For forward Chloe Aurard, improving her mental game and mindset over the last four years in the NCAA with Northeastern University has proven crucial to rebounding from tough losses such as this one.
“It was tough to get back to reality and actually realizing and believing that what we’d worked for for years was over,” said Aurard. "I think that it’s experience and maturity [helping us now]. I think we understood that we lost and that it happens, it’s the game, there’s a winner, there’s a loser. The way we get back on our feet is what our character is about.”
Aurard, who hails from Villard-de-Lans, a small town outside of Grenoble, made her senior national team debut in 2015, just one year after her first appearance with the U18 national team, which she captained in 2016. Growing up playing hockey in France, she spent time in the United States during high school with Vermont Academy prior to signing with Northeastern.
While in Boston, Aurard has proven to be a prolific goal scorer with a knack for scoring while shorthanded. She’s collected numerous accolades, including being named a Hockey East First-Team All Star in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the Second-Team All-Star Team in 2022.
“Every game is high speed,” Aurard said of playing in the NCAA. “I’ve been loving it. I love the game, I love my teammates. It’s been great, my years here so far.”
While she has focused the last few seasons on fully utilizing her speed, the biggest improvement she sees is in her mental game.
"I think I mentally grew up,” said Aurard. “I think I personally made much more effort on my mental game... When we lose a game by one point or two, I usually got upset, but I grew up over the past four or five years. One goal is nothing, and I feel like that’s the game, and we can always get back.”
“[Working on mental skills] was self-lead, but obviously it becomes a team thing because we all care about each other. If someone has issues, we try to get together and figure out things so that everyone feels comfortable and good. We talked during the summers, preparation camps. We had meetings talking about our roles on the team and how to mentally know them and mentally focus on those instead of trying to do too much."
France has almost never looked better. The team improved upon their performance in the 2018 Olympic Qualification tournament and in 2019 played in the Top Division for the first time. While they did get demoted to Division I Group A, the team is poised to do well and hungry to move back to the Top Division.
“We want to be on top and we want the gold medal. That’s the goal of every team I think, but we want to go back to the top-ten,” Aurard said of the team’s goals for the upcoming Division I Group A event. “After losing against Sweden for Olympic [Qualification], I think we want to be on top of the World Championship to prove that we are a top-eight level team and that we deserve to be there.”
Prior to the 2019 Women’s Worlds, France played mostly in Division I’s Group A and Group B, usually finishing middle of the pack in third or fourth place. Aurard credits the team’s consistent core group of players as being crucial to their recent successes.
On the Olympic Qualification tournament roster, France had at least 10 players whose years with the senior national team are in the double digits, including long-time captain Marion Allemoz, Lore Baudrit, Athena Locatelli, Betty Jouanny, Emmanuelle Passard and Caroline Baldin.
“I think it’s because we’ve been having the same team and the same team leaders that have the experience for now 10 years or more,” said Aurard. “I think it’s the team chemistry we have and that family side of being together. Especially the past couple years, we’ve built something stronger than before.”
France will get the chance to play for promotion at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A with France playing host in Angers. The tournament started yesterday with tight 2-1 wins for Austria against the Netherlands and for Norway against Slovakia. France will start the five-team tournament this evening against Slovakia. The tournament winner will be promoted to the top-level 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
“Obviously I haven’t been able to go home a lot in the past two years because of Covid, so it’s always exciting for me to go home,” said Aurard. “Aa group I think that it’s going to be good to get back together for a World Championship. We’re really excited.”
The tournament can be followed on the event website on IIHF.com and will be streamed by Fanseat.