EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - The UW-Eau Claire women's hockey team returns to action Friday when it opens its season with a non-conference game at Hobbs Ice Center versus Bethel University. Action will start at 7 p.m.
Last season, the Blugolds went 14-8-5 overall and were 10-6-4 in NCHA play which was a program high conference win total. Their season came to an end with a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss that came in a mini game vs. Concordia-Wisconsin. The Blugolds look to come back from that loss and capitalize off of last year's successes.
With the loss due to graduation of all-time career point and goal leader and ACHA All-American Kristin Faber, leading the team offensively this year will be senior forward Toni Simones (Sr.-Rosemount, Minn./South St Paul). Last season Simones had a career-high 19 points, which ranked her second statistically on the team. She led the Blugolds in assists and was able to find the back of the net five times last season.
Alongside Simones will be fellow returning forwards Dani Kerr (Jr.-Little Canada, Minn./Roseville) (7 goals-8 assists-15 points), Casey McMullen (Jr.-Minneapolis, Minn./South) (6-7-13), Nikki Kothenbeutel (So.-Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice) (5-7-12), Emily Haluska (Jr.-Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) (6-4-10), Allison Malecek (Jr.-Maple Plain, Minn./Delano) (3-5-8), and Abbie Hawthorne (Jr.-Brookfield, Wis./Central) (1-3-4).
On the defensive side the team returns three letterwinners. Junior Katie Ward (Andover, Minn./Coon Rapids) returns this year after having last season cut short because of an injury. Defending with her will be sophomore Emily Larson (Bemidji, Minn.), who was named to the 2010-11 NCHA All-Rookie team, and Stephanie Hatcher (So.-Burnsville, Minn./Lakeville North).
In goal, the Blugolds return three tenders with playing experience. Junior Mara Stormer (Waunakee, Wis.) played in 21 games, starting 16, and recorded a 1.94 goals against average and .914 save percentage. Sophomore Ally Derthick (Knoxville, Tenn./New Hampton Prep) got in some time last year as well starting five games and recording a 2.05 goals against average and .900 save percentage. Also returning back to the squad this year is Morgan Pieper (Sr.-Williams, Minn./Warroad), who last played in the 2008-09 season. During that time in goal, Pieper had a .80 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.
The Blugolds will be home again next weekend to kick off NCHA conference play against St. Scholastica, start time of 2 p.m., before heading on the road for two weeks.