Melissa Boik has never had much of an affinity for Cupid and candy.
So there was some chagrin involved Feb. 14 when a group of hired male students serenaded the former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute defenseman and current Shattuck-St. Mary’s girls’ assistant coach. It’s a tradition at the Faribault, Minn., boarding school for boys to sing love songs — in exchange for prom funds — for a designated honoree, and the 19-and-Under girls’ team pooled a few bucks together to surprise its top aide.
They even placed rose petals in the shape of a heart outside her office door.
“We fool around with [Boik] a lot,” Sabres star Melissa Samoskevich said. “She’s not a fan of Valentine’s Day, so it’s funny.”
During any Shattuck game, it’s easy to forget the hockey power’s smooth-skating, ultra-talented prospects are also 16- to 18-year-old girls. Their coaches sure don’t, though, because the grind of a 50-some-game prep pucks season is going to come with its fair share of shenanigans.
“You’re dealing with adolescents, then adolescent females, then adolescent female athletes,” coach Gordie Stafford said. “It’s a daily challenge.
“Specifically with these girls, these high-level girls, though, they want to get better. They want you to help them get better. So you have to be focused on that every day.”
Said Samoskevich: “I think we know when it’s time to screw around and have fun, and when it’s time to get down to business.”
The Sabres (41-9-4 this season) did the latter in their 6-2 dismantling of the Bauer-Emerson Revolution on Saturday at South St. Paul’s Wakota Arena in the Minnesota 19U championship game. Shattuck rallied from a 2-1 deficit thanks to four goals from Samoskevich, the team’s leading scorer and one of four Sabres to win gold with Team USA at this year’s IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship.
The win punched a return ticket to the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships March 26-30 in Green Bay, Wis. Shattuck has won five of the past 10 19U U.S. titles, but the last one came in 2011.
Anything but victory is below the bare minimum for a program that produced Olympians Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, among others, and churns out top recruits annually. Almost all of this year’s players are committed or have signed National Letters of Intent to collegiate hockey programs.
But what’s special about this year’s group, Stafford says, is its closeness. And that’s saying something for a group of girls that share dressing rooms, team flights and bus rides, classrooms and dormitories throughout the season.
“Our chemistry was evident right off the bat,” said Stafford, who’s been at Shattuck for 15 years. “I think they know each other, and they’re all willing to subordinate themselves for the good of the team.”
Having players who claimed national crowns at the 16U level helps. So does having players like Samoskevich, a Quinnipiac University recruit who leads the Sabres with an eye-popping 46 goals and 34 assists. The senior forward from Sandy Hook, Conn. led the U18 world tournament field with six goals in Buffalo, N.Y.
Forward Alex Woken (Minnesota), junior defenseman Patricia Marshall (Buffalo State) and forward Alexis Mauermann (Wisconsin) — all juniors in high school — joined Samoskevich on the U.S. U18 roster.
The 319-mile sojourn next month to Green Bay will be a business trip; the Sabres lost to Massachusetts powerhouse Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School at nationals last year. No player on the current roster has won an 19U title.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun along the way.
“We’re really like sisters,” Samoskevich said, laughing. “It’s corny, but it’s so true.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.