St. Dom’s girls’ ice hockey coach Paul Gosselin gives the team some instruction on drills during the first day of practice at the Norway Savings Bank Arena on Monday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — According to St. Dominic Academy girls’ hockey coach Paul Gosselin, “The hunger hasn’t gone anywhere.”
Two consecutive state championships didn’t satisfy the hunger of winning for the Saints, who stepped onto the ice for the first day of preseason practice Monday, along with the rest of the high school girls’ hockey programs around the state.
The departure of a graduated senior captain (Lexie Kesaris) and two members of the team’s core class of 2019 (Izzy Frenette and Kristina Cornelio) hasn’t dented the Saints’ dreams either.
“I think we still have talent and the potential,” senior defender Katya Fons said.
“(The expectations) are still the same,” senior goalie Payton Winslow said. “We still have the expectation to go all the way like we have.”
Gosselin said it may sound crazy, but he thinks this year’s group is even a little more motivated than previous years, even with two state titles and a 26-game winning streak entering this season.
“We obviously lost some key players, but I feel like we’re still the same unit,” Winslow said. “We have the same base, and we can still strive off what we have and make this a good season.”
“Obviously you notice those losses, but work through it, and work with what you got, and I think we got a good group,” junior forward Bugsy Hammerton said.
The Saints have to replace three players, but they gain four freshmen, including goalie Madison Boulet. That’s a welcome sign for Winslow, who was St. Dom’s only goalie for the first three years of her high school career.
“It’s good to have somebody to compete with. So if they do good, I want to do better, and if I do good, she wants to do better,” Winslow said. “We can compete and make each other better, and push each other, help each other.”
Winslow said she also likes that she doesn’t have to skate from one end of the rink to the other to take on teammates’ shots. She said it was bad enough reacquainting herself with her goalie pads.
“I stepped on the ice, I was like, ‘These are so much heavier than I remembered,'” Winslow said. “It was so hard to skate.”
Many of the Saints, including Winslow, just got done playing a fall sport, so they start the winter season in good physical shape. But Gosselin said getting into hockey shape doesn’t happen instantly.
“Definitely getting our legs back in shape,” Fons said. “We did a lot of skating, and we were all winded by 20 minutes into practice.”
“Most of us play in the fall, but we still come out on the ice and we go back down to the basics, with the skating and the passing, just to get the flow together as a team,” junior forward Avery Lutrzykowski said.
Creating chemistry on the ice will take some time, according to Lutrzykowski, but the vibe in the locker room is still the same.
Every new season is different, but the Saints are feeling that more this year than they did a year ago, when they only had to replace one player off the first of the two championship teams. Now three core players have to be replaced.
The Saints won’t stop to worry about that, however. They’ll just try to keep chugging along.
“We’re trying to take off where we were last year at this time, at the end of the season, as opposed to starting over,” Gosselin said. “I’m looking to take us where we were last year and make that one step or two steps up. So I’m not looking at starting over, I’m looking at continuing.”