By Anthony Nikolopoulos, staff writer.
The 2019-20 season for the Franklin Pierce University women’s ice hockey team is about making history, as the Ravens begin their inaugural season at the Division I level, competing in the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA). The team makes the jump from the Division II/III level that they competed at for their first seven seasons.
Head coach David Stockdale and his staff want this season to lay the foundation for future seasons. Although he expects there to be differences on the ice, mainly with the speed and skill of the game, Stockdale wants to continue the focus on the team’s daily routine. He said, “If we can focus on the day-to-day acts that help us get better… things like maintaining a positive culture, competing in practice and the weight room, taking care of the little things, and so forth, then the results will ultimately take care of themselves.”
One way Stockdale believes they can accomplish their goals is through the upperclassman leadership on the team. The juniors and seniors came into Franklin Pierce as Division II/III recruits but now have to quickly adjust to a tougher Division I schedule. When asked about the juniors and seniors transitioning this year, he said, “Fortunately our juniors and seniors were in positions where they have played a lot of hockey over the last few seasons and have been able to gain a great deal of experience.”
Senior captain Delaney Guimont has been here from the beginning of the Division I rumors. At first, she found it hard to believe it was actually happening. However now that it has, she along with all of her teammates are very excited for this opportunity. She said, “We are all pretty pumped up for the inaugural season at the Division I level.”
These players came into their freshman year knowing what level they were expected to play at but are now forced to push themselves even harder. For some, this may be intimidating. But for senior captain Jessica Strack, she sees this as a great opportunity. She said, “It is exciting to get to play our senior year as a Division I team.”
Strong leadership from Guimont, Strack, and the third senior captain, Bridgette Prentiss, should help make the transition easier for the team. Their main priority is keeping the team’s morale up and making sure everyone has the right attitude. They realize they are playing a tougher schedule than years past and things may not always go as they plan. Prentiss said, “We as a team have a set of goals that we want to stick to throughout the whole year no matter what happens.”
Another major role of not only the captains, but all the upperclassmen, is to make sure the incoming freshmen feel welcomed right away and know that they are an important part of the team. This includes checking in on them, inviting them places, and teaching them about the team and school. One of the freshmen, Becca Kniss, thanks all the upperclassmen in helping her with the adjustment from high school to college. She said, “They made the transition incredibly easy and made me love this school and my teammates that much more.”
It is safe to say that the coaches, players, and the whole school is excited for the season and what the future holds for the program. For the seniors in particular, they are very proud to be a part of the inaugural Division I season for the program. Although this is their last season playing, they are hoping to leave a positive impact on the program for years to come.