NEW LONDON — Samantha Schoeneberger came from Vernon. She played ice hockey with boys until she was about 15 before she started playing on a girls club team.
Molly Murphy is from Woodstock. She played at the Pomfret School. She started playing hockey when she was 5 only because, she said, she was a little diva and her dad told her that she could put flower stickers on her helmet.
Kelsie Fralick is from West Chester, Pa. Although she played at The Hotchkiss School in the Lakeville section of Salisbury, she had never heard of Connecticut College before she scheduled a visit there. She said, laughing, on Thursday that she thought it was part of UConn.
The three players — from three different backgrounds — formed the backbone of Connecticut College's most successful women's ice hockey team. The Camels won a program-record 14 games. They beat Middlebury, a women's hockey powerhouse, for the first time ever, 3-2, on Feb. 2.
"I have a lot of friends on Middlebury," said Fralick, the sophomore goalie. "They're so used to winning. They beat us the next day [after the 3-2 win] and they were like, 'Yeah, whatever.'"
"It was crazy, how excited we were. The locker room afterward was unbelievable."
They beat Amherst, another traditional NESCAC hockey power, 1-0 on Jan. 26. They beat Trinity last weekend in the NESCAC tournament quarterfinals, 1-0, on a Schoeneberger goal with four minutes left in the game.
Murphy is a senior defenseman and a captain. Schoeneberger is a senior forward who was second on the team in scoring (14 points). They talked Thursday about a team bond and how that strengthened them and carried them through the season.
"This year has been the best year ever," Schoeneberger said. "They are literally my 22 best friends. It's an incredible bond."
They didn't want it to end, but it did. On Saturday, the Camels had to face top-seeded Middlebury again in the final four of the NESCAC tournament and they knew it would be tough to beat the Panthers twice in one season.
Their previous win came at home against Middlebury; on Saturday, they lost 4-1 in the semifinal to finish 14-11-1.
"They were proud of their effort," coach Kristin Steele said Saturday. "We thought that especially in the second period, we really had a chance to win it."
"The downside was that it was done for the group. They were in the locker room after the game and they didn't really want to leave."
Fralick didn't want to think about next year on Thursday.
"It's going to be so weird that those two won't be there," she said of Schoeneberger and Murphy.
"I couldn't imagine this year without those girls. It's crazy, I've played sports my entire life, not just hockey, and I've never had a team where I could say I love every single one of my teammates."
Saturday's game was close, with Connecticut College trailing 2-1 going into the third period. But Middlebury scored twice in the third and advanced to the championship game for the ninth time in the 12th year of the tournament. Amanda Bogue scored the Camels' only goal; Fralick had 34 saves.
"The game was pretty close until the end," Steele said. "They scored early in the third. That was a tough one to swallow — if we could have kept it tight for a little longer, we would have gotten our legs under us. They're experienced, they know how to win. It's not a new thing [for Middlebury]."
"In the past, I would look up at the scoreboard [against Middlebury] and the shots would say 20-3. [Saturday] it was 25-22 after the second, in favor of us. That says something about the change."
Before Saturday, Fralick was fourth in save percentage in Division III (.947) and fourth in shutouts (six).
"Kelsie has really backed us up in a couple games to give us a chance to win," Steele said Friday. "There were a couple games she made 50 saves, 47 saves, for a shutout. That gives you a lot of confidence."
The team's seven seniors will be missed.
"When you have seven people leading the charge, it changes things a lot," Steele said. "It created a lot of depth in that class."
"The seniors set the bar high for future classes."