Women's hockey plays eight of first nine games on the road

Photo by Josh McKee
Photo by Josh McKee

The Hamilton College Continentals return the vast majority of their offense and key defensive personnel from last season when they set the team record for most wins and advanced to the NESCAC championship semifinals for the first time since 2007.

Hamilton finished with an overall record of 16-8-2 and tied for second place in the conference standings at 9-5-2. The Continentals posted a 3-1 victory over Colby in the NESCAC quarterfinals at Russell Sage Rink behind a season-high 40 saves by Gab Venne '22. Hamilton fought admirably in the semifinals before falling 3-1 against Middlebury at Williams the following weekend.

The Continentals finished last season second in the conference in scoring offense with 2.50 goals per game and third in scoring defense at 1.62 goals allowed per contest. Hamilton ended up second on the power play as the Continentals scored nearly once out of every four opportunities (20-for-86). Hamilton didn't give its opponents many power-play chances as the Continentals averaged 5.6 penalty minutes per game, which was the fourth-lowest average in Division III. Hamilton didn't mind the long change in the second period last season when the Continentals outscored opponents 26-12.

Head Coach Emily McNamara -- the 2017 NESCAC coach of the year -- has 85 wins in seven seasons including 43 in the last three. 2019 NESCAC Women's Hockey Rookie of the Year Nancy Loh '22 leads the offense. Michaela Giuttari '20 was on the all-conference team in 2018 as a forward but is now on defense and will help make up for the loss of all-conference defender Taegan Blackwell '19.

Loh led the NESCAC in first-year scoring and was tied for second among all players with 26 points. She also tied for second with 11 goals and five power-play tallies and tied for third with 15 assists. Mya Berretta '22 was fourth in first-year scoring with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists).

Six of the eight players who reached double figures in points last season are back including forwards Kate Piacenza '21 with nine goals and seven assists and Missy Segall '21 with five goals and seven helpers. Union College-transfer Jess Haviland '21 added three goals and six assists, and Maddie Beitler '21 and Alayna Trice '20 chipped in seven points apiece. Madie Bologa '21, Karina Sirabian '21 and Timary Malley '20 will compete for playing time as well.

Kelli Mackey '20 tied for ninth in defender scoring with 10 points including eight assists and Giuttari added 10 points on four goals and six assists. Lexi Takashima '22 (25 games, 4 points) and Emily Walther '21 (26 games, 4 points) are the only other returners on the blue line. Four first-year players will provide depth on defense this season.

The goaltending position is in great hands with Venne, Sammy Johnson '20 and Sidney Molnar '22. Venne didn't make her first start until Jan. 4 when she helped Hamilton win the 2019 Saint Michael's College Delta Hotels Burlington Ice Hockey Classic as the Continentals outscored the University of Southern Maine and Buffalo State College 12-2. She didn't become the No. 1 goaltender until Feb. 1 and then she started each of the last nine games. She finished second in the conference with a .949 save percentage and was third with a 1.32 goals against average. Johnson (6-3-0 record, 1.56 GAA, .931 save pct.) and Molnar (2-2-1, 1.99 GAA, .907 save pct.) should challenge Venne again after all three started multiple NESCAC games last season.

The schedule is challenging, especially during the first half when Hamilton is on the road eight times in its first nine games. The Continentals open with two games at Amherst on Nov. 15 and 16 and they are at Williams for two more conference contests the following weekend. The Sage Rink opener is Nov. 26 against Morrisville State and the NESCAC home weekends are against Bowdoin (Jan. 10-11), Trinity (Jan. 17-18), Middlebury (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) and Connecticut College (Feb. 21-22). On Jan. 7 Hamilton plays at home against Nazareth College for the first time.

The team captains are Johnson, Mackey and Trice.