Tommies’ preseason challenges set the stage for a promising season ahead

Stills from the Battle on the hill, from this past Friday 25th, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

In a thrilling weekend of preseason exhibition games, the St. Thomas University women’s hockey team faced some less-than-familiar opponents.

Their first encounter of the weekend was a 3-1 loss to the Université de Montréal Carabins, while the second match resulted in a 4-0 defeat against the McGill Martlets.

Two of the players, assistant captain Amy Dvernichuk and rookie Lauren Smith, shared their thoughts on the results and their hopes for the upcoming season.

Both the Carabins and Martlets are teams of different caliber than what the Tommies are used to.

“We went into it knowing that they were two good teams, good competition to play against for sure,” said Smith. “I think it was a really good opportunity for us to learn what we need to work on.”

She expressed confidence in the team’s motivation and work ethic, emphasizing their commitment to setting and achieving goals. Smith found these two games to be a great opportunity to identify areas for improvement.

“I think that our pressure and our forecheck is pretty solid,” said Smith. “That’s definitely a strength for us. When we get into the zone, when we pressure people it is really hard for them to get out.”

When asked how the Carabins and Martlets play differently than teams in their league, Smith emphasized the speed factor.

“You have a lot less time when you get the puck. You have to make quick decisions.”

Additionally, Smith scored her first goal as a Tommie in the first game of the weekend, against the Carabins. Battling in front of the net, Smith said she planted herself there in the hopes that the shot would come down from the point. She beat the defender in front of the net and got the goal off the rebound. 

“I saw the draw got one clean back, which is really good,” she said.  “And then I was at the net. The shot got through from that point, which I was happy about.”

Despite the losses, assistant captain Dvernichuk had praise for both her team and their opponents.

“I thought we did awesome against Montreal,” said Dvernichuk. “It was surprising because Montreal is a very good team but I thought we had a really good weekend, especially for our first two out-of-conference games.”

While acknowledging the faster pace of the games, Dvernichuk noted that they weren’t as physical as the teams they typically face. She also emphasized the added pressure this year, both on herself as an assistant captain and on the team as a whole.

Looking to the season ahead, Dvernichuk said: “[We’ve] got to work on our goal scoring, but all around we’re super quick and very smart.”

She had high praise for all of her teammates, especially the first-year players.

“I thought they had a great weekend, especially it being their … second and third game was really impressive, and they impressed everybody.”

Now back in Fredericton, the team remains in high spirits, viewing these challenges as opportunities for growth and learning.

“I think we are going to have a really good year,” said Dvernichuk. “We have a lot going for us and that this year is going to be really solid, and we should have a good playoff run this year.”

The Tommies start their season with a home game against the UPEI Panthers on Sept. 6, followed by a rivalry matchup against UNB on Sept. 7.