Head coaching debut results in victorious weekend sweep for deserving Jessica Koizumi

Even though it may have been in a capacity as the acting head coach, it was still a well-deserved opportunity for Jessica Koizumi of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Currently in her first season as the associate coach, Koizumi gained the chance to serve as acting head coach starting on December 29, 2016. This was attributed to head coach Nadine Muzerall being absent as she was serving as the head coach of Canada’s Under-22/Development Team for the 2017 Nations Cup in Germany.

 

Challenging the Penn State Nittany Lions in a road series on January 7 and 8, 2017, it allowed Koizumi the opportunity to serve as a head coach at the NCAA level for the first time in her career. Prior to joining the Buckeyes, she served in the capacity of assistant coach on two separate occasions, serving on Shannon Miller’s staff with the UMD Bulldogs, where she spent four seasons as a player, reaching the 150-point club.

 

Following UMD, she joined Joakim Flygh for a memorable stint with the Yale Bulldogs, where she coached on penalty kill while balancing a playing career with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, followed by the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale (where she played alongside several Yale grads). This season, the Buckeyes have benefitted greatly from Koizumi’s expertise on the penalty kill, compiling a streak of more than 36 periods without a power play goal allowed.

 

Taking to the ice for their first series since the holiday break, the result was a convincing 5-0 victory against the Nittany Lions. With USA Hockey alum Jincy Dunne scoring the opening goal of the game, said goal would also stand as the game winner. From there, the Buckeyes top line, featuring leading scorer Maddy Field, Katie Matheny and Julianna Iafolo set the tone for the rest of the contest.

 

Hailing from Missouri, Matheny (who played with Dunne on the St. Louis Lady Blues) logged a hat trick, the first in her Buckeyes career. Adding to the excitement of this milestone was the fact that Matheny and her linemates each logged career highs in plus/minus rating with +5 each.

 

Despite a scoreless first period in the second game of the series, the Nittany Lions could not contain the Buckeyes. Opening the scoring was Samantha Bouley, who was followed by Maddy Field, with her team best eighth marker this season. With a 2-0 lead, the Buckeyes continued their offensive ways with an incredible four goals in the third. Dani Sadek, Jessica Dunne and her younger sister Jincy, along with the first goal of the season for Breanne Grant resulted in six different Buckeyes skaters placing their names on the scoresheet in a 6-0 triumph.

 

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that this was the second time this season that the Buckeyes shutout an opponent in a series this season. The first took place against the Lindenwood Lady Lions during a November 4-5 series that saw the Buckeyes score a cumulative seven goals. With the sweep, the Buckeyes return to the .500 mark, enjoying a 10-10-2 record.

 

During the weekend sweep, Kassidy Sauve continued to establish herself as one of the best goaltenders in the WCHA. Gaining back-to-back shutouts for the second time this season, she has accumulated six so far. Recording 29 shutouts against Penn State in the opening win, she followed it up with 26 saves for the sweep, amassing an impressive 55 saves. Against non-conference opponents this season, Kassidy is not only undefeated (5-0), she has a miniscule 0.20 goals against average, four shutouts and a sparkling .994 save percentage. 

Sam Faber on the ground floor of another New England hockey revolution

As the NWHL becomes the first professional hockey league for women in the United States, there is a feeling of relevance with the on-ice involvement of veteran star forward Sam Faber. One of the first players to sign with the Connecticut Whale, she is part of a new era of promise for the hockey-mad state. On the momentum of strong women’s hockey programs at the NCAA level such as Storrs’ UConn Huskies, New Haven’s Yale Bulldogs and Hamden’s Connecticut Bobcats, Faber shall be the cornerstone of an offense looking to capture the inaugural Isobel Cup.

Raised in Mount Sinai, New York, Faber’s first brush with New England women’s hockey came as a member of the University of New Hampshire’s Huskies. With an astounding 51 points in her freshman season, she would compile 189 points (on the strength of 112 assists) and an astonishing 23 game winning goals during her distinguished NCAA career. In addition, she would skate with the US National Team in a gold medal effort at the 2008 IIHF Women’s Worlds.

Perhaps an element of greater importance may be her experience at the professional level in New England women’s hockey. Of note, the Whale does not reflect her first sojourn into pro hockey. When the Boston Blades became the first American-based in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Faber was one of the club’s charter members.

Playing alongside the likes of CWHL co-founder Mandy Cronin, All-World blueliners Caitlin Cahow and Angela Ruggiero, along with current Boston Pride GM Hayley Moore plus Huskies leading scorer Jaclyn Hawkins, Faber was part of a remarkable chapter in American women’s hockey.

During that inaugural Blades season (2010-11), Faber brought an offensive flair and playmaking ability that resulted in finishing said season as the Blades scoring leader. Although Montreal’s Caroline Ouellette captured the scoring title that season, Faber’s 30 points helped propel the Blades into the postseason, simultaneously demonstrating that there was a market in the United States for professional women’s hockey. As a side note, she ranked second to Julie Chu that season among American-born scoring leaders in CWHL play.

Faber’s first career point with the Blades came in their inaugural game. Along with Karen Thatcher, both would earn the assists on Jessica Koizumi’s third period goal, the first in Blades franchise history, part of a 3-0 win against the Burlington Barracudas. The following day, Faber would contribute 4 points, including her first career goal with the Blades, sweeping the Barracudas.

Accumulating at least one point in 15 games played, Faber also registered eight multi-point efforts. Her finest single-game performance was a five-point output which included her first career hat trick in a 6-5 win against eventual Clarkson Cup champions Montreal on January 30, 2011. Earlier that season, Montreal would provide another memorable moment for Faber.

Just six days before Christmas, the Blades did more than just spoil Montreal’s bid for an undefeated season. Fighting back from a 2-0 deficit, Faber would score Boston’s first goal of the game, signifying a shift in momentum. Ruggiero would score the dramatic game-winning tally in overtime while Cronin made an astounding 74 saves in one of the greatest goaltending performances in league history.

Such experience shall place Faber into a key leadership position with the Whale this season, as she also holds the unique distinction of being the first player signed in franchise history. Taking into account that former Blades teammate (and two-time Clarkson Cup champion) Jessica Koizumi shall be joining her on the Whale, it only adds to the veteran impact that should contribute to a fundamentally sound game on the ice. As a side note, both have also worked as coaches, with Koizumi serving on the Yale Bulldogs staff and Faber with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.

Among the crop of youthful free agents that should benefit most positively from their leadership includes the likes of Quinnipiac grads such as Shiann Darkangelo and Kelly Babstock, plus Clarkson Cup champion Kaleigh Fratkin. The younger players shall definitely reciprocate as they bring enthusiasm and high energy, strong motivational factors for Faber.

Having last played during the Blades inaugural season, Faber has remained in the game off the ice as the Chelsea Piers Youth Hockey Director in Stamford, Connecticut. Among her accomplishments with Chelsea Piers includes the fact that she oversees the largest Mite League program in the state. The chance to return to the rink for the first time since 2011 shall serve as an opportunity to inspire the young players that have passed through Chelsea Piers. Being part of the NWHL’s inaugural season as a member of the Connecticut Whale presents Faber (and Koizumi) with the rare opportunity to make history twice in New England women’s hockey.