October 6, 2013

Women's Season Preview: Douville gives Vermont hope

By Kat Hasenauer Cornetta


UVM’s Roxanne Douville, Hockey East’s first-team All-Star goaltender, returns to backstop a much healthier team with a full bench.

A hard and busy day at work can be a drag for most people.

Roxanne Douville prefers it.

The University of Vermont senior and reigning Hockey East first-team All-Star goaltender finds the games where she sees a boatload of shots as some of her favorites. One of those games was the Catamounts’ second to last regular-season game of last season, a 1-1 tie with eventual Frozen Four participant Boston College, in which Douville made 53 saves.

“I really enjoy playing BC, because they shoot from all over,” said the Beloeil, Que., native. “You don’t have time to think. It is the best way to play. I wish every game was like that.”

Games with a high level of constant work by the entire roster at both ends of the ice appeal to Douville. “If you’re playing a game like Boston College, it’s easy to get excited. But if you’re playing a game where you aren’t going to be as involved, it’s easy to get down.”

During her first two seasons in Burlington, starting games of that desired level was a rare occurrence for Douville. Vermont was woeful, going 11-39-15 in those two seasons. While there were glimpses of promise among the talented players, the overall feeling of the program was low.

Enter Jim Plumer. The former Amherst College women’s hockey coach was hired by Vermont in the late spring of 2012 and started to make major changes to the program.

“It look the vast majority of last season for them to know me, and how I do things, and for me to know them,” said Plumer. “When you’ve recruited a player, you build a several-year relationship with them, but I had to walk right in and build that with players I didn’t know.”

While Douville and her teammates worked to build a relationship with their new coach, she also started working with a sports psychologist. She knew it would help her find a way to work through those games she disliked, where she was not as involved and had time to think. “It helped me figure out what (was) the optimal way to feel before a game. I have to manage my emotions.”

Those new mental skills would be put in the test in Plumer’s practice of holding mini-games during practice. “Coach does a lot of game   situations and mini-games, where we keep scores and stats. That helps,” explained Douville.

Plumer’s systems, like the mini-games, were set up to help them with the uphill climb he knew last season would be. Not only was there an adjustment period, but also his team was playing with a very short bench due to injuries and the coaching change. Douville had only two defensive pairings rotating in front of her most of the season. The situation could have undone the mental work Douville had put in.

“She had to learn some things, and she had some bumps in the road,” admitted Plumer. “It wasn’t a linear progression for her through the season, but our whole team didn’t have a linear progression.”

Particularly at the beginning of February, Douville and the team started to get frustrated. They dropped important league games to New Hampshire — a team they had already beaten twice — Maine and Boston University. “She had some rocky moments in February, but she rebounded,” said Plumer. “She rebounded in that 1-1 tie at BC.”

The Feb. 23 game was a turning point for the program. To limit league All-Stars Alex Carpenter (Reading, Mass.) and Haley Skaurpa to a mere goal was a feat for a program that was shut out by the Eagles all three times they met in 2011-12.

The Catamounts kept the momentum going to their first-ever Hockey East playoff game a week later at Northeastern. Douville made 15 saves in the first period, and teammate Amanda Pelkey (Montpelier, Vt.), who had been limited much of the season due to injury, got the Catamounts on the board first.

“During that first half of the playoff game against Northeastern, our whole team executed at a really high level, including her,” said Plumer.

Douville amassed 43 saves. Unfortunately, what Plumer deemed “little mistakes” got the best of his roster, and they fell to the Huskies, 5-1.

Despite the disappointment and ups and downs, Douville is able to look back on her junior year with respect, thanks to her mental game. “Ups and downs are necessary for the good of the team,” said Douville. “Next time you go on a down, you know how to react.”

The rest of the New England hockey community noticed the stellar year Douville had, regardless of the roller-coaster ride. Along with the Hockey East first-team All-Star honor, the first in program history, she was named a New England Hockey Writers Division 1 All-Star.

The accolades recognize not just her improvements and ability to keep Vermont in the hunt despite their challenges, but her immense goalkeeping skills. Her speed and athleticism are her best-known assets.

“She’s super athletic; her ability to react and read the play to make the first save is great,” said Plumer. “In all of our physical testing, she is at the top.”

Douville looks at her reaction time systemically. 

“Every time you go back to your post, you need to look down ice and see what is going on,” she said. “Playing those game situations in practice helps with my quickness. One of my strengths is that I’m fast, so I can take the time to look at what is going on and still get back to the post in time. I don’t have to commit to playing a bad position, and I’m not going to panic.”

Vermont enters the 2013-14 season with the numbers on the bench (welcoming eight newcomers this fall), a higher level of health and multiple Hockey East coaches pegging them as the team they are most worried about facing. The additions and year of experience the roster has with Plumer should give Douville some of those tight, quick game experiences she craves.

“She loves to play hockey and she wants to be the difference maker,” remarked Plumer.

“I’m really excited to see our new team, that’s for sure,” said Douville. “I’m going to live in the moment and I’m excited to see what we can do with more depth.”

HOCKEY EAST PREDICTIONS

1. Boston College

2. Northeastern

3. Boston University

4. Providence

5. New Hampshire

6. Vermont

7.   Maine

8. Connecticut

ECAC HOCKEY PREDICTIONS

1. Clarkson

2. Cornell

3. Harvard

4. Quinnipiac

5. Dartmouth

6. St. Lawrence

7. Princeton

8. RPI

9. Yale

10. Brown

11. Colgate

12. Union

To read Kat’s in-depth analysis of every women’s team throughout Hockey East and the ECAC, check out her team capsules and preseason rankings in the digital edition of our October issue.

For a FREE subscription to our digital edition, head to hockeyjournal.com/free.

Twitter: @sportsgirlkat
Email: feedback@hockeyjournal.com