Long-Term Stability Between The Pipes

Women’s Hockey Goaltending Tandem Tops In Country

  • Katherine Purchase (left) and Briar Bache (right) combine to be a great goalie tandem for the Concordia Stingers this year. Purchase, in her first season, led the CIS in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage. Bache, with two years of eligibility left, will continue to proudly play for the Stingers. Photo Marie-Pier Cloutier

For a hockey team to succeed on and off the ice, they need a core group of leaders. A solid and stable lineup with a balanced attack, a strong defensive core and, behind all lines of defense, a goaltender. When you have one, you’re good. But when you have two, you’re set.

The Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team has all that, and a solid goaltending tandem of Briar Bache and Katherine Purchase. Both have helped the team secure third place in the Reseau du Sports Etudiants au Quebec conference.

“Having two great goaltenders helps them both stay sharp,” said head coach Les Lawton. “We really don’t know who’s going in day in and day out. Even Fred [third-string goalie Frederike Berger-Lebel] has challenged the two as well.”

Both Bache, 22, and Purchase, 18, have helped lead the team, all the while showcasing their impressive goaltending skills. They ended their regular season having just ceded 43 goals in 20 games. Purchase was also the top goaltender in goals-against-average and save percentage throughout the entire Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

“I think they have confidence in themselves, and work extremely hard,” said Lawton. “They really push each other. They take their positions very seriously.”

“I feel like we’re both very supportive of each other and want the other to succeed,” said Bache. “Most teams have competitions in nets, we give support to one another and encourage them.”

“If I know I’m playing well I know that Briar is happy for me, and I know the support is there,” said Purchase. “She feels the game, win or lose, just as much as me.”

For Barrie, Ontario-born Bache, coming to Concordia last season after having played Division I hockey at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, was a change she doesn’t regret.

“I decided to come back to Canada for academic reasons, and I put a few feelers out letting schools know I was available,” said Bache. “Right away from the get-go I had a good feel in the 24 hours I was here. I could actually see myself being in Montreal, coming to Concordia and being a Stinger.”

In her 24 hours with the team, she got to meet all the players and coaching staff. They even allowed her to practice with the team, something that really helped her in making her decision.

Halifax-born Purchase is a fresh face for Stinger fans, but is already turning heads after recording two shutouts in her first four games. She just finished playing Midget AAA Hockey when she was recruited by Lawton and his coaching staff.

“A friend’s dad let Les know I was looking for a team to play for, and I too put feelers out. Then he came to watch me in Ottawa, and a week later I got to visit the campus,” said Purchase. “After that, I just knew. I love the city, and love how the team dynamic works and the direction they’re headed in.”

Both are getting their fair share of playing time—something they both value. The two, who are also great friends off the ice, feed off each other’s energy, and like to help the other see the game. They also have heavy praise for the defensive unit in front of them.

“I like to think we have a great defensive core, and I have a lot of trust in them,” said Purchase. “I know they won’t let the high risk opportunities slip.”

“I know that the defense has got my back, after I make the first save that they can clear the rebounds,” said Bache. “Preparation is huge, and like my goalie coach back home said, ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ Whether we’re playing or backing up, we always have to be ready.”

Even their teammates are noticing the way they are between the pipes. It lets the team know that no matter what, they’re stacked on the back end.

“It’s been an amazing season for goaltending. Whether it’s Briar [Bache] or Kitty [Purchase] in nets, we have no concerns because they’ve both been outstanding,” said team captain Danielle Scarlett. “Both of them have really given this team the opportunity that we have ahead of us.”

“It’s been an amazing season for goaltending. Whether it’s Briar [Bache] or Kitty [Purchase] in nets, we have no concerns because they’ve both been outstanding,” said team captain Danielle Scarlett. “Both of them have really given this team the opportunity that we have ahead of us.”

Bache has two years left of eligibility, which she says is committed to playing proudly for the Maroon and Gold. For rookie Purchase, she’s just getting into the groove of her first season.

Neither Purchase nor Briar feel any sort of rivalry between them, but they do share a love of the game. The only difference this year, is that there’s no clear starter or backup.

“It’s the same with any team. We’ve both been goalies our entire lives, and there’s no rivalry,” said Purchase. “You just go out there, give it your all, and let the starting decision up to the coaches.”

“As goalies, we’re competitive in nature, but not towards each other,” said Bache. “It’s how we are.”

The one thing they do disagree on, are the goaltenders they idolize. Purchase leans towards Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, whereas Bache has an affinity for Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, the former and current goalie of the Boston Bruins.

Both have gotten an even share of the workload helping Concordia solidify third place. Last year, Bache only played five games.

With playoffs starting in a few days, the question remains: who will get the nod in game one?

“We’re going to sit down after [Sunday’s] game and really evaluate both. We’ll take it a game at a time,” said Lawton. “They’ve both been great, challenging and being solid has really helped us this season. The word is now out. Concordia has great goaltending, probably the best in the league, definitely the best tandem.”

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