Sydney Correa didn’t want her hockey career to end, but it looked as if it would. Then a goaltender for North Andover’s Brooks School, she lost college recruiting opportunities during her senior season because of COVID, and she had resigned herself to being done with the sport.
Correa decided to attend the University of Vermont. But something in her wasn’t done with hockey after all. The Georgetown native sat down and wrote one last college recruitment email.
“I sent a last-resort email to Coach [Jim] Plumer,” said Correa. “I said, ‘I’m a goaltender, here’s my film, here are my stats. If you are ever looking for a goalie, I’m here.’ ”
Now, a few months after she thought she was hanging up her goalie pads for good, Correa is the first Hockey East Rookie of the Week of the new year.
Correa started her first two games over the weekend. The first was against Providence College, in which she made 18 saves in a 3-1 loss to last year’s league runners-up. The second was a 3-0 victory over Maine, in which she made 14 saves and became the first Catamounts goalie with a shutout this season.
“For that first game, I was definitely nervous,” said Correa. “But I relied on knowing that I had done this before. I kept that mind-set that I know what I’m doing, I’ve played goaltender before. In the second game, my defense really stood up in front of me, only allowing 14 shots all game. I was definitely more grounded in the second game.”
The Maine victory gave Vermont an interesting distinction this season: It is the only team in Hockey East with league wins starting three different goaltenders. The Catamounts’ other two goalies, senior Blanka Škodová and sophomore Jessie McPherson, have split the majority of games this season. Škodová, who has played for the Czech national team, is considered one of the best netminders in New England. Both have been helpful to Correa as she makes her adjustment to the college game.
“I knew coming in how seasoned both goaltenders were,” said Correa. “They have both been very supportive, because they have been in the same position before. They have definitely pushed me mentally and physically.”
If Correa isn’t being challenged on the ice, she is being challenged by the other reason she decided to attend Vermont. She balances hockey with an Army ROTC commitment.
It is very rare that Division 1 athletes outside the service academies try to do both. In the world of women’s hockey, goalies are the ones who tend to do so, with Boston University’s Kerrin Sperry, Cornell’s Lindsay Browning, and Ohio State’s Lynsey Wallace all juggling the two in recent years.
“We have field training on Wednesdays, and I’m lucky that I haven’t had to miss any,” said Correa. “We wear our uniforms all day on Wednesdays, and then we have three hours of field training or classroom presentations that night.”
Sitting at 10-8-2 and fourth in Hockey East, the Catamounts are in the midst of one of the program’s best seasons. They earned their first win over longtime powerhouse Boston College in December, and Correa thinks the team is on the verge of something special.
“We want to become the team everyone has to play up to,” said Correa. “We are trying to make history and be one of the best teams Vermont has ever had.”
Husky rivalry brewing
With BC and Boston University running into some nonconference difficulty, it has left room for another Hockey East team to emerge in the national polls. UConn, which sits at 14-4-2 and is 6-1 against out-of-conference teams, is ranked for the first time since 2008. The Huskies were slotted 10th this week in both the USCHO and USA Hockey polls.
The Huskies are currently third in Hockey East, with only three league losses. They gave conference-leading Northeastern a tough challenge in November, taking a two-goal lead on the nation’s third-ranked team before losing, 3-2.
As the second half of the slate begins, the battle of the two Huskies schools will be one to watch, especially because they will face off for two games in the season’s final weekend.
Because of the holiday break, the COVID-related postponements that were hitting other college sports had not impacted local teams until this week. On Monday, BC and Providence had their game postponed, but the Eagles are still scheduled to play BU in a home-and-home series this weekend. Harvard had a small adjustment to its schedule, with games at Cornell and Colgate pushed from this Friday and Saturday to Sunday and Monday.