After tough 2018-19 season, team looks to young blood for success
With 12 rookies on the roster, the University of Ottawa women’s hockey team enters the 2019-20 season with the least experienced roster in Le Reseau du Sport Etudiant du Quebec (RSEQ). After a tough 2018-19 season, the Gee-Gees brass decided it was time to bring in some new blood to add to the small core of veterans left from years past.
Contributing the large majority of the offence in the teams four wins up to now, the rookies have adapted themselves well to the university game.
Aurelie Dubuc, a freshman from Trois-Rivieres, Que., has split the net with sophomore player Jennifer Walker. Dubuc has seen her fair share of rubber this year and is used to being outshot, as she received more than her fair share playing for a weak collegiate team last year in Quebec. This, in fact, may have contributed to her recruitment.
“They came to see our game against Limoilou where we lost 7-0 but I got outshot really bad and kept my team in it at 0-0 till midway in the second period,” said Dubuc. “That’s where they saw me and here I am.”
Playing for Limoilou that night were future Gee-Gee teammates Arianne Aubin and Alice Fillion.
“We played for Limoilou in Quebec, and we had great visibility because we were a strong team it gave us many options for university hockey,” said Fillion. “The Gee-Gees liked us and we thought it would be a good fit.”
Jade Todd is a first-year player from Ottawa who grew up playing in the Gees’ backyard. She was lucky enough to be offered a spot on her hometown university team.
“I’m from Ottawa, so they came to a lot of my games, a lot of times they came to watch more so the other team than mine but they saw me a lot in the last like two seasons,” said Todd. “Then they just approached me after one of my games and it just kind of went from there”
For most student athletes, a head coach is someone they can look up too and entrust as sort of a parent away from home — especially for first-years — who are, for the most part, leaving home for the first time.
Earlier this month, when former head coach Yanick Evola decided to step down hours before a game at home against the University of Montreal, the young Gee-Gees faced their biggest challenge. They had to transition from playing under the coach and mentor who brought them to Ottawa to a new head coach, Chelsea Grills, in the matters of hours.
“Both of them are intense and at the end of the day they want the same thing for us, which is to succeed, but I think overall that whole process has really brought us together as a team,” said Todd about the coaching change.
“We’re really happy with Chelsea (Grills) and she has a whole lot of confidence,” said Fillion.
One important step for the four rookie women in Grey and Garnet were their first goals they have all have scored, except Dubuc for obvious reasons.
“It’s a really good feeling, it really relieves a certain pressure, of course, you don’t want your first goal to take three years, and it’s something to be proud of,” said Fillion, who scored her first goal against the Montreal Carabins in the Gee-Gees home opener.
“You can’t wait for it to happen, because if it takes a while you start to feel the pressure and you want to help the team but when it happens you just think of your next one and you have that one in the bank”, said Aubin about her first gaol that she scored in the team’s first game of the year.
“It’s definitely super exciting to get that monkey off your back, it gives you a lot of confidence,” said Todd about her first goal. “The fact I scored it at Alerts Cup against Carleton makes it also that much better.”
For a team that bet on youth this season, the Gee-Gees are doing pretty well in USports’s toughest division for women’s hockey, currently tied for third in RSEQ.
All four women will take the ice next week when the Gee-Gees face the McGill Martlets to end their first-semester portion of the schedule. The Gee-Gees hold a 4-4-1 record while McGill holds a 3-3-3 record.