JULIA MASOTTA (Courtesy photo)

Two years ago Julia Masotta was a major factor in leading the Tewksbury/Methuen girls' hockey team to its first ever Division 1 state championship title.

Last year she moved on as she was a freshman on the Norwich University women's ice hockey team. She made quite the introduction there, ending her rookie campaign with 11 goals and 22 assists.

She was really looking forward on improving on those numbers and helping the team win more games this season ... but that has to wait a while, at least to January 1st of 2021.

On Tuesday morning, the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Board of Directors has voted to postpone the 2020 portion of this season's men's and women's conference schedule.

The league is supportive of institutional autonomy regarding potential nonconference scheduling for the fall semester. NEHC members may also schedule contests against each other this fall, however those games would not count for league standing purposes. The potential for the Norwich men's and women's ice hockey teams to compete in non-league competition prior to Jan. 1 will be dependent upon State of Vermont and NCAA regulations and guidelines with the first priority being the safety of the student-athletes and staff.

This certainly may not be a surprise announcement, but certainly a disappointing one.

"I think the decision to aim for a January 1 start is the right call at the end of the day," said Masotta. "While it is very disappointing news, safety is the overall concern and priority, as it should be. They also haven't cancelled the season yet which obviously we are extremely lucky so far. However, with the way our season ended last year I know that myself along with every one of my teammates and coaching staff members are going to do anything and everything in their power to be as prepared and ready for January 1 now."

This past March, Norwich was enjoying a tremendous season at 21-4-2. Then came the playoffs and they knocked off Suffolk, 9-2, and Amherst, 3-1, which put them in the NCAA Division 3 Quarterfinals to be played against Plattsburg State. The winner of that game would have advanced to the Frozen Four, however those three games were all cancelled due to the pandemic.

Masotta said when the call comes to lace up the skates again – hopefully on January 1st, she knows that the entire program from top to bottom will be ready.

"Our coaching staff and program has done a remarkable job at staying focused and being flexible during this difficult time," she said. "We have a lot of trust in the board members and league reps and whoever else is making the decisions.

“As a team, we have been communicating that our goal doesn't change. Whether we start in January or October or any other time, once we get word that it's safe to play, the goal never changes and that is to win a national championship."

Certainly what's been happening in the country over the last four months has been a huge challenge to everyone. For Masotta, she is a glass half-full kind of person.

"I have been trying my best to look at the positives. We are one of the few schools that gets to go back on campus in a couple weeks. We gets extra time to prepare, to rest, extra workouts, extra opportunity to get stronger and better as individuals to help our team the best we can. It's a scary time for everyone but our next target date is January 1, so now we just do all we can to get ready for that new date."

Since last season ended so abruptly, Masotta hasn't changed her off-season workout routines.

"I have been doing workouts three to four times a week and trying to skate at least two times a week to try and prepare for the season," she said. "I think overall, it is important to be flexible and keep that drive. As of now, we still can practice (with guidelines) so we are focusing on the positives while also controlling what we can control. We can control how in shape and prepared we come in for January 1.

“I think a lot of us feel like we have unfinished business and while it stinks to wait even longer, we still have hope."

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