Jack Wiessenberger – Staff Writer
After an unexpected change to their schedule, the Gustavus Women’s Hockey team took the ice last Saturday in a matchup against Augsburg. The team was originally scheduled to face off against St. Thomas, but following the return of positive COVID tests, the Tommies were forced to cancel the match. Instead, the Gusties got a rematch of last year’s MIAC Championship – a game in which Gustavus won by a score of 3-0. This time around, the Gusties tallied one more goal than last year in a 4-0 win.
“We played much better in most all areas versus Augsburg than we did last Tuesday against Bethel. It was very encouraging to see a number of players play very well. A rare penalty shot was called against us and it was nice to see Katie McCoy make the save,” Head Women’s Hockey Coach Mike Carroll said.
The Gusties fared much better in this home matchup than in their season opener against Bethel where they fell 4-2. Even with a penalty shot awarded, Gustavus held the Auggies scoreless. First-year goalie Katie McCoy made the impressive save. Sophomore forward Hailey Holland accounted for half of the team’s points in this game with one score in the first period and another in the second.
“Obviously our team was excited to get a win especially because it was the first one of the season. The goals were certainly a big highlight. In the first period I scored on a pass by Sophia Coltvet. We started the second period with another goal when I scored with assists from my linemates Tina Press and Molly McHugh,” Holland said.
The impressive statline reflected a week of hard work after a tough loss in the season opener. All areas of play were noticeably improved from the first game.
“We played more as a team. The game against Bethel was a great learning experience to see where we were as a team. We learned what we needed to work on and get our game legs back under us. The rest of the week for practices was focused on correcting these mistakes, all while preparing to play another strong team,” Junior defenseman Gabby Slykas said.
While the season opener had a few bright spots for the Gusties, it certainly did not end up the way the team wished. After nearly a full year without competition, it was understandable that the team looked a little rusty. However, it appeared as if the Gusties were able to quickly shake off the rust and rebound versus Augsburg.
“Each game gives us the chance to grow. As a team we still need to get used to playing with one another and this comes from communication and understanding each other’s roles on the ice. We are still getting used to playing as a team after not playing games for almost a full year,” Slykas said.
Teams often take time to develop character and compatibility. With a better understanding of the team’s practice needs, Carroll was able to lay out a plan to fix some problems exposed in the Gusties’ first game.
“Before the Augsburg game, we mainly focused on battling along the wall, moving our feet better and more effectively all over the ice, following through with our systems more consistently, doing a better job in the neutral zone, and getting our shots through on net. We saw much improvement, but we still have to do better with shooting; limiting the number of shots we have blocked,” Carroll said.
The list of skills to improve on was extensive, but the team managed to make great progress in just one week. Of course, with a shortened season due to COVID, every practice and every game carries much more weight.
“We just need to keep our competitive level up in practice so it carries over to the game. COVID has made this season stressful for all of us. It’s hard to truly get into things when we have had to take breaks several times due to COVID regulations. We’re all focused on just trying to keep a positive attitude because we are at least getting to play somewhat of a season,” Holland said.
These sentiments have become the new normal for Gustavus athletes. Appreciating the competitive season, no matter how it looks, is something teams have had to accept. Over the course of this unique school year, COVID guidelines have forced the women’s hockey team to temporarily be shut down a few times.
“As of right now, the team is in quarantine and waiting for results on some teammates. It is a hard time for everyone but all you can do is adapt and follow along with the schools COVID-19 guidelines. We hope we can get back to practicing sooner rather than later, but we understand why we need to take precaution. We have been put into quarantine a few times and each time it’s been a new learning experience. Again, we can only sit and wait for results,” Slykas said.
Women’s hockey was one of a few teams that were placed on pause following a handful of positive COVID-19 tests last week. Should the team be removed from the COVID list, their next match will be this Saturday, February 13. The Gusties will face off against the Auggies once more, this time in Minneapolis.