With three goaltenders this year, women’s hockey has the makings of an elite defensive season.
Fifth-year goaltender Caitlyn Lahonen first came to Queen’s in the 2012-13 season from St. Lawrence University in New York.
This year, she’s looking to build on a strong 2014-15 campaign where she managed a .929 save percentage to go along with an 11-6 record.
Though Lahonen started in 17 of the team’s 24 regular season games, this year she’ll be backed up by two strong goaltenders, Stephanie Pascal and Claire Warren, who both just finished their first season with the Gaels.
“I think Stephanie could be a number one and Claire a top-two goalie on just about any team in the OUA,” head coach Matt Holmberg said. “We’re fortunate to have that kind of talent.”
Pascal allowed just five goals in six starts this season, which included three shutouts, a 4-2 record and an .966 save percentage. Meanwhile, Warren made an emergency start last season for her only appearance, stopping 30 of 33 shots in a win over Brock.
Though the depth chart appears the same for this year, Holmberg said Pascal’s experience from last year allows for more flexibility when allocating starts for this upcoming season, hinting at the idea that Pascal may see herself in the crease more frequently this season.
“There’s a number of factors you have to consider when you’re picking a starter on any given night,” he said, referencing schedule, fatigue and an opponent’s skill as some of the key considerations.
“Stephanie’s pushing Caitlyn real hard this season for more playing time,” he continued, because of his added trust in her abilities. When it comes to the recruiting process, goaltending differs from every other position, according to Holmberg.
“You only really have one player playing the majority of your games,” he said. “You aim to get someone that can be in that number one role for ideally two or three seasons. We brought Caitlyn in to fill that role and we’re hoping Stephanie can do the same once Caitlyn’s done.”
Holmberg said bringing back six defenders for 2015-16 should help keep the goals against low, a category where the Gaels finished fourth in the OUA last season.
“We’re looking for the entire back end to be a real strength this year,” he said.
Lahonen said that level of communication between her and her defenders will be rather high due to their previous experience together.
“You’re not starting from scratch,” she said. “You put a lot of trust in your teammates and they put a lot of trust in you.”
While her on-ice contributions are important, Lahonen said it’s also vital for her to act as a leader to her teammates, especially those who are also netminders.
“I do think they look up to me quite a bit,” she said, referring to her relationship with Pascal and Warren. “We get along well, which makes things easier.”
But above all else, Lahonen has a very clear vision about how she’d like to end her time at Queen’s. “I’d love to finish my career with a CIS championship.”
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