By Aaron Todd <email@example.com> —
The St. Lawrence University women’s hockey team will open its season with a non-league game at Clarkson at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, ending the longest stretch between games in program history.
When St. Lawrence announced its three-semester plan to reduce campus density during the COVID-19 pandemic, head coach Chris Wells ’92 decided to ask his players to take courses in the spring and summer semesters, rather than in the fall and spring. As a result, most of the team came to campus for the first time this academic year on January 3.
After a period of quarantining and small group work, the team recently started to practice as a full team.
“We just finished up our first full week of practice as a team and it’s been good to be back,” said Wells. “We’re looking forward to jumping right into the games. We’re coming late to the party, everybody that we’ll be playing was here last semester and they had to grind out practice and a lot of canceled games. We’re fortunate that we’re able to come back and jump right into games as the protocols were already set in place and a lot of people learned what worked and what didn’t work, and we’re able to slide right in here and get right after it.”
The schedule this year will be a sprint to the finish. With just three other schools in ECAC Hockey fielding teams, the Saints will play each team four times, twice at home and twice on the road. The conference schedule consists of six straight weekends with back-to-back games against the same conference opponent. The series against Colgate will be home-and-home affairs, held on a Friday/Sunday schedule. The Saints will play Quinnipiac back-to-back in the same location on a Saturday/Sunday schedule. And the ECAC Hockey contests with Clarkson will consists of a pair of mid-week games and a home-and-home weekend series to be held on February 12-13.
“One of our goals at the beginning of every year is to finish in the top four, so we’ve achieved that already without playing a game,” joked Wells. “The biggest thing that we’ve talked about as a team is that we’ve all been sitting around for 9-10 months, so let’s go have some fun. If we win some games, great, if we don’t, we’re still going to have some fun. A lot of people aren’t able to do what they like to do right now, and we’re fortunate enough to do what we love to do.”
This season marks the second straight year that the women’s hockey team has had an unusual start. Last season, the team spent the first semester practicing and playing games across town at SUNY Canton, as renovations to Appleton Arena were underway.
“Certainly the players coming back have experienced a lot of the changes to the schedule in a blink of an eye, and I think all the kids that are here this year have done a good job bringing a lot of enthusiasm and energy,” said Wells. “We’ll be able to use a lot of the enthusiasm from the young kids and the experience of the returners to get ourselves to a place where I think we’ll be pretty happy when the season’s over.”
While the Saints lost their top scorer in Kayla Vespa ’20 to graduation, sophomore forwards Anna Segedi, Shailynn Snow and Julia Gosling all notched more than 20 points last year as rookies. Senior captain Skylar Podvey, who leads all the Saints’ returners with 43 career points, along with sophomore Rachel Teslak, who ranked fourth on the team with seven goals and fifth with 11 points last year, will look to anchor the blue line.
Lucy Morgan, a Third-Team All-ECAC Hockey and ECAC Hockey All-Rookie Team selection last season, returns as one of three experienced goaltenders for the Saints. Morgan started 25 games last year, posting a 1.83 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Jaimie Rainville started six games last season, while Caitlin Whitehead started five.
After opening the season on Wednesday, the Saints will begin the ECAC Hockey season at Colgate on Friday at 5 p.m. and will host the Raiders in their home opener on Sunday at 2 p.m.