Coming into this season, Trinity went through as much of a changeover as any other team in Division III. Not only did the Bantams lose five impact seniors, headlined by Laura Hurd Award finalist and all-time program leading scorer Kim Weiss, they also lost their head coach that helped build the program from the ground up over the last nine years in Andrew McPhee.
After establishing the Trinity program as a national power with a 39-9-6 combined record in 2009-10 and 2010-11, as well as the first NCAA tournament appearance, McPhee left in the fall to become an assistant coach with Division I Brown.
In stepped 2009 St. Lawrence graduate Carson Duggan to take over the reins of the program to try and maintain the course that McPhee had started.
Duggan’s tenure got off to a rough start, as Trinity won just one game in its first seven, including six straight losses to head into the holiday break with a 1-6 overall record.
“I think there was a big adjustment period for us with the transition of a new coach along with the loss of a significant, program-changing kind of senior class from the year before,” Duggan said. “The effort was there, but we just weren’t finishing and still had to get some confidence from players that realized they had an opportunity to step up into new roles.”
Without a Kim Weiss, Laura Komarek, Alexa Guglielmi, Sarah Kohn and Jill Roloff walking through the locker room door, questions began percolating on whether or not Trinity would recover.
“That whole group were freshmen when Trinity had its first winning season in program history,” Duggan said. “I think regardless of who was coaching, it was going to be a different year with the loss of all those players in the stats column, but also leadership-wise.”
Fast forward to two months later and Trinity is now 14-10 on the season and the No. 4-seed for the NESCAC Tournament after compiling a 13-4 record in the new calendar year.
“We knew we were going to have to play a different style of hockey and not turn to one or two kids to score the goals,” Duggan said. “We needed some of the younger kids to step up, and they have. The returning players were excited for this year, because they knew they were kind of counted out of things and not have as high of expectations. This group has a lot of desire to prove people wrong.”
Trinity went 10-1 in its first 11 games of 2012, including an eight-game winning streak where it never scored more than three goals, but still won.
“The games that we have been playing have been pretty much been the definition of a team win,” Duggan said. “Our leading points scorer isn’t even in the top 20 in the league. No one has dominated as far as that goes, but we’ve literally been getting scoring from all four lines, and even a couple defensemen.”
Senior Payson Sword leads Trinity with five goals and 11 assists for 16 points. Sophomore Lauren Glynn and Abby Ostrom are tied for the team lead with eight goals apiece on a Bantams’ squad that has only six players in double digit points.
“You never know who is going to step up on a given night, but that gives us a balanced attack, and I think that gives our girls a sense of pride that everyone is contributing to wins,” Duggan said. “We haven’t really blown anyone out, and a lot of our wins are close games, which I think is even better.”
Another factor in Trinity’s success in the new year has come with senior forward Celia Colman-McGaw returning to the squad in the second semester after taking some time away from hockey in the first semester.
McGaw has four goals in 11 games played so far this season after she ranked second on the team in points last year and led the squad with 19 goals as a sophomore.
“It’s tough to come in midway through after missing all those games and practices,” Duggan said of the dynamic forward. “But, she’s so athletically gifted though. I’m sure she’d like to be scoring a little bit more, but she creates a lot and teams have to respect her, so that opens up space for other kids. Having her around has been a huge boost for our team.”
Trinity has also received outstanding play in between the pipes from sophomore Alexa Pujol. She is 11-7-0 on the year with a 1.77 goals against average and a .933 save percentage that ranks 12th in all of Division III and second in the NESCAC.
“Alexa has made a name for herself in this league,” Duggan said. “She’s a very calm, cool and collected goaltender with good size. She’s always responded when she’s had to, and she’s definitely won games for us. She’s been a big part of our success, because we know if we have lapses she’s right there.”
The second half of the season hasn’t been completely roses though for the Bantams. They did hit a bump in the road the first weekend in February when they traveled up to Bowdoin and were swept by the Polar Bears, 5-0 and 5-2.
“We were on a roll and then had a complete letdown at Bowdoin,” Duggan said. “I wasn’t too concerned about losing, but it was the way we lost. We got completed dominated that weekend.”
Instead of dwelling on the losses though, Trinity came back the following weekend and stunned No. 3 Amherst with a 3-2 win over the Lord Jeffs to snap the Bantams’ 14-game winless streak against Amherst.
“The way we responded to the Bowdoin weekend, especially by beating Amherst, was huge,” Duggan said. “Amherst is a team we haven’t beaten since (January 2006) so it was pretty special for this team to accomplish something last year’s seniors never did.
“We earned the win and it was a huge confidence0builder just to see that we can play with the best. Those are the games you love to play in when the other team raises the bar and you come up to it. It’s definitely something we are proud of, since we hadn’t beaten them in awhile.”
After falling in a close 2-1 battle the next day to Amherst, Trinity swept Wesleyan to close the regular season and head into the postseason on a winning streak.
The Bantams will host Hamilton at 3 p.m. on Saturday in a NESCAC Quarterfinal at the Koeppel Community Sports Center in Hartford, Conn. Trinity beat Hamilton, 3-0 and 3-1, in their two prior meetings this season that came during the Bantams’ eight-game winning streak.
“Home ice is always one of your goals going into the season,” Duggan said. “It’s a testament to the girls down the stretch to be able to clinch it. When it comes down to the playoffs, it’s one game and anything can happen. What happened earlier in the season against Hamilton really doesn’t matter. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
Regardless of this weekend’s result, Trinity’s second half turnaround has been one of the biggest storylines in D-III women’s hockey this season. After a tough start, it looks like the Trinity women’s hockey program is in capable hands for the future with Carson Duggan behind the bench.