Travel partners are a long-established tradition in the ECAC. Princeton and Quinnipiac are a set pair; they go on the road together against the same teams and host the same teams for their home games.
After some last-minute bus trouble for the Bobcats on Friday, though, they gave the term “travel partners” an all-new meaning, when they literally rode the bus together to their games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
“We had just loaded the bus and we were on our way to Clarkson for our game,” said Zoe Boyd, a sophomore defender for Quinnipiac. “We were maybe a couple of minutes from the hotel and our bus pulled over to the side of the road. Everybody has their headphones on and is focused and listening to music, and we’re all kind of like, ‘What? What is happening?'”
“The bus driver goes, ‘Coach, the bus is breaking down. The engine is shutting off,'” said Bobcats head coach Cassie Turner.
For Danielle Marmer, it was pretty much a worst-case scenario. As Quinnipiac’s Director of Player Development and Operations, her itineraries are always meticulously planned. And the number one goal of any road trip is to stay on schedule—especially before a game.
“We like to arrive at the rink the same set time before every game just to keep things consistent, so there was a slight panic at first for me,” she said.
Luckily, though, Princeton wasn’t far away. As travel partners, they swap opponents every weekend, in this case the Saints and Golden Knights. Appleton Arena and Cheel Arena are so close to each other that for this trip, both the Tigers and Bobcats were staying in the same hotel. That isn’t normally the case, when they’re playing teams a few hours apart from each other.
So Turner texted Princeton head coach Cara Morey, her former teammate at Brown, to ask for a ride. Morey said yes immediately.
Princeton hadn’t left the hotel yet for their game against St. Lawrence, so they decided to just pick up the stranded Bobcats and take the bus together.
“They get ready a little bit earlier than us, so the hardest part was getting my players to get on the bus because they were stranded, and it was cold,” Morey said. “So the hardest part was getting my players to get in their dress clothes and get on the bus early.”
In the meantime, the Bobcats realized they had one other problem to deal with: getting off of the bus. When they broke down, they pulled over right up next to a snow bank, which was packed in hard by the freezing weather. The door to the bus was almost completely blocked from opening.
The team started looking for something they could use to dig out some of the snow from inside the bus, through the small opening they had. Assistant coach Eddie Ardito used a Lysol can to try and break up some of the rock-hard snow, and make a big enough opening for Marmer to squeeze through.
“I told Eddie to just make as much room as he could, and then I slid out and took the Lysol can and just started banging against the icy snow just trying to make enough room to open the door,” Marmer said. “We got it about halfway and that’s all we needed to get everyone off once Princeton’s bus arrived.
“I was ankle-deep, shin-deep in snow and I had my dress coat on and dress pants and everything. It was funny.”
When you put together your team’s staff, “ability to dig a bus door out of a snow bank” isn’t generally the starting criteria you go on. But you definitely want people who will bring a positive attitude and problem-solving to sticky situations, and that’s clearly what Turner has throughout her entire staff.
“I believe that the foundation of your team, the people that your players interact with the most, that’s what’s going to drive so much of your culture and your mood,” Turner said. “Carrie Gaydos, our athletic trainer, she was the first to stand up and figure out what we needed to do. Danielle’s standing up; Maggie [Pruitt], our SID, is standing up; everyone is there trying to figure out how they’re going to help. Not once was their concern about, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m wearing my dress shoes,’ none of that.
“Once we got to the rink, there was a lot of socks going on the glove dryer, but all was good.”
After they were finally out, the Bobcats joined Princeton on their bus to head to their respective games. Instead of sitting separately, they mingled with players from the other team—an intentional move on the Tigers’ part.
“I had said, ‘O.K., you guys double up at the front, because we’re going to get off first,’ and [my players] were like, ‘No way, we want to sit with them, we want to make new friends.’ And so they were all sprinkled throughout the bus,” Morey said.
There were plenty of old friends on the bus, too. The coaching staffs are both pretty familiar with each other, for starters. Along with being college teammates, Morey and Turner have both coached with Hockey Canada’s programs. So have Princeton assistant Courtney Kessel and Quinnipiac assistant Amanda Mazzotta. Turner and Princeton assistant Melanie Ruzzi started coaching at the same time and have known each other their entire careers.
There are also a number of Quinnipiac and Princeton players who suited up together before college. Boyd played for the Mississauga Jr. Chiefs (PWHL) with Princeton goalie Cassie Reale, and with Maggie Connors on Team Canada’s Under-18 Team. At home in the summer, she trains at the same gym as Princeton forwards Kayla and Sarah Fillier.
Quinnipiac forward Lexie Adzija also played with Connors and Sarah Fillier on Canada’s U18 squad. With the Oakville Jr. Hornets (PWHL), she played with current Tigers Annie MacDonald, the Fillier twins, and Stef Wallace.
“I think at first it was a little awkward, I’d say,” said Adzija. “I actually saw Stef first so I ended up sitting with her because we all sat with one of their players and mingled a little bit. It was definitely nice to catch up. And then just a quick hi to the other ones as they were getting off the bus.”
Quinnipiac’s Courtney Vorster and Logan Angers also played on Canada’s 2018 U18 squad with Sarah Fillier and Connors. Wallace suited up for Team BC with Quinnipiac defender Kate Reilly at the 2019 Canada Winter Games. At the 2017 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, they both played with Vorster for Team BC. Reilly played with Connors and Princeton’s Emma Kee at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
“I got on the bus and I saw all these familiar faces, so it was really nice to just be like, ‘Hey, how’s it going,’ and just talk to them for a bit,” Boyd said. “The bus ride was fun. It was just kind of a big joke because like, what are the odds?”
The Tigers had some bus troubles of their own this trip, too. On their way up to the North Country on Thursday, their bus broke down and they were stranded for a couple of hours waiting for a new one. Between the two teams, they went through a total of six buses this weekend.
After they dropped off Princeton at Appleton, the Bobcats drove about another 20 minutes to get to Cheel Arena to play Clarkson. Unsurprisingly, they arrived later than usual, and had to condense their normal warm-up routine to be ready on time for the game.
“Personally, I usually sit in the rink for about 15 minutes and do a little bit of visualization and go over some goals and stuff before the game, so I actually just did that on the bus ride once we dropped Princeton off,” Adzija said. “We were so lucky to get to the rink at a decent time and get a good warm up in.”
Clearly, there were some sparks of positive energy that carried over for both teams into the evening’s games. Princeton took down St. Lawrence, 4-0, and after all of the day’s trials, Quinnipiac picked up an even bigger upset win against No. 6 Clarkson, 2-1.
“I think when you face adversity and you’re like, ‘We gotta get through this, we gotta be at our best,’ I think that something different can sometimes be something good,” Turner said.
It crossed the minds of both coaches after Saturday’s games that maybe carpooling again would have been a good idea. Quinnipiac, with a new bus, drove themselves to their game against St. Lawrence and fell to the Saints, while Princeton dropped its game against Clarkson.
As a way of saying thanks for the lift, Quinnipiac left Princeton a thank you note and a tray of butter tarts, part of a batch that Turner’s parents brought down from Canada.
Turner says the whole situation speaks to the relationship between not only Princeton and Quinnipiac, but all of the teams in the ECAC.
“It definitely helps that Cara was my former teammate, but any team in our conference would have done that for anyone,” she said. “It’s a camaraderie, and I think it starts with our coaching staffs, and it trickles down through our players. We have such a great respect for one another.”
“It was neat. It was nice because obviously, there’s a chance we play them first round of playoffs,” Morey said. “But to remember that we’re people first and then rivals second is pretty cool.”