With three games left in the regular season and playoffs fast approaching, one question is hanging over the Mustangs women’s hockey team: Who is the starting goalie?
After juggernaut Kelly Campbell graduated, she left behind a legacy in the crease as well as a hole in the roster. Katie Jacobs, who played backup to Campbell for four years, had little OUA and U Sports experience, playing only six games in four years.
With two first-year goalies joining Jacobs, Shelby Ryan and Tareya Webster, the team is short on experienced goaltenders. The departure of Campbell wasn’t the only problem in the crease for the Mustangs; long-time goalie coach Dave Rook left the team, leaving them without a coach until mid-October.
“At the start of the season I don’t think [Campbell] had the guidance from the goaltending coach she had hoped she would have,” said Mustangs goalie coach Jory Elliott, who joined the team in Rook’s absence. “There wasn’t guidance on who to play and why to play them, so we sort of started from scratch when I came in.”
With no starting goalie and no goalie coach, the Mustangs rotated through their goalies with a different starter in net for almost every game. The strategy didn’t do much for the team, winning only half of their first 14 games of the season.
“Rotating the goaltenders definitely contributed to some inconsistencies in the way the team played,” said Elliott. “It was a bit of an unknown for them — who was going to be back there and what they were going to offer to the team.”
Since their rocky start to the season, the Mustangs have gone on a five-game winning streak. Their recent success is something that Elliot attributes to a more stable goaltending situation with the team going with a Ryan-Jacobs tandem.
“Now Shelby [Ryan] has come in and she’s won three in a row,” said Elliott. “It’s just about finding that sweet spot, where we have a team and a goaltender that are gelling together.”
Ryan and Jacobs have split the goaltending duties over the five game stretch, with Ryan earning consecutive wins and Jacob getting two wins of her own on back-to-back nights.
“The team has been playing outstanding these past few game, we've really come together knowing that our backs were against the wall to make a playoff spot,” said Ryan in an email. “I feel like we will continue to keep this momentum going leading up to playoffs.”
With Jacobs on the bench as backup for Ryan, and with Webster on the bench as backup for Jacobs, the goalie trio seems to have finally hit their stride, with everyone getting opportunities to prove themselves.
“I have been fortunate enough to have two amazing goalie partners who are both incredibly talented between the pipes,” said Ryan. “Me being the youngest goalie of the three, I have really looked up to them over the course of the year. We're all here to push one another and make each other better.”
Despite the team's recent success with the more stable goaltending choices, nothing has been set in stone yet. Although each goalie has had their moments, one has yet to prove they can be the difference maker in every game and to show that they can steal wins for the team like Campbell did on a regular basis.
“It’s something that were working on, to help each of them develop a little bit in key areas that will make them successful, but there’s nothing written in stone,” said Elliott. “We’re just trying to put the best team on the ice to get the result that we need.”
The team is back in action this Feb. 18 as they take on Queen’s on the road to end the regular season. The playoff schedule stars later that week, with Western currently sitting in the fifth playoff seed.