By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
The Miami University women's hockey team begins its national title defense this weekend as it takes on the University of Lindenwood-Belleville in two games at the Goggin Ice Center. The RedHawks have had a quick ascension to the top of the women's hockey landscape, as the program has only been around since 2010.
Head coach Scott Hicks has built quite the program in such a brief period of time, compiling a record of 52-36-9 on his way to earning 2013-14 ACHA Coach of the Year honors and earning a spot as an assistant coach for Team USA for the 2015 World University Games.
"In practice, we've been working on paying attention to detail and working on the little things early on," Hicks said of the team's preparation for this weekend. "We have a really strong team returning, but we have to stay humble and possibly work even harder this year because we have a target on us and we have to stay focused. We'll be led by underclassmen, like last year, and we have lots of leadership and it's not just from one person."
The RedHawks will be returning 13 of the players that helped in bringing the national crown to Oxford with a 30-2-3 record in the 2013-2014 season, including senior forward Lindsey Ellis, junior defenders Katie Lincoln, captain Morgan McGrath, Jesse Gould along with junior forwards Izzy Smith and Hayley Williams.
Smith has accounted for 34 goals and 40 assists in her career as a RedHawk, which is good enough for second place in program history in both categories. McGrath has tallied 20 assists in her time in Oxford. Smith is also the all-time leader for the 'Hawks with eight power play goals and 72 penalty minutes.
Sophomore goaltender Emalee Wills will see major action this season after recording eight wins in last season with a 95 percent save percentage and 0.7 goals against average. The team lost Dana Lovin, who earned 27 wins and made 1,378 saves as the netminder for the Red and White.
Lindenwood-Belleville is entering its inaugural season as both a program and a member of the Western Women's Collegiate Hockey League.
The team is also unique in that there are only two players on the roster that are not freshmen: junior forwards Jaylene Anderson and Delaney Peters. Anderson was an assistant captain at Rainy River Community College, while Peters was a captain for Rainy River last season.
"We've been working on our communication and bonding with each other," Ellis said of the team's practices. "This team hasn't been practicing for very long but we look forward to defending our national championship. As a senior, I want everyone to enjoy it and just have fun; that's the foremost thing. It is just a game but the younger players need to understand that it's an honor and a privilege to play here."
Miami opens the season against the Lynx 10 p.m. Friday and face them again 1 p.m. Saturday.