PROVIDENCE, RI – Four years ago, the Johnson & Wales University women's ice hockey team was preparing for its first NCAA Division III competition. On Friday, the seniors from that first team begin their final season when the Wildcats open the 2018-19 campaign.
Johnson & Wales will take on Sacred Heart at 3:55 p.m. at Lynch Arena in Pawtucket, RI.
The second season under head coach Natalie Zitek does come with some transition as JWU will join a new conference. The Wildcats are the latest members of the New England Hockey Conference.
JWU was picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches' poll with 33 points, coming in just behind Suffolk. Defending national champion Norwich received all nine first place votes and was the unanimous top selection.
Coach Zitek brings back six of her top seven scorers, including sophomore forward Drea Westgaard who finished second in the CHC last year with 18 points and fourth at 11 goals. Junior Kathryn Mason tied Westgaard with 11 goals.
The biggest question mark is in goal as the graduation of Kami Weiner leaves the starting spot wide open. Junior Taylor Duquette will battle with freshman Jasmine Mucci and sophomore Claire Parry for time between the pipes.
After the opening home-at-home series with Sacred Heart, the Wildcats go on the road for their first NEHC game at Southern Maine. Former head coach Maria Lewis brings her New England College team to Lynch Arena on February 2 and the defending champion Cadets come in on February 9.