Women’s squad mixes exhibition games with a solid dose of bonding
One of the few success stories from the sports at the U of R last year was the women’s hockey team. This year, the team started their season in style, by travelling to Sweden for a few exhibition games. The girls had some tough competition while there, and managed to come away with one big win, 4-0 over Sundsvall IF, and two close losses; to Leksands IF 4-3 in overtime, and AIK, 3-2. The outcome on the ice wasn’t the most important aspect of the trip, though. Sure, using exhibition games to prepare for the season is important, but as anyone who has went on a trip with their team knows, the bonding that happens can do more for a team than any amount of exhibition games ever could. That is why, when Head Coach Sarah Hodges was asked how this trip prepared them for the season, she didn’t mention anything about the games.
What she did say was, “It brought our team together and allowed our new people to get integrated very quickly.”
Some examples of the team building that they did were things like church boat races, raft building and hiking, to go along with tours of Stockholm and Sundsvall.
Even though her team made it to the Canada West Quarterfinals last year, Coach Hodges isn’t getting to ahead of herself this year.
“My expectations are that we will be competitive and that we will be a tough team to beat.”
That seems like a pretty safe bet for a team that is only losing one of their top four scorers, in Kylie Gavelin. She was their best player, but with a couple of vets like Sawchuk and Meszaros, who were second and third in team scoring coming back, they should have no trouble with offence. Not to mention, Emma Waldenberger who finished fourth on the team in scoring as a rookie. You can expect for an improvement from her, as she gets more comfortable with the level of play.
However each new season comes with new obstacles for a team to overcome, but there seems to be one recurring obstacle every year.
“The biggest obstacles are always managing school and remaining focused once everyone is busy again,” says Coach Hodges, “The schedule is a grind and it is easy to fall back into bad habits when you’re tired. We have to make sure we all manage ourselves and learn to only bring positives to the dressing room, regardless of what goes on outside of it.”
Based on the Cougars’ team bonding trip, plus their regular preseason games that they will play, I think that they will come flying out of the gates this year and have a really good start to the season. The loss of their best player from last year will hurt, and it will show at points this year, but they have capable people who will step up and lead the team. By the end of the season, I think that they will find their way back to the Canada West Quarterfinals, and once they’re there it’s anyone’s to take.