Forward Kelly Babstock watched her teammate Amanda Colin take a shot. Goaltender Kate Gallagher made a save, but the puck bounced off and Babstock seized the opportunity. She took her own shot and sent the puck past Gallagher before the goaltender had a chance to get into position.
Her second of two goals against Union College on February 12 was her seventh point of the weekend, a new high for Babstock. It was also her 55th point of the season. Despite being only a freshman, Babstock led the team in scoring by over 30 points and is fifth in the country. That is a lot of production for anyone, let alone a freshman new to the dynamics of college hockey.
Babstock started playing hockey in Mississauga, Ont., when she was six. “My older brother played hockey; my dad had taught him how to play, and I kinda wanted to be like my older bro,” said Babstock.
She played on boys’ teams because until eighth grade because that’s all there were, but had no problem fitting in. Even in high school, she played on the boys’ lacrosse team for a year because the school did not have one for girls. Not only did she play on the boys’ team, she was its leading scorer.
“I didn’t think anything of it, because I always play with the guys in hockey and lacrosse,” said Babstock. “It was fun to beat up the boys.”
Having played with the boys for so long may have contributed to Babstock’s intensity and aggressive play on the ice. She has the most penalties on the team with 17, but when you can create scoring opportunities for yourself and your teammates as much as Babstock does, people tend to overlook the penalties.
Babstock has been a part of 56 percent of her team’s goals with 30 goals and 29 assists. She has a plus/minus rating of plus 30; that means Quinnipiac has scored 30 more goals than its opponents have while Babstock has been on the ice.
“There’s no denying her importance to our success,” said Quinnipiac coach Rick Seeley. “Any time Kelly has an off game, it’s a struggle for us.”
One example was in the last weekend of the regular season. Babstock did not record a point in either game for only the second time in the season. The Bobcats lost to Yale 1-0 and tied Brown 3-3, which also marked the second weekend in which they did not win at least one game, though the other losing weekend was not Babstock’s other scoreless weekend.
In many games this season, Babstock has been involved in every goal the Bobcats have scored. The biggest one in the stat book was against Rensselaer on February 11. Quinnipiac beat the Engineers 5-1; Babstock scored two goals and had three assists. The game was close to being the freshman’s fourth hat trick of the season. She scored three goals in a game twice in one weekend in November in a win over Harvard and a loss to Dartmouth and again in January for an overtime win against Clarkson.
“Our team battled back from being down 2-1 going in the third; we tied it up and I scored the third goal in overtime for the hat trick,” said Babstock. “It was the best game of the season, not just because of the hat trick for me but I was really pumped for the team’s win.”
Babstock says she doesn’t pay attention to her personal accolades as they pile up; it’s all about the team winning as a whole for her. However, not even she can deny that there have been many of them: ECAC Hockey/MLX Skates Player of the Week twice, Rookie of the Week five times, and Quinnipiac Female Athlete of the Month in November and December before being named ECAC Rookie and Player of the Year. She was also one of three freshmen nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
“She’s the freshman everyone wants to be and play with,” said captain Jordan Elkins. “Not only does she put the puck in the net, but she gets the puck to our other forwards so that they score more too.”
The rest of the team responded well to Babstock joining them. Not only did she give them assists, setting up goals, but she also took some pressure off. In the past, games had been a struggle and the margin of victory was rarely much more than one point. This season was a different story.
“Just having someone who you know you can count on to be involved in a goal or two a game, it takes some pressure off,” said Seeley. “When you’re not expected to be the scorer, you can just chip in, it’s a lot easier for you. I think that’s why the second tier has stepped up a lot this year.”
Last year, only three players scored more than 20 points for the Bobcats, and they were all seniors. This year, five players are in the twenties. Forward Kate Wheeler, for example, recorded four goals and 10 assists last year compared to 12 goals and 17 assists this year. Last year’s Bobcats scored 79 goals; this year’s scored 105, 75 without Babstock’s 30.
According to Elkins, the team had previously been more defensively focused. They never had a scorer like Babstock to jump start things. Now that they did, things changed, for the better.
“We’ve always been working as a team on our defense,” said Elkins. “We had an awesome goalie, so we knew we had that area of our team tightened up. So it was a relief to know we had someone on the other side of the ice to provide a spark.”
Going into the playoffs, Quinnipiac needed Babstock to continue her level of play to have a chance at the ECAC title. She did, and the Bobcats upset fourth-seed Princeton in only two games. Babstock had an assist in each game and a goal in the second.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Babstock before the series. “I’m just ready to see what playoff play is all about. I’m new to it all, so I’m still learning what the whole league is all about.”
The team may have fallen to Cornell in the semifinals, but if this is Babstock still learning what it is all about, who knows what she can do, how many points she can score, once she understands how the league and playoffs work.