2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: Lindenwood Lions

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: Scott Spencer (2nd Season)
2015-16 Captains: Tae Otte (C), Shara Jasper (A), Brooke Peden (A), Nicole Hensley (A)

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 10-21-2 (7-11-2 CHA/5th place)
College Hockey America Postseason: Conference quarterfinals; swept by Penn State in the first round of the CHA playoffs

Despite a tough slate of WCHA opponents to start, the Lions didn’t have to wait too long for their first win last season, beating St. Cloud State 5-3 to salvage a split in that series after getting swept by Wisconsin on opening weekend. They dropped to the Bulldogs after that, but then went unbeaten in their first conference series of the year against RIT, tying the Tigers, 1-1, and then beating them, 3-1.

In its next three CHA series, Lindenwood was able to earn the split each time, defeating Robert Morris, Penn State, and Syracuse. The team was swept convincingly by Mercyhurst to close out December, but a big 1-0 win over Bemidji State kicked off January. The Lions dropped their next three, to Bemidji State and to Minnesota State twice, but then came up with a win against the Mavericks on Jan. 10.

They dropped two decisions to Robert Morris next, but again earned splits in league play, this time against Penn State and RIT. Lindenwood was able to tie Syracuse, 4-4, before falling to the Orange, and in their final regular-season series, the Lions put away Mercyhurst, earning a 3-1 win on senior weekend to work a split with the Lakers. They weren’t able to force any extra games in the postseason, though, falling to the Nittany Lions by scores of 1-0 and 3-1 in their quarterfinal series.

Goaltender Nicole Hensley was honored with a spot on the All-CHA First Team after an outstanding individual performance on the season, and she was also named a Second Team Academic All-American after the season. 17 Lindenwood players, including Hensley, made their way onto the College Hockey America All-Academic Team at the close of the year, and Hensley and Lyndsay Kirkham were recognized as CHA Student-Athletes of the Year.

Meet the Newcomers

G Jolene Debruyn, St. Francis Xavier H.S.

Debruyn managed a save percentage of .920 or better during all four seasons with St. Francis Xavier (Alberta), to go along with her goals-against average below 2.00 as a sophomore and junior. She skated for Team Alberta at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

Coach Spencer on Debruyn (via LindenwoodLions.com):

“Jolene is a very calm, technical goalie that has big save capabilities,” said Spencer. “She’s battle tested with good size.”

D Alexandra Larson, Pursuit of Excellence

With Pursuit, Larson tallied a goal and nine assists in her senior season, and was named the MVP at the World Sports School Challenge.

Coach Spencer on Larson (via LindenwoodLions.com):

“Ally is a smooth skating defenseman that can make a play and defend with the best players in the country,” said Spencer. “Her skating allows her to have an impact on the offensive side of the puck as well.”

F Carla Goodwin, Pursuit of Excellence

Goodwin tallied 17 goals and 31 assists with Pursuit and participated in three World Sports School Challenges, never finishing lower than third.

Coach Spencer on Goodwin (via LindenwoodLions.com):

“Carla is responsible two-way forward that just does everything well,” said Spencer. “She blocks shots, gets every puck out, and is relentless on the forecheck and backcheck.”

F Tirra Lemoine, Pursuit of Excellence

Lemoine was a World Sports School Challenge champion in 2015, and tallied six goals and 12 assists total with Pursuit. She was also named to Team Manitoba and competed with the squad at the 2013 Canadian National Women’s Under-18 Championships, winning silver.

Coach Spencer on Lemoine (via LindenwoodLions.com):

“Tirra is strong, powerful skater that is good along the wall and will block shots,” said Spencer. “She has the ability to play in many situations for us.”

F Shannon Morris-Reade, West Coast Avalanche

Over the last two seasons, Morris-Reade scored 46 goals and 30 assists for the Avalanche. A two-time Esso Cup competitor, she skated for Team British Columbia at both the 2014 and 2015 Canada Winter Games, as well as at the Canadian U18 Nationals in 2013.

Coach Spencer on Morris-Reade (via LindenwoodLions.com):

“Shannon brings size and tenacity that will be hard to match anywhere in the country,” said Spencer. “She has good touch around the net and is willing to go to the dirty areas to have success.”

F Corbin Welsh, Pursuit of Excellence

Welsh helped Pursuit to a silver medal and a bronze medal while competing in two World Sports School Challenges, collecting 13 goals and 19 assists during the past two seasons with the team.

Coach Spencer on Welsh (via LindenwoodLions.com):

“Corbin is great two-way hockey player,” said Spencer. “She has good size, skates well, and is extremely effective in the face-off circles.”

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: F Jordan Constance, F Katie Erickson, F Lyndsay Kirkham, F Alyssa West
Key Returners: G Nicole Hensley, F Shara Jasper, F Sarah Bobrowski, D Caitlyn Nokelby, D Carrie Atkinson, D Brooke Peden
Key Additions: F Carla Goodwin, F Shannon Morris-Reade, D Ally Larson, G Jolene Debruyn

The Lions will be entering just their fifth season of Division I play, and their fourth competing in College Hockey America. As expected, it’s been a bit of tough sledding so far as the team finds its footing at the D-I level. But they’ve seen some improvements already; with head coach Scott Spencer behind the bench for his first season in 2014-15, the team posted its best record so far at 10-21-2. Seven of those wins came out of CHA competition, one less than both Syracuse and Robert Morris and two less than Penn State, showing that the Lions are at least capable of pushing most teams in their own conference.

Lindenwood’s transition has largely been helped by their standout in net, Nicole Hensley. She’s a .920 save percentage goalie for her career despite facing well over 3,000 shots over the course of her three seasons with the team. Now firmly in the pool of goaltenders for USA Hockey after several stints with the U.S. Under-22 Team, Hensley can pretty consistently keep games within reach for the Lions. With her ability to stand on her head, and the sheer amount of work that she handles in net, she is the team’s backbone.

With Hensley in between the pipes, Lindenwood can build out from her, but they don’t have the same type of game-breaking pieces at either of their skating positions. They’re losing a lot of their scoring core up front, as the departures of Jordan Constance, Katie Erickson, Lyndsay Kirkham, and Alyssa West leave the team without 56.5% of its points from last season. Senior Shara Jasper was a leader last year for the team, tying for the lead in points with 27, and she’ll be a go-to player for the Lions again. Beyond that, they’ll look for contributions from their younger players, including rookies Carla Goodwin and Shannon Morris-Reade. Sophomore Sarah Bobrowski should be able to step up into a top-six role, and classmate Britannia Gillanders was the squad’s leading freshman scorer last year with nine points.

On the blue line, Lindenwood returns all six defensemen from last year and is adding a player in freshman Ally Larson. Senior Brooke Peden and juniors Carrie Atkinson and Katie Nokelby will all help steady the defensive corps, and the addition of Larson will bolster the group stronger overall as she should slide into the top-four right away. They lack a player with truly dynamic abilities, but this is a fairly veteran group and the focus for them will mostly just be on playing well within their system and accelerating the transition game as efficiently as possible.

Lindenwood makes for an interesting team because they have Hensley in net, who has by this point established herself as the top goaltender in the CHA coming into the year. Having her to rely on takes some pressure off the rest of the team defensively, but they still need to limit time spent in their own zone. That has consistently been one of their biggest struggles since making the jump up four years ago, and one of the hardest ones to overcome for a team still trying to build itself. The talent coming in from Spencer’s first recruiting class should help a bit. With the amount of scoring lost, it’s difficult to project this Lions team finishing higher than where they did last year, but it’s worth noting that there were teams within reach of them in the conference standings. A big year from Hensley and a good showing from their rookies could help them improve.

Schedule Highlights

Sept. 26-27 vs. Minnesota Duluth
Oct. 2-3 vs. Ohio State
Oct. 10 at Northeastern
Nov. 6-7 vs. Syracuse
Nov. 13-14 at Mercyhurst
Jan. 6-7 at Bemidji state
Jan. 22-23 vs. Mercyhurst
Feb. 5-6 vs. RIT
Feb. 12-13 at Penn State
Feb. 19-20 at Syracuse

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