Despite record, women’s hockey on the upswing

Don’t let their 2008-09 record fool you – the UVM women’s hockey team is a program on its way to the upper echelon of the Hockey East conference.The team – in its 14th year of existence – stands at 6-20-0, but they are a team that has shown continual improvement year after year, whether it be in terms of tallies in the victory column, high-caliber recruiting classes or skilled play. “We are light-years better than we were two years ago,” head coach Tim Bothwell said. “We’re just trying to get better every day and every week, and we’re really doing a pretty good job of that.”Their best showing in the win column to date came in the 2000-01 season when the team went 14-8-2 overall. Unfortunately for the team, that success came playing Division III hockey and their subsequent promotion to the Division I ranks did not serve them well, with no wins in their first two years.Yet, the program has always been accepting of challenges, as the team moved into one of college hockey’s toughest conferences in 2005-06 – Hockey East. In 2006, the team hired Bothwell and, while the team is unlikely to win a national championship in the near future, the change in attitude and newfound potential in the program is certainly tangible. The biggest change in the team is a youth movement, with the team’s top five scorers belonging to the past two large freshman classes brought in by Bothwell.”The incoming freshmen are coming up bigger and stronger and faster and it’s a good motivator for upperclassmen, especially us this year, being sophomores,” the team’s second leading scorer Teddy Fortin said.”You know there’s a bunch of girls coming in, and you want to play well – I think it’s been really good for the team as a whole,” she said.The notion that such a young team with a perennial losing record could make an impact in a conference as tough as Hockey East now or in the future may sound absurd to many, but the Catamounts are quick to remind naysayers that they are still young and have shown their potential in many Hockey East games this season.”Hockey East has been in an uproar lately and we beat BU when they were No. 1 earlier this year,” Fortin said. “I think we’re on a steady incline right now and I see us being a playoff team, if not this year, definitely next year.”Sophomore Peggy Wakeham, the team’s third-leading scorer, shares Fortin’s optimism.”We’re winning more games and we’re winning more games against better teams,” Wakeham said. “We’re all growing as players every day we practice.” Despite the team’s record thus far on this season, a strong Hockey East stretch run will put them in position to make the conference playoffs – a feat Wakeham sees as quite possible with the positive energy her team has been carrying as of late.”If you’ve had a good week in practice, you know you’re going into that Friday or Saturday game thinking you’ve got a good chance to win,” Wakeham said.”Even though no one thinks we do, the energy is just there and we know we can do this because we believe in ourselves and we believe in each other.”