Conn College is enjoying the ride

Courtney Dumont of Connecticut College (22) takes off with the puck during a game against Hamilton at New London on Dec. 1, 2012.
Courtney Dumont of Connecticut College (22) takes off with the puck during a game against Hamilton at New London on Dec. 1, 2012. John Narewski/Connecticut College photo

New London - Near the end of a long season and with a big postseason game approaching, the Connecticut College women's hockey team took a well-deserved day off on Wednesday.

So what did the Camels do?

The tight-knit team spent time together, of course, gathering at Dayton Arena to shoot a Harlem Shake video complete with a skating Camel mascot.

"We decided on our day off that we should become YouTube sensations," junior Courtney Dumont said. "It was a great time."

The video showed off their goofy side and also served as another example of their terrific team chemistry. They've been inseparable on and off the ice this season.

They've extended their season by reaching the New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship semifinals for the second time in program history.

Conn, which has won a team record 14 games, visits top-seeded Middlebury (Vt.) Saturday afternoon.

"We're literally 24 teammates who are also best friends…," Dumont said Thursday. "When you have a group like that, it's impossible not to break records. In and out of season, we're always hanging out.

"… A lot of our success on the ice has to do with how we get along. Our team dynamic is great. That helps us on the ice because when I make a mistake, I know my linemate has got my back."

Coach Kristin Steele has done a masterful job mixing the various personalities and creating a family and a winning atmosphere.

The Camels are in a happy, healthy place.

"It's a group that definitely gets along very well," Steele said. "It's a very quirky group. It's definitely a group of different individuals and they've all been able to be who they are without worrying about what other people think about them.

"Some of them are just really goofy; some of them are really serious. But they're all accepted in the locker room and I think they value that a lot. That's gone a long way with this group."

Postseason experience will be on Middlebury's side. The Panthers (17-6-2) are attempting to win their fourth title in the last five years.

Conn (14-10-1), the No. 5 seed, gained confidence by beating Middlebury, 3-2, on Feb. 2. The Panthers came back the next day to post a 4-0 win.

"That was huge," Dumont said. "Just knowing we can beat the best team out there has been unreal for us. It's going to be just a matter of making sure we play our game. … If we do play our best, we have a great shot at winning."

The program has been building to this point in the last few years. With the strong group of veterans, Steele believed the Camels could take another step forward this season in the highly-competitive NESCAC.

During the season, they overcame a rash of injuries and developed depth. They're playing their best hockey at the right time, winning four of their last five.

Sophomore goalie Kelsie Fralick has anchored the defense and kept the Camels in just about every game. She set a program record with her sixth shutout in a 1-0 victory over Trinity College Saturday in the NESCAC quarterfinals.

Steele considers Fralick one of the top Division III goalies in the country.

"The players on the team love playing in front of her," Steele said. "That's something that has really separated her. They believe in her… They feel like she can fix things for us."

The Camels rely on a variety of offensive weapons.

Dumont has a scorer's mentality, recently setting the program's all-time goal scoring record with 39 goals. Seniors Ariel DiPasquale (eight goals, seven assists) and Sam Schoeneberger (seven goals, seven assists) also are threats.

Conn faces a difficult challenge on Saturday. Middlebury's style is suited to its Olympic-sized ice surface.

But don't count out the Camels, who believe anything is possible.

"They're so happy right now to be playing with each other that who we play is not playing as much a part of it as it might have in the past," Steele said. "They just want to play and want to play for each other."

g.keefe@theday.com

Connecticut College goalie Kelsie Fralick makes a save during a game against Hamilton College at New London on Dec. 1, 2012.
Connecticut College goalie Kelsie Fralick makes a save during a game against Hamilton College at New London on Dec. 1, 2012. John Narewski/Connecticut College photo
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