Trailing a championship season, you would think the Tommies’ women’s hockey team might take a second to stand still and admire their Atlantic University Sport trophy. Instead, training camp opened Labour Day weekend and the fresh talented new team began cultivation.
Tommies’ head coach Peter Murphy is excited to work with the fresh group of talent.
“We had a large graduating class last year, eight out of the 20 players are new,” Murphy said.
Still, Murphy is not discouraged by the departure of many veteran players.
“Eight is a big number, but we had that same group sort of going through so we knew it was coming,” he said.
Murphy said a fresh slate with many rookies calls for a new game strategy to help them win.
“The focus this year is more on skills instead of systems. Last year we had a veteran group so they knew [how to play] systems really well,” Murphy said.
Systems are the amalgamation of different tactics or plays which are built on skills.
Murphy said the team has strong hockey IQs and ability to pick things up quickly.
“We are also making a few changes to our existing systems as well, changing our penalty kill a little, changing how we’re teaching power-play. For the most part, we’re going to run a little bit more rule based, these are the three things you need to remember, instead of being so stuck in a system. That way you’re able to adjust better,” he said.
“Teams get married to systems — we want to avoid that.”
Murphy isn’t worried when it comes to mixing the new players with the veterans on the team.
“It’s probably the best thing for us to have a mix. The four lines we’re running have rookies on every line except for one, so we’re spreading them out.”
St. Thomas athletics director Mike Eagles is also anticipating this team growth.
“Obviously we have a tremendous amount of respect for the job [Murphy] has done, being able to recruit players that can compete and help our team win at this level.”
Eagles believes that the team has all the potential it needs to improve on its skill set.
“The players that [Murphy] brings in typically do quite well in their first year.” Eagles said.
“Coming off a championship season and losing some key players we need to keep our expectations reasonable, but at the same time knowing that the team will continuously improve, and to get back to the level that they were at last year.”
Eagles thinks that sticking together as a unit is what will keep the team successful.
“Understanding what it means to be a Tommie, the expectations that this program puts on its players, and the way they stick together and care for one another, I think all of those things combined, and these players coming together as a team, traditionally has always been strength for us,” Eagles said.
The Tommies’ regular season begins on Friday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. against Université de Moncton in Moncton. Their first home game will be on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m against University of New Brunswick.