Assembling a pair of brilliant seasons, establishing herself among the finest in NCAA Division III hockey, Sophie Rausch reached the peak in unique fashion. As the last two seasons represented play in different conferences, the star forward, raised in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, excelled in each.
Having earned celebrated standing as an All-America selection in 2022, Rausch impressed in her final season for the Hamline Pipers of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). Ranking third in the conference with 21 goals, her 34 points paced the Pipers. Also named to the MIAC All-Conference Academic Team and COSIDA Academic All-District At-Large, such an exceptional showing proved to be prologue.
Shining brilliantly as a member of the UW Eau-Claire Blugolds, Rausch rewriterewriting their record books. Setting new standards with a superlative 32 goals and 49 points, also the leading scorer in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), Rausch left a memorable impression in her inaugural campaign with the program.
A finalist for the 2023 Laura Hurd Award, Rausch was the third UW-Eau Claire skater in the last six seasons to earn the prestige. Courtney Wittig was the first in 2017-18, followed by Erin Connolly two seasons later. Adding luster to such a memorable season saw Rausch earn acclaim as an All-American for the second consecutive year. Achieving such status by starring in different conferences in each of those years stands as testament to her talents.
“I was very excited. I do not take the honor lightly either. Being named a First Team All American once is amazing and I feel very grateful to have been named twice so far in my career. The company on that First Team is incredible and I feel lucky to be recognized with them.”
Coincidentally, Rausch recorded a hat trick versus Hamline at TRIA Rink on December 6, 2022. Enjoying a goal in each period, Eden Gruber logged the game winning tally in a 4-1 final. Rausch’s other hat trick this season occurred on January 24 versus the College of St. Scholastica, highlighted by a pair of second period goals, including the game winner. Also prevailing in a 4-1 final, Hallie Sheridan logged three assists.
Recognized as the 2023 Co-WIAC Player of the Year, Rausch headlined a group of six Blugolds to earn conference honors. Joining her on the WIAC First Team All-Stars included Emily Hart, Stephanie Martin, Sami Scherling and Hallie Sheridan, while senior forward Olivia Smallbrock gained a place on the WIAC All-Sportsmanship Team.
Sharing the WIAC Co-Player of the Year Award with Maddie McCollins of the UW-River Falls Falcons, both enjoy a unique brush with history. Of note, it marked the first time in conference lore that two players shared the award. Coincidentally, the 2021-22 season saw Rausch named the MIAC Co-Player of the Year, sharing the honor with Saint Mary’s goaltender Ary Ziakas.
Of note, Rausch was the second Hamline Pipers player to earn the honor, following Jordan Hansen, the recipient in 2020. Adding to the theme of coincidence, Hansen also added to her haul of hockey hardware in 2022, recognized with the conference’s Sheila Brown Award.
“It felt great to earn Co-Player of the Year. There is some great talent in our conference and I feel honored to be recognized as one of the top two players. I am also proud of myself because this award is proof of my perseverance through the transfer process and just my passion for the game of hockey. That being said, I would not have been able to reach that recognition without my teammates, and I am grateful to have been on an amazing team this past year.”
What does it mean to set the UWEC record for most goals and points in a season? Was there a favorite moment this season?
In addition to setting new program records with the Blugolds, Rausch topped not only the WIAC, but all of NCAA Division III in goals and points. Additionally, her 12 power play goals led the nation. The feat provided Rausch with a sense of full circle. In her freshman season for Hamline, playing for head coach Natalie Darwitz, her phenomenal 35 points led all NCAA Division III rookies.
Setting the new standards on February 8, Rausch shone with a three point output at home versus St. Scholastica. With the hosts outshooting their opponents by an astounding 37-5 mark, the onlookers at Hobbs Ice Arena witnessed history. Although the Blugolds fell behind 2-1, Rausch scored consecutive goals to reclaim the lead.
Fittingly, the game winning goal also provided Rausch with the single season goals record. The third period saw her assist on a goal by Ellie Anderson to achieve the new single season mark. With an element of serendipity, Anderson also hails from Fergus Falls.
Reflecting on the thrill of such an astounding pinnacle, leaving a legacy in Blugolds lore, the journey proved just as fulfilling. While the goal is always to grace the ice and give her team a chance to win, the progression into a prime time player provides a sheen to the experience.
“Honestly, setting the record was not even on my mind until the night before I broke it. My goal is always to go out and play with passion and play for my team.
That being said, I felt a great sense of accomplishment for breaking the record. Not only because I broke a record, but also because I was able to achieve my best goals and points total personally. Stats are not everything, but it is nice to see personal growth from year to year, and I am proud of that accomplishment.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“