Two years into her tenure as head coach of the Stanstead College senior girls hockey team, Olympic gold medalist Sarah Vaillancourt is proud of her team’s accomplishments, and wants a full house at the Pat Burns Arena for this weekend’s North American Prep Hockey Association league tournament, to show off the high level of play.
“I think we’ve made huge strides already,” Vaillancourt said, crediting assistant coaches Brittany Sharman and Dugie Ross for their great work recruiting.
The Spartans boast two goalies that played Midget Espoir on boys’ teams, and players recruited to Team Quebec and national level hockey.
Vaillancourt added that the team has a towering six-foot-tall forward, and a rising star defenceman, the youngest on the team at only 14 years old, who is on track to one day play in the Olympics.
Two Spartans are committed to NCAA schools, according to Vaillancourt. “People are really starting to believe in what we do.”
Vaillancourt said that the high academic standards of Stanstead College attract players from all over the world who want a solid education along with a strong hockey program, but she would also like to have a core of girls from Quebec, from the region, even.
“Why not? They’re in our backyard.”
Vaillancourt said after a game last weekend, a spectator ran down the stairs to intercept the team as they left the ice.
“I can’t believe this level of play,” he told Vaillancourt.
“My team reflects how I was as a player,” Vaillancourt said, describing the Spartans as physical, with a chip on their shoulder.
Puck possession is a big focus, she added.
“We don’t dump and chase unless we have to,” she said, adding her players re-group constantly to try and maintain control on the ice.
“Our girls work on and off the ice harder than any other program, that’s for sure,” Vaillancourt insisted, referring to the four, sometimes five practices per week, plus games.
Hard work, physicality and puck possession is the essence of Vaillancourt’s program.
“I have the experience. I want to pass on my knowledge and experience to these girls,” she said.
“More people need to watch female hockey,” Vaillancourt said. “More people need to watch us. There is a culture I want to install. I want to have young girls wish to be a Stanstead Spartan one day.”
Vaillancourt said the best game of the weekend will likely be Friday night at 6:15 p.m. when the Spartans will take on the Rothesay Netherwood School.
“We tied twice last year and lost once,” She said.
In addition to developing her team, Vaillancourt hopes to generate more interest in women’s hockey as a whole by showing off the high level of play her team is capable of.
“Once we get people there for the first time, they’re hooked. After that, we know they’ll come back,” she said.