You won’t find many players who have made as much of an impact on a team as Brianna Ricker has had this season on the University of Maine field hockey team.
After Friday’s game against Vermont, the senior from Port Moody, British Columbia, had figured in nearly half of Maine’s 25 goals this season. She scored 11 and assisted on another.
Ricker ranks third in the America East in goals, game-winning goals (3) and points (23).
“When I step on the field, I just try to have fun,” Ricker said. “I just try to do what I know I can do.”
In a sport where goals can be hard to come by, Ricker had scored in five consecutive games before the streak was snapped in UMaine’s 2-1 win over Vermont.
She had six shots in the game, two on goal, with teammates Chloe Walton and Hana Davis each recording a goal.
Ricker ranks sixth on UMaine’s career scoring list with 42 and is tied for ninth in points with 95.
One of her game-winning goals this season was the overtime clincher in a 4-3 triumph over No. 5 Northwestern University. She has eight game-winners in her career.
“I don’t think about stats or anything like that,” Ricker said. “I just play to win. I’m playing for my team, not for myself. And people are setting me up with great [passes].”
According to UMaine head coach Josette Babineau, the Northwestern game-winner was memorable. Ricker smartly tipped a pass over the last Northwestern defender’s stick and then used her speed to sprint around her and go in on a breakaway.
“There aren’t going to be too many defenders who are going to be able to turn around and chase her down,” Babineau said. “That is pure speed.”
Associate head coach Michelle Simpson pointed out that Ricker also exhibited a lot of poise by converting the breakaway.
Overtime has been showtime for Ricker during her UMaine career.
With four players removed from each team for the extra period, Ricker is able to utilize her speed and skills to her advantage in the open field.
She scored overtime game-winners against Albany, UMass Lowell and the University of California a year ago to help the Black Bears reach the America East championship game.
“You’re so thankful to have her on your team in overtime. Overtime can go either way, and she doesn’t cave under pressure,” Simpson said.
The 5-foot-9 Ricker is always in excellent condition and always grades out among the team leaders in its fitness testing.
She has loved her time at UMaine and thinks she has improved every year while in Orono.
“They say field hockey players don’t peak until they’re 24 or 25,” Ricker said.
Babineau agrees with that assessment.
“She’s more confident. She’s very comfortable with the skills she has,” Babineau said. “She has had an outstanding career.”
While Ricker has been having a good year, it has been a challenging year for UMaine. The Black Bears, who lost three all-conference players among five top seniors to graduation, are 5-8.
However, UMaine won four of its past five games and improved to 2-1 in America East with Friday’s victory.
“The past couple of weeks, we’ve shown a lot of improvement. We’re connecting really well,” said Ricker, who was a league all-tournament choice last year.
“We care a lot about each other, and it shows on the field. It has taken a little while to build our confidence individually and as a team, but it’s starting to show more now,” Ricker said.