Having finished an exceptional NCAA career as one of the greatest to wear the colors of the Wisconsin River Falls Falcons, Callie Hoff’s legacy allowed for one more proud chapter. The recipient of the 2022 Laura Hurd Award, awarded to the most outstanding player in NCAA Division III, the opportunity to skate for Team USA at the Winter Universiade in Lake Placid, New York, added luster to her hockey odyssey.
Remaining part of the game in a coaching capacity, serving as the bench boss for Duluth’s Marshall School, answering the call for Team USA evoked a combination of local and national pride. With a community exceptionally supportive, Hoff’s standing as a hockey heroine took on greater meaning. Reflecting on the privilege of being named to the US roster, the chance to extend her career on one of the game’s grandest stages, a feeling of restoration fueled her drive.
“I was very excited and grateful for the opportunity. I have really enjoyed being a head coach and being back on the ice again in another form, but getting to play and put the gear on again was amazing.
Having missed that side of hockey and getting the chance to meet some of the girls I have been going against in college was awesome! There was so much talent on our team that there were moments I caught myself just watching them make plays.”
Along with Falcons goaltender Dysen Skinner, among the backstops for men’s Team USA, Hoff provided the program with a proud milestone in their storied history. Named one of the tri-captains for the women’s team, the privilege stood as testament to her talents. With grace and class, Hoff quickly showed her team first approach, acknowledging that many of her teammates had excelled as strong leaders at the NCAA level.
Making her debut with the host nation on January 12, at Maxcy Hall in Potsdam welcomed Team Japan, that first game evoked a flood of emotion for Hoff. Signifying the first women’s ice hockey game in the history of the Winter Universiade for the US team contested on home soil, she became synonymous with a celebrated chapter in national team lore.
“Being able to wear the red, white, and blue was a huge honor and something I will always remember for the rest of my life. When I was named a captain, I was extremely excited and was looking forward to leading the team. However, I also knew how many girls in that locker room were captains for their respective teams, so it made my job easier.”
Hoff’s finest performance occurred during a dominant victory on January 15 versus Great Britain. Prevailing in a 21-0 final, the largest margin of victory posted by any team at the Winter Universiade, she contributed with four points, which saw 16 American skaters log at least one point, led by co-captain Madeleine Leidt’s eight point outburst.
Also taking place at Maxcy Hall, a highly enthusiastic crowd of supporters energized Hoff and her teammates. With a combination of skill and patriotism, a growing chemistry on full display, Hoff found the back of the net for her first tournament goal at the 3:54 mark, assisted by Alexa Hartje. Also scoring the 17th goal for the US, Leidt and Hayley Lunny logged the assists.
“That game was good for us. It was an opportunity for lots of players to gain some confidence and get some points. As the tournament went on, we all started clicking more as a team and getting to know each other’s styles of hockey and it really showed in this game!”
Although a podium finish eluded the highly talented host team, the display of character and determination was unmistakable. Displaying a tremendous tenacity in a game which marked a defining moment for Hoff, the US nearly handed the undefeated Canadians their first loss of the tournament. Fittingly, the January 18th game marked the final one of the preliminary round, another exciting chapter in the eternal rivalry between the two hockey powers.
Recounting the high energy of the game, an ecstatic crowd of over 2000 fans willing the team to unprecedented heights, Hoff and Leidt earned the assists on Lunny’s third period goal. Spoiling Aurelie Dubuc’s bid for a shutout with less than ten minutes remaining, the score now 2-1 for Canada, US goaltender Elizabeth Simmons recorded six saves in the remainder of the game, the determined hosts ambitious to tie the game.
Despite the best efforts of a highly valiant US roster, the final score was only part of a much richer narrative. Providing Hoff with a memorable highlight, proud of teammates and nation alike, the fighting spirit stands as the hallmark. As her strong playmaking skills, standing as a gifted scorer and valued leadership resulted in four fantastic Falcons seasons the honor of wearing the Stars and Stripes not only elevated a formidable legacy, it provided a competitive closure to Hoff’s brilliant hockey career.
“My favorite moment from the University Games was playing against Canada. The game was sold-out, and the atmosphere was electric! Hearing the USA chants fill the arena as we came out on the ice and after we scored was a highlight. The game did not end how we wanted it to, but we gave them the best run of any country throughout the tournament, and we really came together to make it a game.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”