Just two games into the return of varsity women’s hockey to the University of New Brunswick, the Reds may have already found the first star player of the team’s new era.
Rookie goaltender Kendra Woodland put on a show for the Aitken Centre crowd over the weekend, playing a key role in getting the team’s games against Mount Allison and St. Thomas to double-overtime while stopping 65 of the 69 total shots she faced in the two games combined. The Reds ultimately lost both games by a final score of 2-1.
“We didn't get the outcome that we wanted but I think all of us are really happy with the way we played. We pushed really hard… (I’m) just really proud,” said Woodland after the loss to the Mounties on Saturday night.
While the team was unable to pick up its first win, the pair of home games certainly provided plenty of reasons to be optimistic about team’s future with Woodland at the forefront.
“Kendra, she’s the backbone of this team. We can be a little bit more aggressive because we know that we have a very, very good goalie behind us,” said Reds head coach Sarah Hilworth. “Sometimes it’s going to burn us but at the end of the day she’s our backbone and does such a good job keeping us in games and gives us confidence that we can win [any game].”
Hilworth said Woodland’s stellar play seemed to also help calm her team who appeared to be battling nerves at the start of their first game. After the Reds gave up early goals in both games, the first-year netminder managed to make a number of key saves to keep her team within a goal.
Also making an impact for the Reds were forwards Jennifer Bell and Lillian George who scored the team’s two goals over the weekend to get the games to overtime. Bell not only had the honour of scoring the Reds’ first goal in a decade, but she also managed to do so against her former team, Mount Allison. And yet, Bell seemed more excited by the support the team has received so far than by her own personal moment of glory.
“All of the support coming from the university the Fredericton community has just been fantastic,” she said.
Hilworth agreed while adding that the team was disappointed to not be able to pick up a win for the community despite all of the reasons to feel good about their performance.
“The girls put a lot of pressure on themselves and I think they took it really tough. They wanted to make Fredericton proud and UNB proud,” she said. “I had to remind them that they did, but I know that they’re really disappointed.”
Indeed, the roughly 2,000 fans who showed up and provided an energetic atmosphere for the team’s first game are another reason to feel good about the future of UNB’s women’s hockey program, as were the excited faces of the many young girls in attendance who can now grow up dreaming of some day getting a scholarship to play hockey at UNB.