Women’s Ice Hockey prepares for Div. I in CHA conference

By Chase Stewart

The Lindenwood Lions women’s ice hockey team is gearing up for the 2012-13season in which they will compete in the College Hockey America (CHA) Conference at the NCAA Div. I level.

Last season, the Lady Lions competed as an independent in the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association. Then a press conference was held in spring to announce the move to the CHA.

The conference will have five teams, not including LU: Rochester Institute of Technolo

gy, Robert Morris University, Syracuse University, Mercyhurst College and Penn State University.

The Lady Lions are looking to improve on an 8-21 record from a season ago. Head Coach Vince O’Mara believes his team will do just that. “Looking back from last year we have improved our depth as a team so much across the board,” O’Mara said. “We are excited about our chances to compete this year and really improve throughout the process.”

The ice hockey team is the only sport at LU that competes at the Div. I level.

O’Mara noted how unique it is that his team is the only one at the university that competes in Div. I. “It’s really neat for the girls, yet it’s challenging at the same time for us coaches in the sense that it’s difficult at times getting the necessary tools from the administration for us to compete at the Div. 1 level since we

are the only sport here,” he said. “Other schools like Penn State and Syracuse don’t have to worry about things like that.”

In regards to goals for this year’s team, O’Mara is keeping them realistic, but is anticipating an improved team nonetheless. “I really expect our girls to take their physical fitness to a whole new level and really continue to develop the depth at every position on the ice so we can play hard from top to bottom,” O’Mara said. “We don’t have any Olympians on the team this year so we’re looking for some girls to step up.”

O’ Mara and Assistant Coach Katie Kells expressed excitement for matchups against new conference opponents this season. “We’re very excited to have Wisconsin here as a non-conference opp

onent. We’re also looking forward to traveling to Ohio State and also to host North Dakota. We are getting the chance to play against the very best that this sport has to offer and we are very, very excited,” Kells said.

The Lady Lions will not be eligible for the NCAA postseason tournament. “We can’t compete in the postseason tournament until next year but we are happy with the opportunity to possibly play in the conference postseason and possibly win our conference,” O’ Mara said.

The team is adding a third staff member in Cory Whitaker who comes in fr

om the University of Michigan. “Cory has been a great addition for us,” O’Mara said. “He is working with the goalies full-time and they are really improving and he will really help us out recruiting wise and take the burden off of me and Katie a bit.”

The Lady Lions open on the road Sept. 28 against Ohio State University. The Lions’ home opener will be Oct. 5when the University of Wisconsin pays them a visit, and they will open conference play against Mercyhurst College on Nov. 2.