Women's hockey seeks late-season success under new coach
In April 2016, Laura Schuler was named the next Dartmouth women’s ice hockey head coach. In addition to coaching at Dartmouth, Schuler is also in her second season as head coach of the Canadian National Team. With all of this experience, many hockey fans were highly anticipating Schuler’s Dartmouth debut and the the future prospects of the 2016-17 season after coming off a tough 2015-16 season with a 6-19-3 record. Unfortunately, this season has not been going as well as many fans had hoped or expected it to go. The team is currently 2-12-0 and on a seven-game losing streak.
“I think with any transition you’re going to have some rocky parts, but I think everything has gone as smooth as it possibly could have,” team captain Mackenzie St. Onge ’17 said.
Goalie Robyn Chemago ‘17 agreed, noting that it will take time for the team to adapt to the new coach.
“It has been difficult in some respects [like] getting adapted to her expectations,” Chemago said. “With our old coach, you kind of knew every year what you were getting into. This year it has been a lot of feeling it out, but I think we are finally getting used to it - so that’s good.It’s been a good transition, but at the end of the day we’re still playing hockey —— so it’s the same.”
Adapting to new ideas is understandably a difficult transition. A new coach means new concepts, training and ways of thinking. With different systems and points of emphasis, it is understandable that the transition has been a bit bumpy. On top of the coaching change, the team has also played several top-10 teams, including No. 4 St. Lawrence, No. 3 Clarkson, No. 8 Quinnipiac, and No. 6 Boston College. Schuler emphasized that as long as the team continues to play hard and learn, the positive results will start to show up in its overall record.
“These are highly intelligent women who really care about one another and their continued development as a team,” Schuler said. “They are learning a lot right now and in time these new ways of approaching the game will become habits of play for them. We have played many of [these teams and the games have been] close. If we can continue to play with pride, we’re going to start seeing some ‘W’s’ in the win column.”
There were several different answers given as to what the team needed to improve on.
“I wouldn’t really say there is one standout thing,” Chemago said. “I think right now we are just focused on making sure that we are prepared to be on our game right from the very first puck drop.”
St. Onge, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of the little things in the game that will eventually build up to the results to come.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture and say we’re not doing this big aspect of the game, but when you break it down it comes down to making solid passes, on ice awareness, and being mentally prepared,” St. Onge said.
This past weekend’s matches marked the beginning of the second half of the season and as of now, not the best start, with their most recent loses against Princeton and Quinnipiac, 0-4 and 1-3, respectively. In order to finish the season better, Coach Schuler calls on the team to continue practicing hard.
“A big focus for us moving forward is making sure that we come ready to battle everyday in practice and if we can do that, we will continue to make positive strides in games. Right now, we are working on playing with focus, discipline, relentlessness and work ethic.”
For St. Onge, it’s about having faith that their hard work is going to pay off and sticking to the game plan.
“The energy level and the team morale is definitely still high and we’re just rolling with that,” St. Onge said.
As for the future of the team, the next few years should be pretty exciting with a roster of 13 freshmen and sophomores. For Schuler and the team, the ultimate goal for this year and the next is to establish a solid base to grow on.
“We definitely have a lot of freshmen and sophomores —— a lot of youth, but a lot of hard workers, people with heart and talent,” St. Onge said. “I think as they continue to learn and grow and transition into playing college hockey more and more, there will be good things in it for [the team] in particular.”
According to Chemago, we can expect good things from recruits this year and in the years to come.
“I know they are working really hard with recruiting and we have some really good recruits —— there is a lot of potential,” she said.
The next time the women will take the ice at Thompson Arena this Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 7:00 p.m. against the University of New Hampshire, which holds a record of 9-12-1.