods and Babstock and the goal scoring possibilities of Harvard's Mary Parker (Milton, Mass.) and Samantha Reber.
1. Boston College (5-1-0 overall, 1-1 Hockey East) – The Eagles are seeing a good amount of contributions from a wide variety of roster members. Senior Taylor Wasylk was named Hockey East Player of the Week thanks to a 2 goal, 2 assist week. They are averaging four goals per game this season. The Eagles are in Syracuse Friday for what some are calling the “first ACC women's hockey championship:” their 7pm out-of-conference tilt.
2. Quinnipiac (5-0-1 overall, 0-0-0 ECAC) – Eleven skaters have scored goals through six games for the Bobcats thus far. That is 55 percent of their roster. They face their first league action of the season this weekend, against Harvard and Dartmouth.
3. New Hampshire (3-2-1 overall, 1-0 Hockey East) – Last week's win against Boston College gave the Wildcats their first win over a national number 1 or 2 since December 14, 2007. Vilma Vaattovaara is running away with the starting goaltender position, with three wins and a tie so far in net and a 1.47 goals against average.
4. Boston University (2-1-1 overall, 0-0-0 Hockey East) – The Terriers split their series at Robert Morris last weekend, winning the opener 5-2, but being shutout in Saturday's game, 3-0. They host Yale in their first regular season home game of the season Saturday afternoon.
5. Northeastern (3-3-0 overall, 0-0-0 Hockey East) – The Huskies lost both games at Cornell last weekend, and have yet to score a power play goal this season through 20 opportunities. Paige Savage is stepping up on offense, with a four game point streak heading into this weekend's home and home series with Providence.