REGARDLESS of whether or not she has a letter on her sweater, Brooke Avery has always felt comfortable being a leader on any hockey team she has played on.
As an assistant captain for Syracuse University this season, the redshirt senior from Loudon wants to lead the program to its first College Hockey America championship.
“Everybody on the team wants that first championship. It’s what we’re really working on,” Avery said. “We set individual goals every day, every week to try to figure out the ladder to get first to the semifinals, then the championship and ultimately to the (NCAA) tournament.”
The Orange own a 4-10-1 overall record and 4-3 mark in CHA play entering their two non-conference games at No. 1 Wisconsin (15-1) this weekend.
Avery said Syracuse has made some alterations and is focusing on what it can control in order to improve their current spot of third place in the six-team CHA. The Orange will have played five teams ranked in the top eight after this weekend. The bulk of Syracuse’s CHA games come next semester.
“Obviously we’re not off to the start we expected or where we want to be at, but I think this team has a lot of potential,” said Avery, who is in her third season playing for Syracuse after transferring from the University of New Hampshire. “We have a really tough out-of-conference schedule and we do that on purpose to challenge ourselves….We’re making a lot of different changes to get where we want to be.”
While she describes herself as an outgoing person, Avery leads both with her words and by example as an assistant captain.
“A combination of both is really what it takes out of anybody,” Avery said. “It could be a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior — it doesn’t really matter. You can talk as much as you want but if you’re not putting your actions behind you, it doesn’t matter.”
On the ice, Avery has led with her stick. The St. Paul’s School of Concord graduate is third on the team and 13th in the conference in points (10). Avery, who led the Orange in goals scored last year (14), has tallied four goals and six assists this season.
Avery does not consider herself Syracuse’s fastest or most skilled skater but she prides herself on her work ethic and vision.
“I see the ice well and I’m more confident in being able to make the plays,” Avery said. “Before when I wasn’t getting much playing time, when I went out on a shift I’d be playing more to not make mistakes rather than just play….Now it’s more of what I’m going to do when I get the puck.”
Avery also puts an emphasis on how she plays without the puck.
“I know what my weaknesses are and I try to make up for them in other aspects,” Avery said.
As the Orange prepare to face the top-ranked team in the country, they are focusing on not putting a face to their opponent, Avery said.
“I think that’s something we’ve struggled with and my dad (has) always told me that it doesn’t matter who you play. You always have to play your best,” Avery said.
Twelve games into his freshman campaign, UNH forward Angus Crookshank has already put a check mark next to one of his season-long goals.
Crookshank was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Week this week, an accolade he came into the season looking to capture. The 19-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., recorded three points (one goal, two assists) over the Wildcats’ 1-0-1 homestand against Miami of Ohio last week.
UNH (2-6-4, 1-3-2 Hockey East) will play at No. 10 Providence College (7-4-2, 4-2 Hockey East) Friday at 7 p.m. before hosting the Friars at the Whittemore Center Saturday at 7 p.m.
Crookshank credited his linemates, classmate Eric Esposito and senior captain Marcus Vela, with helping him achieve the feat. Vela specifically has helped Crookshank get comfortable with the physicality and speed of the college level compared with juniors, the latter said.
While they were never teammates, both Crookshank (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) and Vela, who is from Burnaby, B.C., played for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL before coming to Durham.
“Obviously, it’s a totally different game coming from junior to college,” Crookshank said. “There’s some things you can’t get away with in college that you can in junior but the coaching staff and the older guys have really kind of mentored me and helped me get through that.”
Crookshank, who has logged two goals and four assists, said he feels he has gotten into a little bit of a groove, which he partially attributes to the chemistry Vela (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), Esposito (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) and he have built.
“Vela is a big body. He takes pucks to the net hard,” Crookshank said. “I kind of admire that out of him. (Esposito) as well. He’s heavy on pucks. He digs out pucks for us….Anytime you’ve got two big bodies getting pucks to the net, chances are going to happen.”
UNH men’s coach Mike Souza said forwards Charlie Kelleher and Jackson Pierson are day-to-day while defensemen Benton Maass and Matt Dawson will be out until at least Christmastime.
Souza said Maass and Dawson both have shoulder injuries while Kelleher has a lower-body injury and Pierson has an upper-body injury.
The Plymouth State University men’s and women’s teams will host their third annual Teddy Bear Toss games this week.
Fans will throw teddy bears onto the ice following Plymouth State’s first goal in both the men’s game against Framingham State tonight at 6 and the women’s game against Salem State on Saturday at 2 p.m. If the Panthers fail to score, the bears will be tossed after the contest.
The bears will be donated to the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The teams donated nearly 800 bears between both games last season and are aiming to increase that number by at least 200 this year.
Donation boxes have also been set up at local businesses around town.
“Partnering with the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Panthers men’s coach Craig Russell said in a statement. “Not only do we get to help children with some gifts during the holiday season, but we’re able to connect with so many families who are going through an extremely difficult time,” Panthers men’s coach Craig Russell said.
The Plymouth State men (6-0-1, 3-0-1 MASCAC) enter their conference bout with Framingham State ranked No. 15 in this week’s USCHO Division III poll.
The Panthers women (2-3-1, 2-1-1 NEHC) will travel to Boston to face first-year program Suffolk University Friday at 5 p.m. before hosting Salem State in two conference games.