Is Bredin Salt Lake City Bound?
One of the most impressive aspects of the Dartmouth women's hockey team this season, besides its 11-2-1 (7-1 ECAC North) record and No. 6 national ranking, is that it has had so much success without arguably its best player: Correne Bredin '02.
The defenseman has spent the last six months trying to make the Canadian Olympic Team and has taken the year off from Dartmouth.
As a first-team ECAC defenseman last year -- she also led ECAC defensemen in scoring with 12 goals and 20 assists -- and the assistant captain on the 2001 under-22 Canadian National Team, Bredin was a prime candidate for this year's Olympic Squad north of the border.
She skated nonstop with the team at its training complex in Calgary, surviving round after round of cuts, until it came down to the final cut and she came up one spot short, becoming the first alternate.
"My status at the moment is that I am the seventh defenseman, so if anyone gets injured, I will go," Bredin said.
Not to delight in the misfortune of others, but because Canadian national teamer Therese Brisson was out for the last three months of 2001 and Geraldine Heaney went down with a knee injury just over two weeks ago, Bredin has been playing in every game for Team Canada.
Even though she may not play in Salt Lake City and is not officially on the final roster, Bredin is on the Canadian National Team for all intents and purposes as it travels around North America playing exhibitions. She didn't accomplish exactly what she set out to do in taking a year off from Dartmouth, but it has not been a lost season by any means.
"I wouldn't have given up this experience for anything," the 5-11 blueliner out of Warburg, Alberta, said. "I have learned more in these last six months than I imagined I would. I do miss Dartmouth a lot, especially the team, but this experience is something that could only come along once in a lifetime."
Dartmouth misses her, too, but not as much on the ice as one might think.
Last year's squad, which went 25-5-1 and spent most of the year atop the polls, was an egoless team that thrived on its depth and tenacity and collectively avoided anointing anyone a superstar. Even so, Bredin stood out.
"I have yet to see any other player in our league who is as versatile as she is in terms of being able to be dominant at any position she plays on the ice," team co-captain and close friend Kim McCullough '02 said. "Her ability to play 'quarterback' for the team from her defensive position and to jump into the attack and create offensive opportunities is unparalleled."
Truly, with an agility and smoothness on her skates that belie her speed and power, Bredin is the rare player who can do everything on the ice with grace and efficacy. There are few more thrilling things in the game of hockey than to watch than a defenseman weaving from one end of the ice to the other, Bobby Orr-style.
Bredin did it often.
In addition, she ran the power play and created almost as many scoring opportunities for Dartmouth as she disrupted for its opponents.
Nevertheless, the team has coped with her absence.
The Big Green's nation-leading goals-per-game average has jumped from 4.25 to 5.00. In addition, the team allows only 1.86 goals-per-game -- as opposed to 1.81 last season -- good for eighth in the country.
Surprisingly, the Big Green power play is also thriving, even without its focal point.
The unit is converting on 23.9 percent of its opportunities -- sixth in the nation -- which easily surpasses last year's 17.1 percent efficiency rating.
Talented freshmen blueliner Alan BreMiller and Alex Zagaria have picked up some of the slack, while the development of Louise Pietrangelo '04 and the return of Kristin Romberg '01, who was injured all last season, have made the blueline one of the Big Green's strengths.
Still, no combination of players can really replace someone as special as Bredin.
"The defense has done a pretty good job filling her shoes," co-captain Kristin King '02, also a close friend of Bredin's, said, "but obviously it's not the same. Her presence is very unique."
It is the loss of the intangibles, things not found on the stat sheet, that the team has felt most poignantly.
"Correne's role as a leader of this team is what we miss most about her this season," McCullough said. "She has always been a player who everyone looks up to and respects. She is such a genuine, unselfish and modest person.
"I know for a fact that every member of this team misses her more as a close friend than as a player this season," she added.
As much as Bredin and the team have missed one another, the Big Green has been heavily involved in the blueliner's experience with the National Team. Half the team went up to Montreal to see her play Team USA -- against whom Team Canada is 0-8 -- in a game in which Bredin scored a goal.
It was disappointing to everyone associated with Dartmouth that Bredin did not make the team, even if she has had the opportunity to play as many games as she would have as an official member.
"I was surprised she didn't make the team," coach Judy Oberting '94 said. "She's got the size and the speed and the skills. To me, it doesn't make any sense, but obviously I'm not making those decisions out there. She certainly was right there."
Her teammates share her coach's sentiments, and then some.
"She has worked so hard for this opportunity and she deserves it more than anyone," King said. "Everyone will be pulling for her and rooting her on. It is something she has dreamed about since she was a little kid, and we all think that it is awesome that she has had the opportunity to live out her dreams."
Bredin may still have a chance, but the odds get a little more remote everyday.
Recently, the National Team passed over Bredin to name Cherie Piper '06 -- who will play for Dartmouth as a freshman next year -- to the squad, even though Bredin had quite a bit more game experience.
Characteristically, Bredin has taken it all in stride.
"Even with her status on the team being completely up in the air, she rarely complains about the opportunity that she has been given," Mcullough added. "We blitz and talk often and she is always more interested in hearing about what is going on here rather than talking about her situation with the team."
Oberting is also impressed: "What's been amazing has been her attitude.
"She got cut two months ago, but she's been there everyday and she's played in every game that they have played."
Most of all, Bredin is proud to have had the chance to represent her country.
"It is a great opportunity and I am very privileged and honored to be a part of it," she said.
Dartmouth is proud of her, too.
Even if the Hanover faithful don't get a chance to root for her in Salt Lake City, and they may still have that chance, they can at least take solace in the fact that they will get to see No. 12 back in Dartmouth green next season.