CANTON -- Expectations are high for the St. Lawrence University women's hockey team as they open the season with a 7 p.m. nonconference game tonight at Mercyhurst.

The Saints, ranked sixth in the U.S. College Hockey Online national poll, are coming off a 28-6-4 overall record last year and a 16-3-3 mark in ECAC Hockey, which was second to Clarkson.

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SLU made the ECAC Hockey semifinals for a second straight year and appeared in the NCAA Tournament as well, falling 6-0 to Boston College in a quarterfinal.

"I think its going to benefit our team a lot," Saints captain Hannah Miller said of last year's postseason experience. "When you go to something like that there is obviously a lot more pressure. I think having a big group of returners, and going there and not having the outcome that we wanted, I think having all that to bring to this season will help us a lot moving forward."

The Saints got off to a hot start last season, scoring 11 goals in their first two games of the season against Northeastern and beginning with a 15-0-2 overall record.

SLU did not lose a game until Dec. 3, falling 4-1 at home to Clarkson.

The Saints followed their first loss with another loss in a nonconference game to Mercyhurst, then went 8-1-1 before ending the season in a bit of a rough stretch, going 3-3-1 in the final seven games including a 3-1 loss to Cornell in an ECAC Hockey semifinal and the loss at Boston College in the NCAA Tournament.

"We've got a lot of returning experience that will help on and off the ice for this coming year," associate head coach Ted Wisner said. "The Cornell loss was a tough one because we felt we played a fairly decent game. We gave them a pretty good run and just didn't get the bounces our way and that seemed to run into BC the next weekend."

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This season, the team is hoping to replicate what it did last year but add a bit more postseason success, and it seems equipped to challenge rival Clarkson for the ECAC Hockey title and perhaps enjoy success in the national tournament as well.

"I'd say our chemistry definitely carried over from last year, only losing a couple players," assistant captain Nadine Edney said. "The freshmen coming in are really focused on hockey, which is nice. It's pretty much the same (as last year) going into it. It's a new season kind of feel."

SLU lost its top scorer, Brooke Webster (23 goals-34 assists) to graduation, but returns her two productive linemates from last year in Kennedy Marchment (20-36) and Miller (15-33). SLU also brings back Justin Reyes (13-10), who appears to be moving into Webster's old line spot.

The Saints also added a transfer from Mercyhurst in forward Rachael Smith, who was the Lakers' fourth-leading scorer last year with eight goals and 11 assists.

"We lost three really good seniors on and off the ice," Miller said. "Losing only three is a small number so I think that's really positive for us moving forward. I think we should be a pretty exciting team to watch. The style of play we like is quick-paced and fast, so I think that plays nicely into the offensive aspect of the game of hockey."

The Saints lost two key seniors on defense in Kirsten Padalis and Alex Moore, but return standout goalie Grace Harrison (23-6-4, 1.62 goals-against average, .923 save percentage).

"It was all business on the ice (last season)," Wisner said. "That didn't so much carry over into the locker room, they were a pretty loose group, they weren't gripping the sticks very tight. They just went out on the ice and worked hard and took care of business when it was time. That came from the leadership we had. We have a good group of leadership right now." 

This article is written by Cap Carey from Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.