Seniors vault Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey to next level

Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Sierra Goodwill

The Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team is now without a substantial six.

For Nicole Connery, Nicole Kosta, Nicole Brown, Cydney Roesler, Kristen Tamberg and Lindsey West March 12, 2016 marked the end. The final buzzer. The final score. 1-0. The Clarkson Golden Knights kept an upstart Quinnipiac program from reaching its first Frozen Four.

“When the buzzer went off I told myself I wouldn’t cry but it happened immediately and it was painful,” Connery said. “I couldn’t think about anything but how lucky I am to feel that much pain, to feel that much love for a team my senior year.”

Throughout their four years, these seniors have altered the perception and culture of Quinnipiac women’s hockey. Each accomplishment progressed them a step closer to the well-oiled machine they finished the season as.

They defeated Harvard twice in the regular season en route to its first ever ECAC crown. Two weeks later, the No. 1 seed polished off St. Lawrence and Clarkson on consecutive days to win the programs first league tournament championship. Along with the trophies came a home NCAA Tournament game, a first. It totaled 30 wins, the most in a single season for the program.

All with a new leader.

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(Head coach Cassandra Turner hoists the ECAC trophy after her team won the regular season championship. PC QU Athletics)

With already seven years coaching at the Division I level, as well as guiding Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team to a silver medal in the 2015 World Championship, Cassandra Turner’s first at the helm in Hamden was historic. But she’d be the first one to say the six were extremely unique.

“They are a remarkable group of people who have put so much into their personal development and the development of this program. This isn’t just one year; it’s an accumulation of a lot of efforts,” Turner said.

“I think they really have valued each moment in a way that I haven’t seen in a really long time.”

And if you asked them, they’d tell you Turner was the best way to cap off their time as Bobcats.

“The way she talks to the teammates is different than I’ve ever experienced,” Connery said. “She knows how to handle people if they’re really frustrated, if they’re sad, if they’re too happy and too excited, and she brings them down (to earth).”

“She looks you right in the eye and it feels like it’s something that’s important and that you know you can learn from.”

“She’s very positive on the bench and they way she critiques your game is more settling than I’ve had with coaches in the past,” Brown said. “It’s easier to get better with a coach like her.”

While the seniors’ final run was program-changing and record-breaking, the path to getting there wasn’t as horizontal. For Connery, she experienced the ‘sophomore slump.’ But her troubles were not all about her performance on the ice.

“My game from my freshman season to now is a completely different game. Mostly mentally. Being able to push myself more, taking more risks, being less hesitant, and way more confident,” Connery said.

“It happened with our strength and conditioning coach…He made me read a book that was about mental strength…and it was probably the best thing I ever could’ve done.”

For Kosta, she says the improvement she experienced over her four years as a Bobcat made her a significantly better athlete. She attributes the “immense” growth of her defensive skills and adaptability to Turner’s attention to detail and flexibility with her lines.

“I’ve grown a lot as a player with my individual skills, learning how to work more with different line mates,” Kosta said.

With their Quinnipiac jerseys’ hung up for good, the seniors will miss more than just the game. The six veterans formed a bond on and off the ice that proved to be the core and strength of this program.

“Our group is really tight because even before coming here we’ve all played together, we’ve all played against each other,” Kosta said.

“So I think the history that we’ve all had together and the comfort we have with each other helped us to move through adverse times and really have a deep trust for each other.”

“I think we’ve been through a lot more than other senior classes have,” Brown said. “Especially a coaching change in our final year, players coming and going.”

While the Class of 2016 is on their way out, the legacy they have created will be imprinted on the program for years to come. T.T. Cianfarano, Melissa Samoskevich and Sydney Rossman are returning stars and will use the knowledge bestowed upon them to ensure the future is bright.

After the final loss of the season, the underclassman vocalized their gratitude to the seniors for setting high standards for the program.

Their captain was humbled.

“It’s exciting to see where they’re going to take it because they all have the biggest hearts,” Roesler said. “They’re taking what we’ve done and they’re going to roll with it.”

While Connery, Kosta, Brown, Roesler, Tamberg, and West’s chapter has ended, the book is nowhere near finished for Turner’s squad. The Bobcats’ 2016-17 campaign will be without those six, but with newfound confidence and promise.

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(The Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey coaching staff and seniors with the ECAC regular season trophy. PC QU Athletics)

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