In just its first year of eligibility for the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championship, Slippery Rock University women’s ice hockey team finished second in the Ashly Moyer Memorial division with a regular season record of 10-2-1 and earned the number two ranking in the east to qualify for the National Championship.
The Rock is coached by 2011 SRU Alumnus Matt Ligman, who is in his first year as head coach.
“We have had a lot of ups and downs this season,” Ligman said. “It took a while for us to get together earlier in the season and we’ve had situations where we’ve lost players and had to have players fill in, and they’ve done a nice job.”
The Rock is led by junior Christy Paschutca with 31 points, 27 goals and four assists.
“We did pretty well this season,” Paschutca said. “We ended up beating Cal. U for the first time in our history. It’s pretty awesome to be the first team in SRU history going to nationals. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of deal. If luck is on your side, and you’re a good team, you will make it.”
Joining Paschutca as a leader on the ice is senior captain Katie Sines.
Despite finishing the year with seven points, three goals and four assists, Sines finished the year second on the team in plus minus, with +10.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Sines said on making the national tournament. “From when I first came here, the team wasn’t even in a league, but we have developed. We have a lot more talent than we had four years ago.”
Freshman goalie Tori Sheffel started all 13 games for the Rock, finishing with a save percentage of .916% while recording two shutouts.
“Tori Sheffel’s been awesome this year,” Ligman said. “She’s made a lot of really big saves. She’s 4’11, but she plays like she’s six feet tall. She’s fast and has good positioning.”
Even though it was their first year of eligibility for the tournament, Ligman had high expectations for the team.
“Last year we were not eligible for the tournament,” Ligman said. “Nobody expected us to be as good as we were, but I expected us to be. I knew we had a lot of talent and could surprise some people. It’s really exciting to make the national tournament in our first season of eligibility. I came into this season expecting excellence and to win our conference. Unfortunately, we didn’t and all three teams from the east came out of our conference and finishing second shows a lot. I think a lot of people expected an average season.”
Since this is The Rock’s first year in the tournament, the level of preparation will be higher because the competition is so strong in the tournamnent.
“We just had our conference tournament and lost both games we played,” Ligman said. “The focus level wasn’t there. We definitely have to take it to the next level. You have to leave it all on the ice, every shift, every second. Last year we went undefeated in conference play. This year, it’s different. Games are closer and tighter. The teams out west play faster and make less mistakes. Teams out west have won the last six championships.”
The Rock will begin the tournament March 10th at 8:30 p.m. against the University of Wisconsin Stoutt.