Where does the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey freshman class go from here?

Matt Nygaard, Staff Writer

This season did not end how the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team wanted. The Bobcats lost 2-1 in the ECAC Hockey semifinal to the Colgate Raiders, a team they beat just six days prior.

With this loss, the Bobcats didn’t make the NCAA tournament, concluding their season in early March. So now that the season is complete, where do head coach Cass Turner and the Bobcats go from here?

With senior forwards Brooke Bonsteel, Laura Lundblad, Taylor Girard, Grace Markey, Taylor House and Renee Saltness and defender Olivia Konigson set to depart from Quinnipiac this May, the Bobcats will have a lot of line shake-up and roster turnover. The good news is that the 2020 freshman class has the same amount of players in it, and several of them already played in their first season.

The Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team lost 2-1 to Colgate in the ECAC Hockey semifinal. (Connor Lawless (2020))

Freshman defenders Maddy Samoskevich and Kendall Cooper, goaltender Catie Boudiette and forwards Nina Steigauf, Sophie Urban, Katie Villeneuve, Olivia Mobley all played an important role this season. Out of that group, the only skating player to not score a goal this year was Urban.

In addition, Mobley, Urban, Villeneuve, Samoskevich, Cooper and Boudiette each played fewer games than the rest of the team for various reasons. Boudiette is the backup goaltender, so she didn’t see action until after the new year. The rest of that group missed a few weeks at the beginning of the season due to a COVID-19 issue with the team along with some minor injuries. Despite missing the first few weeks, the freshmen didn’t miss a beat once they returned.

“The seniors were so helpful during that time,” Mobley said. “In a way, it was great because even though we weren’t playing games we were still adjusting off the ice getting to know our new situation and team which paid off a lot.”

Furthermore, they simultaneously found a way to adjust to the college game and positively impact the team. As the season went on, their play improved and was worthy of recognition.

Samoskevich, the sister of former Quinnipiac forward and 100-point scorer Melissa Samoskevich, was named ECAC Hockey Adirondack Health Rookie of the Week on Feb. 9. This came after a multipoint game against Sacred Heart, her second of the season, when she had three assists and a plus-5 rating.

“Coming into this year, we had no idea what to expect,” Samoskevich said. “With the help of the captains and my teammates, our class was able to adjust well and in a way, all the hardship was able to make us closer, so now when we’re older, we’ll know what’s important in terms of leading and having a successful team.”

The delayed start to the season didn’t affect Mobley either. She scored her first point five games into the season and gradually improved as the season progressed. Because of her consistent play, Turner put her on a line rotation with House, Bonsteel and Markey.

“My confidence has continually risen throughout the season, it’s been awesome playing with Housey and either Bonny or Markey throughout the season,” Mobley said. “They boost my confidence every shift, and I think it’s really good that I’ve become this confident later in the season.”

Mobley, the 2019-20 Metro Player of the Year at Breck High School, finished the regular season with six points in her final seven games and eight on the season. She is another Bobcat who seems poised for a larger role with a lot of new opportunities for playing time.

“Being able to roll with the punches was huge this year,” Mobley said. “In such a weird year with so much constantly changing and so much unknown, I found that our team started to find it very easy to adapt and adjust to our surroundings.”

Cooper had a large impact on defense with Samoskevich, and they will join ECAC Hockey Defenseman of the Year finalist junior Courtney Vorster to lead next year’s defense.

The Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team was last ranked inside the top 10 (10) of the USCHO poll on March 1. (Connor Lawless (2020))

Cooper had four goals as a defenseman, which is more than 14 of her skating teammates, and improved as she gained more experience on the defensive end throughout the season. Samoskevich and Cooper both finished top-10 in points across all defensemen in ECAC Hockey.

Steigauf benefitted from not missing any games and performed well early on in the season. She scored in her first collegiate game and was consistent in all three zones for the Bobcats, contributing on the stat sheet and also in the dirty areas such as the corners and behind the net.

Villenueve and Urban took some time to adjust after missing three weeks to start the year but progressed and made a difference as the season went on.

The same occurred with Boudiette between the pipes, who got time in six games this season, and they were not all blowouts. She secured a 1-0 win over St. Lawrence in her most recent game on Feb. 15, displaying that Turner trusted her and should take over the starting job after goaltender Logan Angers’ senior year next season.

Obviously, it is difficult to see so many seniors go after a bitter end to the season, but the future’s bright for Quinnipiac.

If these seven freshmen already made an impact with an uphill battle of adjusting to the college game and COVID-19, we can only imagine how successful the Bobcats can be when they return for three more seasons without having any learning curve.

“I think we’ll be ready to take on more of a leadership role,” Mobely said. “As Samo said, having a positive attitude and not taking anything for granted. For next year, we have to improve on the ice but also instill that message into each other’s minds as well as into the incoming group’s minds as well.”