Although a trip to Minnesota and North Dakota did not produce a victory for the standings, the women’s hockey team captured something more important: team unity.
The team’s bonding experience may have provided immediate dividends in the win over Niagara less than a week later. The team made visible strides in performance along the way.
“The trip gave our team some excitement and something to sincerely look forward to,” said Erin Sweet, freshman defenseman for the Bobcats. “We took the trip as a challenge and a chance to truly become a united team.”
Minnesota State-Mankato proved tough competition for the Bobcats, who entered the trip with a 3-10 overall record. In two games versus the Mavericks, QU mustered just one goal, falling 6-0 and 5-1, respectively. But senior goaltender Mel Courtemanche combined for 69 saves in the games. Senior forward Debbie Beaudoin scored the lone goal for the Bobcats, off a pass from sophomore Gillian Gallagher.
QU skated with St. Cloud State next, falling just short, 4-3. The women played from behind the entire game, but kept it close with goals from sophomore forward Caitlin Peters, freshman forward Katie O’Hara (notching her first collegiate goal) and Gallagher. The Huskies put one passed Courtemanche (who had 27 saves on the day) late in the third period.
Three games and a week later, QU was set to face North Dakota. With battered bodies and bruises, the Bobcats could not find the answer against the Fighting Sioux, either.
“My spirit was high, but my body was drained,” said Beaudoin. “I could feel my body wearing down.”
In the first of a two-game series, two goals by Gallagher and another for O’Hara were not enough, even though sophomore goalie Catherine Lapare had a good evening with 28 saves.
By the last game of the trip, the Bobcats were wiped out. North Dakota caught Quinnipiac in the second game, a 7-2 beating. Freshman Kathryn Dallimore and senior Liz Jankowski scored the goals for the Bobcats. Courtemanche and Lapare combined for 28 saves.
“Even though we had lost our games I felt as a team we pulled things together,” Beaudoin said. “It was hard to come home without a win, but not all games are based on the score.”
Finally home, QU’s next game was against Yale. It was another 4-3 loss, with a goal from sophomore defenseman Jayne Riley and two by senior forward Serena Hillman. Courtemanche had another good night, with 36 saves.
The week did not look to get any easier with a trip to Niagara, a team from last year’s Frozen Four. Quinnipiac surprised the Purple Eagles with goals from Gallagher and Hillman and 27 saves by Lapare to snap the Bobcats nine-game skid with a 2-1 victory.
“To have our team play as hard and as smart as we did, proved that we are a strong developing team,” said Beaudoin. “Who does not buckle under pressure. (We) played the game we knew how to and took advantage of situations given to us.”
The game was monumental for the team, which surpassed last seasons inaugural win total of three and made first year head coach Michael Barrett the winningest coach in Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey history.
“Coach Barrett is very dedicated to the team,” said Jamie Baer, freshman forward for the Bobcats. “And he does all that he can to improve us as players and to improve the hockey program as a whole.”
Quinnipiac pushed its mark to 4-16 on the season after the tough winter break schedule. Now we will see if they can continue making strides in the last month of the season.