2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: Mercyhurst Lakers

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: Michael Sisti (17th Season)
2015-16 Captains: Emily Janiga (C), Hannah Bale (A), J’nai Mahadeo (A)

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 23-9-3 (14-5-1 CHA/1st place)
College Hockey America Postseason: Conference semifinals; earned a bye to semifinal round with first-place regular-season finish, defeated by RIT in the semifinals

There were plenty of takeaways from the Lakers’ 2014-15 campaign, both good and bad; most expected the team to regress a bit, which they did, but they still maintained their spot atop the College Hockey America standings. They started the season off with a sweep over Providence and a win over Maine, before they tied the Black Bears and split with Northeastern. They then earned back-to-back sweeps, once against Minnesota State in nonconference action and another over CHA opponent Robert Morris. Mercyhurst suffered its first conference loss of the year on Nov. 8 in a series with Syracuse.

They performed well over the rest of the calendar year, going 7-0-1 from that point until a series with Penn State in the middle of December. Things went a little sour then, as the Lakers were swept by the Nittany Lions, and one began to wonder if they were in danger of losing their conference regular season crown. Series with Syracuse and St. Lawrence started off 2015, and Mercyhurst managed a 1-2-1 record in those four games, but picked it up again after that, ending the season on a 6-2-0 run to clinch first place in the CHA once again.

Still, the Lakers were fighting for the season in the postseason anyway, as they were not ranked high enough to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Winning the CHA Tournament became a must, but the Lakers were bounced for the second straight year by the Tigers, this time in the semifinals. With that, Mercyhurst missed out on a bid into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003-04.

Freshman Kirsten Miller was recognized as one of six CHA Student-Athletes of the Year during the postseason, and Emily Janiga was named the CHA’s Player of the Year. Joining her on the All-CHA First Team was senior defenseman Molly Byrne, who garnered Best Defenseman honors. Senior Amanda Makela was honored with the CHA Goaltending Trophy, and junior Jenna Dingeldein was named to the conference’s Second Team. Forward Sarah Robello earned a spot on the CHA All-Rookie Team.

Meet the Newcomers

G Sarah McDonnell, Stoney Creek Sabres

McDonnell was a four-time provincial medalist with the Sabres, going 16-1-4 in 2014-15 with a .936 save percentage and 1.03 goals-against average. In the playoffs, she backstopped the team to a PWHL championship with a .973 save percentage, 0.41 goals-against average, and a perfect 7-0 record. McDonnell was a member of Team Ontario at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, and also represented Team Ontario Blue at the 2013 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, winning a silver medal. She attended Hockey Canada’s Under-18 Strength and Conditioning Camp back in 2014.

G Kerri St. Denis, St. Paul’s School, Assabet Valley

St. Denis helped St. Paul’s (N.H.), capture the NEPSAC Division I Championship in 2014-15, stopping 88 of 90 shots in the tournament. She also helped her Assabet Valley club team win a state championship in 2015. With St. Paul’s in 2014-15, she posted a .963 save percentage and a 1.07 goals-against average. She was twice named to the American Family Insurance All-USA Girls Hockey Team.

D Molly Blasen, Honeybaked

With Honeybaked (Mich.), Blasen notched five points in five games at the 2015 U19 Challenge Cup. She also helped the club reach the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships in 2014, recording an assist at that tournament.

D Nicole Collier, Stoney Creek Sabres

Collier was a member of the 2015 PWHL Champion Sabres, and scored 19 points in 73 career games with the team. An inline hockey player as well, she was the youngest player to ever play for Canada’s National Inline Senior Women’s Hockey Team at 14 years old, winning gold with the squad at the 2012 World Championships.

D Samantha Fieseler, Canadian Under-18 Team, Pursuit of Excellence

Fieseler is a redshirt freshman with this year’s Lakers squad. She won gold with Team Canada at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, and also represented Team British Columbia at the 2013 Canadian National Women’s Under-18 Championship.

D Morgan Stacey, Honeybaked

Stacey helped Honeybaked win three Michigan state championships, in 2011, 2013, and 2014, and is a four-time USA Hockey national development camp invitee. She was recognized with the High Performance Hockey League’s Academic Excellence Award three times.

F Lea Boreland, Honeybaked

Another product of the Honeybaked club, Boreland also participated in USA Hockey’s Select Under-18 Player Development Camp back in 2014. She scored three goals and three assists at the 2015 U19 Challenge Cup, and had a goal and an assist at the 2014 USA Hockey Tier I National Championships.

F Jaycee Gebhard, Canadian Under-18 Team, Notre Dame Hounds

Gebhard was an assistant captain with Canada’s Under-18 Team at the 2015 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, leading the squad to a silver-medal finish. With Notre Dame, she’s been recognized as JWHL’s Player of the Year during her tenure, winning the league’s scoring race in 2012-13 with 25 goals, 16 assists, and 41 points. In 24 games in 2014-15, she notched 19 goals, 23 assists, and 42 points in 24 games.

F Sarah Hine, Stoney Creek Sabres

Like two of her classmates, Hine also won the 2015 PWHL Championship with Stoney Creek, scoring 10 points in 10 games. She had a career-high 25 points in 2013-14, and followed that up with nine goals, 11 assists, and 20 points in 2014-15. She participated in Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Selection Camp in December 2014, and represented Team Ontario at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

F Rachael Smith, Stoney Creek Sabres

During the Sabres’ run to the PWHL Championship in 2015, Smith tallied nine goals and five assists for 14 points through 10 postseason games, adding to her 22 goals, 15 assists, and 37 points in the regular season. She skated for Team Ontario Red at the 2015 Canada Winter Games and attended Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Selection Camp last December.

For more information on Mercyhurst’s incoming class, check out the HurstAthletics.com release here.

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: F Shelby Bram, D Molly Byrne, D Caroline Luczak, G Amanda Makela
Key Returners: F Emily Janiga, F Jenna Dingeldein, F Sarah Robello, F Meghan Whiddon, F Hannah Bale, D J’nai Mahadeo, D Lauren Kilroy, D Paige Horton
Key Additions: G Sarah McDonnell, G Kerri St. Denis, D Samantha Fieseler, D Morgan Stacey, F Jaycee Gebhard, F Sarah Hine, F Rachael Smith

The 2014-15 season was a little bit humbling for the Lakers, especially when combined with the results of the CHA Tournament back in 2014 as well. They’ve now missed out on the last two CHA titles, and last year it cost them a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The program has had to deal with the loss of several top players over the last few years, but even so, they’ve still managed to keep their spot at the very top of the league standings. The amount of star power throughout the Mercyhurst line-up has decreased, and with several key seniors now graduated from last year’s squad as well, the team has a lot to prove this season.

Perhaps their biggest loss is in net, with the graduation of Amanda Makela. In a 20-win season last year, she posted a .932 save percentage and 1.44 goals-against average. The Lakers will basically be starting over in goal, however, as their lone returnee, Jessica Convery, saw less than 20 minutes of action last season. They’re also bringing in two freshmen, Sarah McDonnell and Kerri St. Denis; all three goaltenders have gotten a look so far this season, with the two rookies splitting starting duties this past weekend against Northeastern. McDonnell probably has the higher ceiling, but it’s definitely going to take some time before Mercyhurst can settle on a go-to between the pipes.

The Lakers are taking a big hit on the blue line as well, with the loss of standout Molly Byrne and steady senior Caroline Luczak. Senior Lauren Kilroy and junior Paige Horton will assume much of the responsibilities on the defensive end, while senior J’nai Mahadeo, who scored 19 points last season, will be looked upon to fill even more of a two-way role in Byrne’s wake.  Junior Jillian Skinner, who has been a very reliable option throughout her career so far, will round out the top-four. Though they may be lacking in players who can provide a high level of impact, Mercyhurst doesn’t seem to be short on depth, as rookies Samantha Fieseler and Morgan Stacey should give the defensive corps a boost right away.

Up front, the Lakers return their top three leading scorers from last season, including the CHA’s Player of the Year, Emily Janiga. Janiga, along with fellow senior Jenna Dingeldein and sophomore Sarah Robello, will be counted on to drive this offense once again. They’re losing a pretty big secondary scorer in Shelby Bram, but they’ll look to senior Hannah Bale and junior Meghan Whiddon to help make up for that. Junior Taylor Accursi should also be able to contribute more if she can stay in the line-up, and rookies Jaycee Gebhard, Sarah Hine, and Rachael Smith all bring a good amount of skill to the table, which could help out Mercyhurst immediately.

With Janiga, Dingeldein, and Robello, the Lakers have a solid unit of dominant players, but beyond that, they’re lacking in high-end skill that can make an impact night in and night out. They’ve got a decent group of players to work with, but the real task at hand is going to be fitting everyone into roles and getting the most out of the full lineup. Players like Accursi, Gebhard, and Stacey could surprise with more productive years, but as we saw against Northeastern last weekend, Mercyhurst looks overmatched against teams that do have that kind of top talent throughout their lineup. Having one of their netminders separate herself and convincingly take over the starting duties would go a long way in helping the Lakers sustain themselves against those top teams, and I think we’ll see them earn another bye into the CHA semifinals, but they’re going to have a really tough time establishing themselves on a national level again.

Schedule Highlights

Oct. 2-3 at Quinnipiac (T 3-3, L 2-1)
Oct. 16-17 at Northeastern (L 5-4, L 7-3)
Oct. 23-24 vs. Princeton
Oct. 30-31 vs. Rochester Institute of Technology
Nov. 13-14 vs. Lindenwood
Nov. 20-21 vs. Cornell
Jan. 2-3 vs. Mercyhurst
Jan. 15-16 at Syracuse
Jan. 29-30 vs. Syracuse
Feb. 5-6 at Robert Morris
Feb. 12-13 at Rochester Institute of Technology
Feb. 19-20 vs. Penn State

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