Victoria Vigilanti. Chelsea Laden. Sydney Rossman.
For almost a decade, the Quinnipiac women’s hockey team has been an example of a program’s stability despite the constant struggle coaches of college sports teams face when their best players graduate and move on. Since going 3-26-5 in the 2008-2009 season, the Bobcats have never failed to amass at least 20 wins each year. Today, Quinnipiac has a growing reputation as one of the best college hockey programs in the country. What led to the sudden turnaround in the program’s fortunes? Having a rock solid wall in front of the net since 2009 helps.
This wall has taken a few forms over the years. It began in 2009 as Victoria Vigilanti. Over her four years in Hamden, Vigilanti was peppered by the opposition, making a school record 3,035 saves.
To give you an idea of how many goals were stopped by Vigilanti, look down at Mel Courtemanche who was next on the list with 1,709 saves in her Quinnipiac career. Vigilanti finished with a .931 career save percentage, backstopping the Bobcats to the ECAC Semifinals twice, further into the playoffs than the program had ever been to that point. Her 71 wins still stand as the most in Quinnipiac history.
Behind Vigilanti on that all-time wins list is her successor, Chelsea Laden, with 51 of her own. When Vigilanti graduated in 2013, it was the then junior Laden’s turn to begin her watch on the wall. Laden equaled her mentor’s record in shutouts, totaling 25 in her time with Quinnipiac. This is an impressive feat considering she only had two seasons to do it. Laden surpassed Vigilanti in goals against average, posting a 1.56 clip to the latter’s 1.69 mark. Laden led her team to a deep postseason run each year, falling in the semifinals both times. The program, however, had yet to feel like what it was like to play in a championship game.
Following Laden’s graduation in 2015, Sydney Rossman took over the netminding. Like Laden, Rossman got the starting job in her junior year and has absolutely shined ever since. In her first season in goal, the Bobcats totaled a program-high in wins with 26. The next year, the team was nearly unstoppable, earning 30 wins en route to the program’s first ever ECAC hockey championship. Rossman was virtually impenetrable, posting a single-season record 0.90 goals against average during that championship-winning season. Rossman also tied Laden for most shutouts in a single-season with 16.
For career records, Rossman holds some of those too. The puckstopper from Excelsior, Minn. has the best career save percentage of any goalie in Quinnipiac history (men’s and women’s) with .946. She also stands alone as having the school’s best goals against average with an incredible 0.95. In the championship year, Rossman was named the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year, to the All-ECAC Hockey First Team, and to the All-USCHO Third Team just to name a few of her accolades. To take a line from Kurt Russell playing the legendary Herb Brooks in Miracle, “If you score against Sydney Rossman, keep the puck because it doesn’t happen often.”
With Quinnipiac’s 2-1 loss to Princeton in the third game of the ECAC Quarterfinals on Sunday, Rossman played her last game for Quinnipiac as she’ll be graduating in May. The net is unoccupied once again, ready to another player to fill it and continue the recent tradition of elite Quinnipiac goaltending. Will it be sophomore Claire Lachner who has studied the team’s starter for two years before stepping up much as her predecessors did? Or will freshman Abbie Ives see some time in the crease after impressively giving up just one goal in over 259 minutes of action this season? Perhaps Head Coach Cassandra Turner is selling a recruit on the budding hockey hotbed that is New Haven County, Conn.
The opportunity to become this program’s next wall is open for the taking. The question will be who wants it most.