Jess Wakefield has known for a while that this past season, her fourth with the women’s hockey team, wouldn’t be her last. Taking advantage of the U Sports rule that allows athletes to continue competing during a fifth year of school, she will be returning to captain a Gaels squad that finished sixth in the country at the national championships in March.
For Wakefield, deciding to return was an easy decision. She noted that by second year, it was already on her mind. She organized her schedule accordingly and now, along with a few other long-serving players that debuted in the 2013-2014 season, she will be trying to win the OUA Championships for the first time in their careers.
Discussing the play of the team throughout her career and any changes that may be expected for her final season, Wakefield mentioned that every year the team begins with the same common mindset. It is important that the team agrees on “what we stand for and how we expect our season to go,” Wakefield said. “Each year we are pushing to get better.”
Because of the high expectations the team sets out, players don’t often struggle to buy into the team’s mentality and competitive nature. This could even be seen over the summer, with the forward speaking to The Journal after having just finished a team lifting session, still more than three months removed from the start of the season.
Wakefield also noted that hosting the U Sports National Championships in the spring gave the team some added motivation to play their hardest. This is not something she believes will slow down for the team, with most of her teammates now having experienced the intensity of playing at the highest level.
A particular aspect of the game that Wakefield would like to see improve is the team’s power play. She mentioned how it was a strong part of their game during the playoffs after struggling throughout the season. This mirrored the course of their 2016-2017 campaign, with the team only finding top form after the December break.
Wakefield acknowledged that perseverance became an important characteristic shared by everyone on the team. She hopes that this trait holds true throughout the upcoming year, as the road to a successful season often has its bumps and stops along the way.
The OUA playoffs will always be a part of Wakefield’s career at Queen’s. When she began back in 2013, she recorded six goals and five assists on the way to the OUA Finals. Unfortunately for Wakefield and the eight rookies she played alongside — most of whom are returning — they were beat by Laurier.
The experience of adjusting to the team with many other new faces could have been a challenge that would be reflected on the ice and in the standings. However, Wakefield noted that players “come in, and [are] immediately part of a team.” Now, after being named captain for a second consecutive year, she makes it a priority to show the same support for any new players.
Without the automatic host entry which they had last year, the only way for the Gaels to qualify for the national championships would be to win the OUA championships. Wakefield, as one would expect, was defiant in stating her goals. “We want to prove we deserve to be on the national stage,” she said.
“It would be pretty special to make it back.”
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