FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart University women's ice hockey returns 21 letter winners from last season, including captains Kate Dunlop, Lauren Fontaine, and Nicole Palazzo. Head coach Tom O'Malley hopes that bringing back eight seniors who have seen significant ice time over the last three seasons can point his squad in the right direction.
"Having all of our seniors back, that know the system, that can put pucks in the net, and play in all three zones is definitely going to help us," regarded coach O'Malley on the experience the seniors brings to the table.
Dunlop, a fifth-year senior from Flesherton, Ont., served as the captain for the Pioneers during the 2009-'10 season. Last season she finished third on the team in scoring, as the right wing on the second line, with nine goals and 17 assists.
Fontaine, a native of Windsor, Ont., returns for her senior season after leading SHU in scoring with 36 total points on 22 goals and 14 assists. She ranked third in the nation last season with 0.85 goals per game and ninth in points per game at 1.38. Fontaine anchored the first line as the center, winning 307 face-offs.
Palazzo, a junior from Rocky Hill, Conn., split time between the first line and defense last season. She tied for the team-lead in assists with 17 and scored five goals of her own on the year.
Joining Fontaine on the first line will be left winger Brittany Hartman. Hartman, a senior assistant captain from Edina, Minn., was one of the best playmakers on the ice for the Pioneers last season. She netted 14 goals and collected 16 assists to finish second on the team with 30 points. On the right wing will be freshman newcomer Catie Ladner. Ladner, a Chaska, Minn. native, played her high school hockey at Chaska High School and will be called on immediately to be an impact player on the SHU attack.
The second line, which played every game together last season as the third line, consists of senior assistant captain Kristina Hankins (Lexington, Mass.) and juniors Tara Kent (Glenview, Ill.) and Jamie Mey (Middletown, R.I.). Hankins, the center, totaled 15 points on six goals and nine assists, while Mey and Kent tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Other key returnees include senior forward Taryn Lapierre (Oakland, R.I.), junior defenders Caitlin Gottwald (Reading, Mass.) and Jennifer Burroughs (Raleigh, N.C.) as well as sophomore defender Sarah Delaney (Whittman, Mass.). Lapierre, one of the team's best in the face-off circle, scored five times last season and dished out 10 assists. Gottwald racked up six goals and five assists and is one of the more threatening shooters from the point on Pioneer power plays.
Goaltender Raelene Sydor (St. Albert, Alta.) returns for her junior season. A year ago, she played in 15 games, starting 12, and posted a .828 save percentage. Two freshmen, Isabella Santore (Millington, N.J.) and Alexius Schutt (Elk River, Minn.) will challenge Sydor for time between the pipes.
Sacred Heart opens its season at the University of Maine on Friday night at 7:00 pm. The Pioneers and Black Bears face-off again, at Alfond Arena, on Saturday when the puck drops at 2:00 pm.