Photo: Remi Yuan.
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Team remains optimistic despite uneven preseason performance

After a disappointing finish to an otherwise stellar year, the Gee-Gees women’s hockey team is back and still trying to find their footing in the lead-up to the 2016–17 regular season.

While the team’s first regular season game takes place on Oct. 14 against Concordia, head coach Yanick Evola said the Gees have been using their eventful preseason to iron out some of the wrinkles that affect almost every varsity team stuck in transition.

“We lost some really good seniors … that’s the biggest challenge,” said Evola, listing off seasoned players that won’t be returning this year like Carling Chown, Meghan Burt, Laura Turcotte, and former team captain Camille Pauck-Therrien. “That’s the main thing we’re working on right now, which is why we’re on the ice almost every day, to get everybody working in the same direction.”

Outside of the relentless practice sessions, the shuffled lineup—which includes seven rookies—has been tested in a number of competitive preseason bouts.

Most recently, the Gees took part in a two-game series over the weekend of Oct. 1–2, where they defeated York 5–3, before losing to Guelph 4–3.

Altogether, this series brings the team’s preseason win-loss record to 2–5 heading into the regular season. Despite these uneven results, Evola said that the team continues to get better with every game and is confident that they will be ready by the time they face off against Concordia.

“We improved a lot within the last few weeks. As far as the chemistry and learning how to play the game together and being able to work hard every day, I’m really really happy about where we are right now,” said Evola.

Out of this revamped roster, forward Mélodie Bouchard will undoubtedly be expected to step up into a leadership role during this transitional period. Not only did she set a University of Ottawa athletics record for points per game last season, but she also became the first Gee-Gee to win the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s hockey Rookie of the Year award that same year.

Because of her runaway success, Bouchard was selected to participate in Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Development Team selection camp this August. For Bouchard, getting the opportunity to train with the top collegiate hockey players in the country reinforced the fact that she has to step up her game for this upcoming season.

“Most of the girls there are the best, so I have to improve my level. I learned about many things and I think I can use that for the Gee-Gees (this year).”

While the all-star forward was sidelined for this recent series due to an upper body injury, she will be back in the lineup just in time for the start of the regular season.

“We have to compete in our league and we have to prove that we can do a lot of things. We’re young but we have a lot of vets. Our objective is to be the best we can be,” said Bouchard.

The Gees’ first game of the regular season takes place on the road on Oct. 14 against Concordia. The team’s home opener is Oct. 22 at the Minto Sports Complex, where they will take on rival Carleton at 2 p.m.