Three sistas make hockey inroads

Chayla Edwards
Photo by Charles Hallman

Sports Odd and Ends

March typically is hoops intensive, but there are also other sports in play such as hockey that must often labor in basketball’s shadow.

“They don’t call it March Madness for no reason,” admitted WCHA Commissioner Jennifer Flowers. She told the MSR during last weekend’s Final Faceoff semifinals at Minnesota’s Ridder Arena, “The reality is the way our schedule runs…this still is the best weekend for us.”

As a result, we took a respite from basketball last weekend and watched the WCHA’s four top clubs battle for league supremacy and the NCAA automatic bid. Also overshadowed was that the two finalists last Sunday each had a Black player: Minnesota’s Crystalyn Hengler and Ohio State’s Sophie Jaques. Jaques and Wisconsin’s Chayla Edwards faced each other in the second semifinals contest last Saturday. 

Sophie Jaques
Photo by Charles Hallman

Additionally, Hengler and Jaques both took part in a ceremonial puck drop for the Minnesota Unbounded local youth hockey club, made up solely of Blacks and other girls of color who played a mini-intersquad game during the first intermission of Sunday’s title game.

 “I think that’s a big deal when little girls can see you,” the Eden Prairie-born Hengler told the MSR.  

Jaques, a native of Toronto, Ont. added, “I think it’s just really special. I’m honored and humbled.”

“I think it’s great that there’s a group of girls of color coming,” said Edwards, who’s from Cleveland. “That’s kind of what I want to work towards.”

The WCHA sistahs three all made their historic mark not only this season but throughout their respective college careers. Wisconsin’s Edwards, a junior, scored her first career goal on a power play that helped UW set a program record of 35.2 power-play goals in 2019-20.  

“It’s really an honor to be at this level,” she said proudly. “To me as a player of color…I think being visible is a really great thing because it makes all the difference.”

The senior Jaques this season is one of the game’s most decorated players. As one of the NCAA’s top point producers this season, she has scored the most points by a true defenseman in nine seasons. Last week she was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and received the league’s Outstanding Student-Athlete Award as well as being named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, hockey’s highest individual honor, one of two defensemen up for the award.

Last Sunday Jaques was named the Final Faceoff most outstanding player after scoring the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime victory over Minnesota to get the NCAA automatic bid and WCHA title. 

Photo by Charles Hallman Crystalyn Hengler

“I think I’ve been having a really good year,” Jaques said humbly. “I trained hard over the summer and a lot of it has to do with my teammates. It allowed me to succeed in the ways I have.”

Hengler, also a senior, scored her fifth goal of the season last Saturday against Minnesota Duluth, a “dribbler” that got past the goalie with 12 seconds left in the opening period. “She’s awesome,” Gopher Coach Brad Frost told us. “One of the biggest aspects of her game is her shot.”

“I saw the clock ticking and I was right there so I just ripped it. It had a wired bounce,” said the Gopher defenseman, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, who made last season’s WCHA All-Academic team. She has 14 goals and 29 assists in her career.

Flowers said all three sistahs have represented the league well: “I think, unfortunately …Crystalyn and Sophia and Charyla have even bigger shoulders because they are the only one on their team that looks different. Hopefully, we’re not far from more than one on each roster.

“That’s what we need,” concluded the WCHA commissioner. “This sport needs some serious diversifying.”

Finally…

Minneapolis native Kensie Malone, a sophomore forward at Augsburg was named Monday to the 2021-22 MIAC Women’s Hockey All-Conference Team. She and Minnesota senior Crystalyn Hengler are the state’s only Black women hockey players.