Nicole Blanche fitting in with Huskies
Dunville’s Nicole Blanche is at a pretty good point in her young hockey career.
The 18-year-old is a freshman forward is a member of the Saint Mary’s University Huskies (10-3) of Atlantic University Sport (AUS). The team is currently in the top10 in the country, and Blanche is part of the reason for this success, having played steady minutes with the club.
“It ’s going pretty good,” Blanche said of her first year in the highly-competitive AUS.
Up to last week, she had posted one goal and four assists in 13 games in helping the Huskies, out of Halifax, to the No. 2 ranking in the AUS.
The St. Francis Xavier X-Women (11-2-1) sat atop the division.
The Huskies and the X-Women have split the two games against each other this season. SMU took the latest meeting 3-0 on Nov. 30.
Enrolled in the school’s business program, Blanche has secured a regular shift with SMU, which is an impressive feat for the young skater.
She has also received time on both the power play and the penalty kill.
One only has to look at her stellar plus-7 rating to see she is a responsible player.
She comes to SMU after spending the last two years at the Warner Hockey School in Warner, Alberta.
“It was a really good experience,” said Blanche. “It was pretty far away.”
Despite a rough start to her career in the west, Blanche felt her experiences in that environment helped prepare for the rigours of university hockey.
“It definitely helped,” she said. “It helps me compete.”
Besides the on-ice help, Warner prepared Blanche for living away from home and with her teammates.
“I lived in a residence with all of the players,” she said.
Blanche had interest from several schools besides Saint Mary’s. The University of Regina, along with the UBC, were intrigued by the skill set Blanche had to offer.
However, the proximity to home drew her to SMU.
She was also drawn to the team, since the Huskies have a good shot at the AUS title this season, and Blanche felt her style of play would mesh with their system.
“It just seemed like a really good fit,” she explained.
Adjusting to the play
Any time a player enters a new league and a higher level of play, there is an adjustment period at the beginning of the season. That was no different for Blanche.
She said she had to become accustomed to the physicality of the AUS and the higher skills of players at the university level.
Blanche said she started to “get it” after the first three or four games.
“I’m definitely more confident now, and not afraid to do the things I normally do,” she said.
It is not just a hockey adjustment that has to be made at this level, There is also being a student athlete.
Blanche said the key to making that transition is time management.
“I’m getting more into a routine now,” she said.
Dunville’s Nicole Blanche is shown here in ac tion with the Saint Mary’s Univesrsity Huskies earlier this season.