Women’s Hockey: A modern dynasty

Last year the women’s hockey team posted a 22-6-2 record and finished first in the MIAC Conference for the sixth straight season. Gustavus has built a Women’s Hockey empire, winning a total of nine conference titles and appearing in three national championships since the program’s first season in 1997-98.

The Gustie women earned a place in the NCAA Championships last season and finished fourth. Despite an outstanding season, the women are hungry for more after finishing the season with two losses.

“In the end we were 0-2 in our last two games, so we definitely have some work to do,” Head Coach Mike Carroll said. “I think we were able to have a great experience, being able to taste something and not get the ultimate goal that we had last year.”

The Gustie women will use this as motivation to improve in a season where they are expected to perform at a high level.

The defining factor will be experience after Gustavus graduated only two seniors, which promises that the 2010-11 squad has the talent and experience to make another run at the national championships. Gustavus returns all but one of their starters, including last year’s point leader, Junior Allie Schwab. More important than the talent will be the leadership that the upperclassmen bring to a relatively young team.

“We have a lot of young [first-years] that are coming in, so it’s up to us juniors and seniors, and even the returning sophomores, to lead the team and bring [the first-years] along,” Schwab said. The upperclassmen have faced the intense expectations that follow a successful season, and a target is definitely on their backs as the team enters the season ranked fifth in the nation.

“Since we’ve had a pretty good run, most of the teams on our schedule are looking forward to playing against our team, and that’s a responsibility in itself,” Carroll said. “The newer players have to understand that the colors of our sweater are recognized a certain way around, and we have a lot to hold up for our school.”

It will be exceedingly important for the upperclassmen to facilitate the development of the younger players in order to deal with early adversity, which was a weakness last season. The Gustavus women began the season with a 2-3-2 record but recorded an 18-1 streak that propelled them into the national tournament.

“We had some failures early in the season, and at the time we could have gone one way or the other,” Carroll said. “We went in the right direction.”

“The chemistry just wasn’t as good in the beginning of the year,” Junior Whitney Schaff said. “It is a big thing this year for everyone to come together early so we can come out hard.”

You can expect Schaff to step into a leadership role and contribute to a team who will rely on those who know what it takes to win.

“We had some kids that were very good support players last year that we’re going to ask to jump in and fill bigger roles,” Carroll said.

The women will begin their season this weekend with two games against Concordia University Wisconsin on Nov. 5 and 6. The team will be introducing new players and schemes this weekend, but the squad hopes to assimilate on the ice against a non-conference foe before playing St. Olaf at home on Nov. 12.

Included in early adjustments is the acclimation to a few rule changes that have been initiated at all levels of NCAA hockey. Changes were made in many areas, including icing and delayed penalty calls. Carroll doesn’t foresee an impact on the game by the way icing will be called, which will now allow the aggressor to negate icing if they are able to beat the defending team to the loose puck.

However, the alteration in the execution of delayed penalty calls holds the potential to impact the game and may be to Gustavus’s advantage as a solid offensive team.

“If a team scores while there is a delayed penalty, then the penalty is still served,” Carroll said. “There is a chance to get two power play goals, and if a team is good enough to jump on that opportunity, they’ll still be able to have a full two minute power play.”

The Gustavus women are poised for another successful season, and their strength as a skating team should yield many exciting games. It will be vital to stay humble in order to avoid another slow start, but there is a swagger with this team that goes beyond individual performance. “You’re not just playing it for yourself … you’re playing for your school,” Schwab said.

These women represent Gustavus with every victory and every conference title, and it is essential for fans to represent and show opponents that no one can end this dynasty. Join Gustavus Super Fans and help Women’s Hockey win a seventh straight MIAC Championship. The first home game is Nov. 12 against St. Olaf; body paint is recommended.