With women’s hockey’s regular season opening up tomorrow, here’s a list of ten reasons why you, a UVM hockey fan, should come to the Gut and catch some woho games.
1. Program on the Upswing
For much of its existence, UVM women’s hockey was a punch line. It was not out of the ordinary for this team to win fewer than five games. But in the Plumer era the team has finished with three 15-win seasons (which, given that UVM only had one TEN-win season before him, is pretty solid progress), and even in a down year like last season the team upset both Clarkson and Minnesota.
You can see this progress at the pro level as well; in the last couple years UVM has gone from only two or three top-level pros (Sarah Campbell and Chelsea Furlani in Europe and Amanda Pelkey in the NWHL) to several (Gina Repaci, Mackenzie MacNeil, Taylor Willard, Rachael Ade, and Madison Litchfield have all gone pro over the last two seasons). Oh yeah, and Amanda Pelkey kinda won a small thing in February.
2. Global Talent
Just going off UVM’s roster, you have five players with at least some degree of senior international experience (Sini Karjalainen and Saana Valkama for Finland, Theresa Schafzahl from Austria, and Czechia’s Sammy Kolowrat and Blanka Škodová), and that doesn’t even include the other players around Hockey East and the nation that show up to face the Catamounts this season.
Also should include that Ève-Audrey Picard has been a part of Canada’s development squad the last few years and played for the Canadian U18 team, while Alyssa Gorecki represented the US at the U18 level as well. Several other players have at least been in national team camps.
3. There’s No Better Time
The hype and potential for WoHo right now is through the roof (see: NWHL expansion team Minnesota Whitecaps selling out their first weekend of games) after an amazing Olympics that culminated in another epic edition of the USA/Canada WoHo rivalry that culminated in an epic shootout between the sport’s two titans. Heck, some of these Olympians will even be coming to Gutterson this year!
Catch the wave!
Burlington’s an expensive place to live, let’s be real. If you want to get your hockey fix, but don’t want to pay the price for men’s hockey, women’s hockey is perfect – it’s just $5 for adults and $3 for kids under 17, and you will still get a fantastic product. Think about it this way: for a family of four, that is just $16 for a high-quality hockey game. Throw in parking prices (which I do not know as I walk to games) and food and you’re still saving a lot of money. (For students: it’s free as all sporting events are, you do not need a ticket unless it’s Pack the Gut, just show your CatCard at the door.)
5. Great Role Models
From my experience as well as hearing what people have to say, there’s nothing but good things to say about the people that make up this program. On the ice, let’s take it right from the horse’s mouth with a quote by Alyssa Gorecki from a USCHO piece written by Nicole Haase: “Yes, we might play more skilled teams, but they will never outwork us.” That’s the attitude this team has – they will always give 110%. And off the ice, they are some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. They’re the kind of people that I don’t just root for because they represent my school, but because they’re people you want to see succeed.
6. A Different Style
With no body checking, women’s hockey turns into quite a different game than men’s hockey. It’s still physical, board battles in particular tend to be important, but it becomes a more skill-and-tactical style of play. I’m not sure about you, but I honestly prefer this style; I’d rather see a beautiful passing combination or dangle than see huge hits.
I’m not gonna mince words, the UVM student section at men’s hockey can be very vulgar. (As one of the most vocal voices there, I try to keep things fairly clean, I’ll do a BS chant but not much worse than that). But at women’s hockey, there’s very few students, so you get a bit more of a laid-back atmosphere where the few people there are largely encouraging their team instead of heckling the other.
8. A Challenging Schedule
UVM’s out of conference schedule is challenging once again. It’s not quite the gauntlet of last year, when the Cats had to visit Minnesota and Quinnipiac and play Clarkson, but UVM will face either a very-good St. Lawrence or an elite Minnesota at the Windjammer Classic, as well as a strong Quinnipiac team early in the season (don’t let getting swept by Ohio State at home fool you; the Buckeyes are a great team and Q was pretty solid on the series). That’s doesn’t even include a Hockey East conference that is getting better every year and has strong programs like BC and Northeastern. Speaking of that Windjammer Classic that I mentioned earlier…
9. One of College WoHo’s Premier Tournaments
The Windjammer Classic only started a couple years ago, but it’s already arguably one of the best in-season tournaments in women’s college hockey. This year’s field features arguably the gold standard in college women’s hockey in Minnesota, a very good St. Lawrence program, and a pretty solid Syracuse team. Last year’s had national runners-up Colgate, and the 2016 edition had national champs Clarkson and a perennial CHA power in Robert Morris. Seriously, if you have time over Thanksgiving weekend and you’re in Burlington, go. There’s some excellent hockey on display.
10. It’s Hockey
Need I say more? If you’re here, chances are you love this sport, so you won’t say no to a little more 😉