November 21, 2013

WOMEN’S COLLEGE HOCKEY: Wheeler a force in net for Colby

Goalie has over 2,000 career saves

By Matt DiFilippo
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Many articles have been written over the years on the psychology and psychological pressures of hockey goalies. Colby College senior Brianne Wheeler is qualified to talk about that. In addition to being in her fourth season as the starting goalie on the Colby women’s ice hockey team, Wheeler is a psychology major.

click image to enlarge

MENTALY TOUGH: Colby College goalie Brianne Wheeler has made over 2,000 saves in her career at Colby College.

Contributed photo by Dustin Satloff

click image to enlarge

MENTALY TOUGH: Colby College goalie Brianne Wheeler has made over 2,000 saves in her career at Colby College.

Contributed photo by Dustin Satloff

“The whole idea of positive and negative reinforcement — if you are telling yourself that was a bad goal that you just let in, you’re more likely to let in another bad goal,” Wheeler said. “You’ve just got to stay positive. At the end of the day, you’ve got to realize why you’re playing, and it’s because you love the game.”

Wheeler, a native of Brussels, Ontario, has had her chances to get down on herself and the game of hockey while at Colby. She’s been brilliant between the pipes, compiling over 2,000 career saves and a 2.55 career goals-against average. While that has translated to a record of 23-47-2, Wheeler has remained a leader and positive influence for the Mules.

“She’s a fantastic teammate,” Colby interim coach Mallory Young said. “She’s a natural leader in whatever she’s doing. She has a very calm presence with the team, very approachable by anybody. She just has a way of connecting with people everywhere, and keeping people focused, and yet calm and engaged in what they’re doing.”

Wheeler chose Colby after playing in high school and at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire. Though she is a good enough softball player that she batted cleanup, started at third base, and led Colby in runs batted in as a junior, softball wasn’t why she came to Waterville.

“It was all hockey,” said Young, at the time an assistant with the Mules. “We had told the softball coach that she was interested in playing softball, but she hadn’t decided until she got to Colby.”

Wheeler played in 22 games as a freshman, and has played in every conference game over her career. Young says her quickness and rebound control have improved since she came to Colby, while Wheeler (remember, she’s a psychology major) thinks her improvement has been mostly mental.

“In high school I was kind of a shy goalie, would stay in the crease,” Wheeler said. “I was kind of passive. Now I feel like I’m a lot more aggressive in the net, and I’m just more confident in general in my ability, and I think that makes a huge difference on the ice. It took a while for me to really step up and realize that I could play at this level, and I was ready to compete at this level,.”

Wheeler’s mental abilities help her in other ways as well. Like a chess player, she thinks ahead, and that has helped in many of those 2,000 saves.

“She’s a really fun goalie to watch,” Young said. “She’s aggressive. She can see the play developing, and understands where that play might go. If you can think ahead a couple steps, that’s pretty (unusual) for a goalie, just to be able to see that far ahead.”

Still, the wins have not been regular occurrences for the Mules. Colby scored less than two goals per game last winter, and lost several games by scores like 2-1, 2-0, and 1-0. Young points out that there have been numerous games over the years when Colby was struggling but Wheeler kept the score close. But at the end of the game, Wheeler is the only individual on the team with a loss by her name, and she remembers the one-goal losses.

(Continued on page 2)

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