The Becker College women's ice hockey team begins its season this week under fourth-year head coach Eliza Kelley.
"Both players and staff are excited this year." Kelley said in regards to the upcoming season. "That seems to be the general feeling surrounding us going into the start. Morale is high. Training camp had a great tempo; it was fast, focused and competitive. It is really positive seeing players compete like that. They have bought into the work ethic piece, too. It's our expectation that will translate into the mentality for the year – a mentality we will need to maintain through the long season and the ups and downs that come with it."
Senior forward Claudia Gee (Randolph, Vt. / Vermont Shamrocks) returns for her final season as a Hawk as the team's all-time leading scorer. Gee has scored 21 goals with 21 assists in 78 games played, which is another school record. Gee led Becker's power-play and even strength scoring last season, and looks to finish strong after a rigorous offseason that has seen Gee enter camp at the strongest and fastest point of her career.
Goaltending will once again be a major strength for the Hawks. The senior duo of Madison Rigsby (O'Fallon, Mo. / Dallas Stars Elite) and Julia Johnson (Littleton, Colo. / Walpole Express) has been one of the best one-two tandems in the nation. Rigsby was voted Colonial Hockey Conference (CHC) Second-Team All-Conference after last season, after twice being named CHC Goaltender of the Week and ranking fourth in the nation last year in save percentage with a .951 mark. Rigsby is the program's all-time leader in wins, saves, saves per game, save percentage, goals-against-average and shutouts. Johnson had a fantastic 2017-2018 season with a .934 save percentage and twice being named the Becker Athlete-of-the-Week.
Seniors Elysabeth Jefferies (Lisbon Falls, Maine / Hebron Academy) and Nikolle Storey (Cumberland, Maine / Kents Hill School) form the core of the Becker defense, and will bring physical play and vocal leadership to a young group of Hawks.
Those five form the nucleus of a senior class that includes 12 Hawks, most of whom have been with the program since its inception four years ago. Team captains include seniors Storey, Brittany Aiello (Franklin Park, Ill. / Team Illinois), Sarah McSweeney (Chandler, Ariz. / Walpole Express) and sophomore Cameron Payne (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. / Los Osos). That group will look to set the tone with a strong work ethic, focus and physicality.
"[The team] set goals as a group this week and the standard set by them seems to be higher than it has ever been, which as a staff we love to see." Kelley commented enthusiastically. "We really like our make-up this year, too. The group has been incredibly supportive of each other and supportive of our vision. It's a healthy balance of experienced veterans and fresh faces. Our returners are really driven and dedicated. Their commitment to this program has been, and will continue to be, a huge asset for us. Our younger players are hungry to learn and are pushing the compete level. It's a good group as a whole. It will give us more options with our style of play this year".
Promising newcomers for the Hawks include Clare Conway, a skilled forward with a hard-nosed style of play. The Hawks are looking for her to contribute offensively and bring a high level of competition to practices and games. Other top recruits include transfer Olivia Dupree (Post University) and freshmen Julia Ravenelle, Gabby Petrisin, and Kylian Kelly.
"[These] are all blue line additions that add speed, physicality and will make our defensive unit more versatile." Coach Kelley said.
The Hawks are looking to move up the standings in the ultra-competitive CHC, one of the toughest leagues in the country.
Kelley cited the two schools who reached the championship finals in last year's conference tournament.
"Endicott and Morrisville are both big, strong and fast. [They] do a nice job with their programs and always finishing at the top of our league."
This will be Becker's second season playing at the Fidelity Worcester Ice Center, downtown Worcester's state-of-the-art hockey facility.
The Hawks will open their season on Saturday night as they host Utica College at 7:05 p.m. The following day, the team will head to Franklin Pierce University for a 3:00 p.m. game.
"[Those two games] should be a good chance to see our strengths and weaknesses early." Kelley added.