Kelly Paton hopes to lead Hawks back to the playoffs in 2020

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File Photo/ by Garrison Oosterhof

New coach, new regime, a team in progress. This is always a storyline that people follow in sports, especially when that new coach is from a winning background like coach Kelly Paton of the Laurier Golden Hawks’ women’s hockey team.

Having come from leading the Western Mustangs the last two seasons, putting together a 39-19 record, regular season and playoffs combined, in addition to winning the OUA title and taking silver in the U Sports national title game, this is a different situation for coach Paton as she tries to create a culture shift for this program.

With another trying season having come and gone, with their final game of the season being against crosstown rivals Waterloo Warriors and the Golden Hawks having a 5-18 (1 OTL) record, the understanding of progression being a process can be tough.

“I’d say it was a bit of a rollercoaster in the sense that we peaked at certain times and I think we fell off a little bit in terms of recognizing what details are important. I’d say it was interesting to transition, to get the most out of the potential of this group, and I think at moments we showed that and then there were moments where we felt like we could’ve done things differently to achieve better results,” coach Paton said.

The next bridge that coach Paton gets to cross, which provides hope, is recruiting season — she did not really get one last year having been hired in the summer.

“I think overall, it’s been a good year for everybody to learn in a new environment and make some necessary adjustments to achieve more competitive results on the ice. I do think we put a pretty good effort into making sure that we stayed competitive most games and one of our challenges as a group this year was scoring. I think that’s what prevented us from getting a different result when the third period was done.”

Shifts with new coaches are usually witnessed during a time when they get to leave their imprint on a team.

“Recruiting is going to play a key role. I think making sure we spend the right time identifying players that have skill but also the right character where they’re really committed to the opportunity, and making sure they’re staying invested and improve their skill over a four-year period. If we do that well, then I think the culture will just shift naturally based on personnel,” coach Paton said.

“For the girls that are in the program, outlining what needs to change in terms of how they handle themselves day-to-day so that we could continue to achieve and hopefully make a run for the playoffs next season.”

Currently on pace to finish second to last in the OUA (having been last the last two years), expectations are set higher than most would assume of a team with that kind of a record in terms of playoffs.

With the resume and background she has, there is something to be said for her being capable of having that type of confidence. It won’t be the first time it is seen at Laurier either, as coach Faulds turned the football program around and coach Serresse has turned the men’s basketball team into a nationally ranked team.

The second year is always most important to being able to push towards new heights in such a process.

For now, this was a season of understanding how things could work.

“I think overall, it’s been a good year for everybody to learn in a new environment and make some necessary adjustments to achieve more competitive results on the ice. I do think we put a pretty good effort into making sure that we stayed competitive most games and one of our challenges as a group this year was scoring. I think that’s what prevented us from getting a different result when the third period was done.”

“Overall, it was a good adjustment for everybody. I think for me it was trying to get to know the players, and for the players, try to take leadership from a different coach definitely had its own set of challenges but I think overall, we’re happy. We’re trying to establish a culture where there is more accountability and more investment in terms of the whole process.”

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