The Guilford girls’ ice hockey squad has been on a quest to lengthen its intensity through a full three periods this winter. Even though the Indians’ efforts aren’t yet showing up in the win column, Head Coach Gil Schaper feels plenty pleased with his team’s dedication toward giving a 100-percent effort until the final horn sounds.
“We have a short bench, so we often have to send girls out every other shift, so we’ve worked on our endurance. We’ve stretched playing hard and our focus to all three periods since the season started,” said Schaper. “We’ve increased our work rate and reduced our mistakes. We are making other teams work harder in order to beat us.”
Senior Lily Young returned to the Indians as a captain after holding that position with Guilford’s softball squad last spring. Supporting Young in the leadership role are the Indians’ alternate captains, senior Sara Russo and junior Hannah Plaziak. Each member of trio has a different background, but Coach Schaper said that all three athletes serve as great examples for their teammates.
“Sara and Lily were new to the sport when they started with the team a few years ago and they’ve come a long way in that time. We’re hoping Lily can transfer that leadership from softball to hockey. She demonstrates leadership on the ice with hard work and effort,” Schaper said. “Sara has good strength on the puck and battles her opponents. Hannah brings experience to the ice and she is a good role model with demonstrating her skills on the ice.”
The Indians appear to have bright future behind the strength of a freshman class that features center Audrey Rowen and defenseman Jaime Neleber. Sophomore winger Jacquie Violette is another up-and-coming athlete on the squad. Junior Alexa Maio is Guilford’s primary netminder and sophomore Brielle Kendrioski is also a goalie on the team.
Coach Schaper praised many of his younger players for swiftly grasping their roles, while never showing any signs of frustration.
“Audrey is our most dangerous offensive player. She has good speed and a good shot. Jaime has great versatility. She went from defense last year to forward. Alexa worked hard in the offseason and has gotten much better and Brielle has picked up things quickly,” said Schaper. “All of our newer players have incredible team spirit. They have a positive attitude and are always enjoying themselves. It’s about the smaller victories. It’s about winning those and improving upon the skills taught in practice.”
Moving forward, Schaper likes what he sees with his team’s cohesiveness away from the rink. On the ice, the coach wants to see the Indians continue developing all aspects of their game so that opponents will eventually have to circle upcoming contests versus Guilford on their calendars.
“We have good team chemistry here. It’s about keeping them engaged in practice and as a unit,” said Schaper. “We have to focus on our team defense. We’ve been trying to stress that over the course of the first half of the season. We also have to work on getting pucks to the net in order to put pressure on the other team. We want teams to walk away remembering they played us because we gave them a fight.”
From the Sidelines
In last week’s action, Guilford took a 6-0 home loss to Conard-Hall at DiLungo Rink on Jan. 18, after which the Indians dropped a 7-1 contest to Mercy-Northwest Catholic at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell on Jan. 21.
Gil Schaper is in his fifth season as the Indians’ head coach.
Rick Binkowski and Scott Neleber are Guilford’s assistant coaches this winter.
The Indians are competing at the SCC Division II level with the likes of West Haven-Sacred Heart Academy, Amity-North Haven-Cheshire, Hand, Notre Dame-Fairfield/Foran, Masuk-Barlow-Newtown-Oxford, and Lauralton Hall in Division II of the SCC.