September 2, 2020

After Big Sophomore Season for PU Women’s Hockey, Connors Taking Part in Canada Development Program

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: Maggie Connors fires the puck up the ice this past winter during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Star forward Connors tallied 22 goals and 25 assists in 2019-20 to help Princeton go 26-6-1 and win the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title. This summer, Connors is training with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually throughout the summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Maggie Connors will never forget the final game of her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

Star forward Connors contributed an assist as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun top-ranked Cornell 3-2 in overtime on March 8, earning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title in the process.

“That game was probably my favorite game that I have played for Princeton so far,” said Connors, a 5’6 native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador in Canada.

“It was incredible, I look back and we just fed off the energy in that building. We were so focused and so competitive. We were working so hard and we just had so much fun at the same time because we had never been there. There were no strings attached because we hadn’t even been to the ECAC final before. We had literally nothing to lose, it was definitely a thriller of a game.”

But with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the country, that stirring triumph turned out to be the last game of the season, leaving the Tigers with a 26-6-1 record as they lost out on a chance to skate in the NCAA tournament, where they were slated to play at Northeastern in a quarterfinal contest.

“It was definitely tough but looking back on it now, I think the way our season ended was probably the best that could happen in the situation that we couldn’t control,” said Connors, who tallied 47 points on 22 goals and 25 assists this winter, earning third-team All-ECACH honors.

“We had the most wins for our program and we were on a roll. We really thought we could take our season as far as even the Frozen Four.”

In reflecting on the season, which saw the Tigers set a program-record for wins, Connors credited the squad’s seniors with setting a positive tone.

“I don’t think we could have asked for a better set of experienced leaders, I know that everyone looked up to them,” said Connors of the team’s Class of 2020 which included Carly Bullock, MacKenzie Ebel, Steph Neatby, Claire Thompson, and Sylvie Wallin.

“Unfortunately MacKenzie [Ebel] didn’t get to finish up the season but she worked with us and was still a leader at all times with us, pushing us. We really wanted to win for her, especially. I know that all the other seniors really carried our season and we all wanted to play for them in that final game. I think they did a great job and they had an amazing career at Princeton.”

Getting an amazing opportunity months after the season ended, Connors was named to train with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually throughout the summer.

“Getting an invite to those camps is definitely something that is really an amazing experience,” said Connors, who was a member of the 2018-19 Canada National Development Team, played for the 2017-18 Canada U18 Team that won the bronze medal at 2018 IIHF Women’s World U18 Championship, and skated in the 2017 U18 Summer Series versus the U.S.

“It is something I cherish a lot because at the end of the day, that is what I am striving for, one, playing for Princeton and, two, playing for my country. So being able to be invited to those camps is such an honor.”

While the players are not congregating at training sites as in past years due to COVID-19 restrictions, Connors is still getting a lot out of the program.

“Unfortunately they are not in person this summer but I think Hockey Canada is doing the best of their abilities in making it an amazing camp, keeping us all connected and still educating us,” said Connors, who is being joined in the development program by Princeton teammate and fellow rising junior Sarah Fillier.

“The way Hockey Canada is doing it for the development side for the women is that we have a weekly one-to-two hour calls. It is presentations on everything from strength to mobility sessions, nutrition talks, and skills presentations. It is just a lot of education and giving people the resources they need to become better hockey players at home.”

While at home, Connors has been able to get in some serious conditioning.

“I have used the same personal trainer in Newfoundland for a number of years,” said Connors, noting that Hockey Canada gives the players the option of working with their own trainers, having the national program strength coach available to provide input.

“I give him my stats and things and where I need to work on different areas in my game and then we make a program based on that.”

With the COVID-19 situation getting under control in Canada, Connors was able to hit the ice in late June.

“I skate three times a week on average with my skills coach and one other person that I train with here and a goalie as well,” said Connors.

“I haven’t been able to play any games currently right now. I am not worried about games but working on skills and the basics.”

Unlike past years, there will be no games after the completion of the Development Camp. Normally, there would be a May strength and conditioning camp including about 50 players with eight to 10 players being cut before an August camp. That final session usually goes two weeks long with final cuts before an annual series against the U.S. team.

For Connors, taking part in the Development Camp this summer, even under changed circumstances, is another step on what she hopes will be an unforgettable journey.   

“Ever since I was very young, the Olympics has definitely been my goal,” said Connors.

“What year or anything I make it depends on my development and where I am at. So with regards to years and the kind of things I am striving for, I am not sure. I know I have a lot more developing to go before I think about the Olympic level.”