When we interviewed our “other #33” our amazing Assistant Coach Laura Brennen after the season, she told us this about Casper
“Casper played a huge role in helping me teach those new concepts and theories because she’s a huge student of the game and always trying to be better. She went to a goalie coach every week through Stop It Goaltending And it was great, because when I’m on the ice coaching the team I don’t have pads on, so if I’m trying to explain something just through words, I can have Casper do the demo, and it works out really well.”
Casper responded “It’s a wonderful compliment, I didn’t know she said that. I’ll have to text her and say thanks! I love skating and learning new things on the ice, I love getting criticism basically.. I kind of became the demo goalie at some point. If we were skating, I would do the skating drill first so I could show Brooke and Sonjia I think. I didn’t intentionally go first every time, but now it makes sense. We would do the Iron Cross in one of the face-off circles, and I would always question Laura when she would say something, because she would use a different terminology than I would for the same thing. So I’d be ready to go, and I’d say wait a second, is this what you’re talking about? She’d be like, yeah, just go! “
“Casper continued “I think it goes back to when I first became a goalie, because I started pretty late compared to most people. And Stop It was the only real goalie coaching I had through college until Sam came to Nichols. Because the goalie coaches we had were kind of absent most of the time or they didn’t help us. So Stop It was where I would get the most feedback, and it was kind of the only coaching I trusted. That was my only way to coach myself too, was through Stop It. Because I would get a lot of feedback and it would be goalie specific all the time! And I want to do it right and I want to do it better. “
Casper added “I think it was Brooke, because we were talking about the lateral release one day, and I don’t think she’d ever done it. We interrupted Casper and asked her to please explain the lateral release, and she told us “It’s basically a shuffle that turns into a butterfly. It’s a replacement for butterfly sliding, because butterfly sliding can be dangerous because it can put you in an awkward position really fast by getting you out of position. And the lateral release is a controlled shuffle butterfly. I remember showing Brooke how to do it one day. She didn’t know what it was and just didn’t know how to do it, which was kind of fun. It’s difficult for coaches to demo things. Even at Stop It, sometimes they wear knee guards under their pants so they can butterfly, and push around, instead of just dropping to their knees and shattering their kneecaps. But it easier if you have a goalie, it’s easier to visually see it if a goalie is doing it rather than a goalie coach. But even at Stop It, if we were doing a drill, I would do a practice run too after the goalie coach would demo it, just to make sure I wasn’t doing it wrong.”
Back to what Laura said, Casper is a huge student of the game. Laura had praised her goalie group when we interviewed her, so we were curious of Casper’s impression of her first season, and what Brooke and Sonjia were like as goalie partners? She expressed
“It was a huge adjustment for me jumping from a really small DIII school into the professional hockey world in general. There was a big adjustment for me, just getting confidence, to play at that level I think. I would say it was a year of growth, as a goalie and a person. Just because I’ve never played at such a high level and I’d never been exposed to such a high level of play. And having three goalies on the team that are all pretty good at hockey is definitely something I wasn’t used to before either. Just definitely a year of growth. I would say it was a learning and growing experience and it was a very big adjustment because I also commuted most of the season from Massachusetts. I commuted to the rink at Nichols, but that was forty minutes away, and this was like 2 ½ to 3 hours at least, there and back, which was kind of different. As goalie partners, I think we all got along pretty well, we had a fun time. It was definitely a little weird at first, because I didn’t know either of them and they had played together before and knew each other. So I was kind of like the odd one out, but it was fun, and we all warmed up to each other pretty quickly. We’re all pretty easy going, and we kind of goof around a little bit when we’re on the ice, which I really liked. Because having fun is a big part of the game too! I’ve had a few goalie partners that are a little wonky, but what can you do? We all had fun and we were all really supportive of each other which was really nice. At practices me & Brooke would have this thing where if we were not doing so hot, we would just jump straight into, after a two minute shooting drill, into 3 on O’s or 2 on 1’s, or 2 on 0’s and just look at each other and go: Everything’s fine, everything’s fine! "
Casper laughed and added "They (my teammates) were very supportive, a lot of fun. Just good people in general. I would fall all the time in practice too, so that was kind of a joke. We would be doing a hard lap, and I’d take it a little too close to the corner. There’s this one corner in Danbury that’s so bad, it’s the Zamboni door. It’s awful in that corner! Every practice,, I would just divot, and fall into the boards. Or, I would literally just be standing there or doing a warm-up skate for myself off to the side and I would just...fall. Just practicing (goalie moves) I guess :)!
We asked about her experience the first game of the season in Danbury, where Casper had a large turn-out of supporters, and what that was like?
"It was cool, it was cool and weird. They didn’t really give us a lot of guidance on what the game day wa supposed to be like. I didn’t know time to be on the ice for warm-ups, I didn’t know when our off ice warm-up was, I didn’" know anything. I didn’t even know what time to get to the rink. I think I ended up texting Brooke and Sonjia: what time are you guys planning to get to the rink? I don’t know anything! It was fun, two of my friends actually came and surprised me at that game, which was super nice of them. It was kind of surreal because I never thought I’d be dressing in a pro hockey game, or playing for hockey, which is special. My parents come to every game, every time we had a home game, they would come. We’d stay in a hotel and spend the weekend, they’re very supportive. “
When Cetacean Nation asked Casper what her favorite memory of the season was, she didn’t hesitate a second and said
“I think it was definitely stopping Allie Thunstrom on a breakaway! I thought she scored, so it was pretty cool afterwards that she didn’t. I think Doyle was the defenseman, and it literally was just a chip that bounced over her stick. Just a freak play and then she (Thunstrom) just took off. It was just like one of those moments. I went into the third period to play, and I hadn’t played in months. So it was very special to me, because I hadn’t played in awhile, and I did it pretty well. It kind of reminded me of Nichols, because it was just one of those plays, we’re losing, the games basically over, there’s less than a minute left and there’s a breakaway! Because that would happen at Nichols all the time. We’re already losing, the game’s lost and I’d be like: Gosh darn it! (More or less) I mean of course it’s Thunstrom, of course there’s less than a minute left in the game! I was just so happy to stop it, I was so nervous! I blinked and she was dangling me!”
Casper’s remarks led us to ask her if it was tougher to stop a breakaway in a shootout or a game? Casper considered that and offered
“I think it’s easier to stop a breakaway that just kind of happens in a game. Because you’re already in the mentality of in the flow of the game. And when I’m playing, I’m not thinking either, so it’s just bang -bang, focus on the puck. I feel it’s easier to be more confident on a breakaway that happens in a game. You’re already in the flow, you’ve already built the confidence up throughout the game, rather than in a shootout, where for me, I feel I have too much time to think between each puck. In a breakaway in a game you just have to go, unless you’re on the blue line and everyone else is in the neutral zone, you can’t take your time with it. It’s a bang-bang play, it happens, you just kind of play the puck and stop it. But in a shootout they have time, they can do whatever they want, use patience, and it’s easy to overthink it.”
We thought it was pretty cool too! Allie is one of the top scorers and fastest skaters in the league. And side note: truth be told, we still acknowledge Grace as the winner of the fastest skater competition in the ASG. Casper agreed saying “I think it’s Grace too, I think they messed up both the speedometers, they swapped them..:)
We also asked if Cassie had done any coaching or clinics during the season, and her reply harkened back to Casper’s comments about her commute to Danbury.
“Not really. We did a skating thing, I think it was the first week of the season, before we’d had a game, and that was really it. Bray would email us about clinics and ask if we were interested, but most of them are down in a Connecticut which is a bit far. Maybe in the future. I’m looking into it (coaching) but I’m not looking into it, because I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life, still.” she said laughing.