Heather Richards isn’t letting any early season struggles faze her.
The 19-year-old St. Anthony native is in her sophomore season with the Mount Allison Mounties varsity women’s hockey team in the Atlantic University Sport. And while things aren’t going as well as in her rookie year, she knows plenty of goals and victories are waiting just around the corner.
Richards’ skillset cannot be denied. In her rookie season, the 5-foot-4 centre was second in team scoring with 17 points and was named to the first all-star team. After her outstanding year, she was honoured by being named an alternate captain.
She knows that having the “A” on her jersey has come with added expectations, but feels she is more than capable of rising to the challenge.
“I love having that pressure and having a say in the dressing room,” she said. “And I hope to use my skill to just add that much more to the team both on and off the ice.
“Just knowing that my teammates and coaches rely on me that much more this season just makes me want to succeed and play even harder.”
This season, however, the team is struggling to find the back of the net and has a 3-11 record at the Christmas break. And Richards isn’t exempt from these struggles as her production is down, with just two goals and one assist registered thus far.
She attributes the team’s poor start to some difficult transitions.
A new head coach, for instance, meant the players had to adapt to the new systems being implemented. They have also lost five of their key players from last season, including one of her linemates.
“The lines have been mixing and matching as the season has gone on to try to create some new chemistry,” she said.
There have also been some injuries, though Richards has avoided any so far.
But now she thinks they can use the Christmas break to reflect and refocus to start putting some wins back in the column. And what they need to do is remember that hockey is about the basics.
“We are all capable of playing with these higher-level teams,” she said. “We need to just build our confidence back and go back to the simple things rather than overthinking.”
And even though the scoreboard hasn’t shown it, they’ve been getting plenty of chances. It’s just a matter of converting on the opportunities and, then, who knows … as she points out, the nationals are not out of the picture just yet.
Whatever the results on the ice, though, Richards is thrilled with the entire experience.
“At the end of the day, it’s not always about the wins and the losses,” she said. “It’s about the fact that I’ve met 20 new girls, who are much more than just teammates now. I’m going to school, getting a first-class education while playing the game I love. There’s not really much I can complain about.”