Cards set for home opener against Norwich

KAYLA BREEN/STAFF PHOTOPlattsburgh State’s Kaitlin Drew-Mead (27) looks to fire a shot toward goal with Norwich’s Morgan Tefft (14) and Maddi Blauth (26) behind her during a non-league women’s hockey game, Nov. 7, 2018, at Stafford Ice Arena.

PLATTSBURGH — The No. 1 Plattsburgh State women's hockey team will be hosting No. 8 Norwich University in its first home game of the season today at Stafford Ice Arena.

The Cardinals (2-0-0) will be facing off against the Cadets at 7 p.m.

The Plattsburgh women's team will also be recognized for its performance in its previous season with a banner-raising ceremony that showcases its 2018-2019 NCAA Division III national championship victory.

“Obviously it's a big game, and anytime you play a top team like Norwich, it's exciting. With the banner raising as well, it certainly has the feel of a big game,” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “They're a top-ranked team and national champs two years ago, so it's a big rivalry and exciting for a lot of reasons.”

Houle believes that with the ceremony, it officially marks the end of a great year and a great season for Plattsburgh.

“It puts it kind of behind us as well in terms of turning the page and looking forward to this year,” he said.

The season officially began for the Cardinals over the weekend with their Friday and Saturday games against Buffalo State.

Plattsburgh defeated the Bengals, 5-0, on Friday, and 8-0 on Saturday.

“I think we played the game in their zone, were able to put up a lot of shots on net, limited their opportunities to a certain degree and really just put the pressure on them,” Houle said.

“I was much happier with the effort and the performance on Saturday than on Friday, and you know, it's the beginning of the year so to come out with two shutouts is obviously good as well.

“I thought our effort on Friday was average. We were still able to win 5-0, but I think if their goalie had played better it could've been a much closer game,” he continued.

“Saturday I thought we played much better. From top to bottom, I thought we had strong efforts from everybody, and that game was much more indicative of the way we want to play.”

The Cardinals have three athletes on their roster this season who have the potential to be very promising goaltenders including Ashley Davis, Lilla Nease and Chloe Beaubien.

Davis played the entirety of the Friday game as well as half of the Saturday game, and Nease filled the other half of the Saturday game.

Plattsburgh is still unsure at the moment of who its starting goaltender is going to be, but has been impressed with what it has seen at this point in the season.

“Without tipping my hat right now in terms of who's gong to play, I think we've been happy with the way Ashley Davis played. She's done a very good job thus far. I thought she and Lilla Nease played very well (over the weekend),” Houle said.

“Our other goalie Chloe Beaubien has played well in practice too, so it's a process right now, and we're seeing how it goes over the next three games.”

With the starting goalie still somewhat of a mystery, the Cardinals do have some players who are expected to be impressive this season.

Houle believes that they saw some good things from a couple of players over the weekend and that there are other players who are sure to show promise as the season progresses.

“I mentioned before Sara Krauseneck and Nicole Unsworth who are both sophomores and solid first-year players, but there's a couple of girls who we expect to step up in an offensive way, and they got off to a good start this past weekend,” Houle said. “I think the more secondary scoring you can have as a team, the better off you're going to be.”

Krausneck has already registered two goals and two assists this season, and Unsworth has added one goal and two assists.

For both Plattsburgh and Norwich, the teams will be using this game as a measuring stick for how the season is going to look going forward.

“It's definitely a big measuring stick at this stage of the game, but win or lose, it's not the end of your season. It doesn't put you at the top if you win for the rest of the year, and if you lose, it certainly doesn't put you out of contention,” Houle said. “To me, I think Norwich is a higher-ranked team than No. 8, and they're going to be a tough opponent.”

The Cadets played two exhibition matches in October where they defeated their opponents 5-0 and 7-0.

Norwich is a long-time rival of the Cardinals and always plays competitively according to Houle.

“They're an excellent team, and they're always in the mix. I think they're very strong upfront and that they have a couple of extremely strong offensive players in Sophie McGovern and Amanda Conway, two All-Americans who certainly are two of the better players in the country,” Houle said. “I think that they have a very strong core, the defense is good and the goaltending is back from last year, so I think they're solid in all areas and are probably a better team than they were last year on paper.”

Conway finished her 2018-2019 season with 30 goals and 12 points, making her the highest-scoring returning player on the Norwich team, and McGovern previously totaled 13 goals and 17 assists for the Cadets.

“Any time you play a top-ranked team, it's going to be a tight game,” Houle said. “You expect them to be fast, you expect them to be physical and we expect to match them in both areas, but it's going to certainly be a tightly-contested game.”

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