ISU women’s hockey club skates past last season’s woes

The 2015-2016 ISU women’s hockey club. 

Jack Macdonald

Confidence is the key to winning, but having too much is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, the ISU women’s hockey club fell victim to that phenomenon last year after being crowned national champions the year prior.

Winning a national title brings an enormous confidence to any team, but it brought just a little too much to this team. The 2014-2015 campaign was a disappointing one — the defending national champions watching the tournament from home after finishing 7-9.

“We came in overly confident and expected it to be easy,” said junior Sophie Puente. “It caught up to us quick.”

Trying to enact revenge on last season’s woes, the club has already nearly matched its win total from the previous year and still has 12 games to play. It is also ranked sixth in the Western Conference and defeated the first-ranked team, Rainy River, in a weekend series split.

Several factors have led to the turnaround from last season’s woes to this season’s highs. For one, Dustin Herbert has a season of head coaching under his belt and knows what it takes to lead a team to a deep run in March.

The expectations were also lowered, and the team wanted to focus on just playing hard and having fun.

“We weren’t expecting much, but now the girls have shown that we can be a contender come playoff time,” Herbert said. “The goal of getting back to nationals has driven the girls to a point where it is possible to get back.”

Herbert has been impressed that the team has been able to compete with only 13 skaters, one of those a goalie. So far, the small roster has not haunted them, but Herbert says that key breaks in their schedule have come a good time to give the girls the rest they need.

After defeating Rainy River with a small bench, the win solidified their belief that they can compete with anyone in the country. And now, at a point in the season where every win counts, the club will have to earn its wins down the stretch if it wants any chance of hoisting the national title trophy come March.

A look ahead to next semester’s schedule shows there isn’t one game that can be overlooked. They face off against the defending national champions and third-ranked North Dakota State four times. The club also plays Robert Morris and Wisconsin, both of which are ACHA, Division I teams.

“The second semester will be a good test for us to see how good we actually are,” Herbert said. “We’ll need to be able to pull through, and our small bench tends to pull big games off.”

Last season is in the rearview mirror, and the team has gotten back to basics, and the team has seen an increase in the commitment level from last year.

“We lost a lot of girls from last year’s team, and the new ones have been able to step in and produce,” Puente said. “They practice hard every practice and are committed to winning.”

Captain Millie Luedtke, a senior, said that with a smaller roster, the club is a lot more motivated to go out and compete every other shift. Luedtke also said that practices slowed down last year when the team had a full roster, and ice time was lost because of it. 

“We got rid of the cocky mentality and got everyone on the same page this season. So far it has shown,” Luedtke said. “If we play as a family, we can be good.”