What is it about January that bothers me? I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something there and I’d like to get it out of my system. In the early 1970′s I recall Bob Geldof who was the lead singer of an Irish rock band, the Boomtown Rats. One of their biggest hits was “I don’t like Monday’s” and if I substituted ‘January’s’ it might apply for me.
Is it just the realization that the holidays and time spent with friends and family comes to an end? Or maybe it has more to do with the simple fact it’s the longest winter month? Right about now I find myself getting tired of the ‘short’ dark days. I’m ready for longer days and in a few weeks as the afternooons start lengthening ever so slightly – I really take notice.
In January it always seems like everyone’s sick….or perhaps that’s just me? Some nasty cold/flu virus grabbed hold of me the first week of the month and it still hasn’t let go. Amazingly it can’t be the weather which has been unusually mild all throughout November, December and now the first half of January. You’d be hard pressed to know it’s been winter here at all but for the occasional cold snap.
Or possibly it’s just that January marks another year and for this Capricorn it means putting another notch on the age belt. I’m not big on birthdays, especially my own. That’s probably true for most men. Seriously, who wants people fussing over you?!? Regardless, I don’t give age much thought because it really is all a state of mine(d) ……isn’t it?!
Actually though, I think it’s really all about routine. I like my routine. I’m a creature of habit. You could even say a boring creature of habit. January messes up my routine. For starters, there’s no school in session. Durham looks deserted, probably because it is. Practices aren’t when they’re supposed to be. I’m a big morning guy, but I like to have a few extra hours to get myself ready for practice. I like to watch tape, look at drills, mull new combinations, think about different shapes and sets. Coaches are like players, they need their routine to ready themselves for the task ahead. The routine initiates every step of the process. Once you fall back into the routine, things just seem to flow seamlessly. So maybe that’s why January’s get to me. It messes with my routine. Well, one more week and schools kicks back into session and my routine returns… thank goodness! I don’t think my wife could put up with me much longer.
Now that I’ve gotten a little of the Grumpy Ol Codger out of my system… let’s talk some Wildcat HOCKEY!
The team returned from break with a lot of jump, renewed energy and ready to get back into the schedule. It was as expected a first few days of stiff muscles and not nearly enough stamina. But that changed quickly and as we headed into the 2nd week of practice and prepared for our first game back.
Boston College is arguably the best skating team in our league this year. Heading down to Conte Forum last Tuesday we knew we’d have our hands full. BC had already played a pair of contests over the weekend and our already thin roster was even thinner with the loss of Maggie Hunt and Kristine Horn on our blueline.
But the team came out scrapping and played hard for the full 60 minutes. BC carried the play, but our girls wouldn’t knuckle under battling back from a two goal deficit twice to get within one. Lindsey Minton was terrific in net and the team rallied behind her effort. A late goal in the waning minutes of the third secured a 4-2 win for the Eagles, but no one questioned our effort despite the loss.
Friday night we returned home to the Whitt for a two game series with the UConn Huskies. These were important games for both clubs heading into the second half of Hockey East play. The team started fast pouring shots on the Huskie net and when Emma Clark broke the ice with the first goal of the game late in the first I thought we stood a good chance of breaking the game open. But UConn rallied in the second and play evened out over the final 40 minutes. Lindsey Minton once again stood tall in net, thwarting several late bids by UConn to tie it up and Emma’s goal ended up being the game winner. It was a solid team effort and a hard earned win by a hungry team.
I was intrigued Saturday to see how we’d handle some success. Sweeps aren’t easy even when one team has a clear advantage over the other; there is something about the psychology of hungry versus content that makes sweeps harder to accomplish than they might look on paper.
Game two started as the day before with Bryanna Farris, Emma Clark and Caroline Broderick netting the games first goal eight minutes into the contest. These three have developed some chemistry early in this second half and I’m thrilled to see them making a definite impact in our games. Connecticut bounced back with a tieing goal five minutes later, but Kristine Horn put us up for good two minutes later with a spectacular individual effort and a 2-1 lead heading into the second period. Jenna Lascelle who has been really coming on since mid November, scored her 7th goal of the season to extend the lead to 3-1 and Kayla Mork ended the second period with a goal to push the lead to 4-1. Jenna and Kayla are two freshmen who work hard day in and day out, and they are both making big improvements in their play. We closed out the score in the third with a couple of ‘Katie’ firsts. Junior defenseman Katie Brock scored the first goal of her UNH career and assisting on the play was Katie Kleinendorst who registered her first career assist. That was fitting and well deserved on both counts. The 5-1 victory gave us a nice 4 point weekend and a little confidence boost heading into the upcoming games with BU and Northeastern.
So here’s my mid January state of the union. The team has really come together nicely over the first half and I can sense a lot of positive energy amongst the girls. They genuinely support one another right now and everybody is looking to make a contribution.
We’re thin, but that’s ok. Our young players are getting more ice time and opportunity to grow than they would ordinarily on a fully rostered or more veteran team. We are down to five blueliners which is challenging. Jesse Ryan and Brynja Bogan are working hard to handle the pressures of playing the blueline as freshmen. Juniors Katie Brock, Kailey Chappell and Kristine Horn are really doing a fabulous job of working together and making the most of this challenge.Up front we’ve achieved some balance even with reduced numbers. Sophomore Nicole Gifford and junior Kristine LaVoie have led the way offensively. Sophomore Arielle O’Neill and Emma Clark are also playing a big role in stabilizing our young lineup. And all of our freshmen have improved and gained confidence since the early part of the season.
As a team we’re playing with a lot more conviction and understanding.The quest at this point is how much better can we get over the final five weeks? It would be nice to continue winning games down the stretch, but our coaches are really focused on effort and execution. I sincerely believe this group is going to play some inspired hockey. If we continue to get the play in net that Lindsey Minton gave us this past week, we’ll be in every game. I’m excited to watch these young ladies raise the bar over the last month of league play. It should be fun to watch. Stay tuned.