During a successful 2015-16 winter season, the Missisquoi girls’ hockey team had a solid team that played strong defense for most of the season.
However, the Thunderbirds struggled to consistently find their scoring stride throughout the season, which cost them at times throughout the season.
Entering the 2016-17 season, the Thunderbirds know the key for them is to find their scoring stride early in the season and keep it going throughout.
“Just from looking at last season, one thing we have to focus on is getting some scoring from our defense and get all of our forwards involved in the scoring,” said second year head coach Wynn Paradee, who has been involved with the program since the first year in 2001-02. “The key to this season is if they can get the scoring going and make up the goals from players we graduated.”
The team lost four key players to graduation with Caitlin Fortin (six goals, 11 assists), Lindsay Kilbury (four goals, four assists), defensive forward Shania Gagne and shutdown defenseman Emily Fournier.
One key player for the Thunderbirds this season will be Olivia Thayer, who has been a key contributor to the offense for the past three years. She set the pace last year with 13 goals and 11 assists.
“It’s exciting to get back out on the ice for another season,” said Thayer. “Last year we had a good team, but just couldn’t finish at times, so this year’s focus has to be finding any ways to get the puck in the back of the net. We have to get the puck to the net rather than wait for the perfect pass or perfect shot. We are a team that scores off rebounds and we need to use the positioning to make that happen this year.”
Allyssa Audet also had a good season last year with eight goals and eight assists and will be on a line with Thayer this season.
Paradee is also expected a good season from sophomore Savannah Fellows, who finished her freshman season with eight goals and six assists.
Senior Jenna Bourdeau is a shutdown defenseman, who will lead the point for the Thunderbirds. Sophomore Renee Bouchard is looking to have a good season, as Paradee is expecting her to be a force with a solid shot from the point.
Mikayla Hull, who took over midway through last season, will be the primary goalie for the Thunderbirds this year in her senior year.
“We have no new players this year, so everyone is familiar with our system,” said Paradee. “We are strong up the middle and have four mobile defensemen. This is a smaller team than last year and the girls seem to get along very well.”
The lack of new players has limited the amount of time needed to adjust new players to practice habits and introduce them to the team’s gameplan.
It will be key for the Thunderbirds to stay healthy and get production out of everyone with the limited number of players on the squad this year.
“We have 13 skaters, so our team needs to work on and off the ice to improve our endurance,” said Thayer. “We will need to be conditioned to skate two or three lines and still have our energy in the third period. I think our team is set up for a good season, as long as we can stay healthy throughout the year.”
Missisquoi finished last regular season season with a 10-7-3 record and earned the No. 3 seed in the Division II tournament.
They were taken down by No. 6 Rice 4-2 in the quarterfinals.
“We got away from the good defense we played the first half of the season with,” said Paradee. “That cost us later in the season.”
Paradee is excited for his team’s chances to improve on its record from last season and expects Woodstock and Rice to be two of the teams to look out for this season.
After making it to three straight finals from the 2007 -2009 championships, the Thunderbirds have reached the semifinals only once since. They fell to North Country in the semifinals in 2015 in overtime.
The Thunderbirds start their campaign Wednesday when it hosts Rice in hopes of getting the season started on the right foot against a good team.