This may be Kaitlin Willoughby’s first year with the Huskies women’s hockey team, but she’s already making a big impression. In her rookie season Willoughby has scored eight goals and eight assists. With six games left to play, she’s striving to add even more to her tally.
Being a young gun on the team, Willoughby looks up to and learns from the more experienced players on the roster, especially team captain Cami Wooster.
Wooster “has so much experience,” Willoughby said. “She’s our captain and I hope some day I can be like her.”
Willoughby attributes a lot of her success to playing on the same line as Wooster and appreciates every point she is able to contribute. Willoughby’s first Canadian Interuniversity Sport goal is her favourite memory, not only because she was able to find the net but because she was able to share it with people important to her.
“I got a breakaway and I scored. My whole family was right there so it was really nice,” she said.
Sharing the Dogs’ successes with her teammates is something Willoughby relishes, and is one of the many reasons she loves the sport.
“There’s something about it. I can’t even explain it; I just love it so much,” she said. “The feeling you get when you score a goal or when you win … it’s such a good feeling.”
This year has been a bit of a learning curve for Willoughby, who previously laced up her skates for the AAA Prince Albert Bears. The competition is much stiffer in the CIS and has forced Willoughby to raise her level of play. So far, she’s been able to rise to the challenge.
“I learnt that you have to be stronger as a player,” she said.“Girls are so much stronger. You’ve got to get your head up and you’ve got to move the puck quicker. Everything’s so much quicker.”
Willoughby hopes to keep contributing to the Huskies’ offence to help the team earn even more wins as the season progresses, with an aim to see the Dogs advance to the playoffs.
“I want us to win league and we’re hoping to go on to nationals,” she said. “That’s our team goal and my goal.”
With the final games of the regular season fast approaching and the Huskies in hot pursuit of the number one ranking, Willoughby is hoping the team can make one final push.
“We’ve been trailing B.C. [Thunderbirds] the whole year, so hopefully we can slowly creep up on them,” she said. “Our last weekend we play them here, so we have to get four points for sure that weekend. I feel like that will be a battle for first place.”
On the ice Willoughby has a no-nonsense attitude and is determined to get the win for her team. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate the lighter side of the game.
“Hockey’s about having fun, too,” she said. “When it comes to game time I’m serious and really focused.”
Willoughby is a tough competitor, but her first season hasn’t been jitter-free.
“I get really nervous,” she said. “I don’t have any superstitions, but I have a ritual. I do the same stretches and exercises and I tape my stick the same.”
With four years of eligibility left after this season, Willoughby intends to put in a lot of time with the Huskies. She plans on staying with the team as long as she can and hopes to make a meaningful contribution.
“Hopefully we can get a couple championships out of the five years that I’m here,” she said.