The Cougars women’s hockey team has their sights set on one thing this year: a National Championship.
The girls have set the bar high this year, but with a record of 6-4-0 and currently sitting in fourth place in the Canada West standings, they just might be able to pull it off.
Fifth-year leaders of the squad, team captain Rianne Wight, and assistant captains Gina Campbell and Paige Wheeler, all feel a sense of urgency to succeed in their final season.
Head coach, Sarah Hodges – who is currently in her fourteenth year as bench boss – is also ready to win.
The team is having a fairly good year so far and the players seem happy with both their individual and team performances.
“We had a strong start,” said Wight, who leads the Cougars with 10 points in 10 games so far this season. “We usually aren’t in this good of a position this many games in. “Our defence are really stepping up for us … we have two goaltenders fighting [for the number one spot],”
Both Campbell and Wheeler noted that many areas of the team have improved, both mentioning the talented rookies that have joined the team this year, who they think help to make the team a more well rounded squad.
Hodges also feels the team is stronger this year.
“We’ve played more consistently. We’ve gotten points off of every team we’ve played,” she said. “We didn’t do that last year. We need to continue to do that to make the playoffs.”
Compared to previous years, the girls are doing very well. The last time the Cougars women’s hockey team made playoffs was in the 2009-10 season, where they sported a 7-11-6 record.
“It’s good to be an underdog because then you know every game you have nothing to lose and you can give it your all. Winning feels that much better when you’re not expected to.” – Rianne Wight
This year’s squad only needs two wins to eclipse that mark
After not making the playoffs for the last three years it seems as if the girls are underdogs this year.
“I think people thought we were going to be like we were in previous years, but we’re not,” remarked Wheeler.
“It’s good to be an underdog because then you know every game you have nothing to lose and you can give it your all,” added Wight. “Winning feels that much better when you’re not expected to.”
With their underdog status, the girls are hoping to fill the stands more and more with every win.
“We want to be a team that brings crowds to the rink,” remarked Campbell.
Hodges however, doesn’t feel as if the team is underdogs. Rather she feels that every team starts off with a clean slate every year.
“I think everyone in our league knows that anyone can beat any other team on any given night,” stated Hodges.
Overall, the girls are feeling good about this season. However, this year they are wearing the captain’s letters on their sleeves, and in the final season of their careers.
“[There is] more pressure, more responsibility,” noted Wight, “You can’t just go and play your game, you have to worry more about what other people are doing too.”
As the team prepares to travel to Edmonton this weekend to play the University of Alberta Panda, they are in a good space.
“We’ve come a long way in the pre-season,” said Campbell. “We’re sitting at a good spot right now going into the Christmas break and we will continue on [in the New Year].”
Hodges agreed with Campbell, but the veteran coach knows that the work isn’t over yet.
“We’ve made progress in some areas, but we really need to continue to push and keep winning,” she said.
Photo courtesy facebook.com