Under the veneer of a perfect conference record, struggle remains constant. From the outside looking in, No.4 Norwich’s run to the ECAC East regular season title has been nothing short of a pronounced success. For forward Tori Charron however, such achievements have transpired from pure inner strength among her teammates.
“The most positive surprise that our team has encountered this year, is our resilience to overcome an injury-plagued season,” said Charron, who heads into weekend action as the fifth-leading scorer in the nation with 33 points. “Our team from day one has had injury after injury which continued through the second half of the season, when our teammate and my fellow classmate, Liz Gemmiti, was involved in a car accident which has ended her hockey career.”
Gemmiti, a junior defenseman from Toronto, was struck by a car while walking back to the Norwich campus in Northfield, Vt., last December. Gemmiti, currently recovering, played just seven games for the Cadets before the incident.
“Madyson Moore missed a month due to mononucleosis and Rachel Bellio had a season-ending shoulder injury,” Charron added. “We’ve also had to deal with day-to-day injuries that have plagued our team all season.”
Moore, in her first go-round with the Cadets after playing with New England College for two seasons, had nine goals in 13 games. Bellio, also in her initial run at Norwich, suited up in 28 contests for the University of Maine Black Bears last year. The duo has combined for 18 points in 24 games.
“Although it has been difficult coping with fewer and fewer teammates on the ice, we are strong and will continue to focus and support each other, which I believe will only further benefit us down the road,” said Charron.
Captain Brittany Sharman, who is putting the finishing touches on a career-best season, agrees.
“This group has conquered the many challenges we have faced this year,” Sharman said. “It might potentially break some teams, but it has only made us stronger as a unit, and brought us closer together, which has shown on the ice.”
For the Cadets, the unavoidable difficulties might serve as grist for the mill as they focus on a postseason run.
“I’d like to think the team is in a good spot right now,” said coach Mark Bolding. “We sure feel like we did learn from last year’s loss in the NCAAs. The upperclassmen are starting to play with more urgency in their game, which is building confidence as we head in the playoffs.”
Sharman, who leads the team in scoring among defenseman (1-14-15), likes her club’s attitude going forward.
“We’re better prepared this year,” said the Quebec native. “Since the new semester started, we’ve turned the corner in a positive way. Everyone seems more engaged, we all have the same goal that we are working toward, not as individuals but as a unit. As we head into playoffs, we are working together both on and off the ice and everyone is 100 percent committed to the team, which I believe is a big reason why we are having success and feel ready for the playoffs.”
The Cadets have seen three top 10 teams this season; they’ll get a look at No.2 Middlebury in their final contest of the regular season on February 19. Charron believes the familiarity is advantageous.
“We have studied our opponents, we know what to expect from them; it’s now up to us to perform and use the tools we have,” she said.
“We will study, and plan for our opponents, to the best of our ability, but it does come down to the players and their game time execution and effort,” Bolding said. “Teams that get into March hockey want to keep the game simple and play their own style, as that’s likely what has allowed them to get there.”
With emerging freshman goalie Taylor Fairchild (1.37/.927) and the second-ranked defense in the nation, as well as a top-10 offensive unit on board, Charron believes there is no justification for pretexts.
“We’ve had the tools; there are no excuses for our losses this season,” Charron said. “I am convinced that we didn’t lose those games because we are immensely less skilled than any of the teams, rather that the will to win was not at the level it needed to be. With 10 seniors, we need to be the hardest-working and most focused team in the nation. That is how we will get where we want to be.”