Last season Colchester won three games — all against the same team — and struggled in a strong Metro Division.
This year, with a new coach and new attitude, the Lakers are 9-4 with their sights set on returning their program to the top of Division I.
“I was hoping for a winning record,” said head coach Robert Lehouiller. “We only had three wins last year. This year we have nine and we are on the upward swing. For us, it’s about getting back into the winning attitude.”
“It’s different, it’s been really nice,” said assistant captain Kellie Lockerby. “Going from losing every game to winning, it’s just so nice for our team to get a little confidence.”
Lehouiller is in his first year as head coach at Colchester and has brought some new themes to the Lakers this season. With a squad made up of mainly returning players from last year’s three-win season, one of the biggest changes has been in attitude.
“I feel like our spirits are more up and we are all together,” said Lockerby of the new coach. “Practices are more effective.”
Lehouiller, who served as an assistant coach on last season’s team, wants to emphasize to the players that they need to go into every game thinking that they are going to win. The coach says he can sense the increase in confidence on his team and that has helped them improve this season.
“It’s a new attitude,” Lehouiller said. “The coaching staff that I have is very upbeat and practices are fun and upbeat. It’s just getting back to small little details and make it fun for everybody.”
One of the strengths of this team is their balance. The Lakers have three strong lines and do not rely on one player to provide all the offense. Add to that a veteran goaltender, Erica Hoffman, and really solid defense, and it’s a recipe for a great turnaround.
“They are playing as one team,” Lehouiller said. “We’ve got three very good lines, they are very equal. Everybody is one big unit. Everybody’s in it to make this program grow.”
Defensively, the Lakers rely on seniors Jackie Gauthier and Sierra Cummings to provide experience, while junior Jensen Hamlett is the anchor, according to the coach. Freshman Dakota Bilodeau has tons of hockey experience to round out a strong defense.
“They know where to put the puck, they get it to the forwards,” Lockerby said.
Keeping everything under control is junior goaltender Hoffman, who has been very solid for Colchester this season.
“We go when she goes,” Lehouiller said. “She’s our back stop. She’s been having a great year this year.”
While Hoffman and her defenseman take care of the Laker end, Lehouiller rolls three lines that can all score.
“We have one line that is very good, but everybody has shared the responsibility,” the coach said. “It’s very balanced. It’s definitely a team effort. We’re not relying just on one person, we have three lines that can do the job and we can put out any time.”
With a very balanced squad, Lehouiller has moved the team’s goals from getting more wins that last year, to looking forward to the playoffs.
“The main goal is to go into the playoffs with momentum. It doesn’t matter what the record is, but just to have the momentum,” Lehouiller said. “We had a team meeting and one of the girl’s goal was to win one playoff game. The seniors that we have have never won a playoff game.”
After three losing seasons, the 9-4 record for Colchester has the coach and program thinking big. The Lakers are hoping to continue to build on this successful season and reinsert the program back into the conversation in the Metro Division.
“One of our goals was to get the program and the girls excited again,” said Lehouiller. “It’s just getting back into the swing of getting the girls program up and running and keeping it that way.”