In her very first game as a freshman at Quinnipiac University, Kelly Babstock showed she belonged.
She scored a first-period goal and had an assist in a 3-0 win over Niagara University. The next day, she had a goal and two assists in another win. By mid-November she already had two hat tricks and led the NCAA in both goals and points.
Four years later, Babstock has been called the best player in the history of Quinnipiac’s women’s hockey program. She’s the only 100-point scorer in the program’s history and is just three points shy of 200. She’s the Bobcats’ career leader in goals (93), assists (104) and points (197) and has been credited with 21 game-winning goals.
Since coming to Quinnipiac, Babstock has helped the Bobcats to four consecutive winning seasons, the best stretch in school history.
And that, she says, is one of the reasons she signed to play for the Connecticut school from her home in Mississauga, Ontario. Coach Rick Seeley, in his second year, had just guided Quinnipiac to its first winning season the year before she arrived, and Babstock — sought by several other schools — believed she could help Seeley take it higher than it had ever gone.
“I wanted to just help the program,” she said. “I loved the school coming in. The campus was beautiful and I just love hockey, so I wanted to make a difference.”
She’s done just that, helping Quinnipiac to two 20-win seasons, a plateau the Bobcats never had reached. This year, Quinnipiac (18-5-9) is ranked 10th in the nation.
Babstock, meanwhile, is No. 7 in NCAA Division I in scoring, with 43 points (17 goals, 26 points). Since her freshman season — when she was fifth in the nation in scoring and the No. 1 freshman — Babstock has been an offensive force. Last season, she also was nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Award, annually given to the best women’s player in the nation.
“She wants to create something offensively every second of every shift,” Seeley once said of Babstock. “She doesn’t take a shift off, and I’ve never coached a player like that. She’s a threat every time she’s on the ice.”
Babstock, who grew up playing both lacrosse and hockey against boys, said she tries to be more than a scorer. She wants to do everything she can — play defense, battle for the puck in the corners and in front of the net, be a leader and help her teammates on and off the ice — every day.
“Before games, I try to focus on what I’m going to be doing every shift and really focusing on the little details, every game, like the d-side and shooting on the net,” she said. It’s her goal to be “an all-around player.”
Because she grew up playing against boys, she believes she has a strong, physical game that helps her team.
“Using my body I think is probably one of the good ones,” she said of her talents. “In front of the net I like battling. I think that’s one of my strengths is battling and looking, being aware of who’s one the ice and who’s open, and I usually see before a play happens what’s going to happen.”
This season, Quinnipiac has had some ups and downs. It got off to a great start, going 10-1-4 through late November, but since Jan. 1 has three losses and four ties.
Babstock’s stats, too, have been high and low. She’s had two hat tricks to bring her career total to seven, and had a five-point game. She also had a four-game stretch without a single point.
But Babstock says the scoresheet, good or bad, isn’t often the measure of her game. She hopes she can make an impact without scoring a point by playing smart, helping her teammates make plays and by winning duels for the puck.
“It doesn’t matter how many points I get, or a hat trick,” she said. “It just matters if we win. And I think against the better teams that we played this year — we tied Harvard and Cornell — are games that the team played as a whole.”
As her final season of college hockey winds down, Babstock still has an unfulfilled goal: to help the Bobcats get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. She says it’s a realistic goal if she and her teammates can raise their games and get hot.
As well as she’s played, she believes she can be better.
“I think I’ve been doing pretty good so far, but not as good as I want it to be,” she said. “I could do better. … We have the playoffs, so we still have a new season coming up ahead of us. I’m getting ready for that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.