As October begins, hockey season is right around the corner. The Ontario University Athletics Hockey season opener for the Mustangs women’s hockey team is this coming Friday, Oct. 7 against Guelph in a rematch of last year's OUA final.

This season is one of change for the women’s hockey team. Head coach Kelly Paton is taking over the reigns from Dave Barrett, for the teams second coaching change in as many years. The team lost some of their superstars, as Canadian Interuniversity Sport all star Katelyn Gosling and goalie juggernaut Kelly Campbell have both graduated. But Paton and the team are ready for the challenge. 

“We've really challenged the girls to finish their opportunities around the net,” said Paton. “On the back end we're working with the defense to try and get pucks through, to give our forwards an opportunity for second and third chances.”

Third year defender Emma Pearson, who joined the Mustangs in 2013 from Brown University will captain the team. This will be her fifth and final year of eligibility with the team. The assistant captains will be Brianna Iazzolina, Marlowe Pecora, who are both fifth year students, and Megan Taylor, a fourth year.

“The expectations for those four is that they lead by example,” said Paton. “They definitely need to drive the girls on our team throughout the season [to compete].”

Work ethic will be key to the team’s success this season, as Paton and the assistant coaches look to challenge the team. They’re hoping to take the team in a new direction by implementing new systems. These systems may need a bit of work at first, but Paton hopes that the team will have adapted to the challenge by the end of the season.

“It obviously takes some time when you implement new things like that,” said Paton. “We’re continuing to develop and give the girls the opportunity to practice what were asking them to execute in a game, it's going to be a work in progress throughout the season.”

Offensively, Paton is expecting everyone to contribute as a part of the team's new direction. There will be a lot of emphasis on finishing plays and having players take the lead when it comes to scoring goals. She hopes that the defense will help contribute as well by offering assists and adding a few bonus goals of their own.

“We're really challenging the girls to finish their opportunities around the net,” said Paton. “On the back end we're working with the defense to try and get pucks through so it gives our forwards and opportunity for second and third chances. We want to be a team that is able to create a lot of offense.”

Paton is looking forward to seeing the depth that her team has. April Clarke, Rachel Armstrong and Alyssa Chiarello, have all been point producers in the preseason, and look to continue with that in the regular season. Amanda Pereira, Lyndsay Kirkham and Evra Levesque will look to continue the magical offensive touch they found in last years post-season.

The Mustangs open their regular season against Guelph on Oct. 7 at Thompson Arena.