The Dalhousie women’s hockey team underwent an overhaul of their roster. Nine players left from last season’s team, 11 first years replace them. It is a dramatic change, even for a university sports team whose roster naturally changes from year to year due to players graduating and transferring schools.
Just past the halfway mark of the season, the team isn’t quite where they hoped they would be, but they’re confident that the youth movement has been to their benefit.
“They bring another level of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and to get better every day,” says Head Coach Sean Fraser about the rookies. “They make it difficult on me to put the lineup in every week because they’ve all been contributing.”
Sure enough, the younger players have been instrumental in creating offence for Dal. Rookie Brooklyn Paisley is tied for the team lead in scoring with four goals and three assists in 12 games, and fellow first-years Kennedy Whelan and Amy Wilson join her among the biggest offensive threats on the team. Fifteen of Dal’s 31 goals this season have come from first year players.
For the rookies, the youth movement has meant they’ve had chances to prove themselves without having to compete for ice time against more experienced players.
“They’re all getting an opportunity,” says Fraser. “They have to; they’re half our team.”
With so many first-years coming into the fold, it’s been especially important that veteran players, such as fourth-years Bianca Canadé, Natalie Stanwood and Lauren Ellerton, to bring stability and leadership to a young team. For all the changes they’ve made at forward, Dal has brought back six of their defenders as well as their starting goaltender.
Unfortunately, growing pains are inevitable when half the team has never played university hockey before, and Dal’s record is not stellar. They currently sit second last in the Atlantic University Sport women’s hockey standings, with a record of four wins, seven losses and two overtime losses at the time of writing. Despite strong goaltending from Fabiana Petricca, who has posted a very respectable .932 save percentage, they also sit last in the league in goals against, having allowed 45 goals in 13 games.
Still, Fraser is hopeful that with more chances to practice together and to gel as a team, the Tigers will manage to bounce back from those defensive woes in the second half of the season.
“Early on there was a lot of teaching and a lot of learning and people coming from all different places and playing different systems, so it’s certainly been a challenge, but they’ve bought in and we’re getting better every day,” he says.
One of those systems is the power play. They are last in power play percentage but third in goals scored. There is enough offensive talent; the team just needs to learn how to work as a unit on the power play.
If the team can improve, they will jump up the standings fairly quickly. There are only 5 points separating Dal and third place Saint Mary’s University. It will be interesting to see which direction the Tigers go in the winter semester.