Visualization, resilience after failure, and great teammates key to on-ice success

Before transferring to the University of Ottawa to pursue a degree in physiotherapy, Émilie Bouchard played hockey for l’Université de Moncton for four years, where she attended two national championships and was named an All-Canadian goalie.

But after playing with one team for so long, it can be difficult for student-athletes to make the change to another team for their fifth and final year of eligibility. Bouchard spoke to the Fulcrum about the change of scenery after spending almost half a decade playing hockey in Atlantic Canada.

“It was definitely a big change. After playing for years in Moncton you sort of get used to everything,” said Bouchard on her transition into the U of O women’s hockey team. “The girls really helped me adjust to life in Ottawa.”

For Bouchard, who had a career 1.79 goals against average and a 0.933 save percentage with Moncton, the change not only brought on a new team, but a new league of competition.

“It’s definitely an adjustment. The calibre is a notch above in the RSEQ (Réseau du sports étudiants du Québec),” said Bouchard. “When you are playing teams like McGill with Olympians like Mélodie Daoust, it’s different for sure.”

The mental aspect of play is crucial for high-performance goaltenders around the world and Bouchard is no exception, as she credits that aspect for helping her develop into the goalie she is today.

“Mental preparation and visualization are big aspects of my preparation before games. Before games I like to get in my zone and step away from the other players so I can get ready to play,” said Bouchard. “I also like to practice my hand-eye coordination prior to puck drop.”

It goes without saying that goaltenders have a tough job, and have to deal with an enormous amount of pressure. The burden of a loss can often fall on the one standing in between the pipes, and some might argue that it is the toughest job in sports.

One of the keys Bouchard has learned is to not dwell on past performances.

“When you let in a goal you need to recoup and forget about it. I think I’ve definitely gotten better at that over the years.”

Her contributions to the Gee-Gees in her final year did not go unnoticed. Even though her team got prematurely booted from the playoffs, Bouchard still posted a 0.909 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average for the regular season.

Quick foot speed and powerful lateral movements are of utmost priority for high-caliber goalies, and it is something Bouchard has constantly strived to improve.

“I definitely consider foot speed as one of my strengths. It’s something that I have worked hard on in the off-season over the years.”

Overall, Bouchard was really happy that she got the chance to use her fifth year of eligibility at the U of O. Besides her two national championship appearances and winning the Atlantic University Sport conference, she stated that beating McGill on Jan. 8 this year was one of the highlights of her university career.

“Being able to beat McGill in my last year was special. They beat me in the CIS (U Sports) championship a couple years ago, so it was nice.”

As Bouchard continues to finish up her graduate degree, she has not ruled out the possibility of continuing to pursue hockey, with her dream goal being to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.