Wildcats focus on offensive skills
Ten players return to team
When coaches talk about a team growing up together, they’re usually referring to chemistry issues.
Southwest Wildcats bench boss Mike Spoors is speaking literally though.
Spoors hopes last year’s inexperienced club will show the benefits of being a little older and wiser this season.
“From a maturity standpoint, we’re better,” said Spoors, who takes over the the head coaching responsibilities for Windsor’s Provincial Women’s Hockey Club entry this season.
“It’s a big difference in physical maturity. We felt that last year we were so young.”
While rocking chairs won’t be appropriate for a club that averages just under 17 years of age, it’s more than a year better than last season.
The increase in age, along with some new faces, has helped the Wildcats become faster and stronger.
Spoors also believes the Wildcats will be more resilient and mentally tougher.
“We look like we’ll compete hard every night,” Spoors said. “I like the attitude of our players. “We have more speed up front also.” The Wildcats return 10 players from a team that finished 15th last season with an 8-20-4 mark.
Back are goalies Kasey Martin and Brooke Siddall, defencemen Blair Connelly, Kylie St. Louis and Adalena Tridico and forwards Gwynne Attenborough, Daniela Falconio, Jessica Hitchcock, Brooke Ludolph and Courtney Spoors.
The seven new faces joining the lineup with last year’s team in brackets are blue-liners Shantelle Boutette (Wildcats Midgets), Danielle Plouffe (Chatham Midgets AA) and Sarah Meeke (Windsor Bantam AA) and forwards Leah Buress (Bluewater AA), Candice Chevalier (Wildcats Midgets), Stephanie Hebert (Wildcat Midgets) and Shannon Milkovic (Chatham Midgets AA).
“We don’t have any one star,” Spoors said. “We have 17 hard-working players. It’s a team unit.
“We have some learning to do. Once the season starts, I do feel we’ll surprise some people.”
Having struggled to score goals last season, Spoors said improving the offence is an area of focus.
He’s trying to break his team from the habit of trying to get too close before shooting.
“We just want them to shoot the puck more,” Spoors said.
“We have to manufacture goals and opportunities. We have players with enough skill to score.
“Girls tend to want to get in that area 10 feet out front before shooting. It’s a tendency you see throughout female hockey.”
While Spoors is intrigued to see where the Wildcats fit into the PWHL picture, he has a good idea who’ll be among the championship contenders.
Defending PWHL and Ontario Women’s Hockey Association champion Stoney Creek, Durham and Ottawa are all expected to be formidable once again.
“Stoney Creek won the league and provincial championship and they have most of their players returning, so they’re definitely the favourites,” Spoors said.
The Wildcats open their PWHL season at home Oct. 4 when they face Cambridge at Forest Glade Arena at 6 p.m.