CANTON — When the St. Lawrence University women’s hockey team hits the ice at Ohio State University for the season opener today, junior defenseman Skylar Podvey will get a chance to see what might have been.
When Podvey was a sophomore in high school, she committed to Ohio State. But after a coaching change later in her high school career, she de-committed and wound up signing with SLU late in the recruiting process.
The native of Upper Montclair, N.J., has been a welcome addition for SLU coach Chris Wells. She’s scored 35 points in the first two seasons of her career, with 14 goals and 21 assists.
“I had a bit of an unorthodox recruitment process,” Podvey said. “From the moment I stepped on the (SLU) campus, what I needed at the time was the culture that SLU, as a university, was offering, the family feeling on campus. I needed to have that good relationship with my professors. I needed the safe space of Appleton (Arena). The moment I stepped into Appleton with Wellsy and we looked at the overview, with the lights on, I knew it was the place for me. I’m really happy I ended up here.”
SLU opens the season at 6:07 tonight with the nonconference game against the Buckeyes and then faces them at 3:07 p.m. Saturday. Clarkson will play at Syracuse at 6 tonight and hosts the Orange at 3 p.m. Saturday.
None of the Saints have been in Appleton yet, as the season starts. Since the end of last season, the arena has been undergoing renovations, and for now, SLU has been practicing a short drive from campus at SUNY Canton’s rink.
“I was just talking with a professor of mine how it really creates a distinction,” Podvey said of the temporary home. “It’s time for hockey and you dial in, and when you are on campus it’s time for school and dial into that.”
Podvey, who is 5-foot-3, won’t intimidate any opponents with her size, but she’s emerged as one of the best defensive players in women’s ECAC Hockey and has provided SLU with a threat to score from near the blue line.
“She’s one of those players that hit the ground running here,” Wells said. “She had a great opportunity to step in and play. Her work ethic is phenomenal. She does a lot of extra stuff. She’s always out working on her shot, working on aspects of her game. The things that she works on she gets better at. She’s been someone we can really count on.
“Her stick is on the puck, she tracks (forwards) well, she has great anticipation. Her biggest asset is her instincts are generally right.”
There are a lot of talented forwards, including some likely future Olympians, in ECAC Hockey, including Clarkson’s Elizabeth Giguere, who led the nation in points last year.
“It excites me and pushes me to be better,” Podvey said of facing the conference’s top scorers. “It pushes me to be more innovative and make sure that my play keeps on developing as those players are, as well. Elizabeth Giguere is an amazing forward. (Cornell’s) Kristin O’Neill is a great forward. One thing that’s always been important to me is strength, making sure that I’m the strongest that I am capable of. Also it’s style of play, the style of (defense) I play is becoming more common in women’s hockey. When I grew up it was uncommon for there to be an offensive defenseman, and that’s one of my strengths.”
Podvey achieved a rarity last year in any level of hockey when she scored a buzzer-beating goal early in the season when SLU knocked off New Hampshire 1-0 at Appleton Arena on her goal with 0.1 seconds left in overtime.
“I don’t really focus on individual moments,” Podvey said when asked about the goal. “I may have been the one to put the puck in the net, but when it comes down to it there were five seconds on the clock (for a faceoff). (Kayla) Vespa could have easily held the puck along the boards and let the game play out, but she’s the one who gave me the pass. It was very exciting, but I’ve always been the type of player to look at the team aspect of it.”
Said Wells, “She loves to score, everybody does. She gets excited. She had a big goal against Ohio State as well, I think that meant a lot to her. Her excitement that she brings to the rink is something that’s great to see every day.”
2018-19 records: 30-8-2 overall (16-5-1 ECAC Hockey).
Coach: Matt Desrosiers (12th year, 286-100-43).
Outlook: Clarkson has been to four straight Frozen Fours and won three national championships in the past six years. The Golden Knights also have won three straight ECAC Hockey tournament championships. Clarkson lost a few key players to graduation, including all-time leading scorer Loren Gabel, who won the Patty Kazmaier Award, and senior goalie Kassidy Sauve. Clarkson does return forward Elizabeth Giguere, who scored 73 points last year, and brings back forward Rhyen McGill, who scored 18 goals two years ago and missed last season with an injury. The Golden Knights have also added Boston College transfer Caitrin Lonergan, who scored 39 points and was a Patty Kazmaier finalist two years ago.
Returning players: Avery Mitchell (Jr. D), Elizabeth Giguere (Jr. F), Tia Stoddard (Jr. F), Michaela Pejzlova (Sr. F), Ella Shelton (Sr. D), Katherine Beaumier (Sr. F), Morgan Helgeson (So. F), Taylor Turnquist (Sr. D), Meaghan Hector (Jr. D), Kristy Pidgeon (Jr. F), Miranda Gaudet (So. F, Taylor Sawka (So. F), Rhyen McGill (Sr. F), Marie-Pier Coulombe (So. G).
Newcomers: Stephanie Markowski (Fr. D), Gabrielle David (Fr. F), Caitrin Longergan (Sr. F), Lauren Bernard (Fr. D), Emily Wisnewski (Fr. D), Brooke McQuigge (Fr. F), Kayla Friesen (Sr. F), Marie Dedert (Fr. G), Amanda Zeglen (Jr. G).
2018-19 records: 14-15-7 overall (9-7-6 ECAC Hockey).
Coach: Chris Wells (12th year, 208-145-50).
Outlook: The Saints enter the season with a lot of potential, but also many question marks. SLU lost a lot from last year’s squad, including three of the top four scorers in Justine Reyes, Rachael Smith and Nadine Edney. SLU also lost its two main goalies in Grace Harrison and Sonjia Shelly. The returning leading scorer is Potsdam native and team captain Kalie Grant. She finished last year with seven goals and 13 assists. The only goalie with any experience is sophomore Jaimie Rainville, who stopped all 10 shots she faced in 25 minutes and 45 seconds of ice time. A top freshman this year will be forward Julia Gosling, who has been invited to Canada’s national team tryout camps. She scored 23 goals in 27 games last year for the London Devilettes of the PWHL.
Returning players: Grace Smith (So. G), Jaimee Cooke (Sr. D), Jacquie Diffley (Sr. D), Claire Dudley (So. D), Jessica Poirier (Jr. F), Kalie Grant (Sr. F), Kayla Vespa (Sr. F), Steph Keryluk (Sr. F), Skylar Podvey (Jr. D), Dakota Golde (Sr. F), Maggie McLaughlin (Sr. F), Charlea Pedersen (Jr. F), Stephanie Voge (So. F/D), Kristen Guerriero (So. D), Amanda Butterfield (Sr. D), Jamie Rainville (So. G).
Newcomers: Rachel Teslak (Fr. D), Sophie Holden (Fr. D), Lily Wildman (Fr. D), Laura Cote (Fr. F), Brittney Gout (Jr. F), Caitlin Whitehead (Fr. G), Lucy Morgan (Fr. G), Anna Segedi (Fr. F), Shailynn Snow (Fr. F), Julia Gosling (Fr. F).