The Amherst College women's ice hockey team returns to action this winter following a stellar 2015-16 campaign that saw the Purple & White get off to the best start to a season in program history (8-0-3), before earning wins in 12 of its next 13 games to become the winningest regular season squad in the history of the program (20-1-3).
Earning the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC Championship tournament for the third consecutive season after posting a 13-1-2 mark in league play, the Purple & White advanced to the Finals and earned an at-large bid to appear in the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season en route to posting a 22-3-3 overall mark on the year.
Under the guidance of fifth-year head coach Jeff Matthews, Amherst will once again look to string together a memorable season.
"Every season is a separate and new journey, and our staff has greatly enjoyed the ride so far this season," commented Matthews. "At the end of the season, if our players have fully committed themselves to our process, and our core values, then we have achieved success."
Despite the loss of three key players to graduation, including two of their top-three point getters and a solid defensive talent, Amherst is set to welcome back 19 returners from last year's impressive squad and adds the skill of five newcomers.
"Our depth will be the key to our success, and we'll need everyone on the roster doing everything they can to help us be the best possible team we can be," said Matthews.
Garnering AHCA All-America Second Team, D3hockey.com All-America Third Team, and All-NESCAC First-Team honors a season ago, junior Alex Toupal is primed to headline a talented group of forwards in 2016-17. Establishing herself as one of DIII's premier players, Toupal finished her sophomore campaign with a 1.44 goals per game average to rank 14th in the nation and led the Purple & White in all major offensive statistical categories – scoring 23 goals and dishing out 16 helpers for 39 total points.
Jocelyn Hunyadi '19 and Katelyn Pantera '19 have proven that they have the skill to play a major role up front following strong rookie seasons that saw them rank fifth and sixth on the team in points, respectively, with Hunyadi notching seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points and Pantera totaling 14 points on seven goals and seven assists.
Three of four Purple & White players to tally 12 points a year ago, Sara Culhane '17 (5 goals, 7 assists), Brenna Sullivan '18 (5 goals, 7 assists) and Katie Savage '19 (5 goals, 7 assists) will provide tremendous depth on a potent offense, while Emma Griese '18 (6 goals, 2 assists) has the speed and talent to be a difference maker in transition play.
Audrey Duquette '17, Molly Connolly '17, Kristen Molina '18, Sarah Wagner '19 and Jamie McNamara '19 will also return up front for the Purple & White, and will be joined by newcomers Eliza Laycock '20 and Sarah Melanson '20.
Welcoming back five blue-liners from last year's squad, Amherst's defensive experience is poised to be a critical component of the team's success.
Anchoring the defensive unit are senior co-captains Caitlyn Ryan and Lynndy Smith. An AHCA Second Team All-American and First Team All-NESCAC selection a season ago, Ryan will once again look to be a force on both sides of the ice after tallying four goals and 14 assists to rank fourth on the team with 18 points in 2015-16. Smith has also proved to be a two-way player for the Purple & White, recording three goals and nine assists for 12 points a season ago, while also providing shut down play in the defensive end.
Amherst's Camille Herzog '17 (1 goal, 6 assists) will also take on a well-deserved leadership role for the team this season after playing a big part in a Purple & White defense that ranked eighth nationally in goals against average (1.43) a year ago.
Appearing in 22 games last winter, Dobbins racked up 559 saves and posted six shutouts for the Purple & White to secure a terrific .941 save percentage and a 1.56 goals against average. Also earning time in goal, Plaman earned two shutout wins and registered 91 saves to own a .948 save percentage and a 0.83 goals against average during her sophomore season.
Amherst boasts having five of its first seven games of the 2016-17 at home, with the Purple & White beginning their journey with back-to-back contests against league foe Conn. College on Nov.18-19 at Orr Rink beginning at 7 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively. Amherst then welcomes Trinity College to the Pioneer Valley on Dec. 2-3, with Saturday's matchup marking the program's 5th annual Pink in the Rink Fundraiser game, before taking to the road on Dec. 7 for a 7 p.m. non-conference tilt at perennial contender Norwich. The Purple & White round out the 2016 portion of their schedule with a bout versus Manhattanville (Dec. 9) at home, before traveling to Salve Regina on Dec. 10.
Following the holiday break, Amherst begins a four-game road trip, resuming action in the New Year at Southern Maine at 5 p.m. on Jan. 1, before taking on Middlebury (Jan. 6-7) and Saint Anselm (Jan. 11). Returning to Orr Rink, the Purple & White are set to battle Bowdoin on Jan. 14-15, before heading to Waterville, Maine for a double header against Colby on Jan. 20-21. Amherst then closes out the month of January by playing host to Elmira on Jan. 24, before trading off away and home games with archrival Williams on Jan. 27-28.
The final month of the regular season features five road games, including Salem State (Feb. 1), Trinity (Feb. 7), Hamilton (Feb. 10-11) and Wesleyan (Feb. 18). Amherst then returns to Orr Rink for its regular season finale – hosting Wesleyan at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19.
Not yet a member of the Friends of Amherst Women's Ice Hockey for the 2016-17 year? Become a first-time member of or renew your membership in the FAA and support Coach Matthews and the women's ice hockey program. Make a gift ahead of the team's first home game of the season on Friday, November 18 against Conn. College. Go Amherst!