Experience is always a key attribute when defining an athlete. The more experience athletes have, the more is expected from them.
Women’s college hockey is no different. Every year, the team is gauged on its junior and senior depth and how their experience will carry the underclassmen.
Senior Hillary Pattenden has seen both sides.
Pattenden came to Mercyhurst three years ago, skated to the net and has been posted there ever since.
The senior goaltender played in 29 games and started 26 her freshman season, helping the Lakers reach their first National Championship game.
For the next three years, she has had her fair share of ups and downs. Each year, criticism would be thrown her way but not necessarily for the right reasons.
When you are the last line of defense, there is always a certain amount of pressure to begin with. But when your front line consists of a two-time gold medalist, a Patty Kazmaier winner and the eventual fifth overall draft pick in the Canadian women’s league, it’s hard to match up with that kind of talent.
Last season, the Lakers fell in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Blame landed just about everywhere, including Pattenden.
This season is brand new, and it came with a different mindset.
“This is a fresh start, and we are focused on this season,” Pattenden said.
So far, Pattenden has shown the talent that made her the starter three years ago.
She currently leads the nation in shutouts with three in six games. She has stopped 95 percent of shots, good for third in the nation.
These numbers are a jump from last year, when she was ranked in the middle of the pack most of the season.
“The season has gone pretty well so far, but personally I feel more comfortable and my confidence is up,” Pattenden said.
Her numbers are up, even though she has only two defenders returning in front of her.
“It’s a little different, but it doesn’t affect me too much. They are all talented and play the same base defense,” Pattenden said.
Even though the Lakers aren’t expected to make a run for a national title, like last year’s team, that doesn’t mean the current Lakers expect to lose.
“We just want to start with winning our league and hopefully move up the ranks,” Pattenden said.
The Lakers have bounced in the ranks between No. 7 and No. 10 but are currently holding at No. 8 in the latest polls.
Pattenden is also closing in on a career record. She currently has 84 wins in her career, seven away from Wisconsin’s Jessie Vetter, who ended her storied career with 91.
Oddly enough, Vetter ended her career with a 5-0 shutout of the Lakers in the 2009 Championship game.
“It would be nice to beat Vetter, and it’s great to be compared to such a great goalie, but our team goals are more important,” Pattenden said.
The Lakers have a chance to start chipping away at the record books beginning Oct. 28 and 29 against Lindenwood University in St. Louis.