Potter proves it’s mind over matter
Updated 4:37 pm, Wednesday, March 22, 2017
If you walked into a New Canaan girls hockey game at just the right time, and saw No. 2 skating around for the Rams, you might think you were mistakenly at a youth game.
Looking around it becomes apparent that this is in fact varsity hockey, and the girl whose jersey looks more like a dress, ending at virtually the same place as her pants, is a varsity player.
Soon after that, she becomes increasingly noticeable, not because of her stature, but because of her play.
That girl is freshman defenseman Sophie Potter, and she stands barely five-feet tall.
“Because I play defense, it has got in my way sometimes,” Potter said of her size. “But mentally it hasn’t stopped me, I like being small, in some ways it gives me confidence to be more aggressive.”
For Potter, that confidence was learned over the season. Starting as a freshman and having to defend girls that were bigger, stronger and older than her in the intense FCIAC, she was understandably tense.
“Initially, I was very nervous,” Potter said. “Being a freshman and being so small, it was nerve racking, but as the season went on I started to love hockey and all the girls were so supportive that it helped my game.”
One aspect of her game that provided the backbone for her growth is her skating ability.
Potter’s roots on the ice are in figure skating, and that background gave her confidence, especially early on when it was easy to be weary.
In fact, when coach Rich Bulan, who works as an aide at Saxe Middle School, was introduced to Potter by two other players—Quincy Connell and Lizzie Kuchinski—she was still a figure skater transitioning to the game of hockey.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘holy cow, hopefully we have equipment for her,’” Bulan laughed.
Potter joined the Greenwich Phantoms travel team with Connell and Kuchinski, and was ready to make a push for playing time on defense come freshman year.
Last year in the spring league at the Shelton Rinks, Potter made herself noticed.
“Me and parents were all looking at each other like, whoa, she can skate,” Bulan said. “No.1, the figure skating obviously helped; but she’s smart and she can handle herself and we were all stunned with how quickly she took to hockey as far the game and moving the puck.”
Another characteristic that stuck out was her fearlessness.
“The first thing you notice is she’s tiny,” Bulan said. “But I jokingly call her 6’2”, 210 and she plays like she’s that. She has no fear, she goes in the corners and she’s not what you would think when you see her out there.”
Other coaches around the league have quickly taken notice.
“Throughout the year, several opposing coaches, the first things out her mouth was wow, who’s No.2?” Bulan said. “It was pretty cool everyone else noticed also.”
After watching her play and improve all year, becoming one of the better defenseman in the FCIAC, Bulan thinks the sky’s the limit for the freshman. Just watching the way she seamlessly defended girls much older and bigger than her has Bulan seeing great things ahead in Potter’s career.
“There were times when bigger forwards looked like they were going to blow by her and she would pivot and throw that stick out there,” Bulan said. “You don’t have to physically ride somebody off the play and into the boards to be effective, and she made several of those plays this year. That’s when we knew she knows exactly what to do and as she gets older, grows a little bit and gets stronger she’s going to be dominant. I really see a lot of good things for her.”
Potter hasn’t let her size stop her, even in a sport as physical as hockey, and she sets an example for young girls that may think they aren’t big or strong enough to play.
“I would tell them just to go for it,” Potter said. “Don’t give up because of your size.”