As the regular season hits its final weeks, the Castleton women’s hockey team looks to find a way to make a playoff run similar to previous years.
The Spartans, only two years removed from a conference final appearance, have had a much different experience this season and have faced adversity on the roller coaster ride of a season.
But head coach Tim McAuliffe feels maybe it isn’t such a bad thing.
“This regular season has certainly been full of ups and downs, and to be honest is a bit reminiscent of the season we had in 2021-2022, where we faced a lot of challenges and used it to help us find our stride down the stretch and into the playoffs where we made a nice run. Compare that to last year, the wins certainly came easier in the regular season and it’s no secret we had an early exit come playoff time,” McAuliffe said.
The team currently sits sixth in conference play with two games left (9-12-2, 7-7-2 NEHC), which is something the Spartans haven’t experienced in quite some time with this being their lowest seeding since the 2016-2017 season. Each of the past two seasons, the team has finished fourth in the conference, both with extremely different outcomes.
“I’m excited for these last four regular season games and hopeful that as the playoff picture unfolds, we are in the mix and heading into playoffs with some momentum, and not really caring who our opponent is. We know and we’ve seen that once you make playoffs, in this conference, nobody is safe, doesn’t matter if it’s the one versus the eight or the four versus the five, all eight teams can win and to me, that’s something for us to be excited about,” McAuliffe said.
With playoffs on the horizon, the team has needed to face some adversity throughout the season with some injury trouble.
“I think a huge thing for our team right now is getting our bodies ready for playoffs. We are getting to the point of the season where a lot of us are worn down and battling injuries, so I think a major goal for us is to get as healthy as possible before we battle in the playoffs,” said junior captain Emery Bonner.
In a crucial weekend the Spartans came out with two wins against University of Southern Maine and Salem St. besting USM 2-1 and Salem 3-0.
The Spartans look to build off this past Friday and Saturday wins against University of Southern Maine and Salem St. when going into this coming weekend against William Smith and Elmira to continue with their momentum into playoffs.
As the last weekend comes around, the women are in a position to play William Smith who they faced off against last season in the first round in which they lost.
“I think at this point we know everything we need to do in order to win, it’s just a matter of sticking together and working as a team. Our energy both in practice and games has been great lately so we definitely need to bring that positivity into our last couple games. Our work ethic is what sets us apart so if we can continue to keep that up, we will definitely find success,” said sophomore Rachel McNeil.