Anne-Marie Provencal played on the boys hockey team at Skowhegan Area High School. It was unusual, but it also made her an appealing recruit for University of Southern Maine women’s hockey coach John Lauziere.
“I think it’s a plus,” Lauziere said. “It really helps with the girls’ development. They have to play at a little bit higher pace. They have to keep their head up, because there is body contact.”
Being from Skowhegan didn’t hurt either. Provencal is one of only four Mainers on the USM roster.
“Usually I have to go out of state to find kids,” Lauziere said.
Upon choosing USM, Provencal decided to focus on academics and ice hockey. She was a standout goalie for the 2012 Skowhegan field hockey team, which outscored its opponents, 147-2 that season. The only two goals Provencal allowed that year were to Messalonskee’s Kristy Bernatchez, who went on to have a solid freshman season at the University of North Carolina.
“I thought about it, but I decided to just play ice hockey,” Provencal said. “Ice hockey’s my favorite sport. I did miss (field hockey). I went home a few times and watched the girls play back in Skowhegan. I went to the state championship game. I actually went to a couple USM games. But I think I made the right choice to stick with ice hockey.”
Provencal has played in 17 of USM’s 19 games this season as a freshman defenseman, recording two assists. Both of those assists were in a 4-1 victory over Plymouth State in early November.
“She’s having a freshman year,” Lauziere said. “The big thing for the majority of freshmen who come in to college hockey, it’s the decision-making process. It’s being able to assess what’s going on, and make the decision at the right time. She’s got all the tools to be a fantastic player, and she’s in that development stage right now. Every game she plays in is going to help her. Every time she learns from a mistake is going to help her.”
Some of the adjustments Provencal has had in college are normal — things like living in a dorm with her teammates, or seeing her parents in the stands and then going back to campus instead of her house.
Other adjustments are more specific to her, like the adjustment from playing with high school boys to college women.
“From girls hockey to boys hockey, there’s definitely a big difference in speed,” Provencal said. “Girls hockey is not as physical — I’ve got called a few times for being too physical. But I think playing on the boys team helped me improve, because I need to be faster, and move my feet quicker.”
Provencal is currently in a group of eight defensemen looking for ice time. Lauziere admits he put a lot of expectations on her as a freshman, but he also sees her being a standout down the line.
“I see Anne developing into a solid defenseman,” Lauziere said. “I see her doing good things. A lot of it is how she responds and pushes herself forward. I think she will.
“I recruited her for four years. I didn’t recruit her for just one year. My expectations are pretty high for her, and I think that she’ll meet them.”
For her part, Provencal is content with her decision to play ice hockey at USM.
“I couldn’t be happier with my choice,” she said. “Great group of girls. Great coach. Great school.”