In a rebuilding year, the Michigan’s women’s club hockey team has surprised everyone, surpassing all expectations and goals the players set for themselves.
Of the several factors that have helped the team succeed, none are more important than the reconfiguration of the coaching staff.
“Getting a new coaching staff has brought this program to a new level,” junior goalie Jennifer Barnhart said. “The board of the hockey team had a major influence in deciding how it was going to be set up.”
Former assistant coach Adam Winters joins former player Andrea Shear as a co-coach. An important part of their coaching strategy has been motivating players by placing a greater emphasis on what the players have done, rather than what they are doing wrong. While some players feared a difficult transition, the new coaches have stepped up and asserted their own style early in the season, which has helped the team come together both on and off the ice.
In addition to changing coaches, there was also uncertainty created by the loss of a core group of tight-knit seniors that graduated after last season, but the younger players have assumed key leadership positions.
“This year the team is more mature and has a better chemistry,” captain Stacey Moses said.
This chemistry has helped with the tough transition that comes along with having a young team.
In spite of its youth, Michigan set a preseason goal of finishing in the top three of its division. At the beginning of the season, it seemed unlikely, but now the team is starting to come together, and Moses predicts they will finish in the top two.
“We have already played the hardest teams in our divisions, and we think we can beat the rest,” Moses said.
Although they faced a difficult schedule playing the top teams in the league, such as Western Michigan, the Wolverines stayed strong. A major turning point for the young roster was the team’s last win: a 6-0 shutout against Oakland University. Sophomore Laine Schmid scored two of Michigan’s four first-period goals to give the Wolverines a 4-0 lead after one period. Graduate student Darcy Utter also notched two goals to lead Michigan to victory over the Golden Grizzlies.
One of the more lofty goals for the Wolverines is to make nationals. If you asked any coach or player at the beginning of the year whether Michigan would go to nationals, the answer would have been “no.” But as of right now, Michigan is two spots away from being nationally ranked and is preparing for a crucial upcoming game against Penn State.
The Wolverines will play two games against Northern Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State to close their season.