After a senior-laden team nearly took the team to the playoffs last season, this year’s girls varsity hockey team features a host of younger players who will look to build similar success for the future.
“Every team is different from year to year, but knowing that the team has so many great young players is definitely very encouraging, not only for this season, but for future seasons as well,” said co-captain Sandrine Brien ’20.
After graduating eight seniors from last year’s 14-5-2 squad, this year’s roster includes 12 preps and lower mids. Head coach Corey Cooper acknowledged that many of the younger players will face a learning curve adapting to the challenge of playing against more experienced skaters. “There’s less time to make decisions – any form of hesitation enables the other team to come right back at you,” she said.
But Cooper, now in her second year at the helm, expressed optimism and enthusiasm about this season and the future to come, adding that several of the lower mids who were preps on the team last season are now playing like veteran skaters.
“There are a lot of really good kids – good people and serious students who are ready to learn from the older kids,” said Cooper. “Hopefully, they will hit their stride in the next 2-3 years so they can become the team’s leaders.”
For now, the team will look to anchor itself on senior leadership in the back, with experienced defenders Jelani Adorno ’20 and Emily Ferguson ’20. Backing them up will be a stellar netminder in Maggie Hatch ’21, who earned effusive praise from Cooper for her play last year.
“She’s a poster child for Hotchkiss. She gets it done in the classroom and is an outstanding athlete – more than anything, the kind of kid a coach wants on her bench,” said Cooper. “She’s one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. It’s never about Maggie.”
Cooper pointed to Hatch’s rebound control and her ability to reset her focus after a tough play as some of her practical advantages in the net.
One of the essential areas of focus for the team as it develops will be maintaining possession. Brien was confident in the ability of the Bearcats to do just that. “I think we do a good job of controlling the puck, really finding each other well when we play down low in the offensive zone,” she said.
Brien added that the team thus far has applied effective defensive pressure on the puck, and that she expected players to improve on both offense and defense over the next several weeks.
Unlike last season, where scoring was concentrated to a small group of skaters, Cooper said she hoped for a more balanced attack this year. “It would be really cool if we could get production from a wide spread of kids,” she said.