Small town to top program

Nick Solari

Emma Woods always has hockey on her mind.

Growing up, Woods’ parents, both farmers in southern Canada, lived for sports. Emma and her two brothers found hockey to be their favorite, constantly playing on the ice when they could, and on the street when they couldn’t.

When visiting colleges in 2012, Woods knew she would likely have to trek far from home. When she saw Quinnipiac, however, home didn’t seem so distant.

“That’s one of the reasons I picked Quinnipiac, because of the small campus,” Woods explained. “I just felt comfortable here. It helped me feel like I wasn’t far from my comfort zone.”

Woods grew up in Burford, Ontario, a town of fewer than 2,000 people. She had grown accustom to the rural way of living, liked attending a smaller high school and the idea of living in a city didn’t appease her.

Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey Coach Rick Seeley eyed Woods for some time during her junior career with the Cambridge Rivulettes. She scored 24 points in 35 games during her one season in juniors, also serving as the team’s captain.

When Seeley got a chance to visit Woods in her hometown, he realized she was a perfect fit for Quinnipiac not only because of her skill-set, but her lifestyle.

“I can remember meeting with Emma and the family and thinking, ‘these are salt of the earth people,’” Seeley said. “They were genuine, and those are the kids we really look forward to having continue what we’ve started here.”

In her freshman year at Quinnipiac, Woods has 11 goals and 10 assists, good for third on the team in points with 21.

“We wanted her to get comfortable playing on a big line as soon as possible, because that’s what she had to become for us,” Seeley said. “She has just fit in really nice, it’s worked out pretty well.”

Two players that have helped the transition are linemates Kelly Babstock and Shiann Darkangelo.
Babstock has assisted on eight of Woods’ 11 goals.

“Emma is just a flat-out scorer,” Seeley said. “Having her and Darkangelo on the Babstock line, it’s allowing ‘Babs’ to evolve more into a playmaker than a scorer, too. It’s a luxury she hasn’t had before.”

Woods said the team had high expectations prior to her arrival. She maintained contact with both Seeley and her teammates before the season, which she said added to the small-town feel she was used to.

“That’s one of the big reasons I came here,” Woods said. “They kept in touch and really made me feel like they wanted me.”

During her time at Paris District High, Woods won three team MVP awards and was a captain for both her junior and senior season. In addition to being a standout player on the ice, she participated in volleyball, baseball and badminton, among other sports.

“I just thought it would be fun growing up to play all of those sports, to try something new,” Woods explained.

Hockey was always Woods’ passion, as she claimed she had the dream of playing after graduating from Paris District.

“It was always my commitment, always my first priority,” she said.

As of Feb. 18, Quinnipiac is fourth in the ECAC Hockey standings heading into the postseason, and hopes to make an NCAA Tournament appearance come March. On March 21 and 23, High Point Solutions Arena at TD Bank Sports Center will host the 2014 Women’s Frozen Four, leaving Quinnipiac a chance to play on the big stage in a local setting.

“We don’t like to bring [the Frozen Four] up because we have a lot of work to do, but I know it’s in everybody’s heads. It would be sweet to play here,” Woods said, looking out onto the ice. “How often does that happen?”

Still, Woods acknowledges the fact that there is room for drastic improvement.

“I think I can still do more for the team,” Woods said. “I’m looking forward to my potential. I think I can really be more consistent and help this team out.”

Seeley, meanwhile, believes the best is yet to come for the freshman.

“We don’t think she’s anywhere close to where she’s going to get,” he said with a wry smile.