Top left Cassie as #43 with Norton High School, bottom left as #33 with Nichols College. Top right, still playing boys hockey with the Brewins, bottom right, on the ice with Mom & Dad at Nichols All photos courtesy Kathy Goyette except botttom right photo by Nichols College Athletics

Cassandra Goyette: Game On!

Cetacean Nation had the opportunity recently to chat with another of our amazing rookie goaltenders, #33 Cassandra Goyette. In terms of hockey, Cassie was late to the game. But on the ice she is what we refer to in sports as a true gamer.And interesting enough, she can claim the same status off ice the as well. More on that in a bit, but let’s get to know Cassie on the ice first. Cassie hails from Norton, Massachusetts, about an hour south of Boston. It is an area that followers of this site have seen us refer to as real hockey country. So we would have guessed little Cassandra was out there skating in station drills from the time she could walk. We would have guessed wrong 

We found that out quickly, as we inquired about Cassie”s start in hockey. She surprised us, explaining “As a kid growing up in Norton, I played all the kind of sports that kids play soccer basketball, etc but never hockey. My younger cousin who lived in Brockton, always played hockey, and continued all through high school and I always wanted to try it. At one point I had actually stopped playing sports. But then in middle school I decided I wanted to play hockey, So I did the learn to learn skate and joined a team. When I started playing hockey I was a forward but I was not too great a scorer going into high school playing forward, and sometime around my sophomore year in high school I started playing goalie. I just decided I wanted to try goalie, and lo and behold I loved it. And here I am:)” 

Cassie continued “In Norton when I started playing hockey, there was no hockey team at the high school. So I was playing in recreational leagues out of Taunton, and that was for other boys programs. There wasn’t really a lot of girls hockey then, but now it’s really taking off. So as I’m going into my junior year Norton, they established a varsity boys program but they didn’t have a girls program. So I played with the boys team for two years before I went to college, and I liked it. Once I started playing hockey I pretty much stuck with that. I did try lacrosse but I didn’t really like that. I just didn’t fall in love with it like I did with hockey.”

She further explained ”As a senior in high school, I also started playing with the Massachusetts Spitfires out of Foxboro. It was my goalie coach, Mark Hanson, who got me affiliated with them. The Spitfires were one of the only girls programs, and the closest one to me. My Mom wanted me to get get some exposure playing girls hockey there. A lot of the girls come from prep school programs, so when high school seasons started they went back playing with their girls teams and I went back to playing on our boys team. I did a half year with the Spitfires and a half year with the Taunton Brewins, who were also a boys team.Their seasons conflicted, so I was playing for the Spitfires and the Brewins at the same time so after both those ended, the prep & high school,seasons started so we all went to our respective places. Mine was to my high school” We asked Cassie if she had run into any of her current Whale teammates while playing for the Spitfires. Cassie thought, and said “None of my current teammates from the Whale played on the Spitfire,not that I know of but then I don't know any off them :) so I I don’t really know a lot of other female hockey players because of my background playing with boys team all through high school. i know more now but I still don’t know a lot of players. I am pretty sure I played against Jane Morrisette in college, because Nichols plays UMass-Boston” Cetacean Nation diss a little research and discovered Cassie also faced future Whale Tess Adams at Suffolk, Kim Tiberi and Sarah Schwenzfier at Norwich, and Erin Hall at Holy Cross as well. Two very important trends developed with Cassie at Norton. She won a Most Improved Player Award her senior year, and continual improvement is a trait she has demonstrated from that time on. And, she helped lead her team to it’s first ever play-off appearance, in the 2015 MIAA Ice Hockey - Boys South Division 3. And she then accomplished some team firsts again on a much bigger stage at Nichols as we’ll see.

Cassie matriculated at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts on her way to the Whale, and we asked her to tell us about that. She revealed “I didn’t know if I wanted to play after high school, since I had relatively limited experience. But my mom helped me to check out literally every D3 school around me. I contacted them, made a recruiting video, and got to talking with Nichols. I made an overnight visit, loved the school, and the campus, and committed on May 1st. I had actually told UNE that I was going to go to school there and play hockey for them, But I had kind of a mid life crisis about school, and decided to go to Nichols:)” Cassie almost had reason to regret that decision, as she explained “ So the first two years we won maybe about three games. It was really tough the first two seasons there. But then we had a whole new coaching staff come in for for my junior year, and that turned it around. And then senior year Sam came in as the goalie coach.” That Sam is someone very familiar to all of Cetacean Nation, our former goaltender #70 Samantha Walther, now a member of the Riveters. Cassie singled our Sam’s influence, saying “I am really glad Sam was there, she was great! She was a really good coach and a good person too! I was really glad she was a part of my senior season, she made it that much better. Before Sam came to Nichols, our goalie coaches weren’t around that much. When Sam came in she was around a lot, which was super helpful. We had a ton of fun at practice! Maybe too much fun sometimes:)” 

Cetacean Nation reached out to Sam Walther for some insights on her former player, and Sam was more than happy to offer these words  “ I had an awesome time working with her last year as one of my players. Her and her family have become really close to me. I didn’t know this until the end of our season last year, and most people don’t realize, that Cassie didn’t start playing until her sophomore year of high school. For her to be able to close that skill gap, be that determined and to work that hard to reach her goal of playing college hockey after starting later than most of us, it really proves her commitment and drive. I think it’s pretty unbelievable and something she should be proud of. She’s just one of those athletes that’ll do everything and anything to get better and I know she’s gonna do that in the NWHL this year. I hope she gets her chance, she’ll turn heads for sure. She was the backbone to our team on and off the ice too. She just had fun with hockey and sometimes a team needs that refresher. I think she’s a great addition for the Whale and I’m pretty pumped to hopefully get to play against her!” Awesome comments by Samantha, and when that match-up occurs, it will be one of the highlight moments of the season. 

Cassie had an amazing career in the crease the for Bison at Nichols, leading them to the most successful seasons in program history during her last two years. And remember the “Most Improved Player Award” at Norton we mentioned? That trend upwards continued at Nichols, as her statistics tell the story of clear improvement in all the metrics each season. She finished as their carrier leader in wins, ties, shutouts, saves, save percentage,and goals against average. As a senior, she posted a 1.42 GAA and four shutouts, and her .952 save percentage was tied for fourth in the NCAA. Among her numerous awards and accomplishments, she was a four time Academic All Conference honoree. That last led us to ask  Cassie about her degree at Nichols and she told us “ I studied general business and received BS/BA degree. At Nichols the way that kind of works is it’s set up so that you have three areas of focus within the the general business major. You get a little taste of three different subjects so you have kind of a semi minor in each one. Mine were accounting, marketing and management.”

Cassie will be wearing #33 for the Pod, her new coach Laura Brennen’s number through last season with the Whale, a fact that did not come up when the two first spoke. Cassie said “ I spoke to Laura right after I signed, but I did not realize #33 was Laura’s number:)” While on the subject, Cetacean Nation asked about how Cassie herself had become associated with the number 33. And her answer, opened up a whole new realm in the Whale-verse. Cassie explained “I am a gamer, and my opinion, in order to be called a gamer I would say you would have to play at least a a few times a week and become really familiar with one game. Really, just play the video games and fall in love with them. I am not sure which NHL version we had, but it was an old one which was fun, because we got really good at it. And you can make players on it and I would like to make goalies sometimes. And I would give them different numbers. So when I started playing goalie, I went on the game to pick a number. I tested how the numbers looked on the jerseys and I kind of liked the way 43 looked. So I picked that. I started wearing 43, and it was my number in high school. In college I asked for that jersey but they only offered numbers 1 through 33. Another goalie had 33, but i offered her my #1 and we switched.” 

Cetacean Nation asked if Cassie would model the players she created after a certain player or herself and she said “Neither, really. I just kind of made the players. My favorite goalie is Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers though. I am a big Rangers fan, so being from the Boston area, when I tell people I’m a Rangers fan, “What?” I am a huge Pats fan and my dad has season tickets but when people talk to me about the Bruins I’m like ahh, I’m a Rangers fan. I just started watching hockey when I started playing it, and I really like Henrik Lundqvist’s style of play and who he is as a person. He’s got great style and I just really like the way he plays the game. He is a notable person in the NHL, and in my opinion he deserves his name on the Stanley Cup so badly. If there is one player that you could just put on the Cuo, I would put him on the Cup. I really thought the Rangers were going to do it a couple years ago. They had a really good run at it, and I’m really hoping that with the rebuild they’re going through it gets a little better”

Now Cetacean Nation knew that Twitch, one of the great new sponsors of the NWHL was a gaming platform, and we asked if Cassie were familiar with it. Turns out, she is, and then some. She explained “ I have been using Twitch for a while now. Before Curse Client (an add-on and modification management service for video games) partnered with Twitch and you would download content to Twitch. But since they since they have now partnered, you can get your add one directly through Twitch. So that’s why I first got involved with Twitch. And then I just found streamers on it and I watch them all the time, and I love it. The NWHL’s three year deal with Twitch is huge! Twitch does a really good job promoting it’s streamers and the games and content that are available on it. I just love using Twitch. , I just think they do a fantastic job of broadcasting people and their games. In the case of the NWHL, the league would be considered the streamer, or the broadcasters themselves.”

Cassie continued talking about her gaming and told us “So I have been playing video games since I was really young. My older brother and my cousins are gamers too. I think the first video game that I really, really loved to play was Halo, and that came out awhile ago. I started playing with brother and my cousins a few times, and eventually I just got addicted to it:) I went from there to from playing Xbox, to computer games, and then World of Warcraft. Not when it was first released, I didn’t start playing it until I was 8 or 9 years old. I don’t have a specific niche video games I play, but I have one or two that I cycle through. For example World of Warcraft and MMORPG’s (Massively multiplayer online role playing game) And I will play Skyrim which is one of my all-time favorites, just kind of a fantasy in-world game. I just kind of jumped from game to game, I enjoy to play them all. I was just playing Guitar Hero the other day “ 

Hearing that, we wondered if Cassie played any instruments? She explained “ I don’t, but I tried to learn when I was younger. I first started with the acoustic guitar and I really didn’t like that too much. Then I tried to learn the drums and that didn’t go very far. And then I tried to learn electric guitar and that didn’t go very far either:) I did play the keyboard for a little bit, and that was probably the instrument I played the longest. I played the keyboard when I was in fifth grade. Guitar Hero Is much less of a skill than playing the actual guitar. But I can tell you, if you are very good at playing guitar, you’ll be very good at Guitar Hero. There is some crossover.” 

That made us wonder if there were any crossover in terms of benefits like hand/eye coordination, between hockey and gaming. Cassie thought about it for awhile, and replied “I mean, maybe? I don’t really know. I never really put that much thought into it. I know some people say, Oh, this hand I coordination It’s going to help you! but I don’t really know. So I don’t actually see the hand/eye coordination benefit or connection, but in terms of focusing and getting ready for a game, definitely yes. I have a whole pregame video game ritual that I do so when we had a Friday night gameI I would get home from practice, I would have the same meal, I’d sit on my computer and play World of Warcraft and make a new character and level them from one through 20 before every game. I see it as a way to just clear my head, and I just kind of focus on that. And that’s just really good for me for me, just getting myself focused” 

We thought that Cassie’s pre-game routines were pretty cool, and we wanted to know more, and asked her to fill us in. “Sometimes I would go to the rink on a Friday morning. It would literally just be Sam and me or me and the head coach, or me and the the other coach and they would just shoot on me. Simple drills, like sitting in the slot doing a hand warm-up then rolling off the half wall, and then maybe point shots. For a 4:00 PM game, I would be at the rink 6:00 or 7:00 AM to work on these things. Just a quick warm-up type skate. Our rink was off campus so we had to leave pretty early in the morning. So probably it was get up at 5:30 AM and leave at 6:00 AM.”  Cassie continued “Going to the rink, I’d ride with the same people. My best friend Cara would drive in her jeep to the rink. We played the same music basically on the way to the rink each time. When we got to the rink and I’d change into my non-business casual clothes, so that I can go sit in the stands. I’d grab a chocolate peanut butter granola bar from the locker room, and untape my stick. I”d let my teammate tape my stick because she loves to tape sticks. She would always tape mine before games, so I’d give that to her. And since I don’t really talk to anybody at that point, I just sit there with my headphones on for a while. Then we’d do our off ice warm-ups. And just as soon as that was over, I would go to the training room quick, see the trainer, then I go off and do my hand eye (alone) with my racquet ball. I would be kind of off the side just throwing the ball against the wall. I was not coordinated enough to do the soccer warm-ups:)

Cassie added “ In terms of my personal on ice warm-ups, I may have one of our players sit in the slot before a game and before warm-ups They’d shoot three pucks to my glove standing, and three pucks to my blocker standing. And then three in the the butterfly on each side, then the warm-up would start. I like simple drills. Cassie also has set routines to stay focused during games as well. She admitted “I also don’t really acknowledge people while I’m in the game and I feel kind of bad about it, but that’s just how I stay focused. Once I’m in the crease and there’s a whistle. I just kind of do a little half skate around the faceoff circle like, the NHL goalies do. I call it taking a walk. And depending on if there’s music playing and I like the song I kind of bob to the beat of the music. Just trying to stay loose not being too, too serious? But serious enough to play the game.” We don’t know if they have played much Jeremy Soule (soundtrack for Skyrim) at Danbury Ice Arena, but they may start to now. 

Cetacean Nation also asked if Cassie had done any coaching at this point. She replied “Over the summer an alumni from Nichols who coaches, was asked to do a clinic on power skating at a rank about 30 miles away from me in Canton Massachusetts. She asked me and a few other people who still are at Nichols if we’d be interested in helping her out. I don’t know a lot about power skating, so I just kind of went and it was really fun. I learned a lot because it was like I was learning along with with the kids too. If I had to define it, I would say powerskating is basically just focusing on your edge work and really concentrating on the power you’re getting through your strides, and working on your strides. It was a lot of working on their strides.” 

Cassie stressed the importance of skating, telling us  “Skating is very important for goalies, and edge work is really important. I love skating, and I really love doing goalie skates. I really love doing C cuts, and when I skate with my goalie coach in Foxboro we do like 10 to 15 minutes of skating before we start getting into any drills where we use pucks.” Cassie, who describes herself as “a 100% a butterfly style goalie”, also talked a little about how she deals with things like screens from opposing forwards. She opined “ I think it’s easier maneuvering around larger players.They kind of cover the net themselves, while you’re looking around them. That’s kind of risky sometimes, but for me I look at it that smaller players seem to be a little better at screening and moving around in front of you and tipping pucks. But I guess theoretically , having a larger person in there in front of you makes it more difficult to see, but not always.” 

Cassie concluded our chat with these thoughts. “ You have to have fun, that’s the biggest thing. You can’t get too caught up in it, you have to have fun. I don’t think I would’ve done nearly as good as I did this year, if I didn’t have fun all the time. That was probably the toughest part about the first two years at Nichols. We were all kind of miserable in a sense and nobody was having fun with it anymore. But we turned that around I think that was the biggest thing going into my senior year. I though “ it’s my senior year I’m going to have fun regardless of what happens and I had a Tonna fun and success. It makes it a lot easier on freshmen coming in too, if it’s not like a dead serious environment. You just kind a have fun and get to know everybody and have a good time while playing a sport you love. The locker room vibe is unreal I already miss it and it’s just preseason. Whale practice actually starts on Tuesday and I believe the practices will be in Danberry as well. It’s exciting and I am a little nervous.i’m looking for the chance to elevate my game because I never thought I’d be playing professional hockey. And lo and behold, here I am.” 

Cetacean Nation enjoyed our interview with our new #33 Cassandra Goyette, and we think she’ll be a valuable addition to the Most Exciting Team in Hockey, both on and off the ice. And since her goalie partners sport the nicknames Sojo (Sonjia Shelly) and Wojo ( Brooke Wolejko) we had to find a suitable handle for Cassie. So because it sounds like a great gamer name and it rhymes, we came up with Cujo!  Fins Up Cassie, looking forward to you bobbing and weaving and stopping pucks in the crease in Danbury!

Cassie on the ice at the Whale’s home opener with some Little Future Draft Picks Photo: Kathy Wilson Goyette