(FREDERICTON, NB) Sarah Hilworth sat alone, quietly studying the action on the ice.
She didn’t stick out. There was nothing identifying her as the head coach of the Varsity Reds returning women’s hockey team. And that’s just the way HIlworth wanted it.
“I’ve only ever watched Canada West hockey, so I need to get a feel for what the AUS is like,” said Hilworth, as she watched the Dalhousie Tigers and St. Thomas Tommies play recently at Fredericton’s Grant-Harvey Centre. “It’s fast hockey. These girls are playing, they’re battling. There’s some talent out here.”
The Varsity Reds are still a year away from their return to Atlantic University Sport action, but Hilworth is hard at work.
She’s already had a number of players make commitments to the Varsity Reds, having signed them to U SPORTS Letters of Intent.
The team’s dressing room, inside UNB’s Aitken Centre, has been renovated, and Hilworth’s office is open for business.
She’ll spend this season assembling more players and more resources. She’ll also do plenty of scouting.
And on this first night of scouting, there’s a sense of anticipation in Hilworth’s voice.
“I’m just excited,” she said. “The group of girls that we’ve assembled so far, I think, can compete right away. I’m excited to see, right off the bat, how we do and what kind of tone and what kind of identity we make as a team and how that’s going to fit into this league.”
She knows much will change over the course of the next year, but she also knows she’s got to be prepared.
“It’s a competitive league, but I know we can come in and be another team in this league that’s going to be hard to beat, play tough hockey against, and make our mark as fast as possible.”
With no team to work with right now, Hilworth plans on seeing every AUS team at least once this season.
“I need to get a feel for what the AUS is like and how we can come in and be competitive right away,” said Hilworth. “I think you want to identify top players and see what year they’re in. We’re not going to change our game plan based on one player, but we can identify key match-ups and start logging that, and just see how each team is different and how they play the game and how we can use that.”
While she watches the Tigers and Tommies, it’s evident that she’d rather be behind the bench than sitting in the stands. Still, Hilworth knows this is part of the process.
She’s built a team from scratch before, so she knows what it takes.
But there’s no hiding her eagerness.
“I can’t wait for the puck to drop and we get to play,” she said. “I’m a competitor, I’m a fiery person. My blood is already boiling and I’m getting fired up watching this, that’s for sure.”
The Varsity Reds women’s hockey team returns to the ice in the 2018-19 season.