Heading into her senior season with the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, it was one built on renewal and redemption for Mackenzie Stone. Gaining the label “comeback kid”, Stone’s return to the Tigers roster for her senior campaign was more than just a welcome addition, it represented one of the true heartwarming stories of the 2016-17 NCAA season.
Although Stone’s junior season culminated with recognition to the American Women’s College Hockey Association list of National Scholar Athletes, complemented by a spot on the CHA All-Academic Team, the results on the ice were not so satisfying for the Biomedical sciences major. Gracing the ice for the season opener against the Minnesota State Mavericks, Stone would suffer a season-ending injury.
Despite the Tigers emerging victorious in a 2-1 final on home ice against the Mavericks, with goals scored by Cassie Clayton and Lindsay Stenason, there was no feeling of victory among all those involved with the program. Losing a significant member of their offense in Stone, a player that was expected to reach greater heights, subsequently blossoming into a cornerstone of the Tigers leadership core, it was a season spent in a sullen state.
Prior to the heartbreaking injury that stalled Stone’s promising junior season, there was optimism in the fact that she had shown statistical improvement as a sophomore. Tied for second among Tigers in scoring following her sophomore campaign, she also provided unselfish play with 29 blocked shots, showing a commitment to improving her defensive game. With a penchant for game-winning goals (three), along with proficiency on the power play (scoring twice), Stone established herself as a key figure on offense for the two-time defending conference postseason champions.
Among the hallmarks in Stone’s career with the Tigers, her greatest involved both of these momentous championship runs. Scoring the greatest goal of her career against long-time conference rival Mercyhurst in the 2015 CHA postseason semifinals, which was also the game-winning goal, it provided her with a significant place in program lore. Worth noting is that the season prior provided her with an even more impressive postseason achievement.
Signifying her status as one of the Tigers’ prized recruits, Stone would gain the assist on Linsday Grigg’s championship-clinching goal in the 2014 CHA postseason, once again defeating the favored Mercyhurst Lakers. With such a milestone point taking place during her freshman season, it was a moment that has not only increased in magnitude for Stone, it stands out as her most cherished in Tigers colors, Considering that this took place during Stone’s freshman season
“My favourite moment in my career as an RIT Tiger would have been winning the CHA Tournament in my freshmen year. Coming into RIT it was a dream of mine to win the CHA Tournament, winning it in my freshmen year was beyond a describable feeling for me. Being able to win the CHA championship again the next year and advance to the NCAA tournament added to the incredible experience.”
Although Stone’s senior season did not provide another exciting championship run, there was the thrill of serving as one of the Tigers’ tri-captains. Among the players that she shared this with included a very dear friend and longtime teammate in Taylor Thurston. Having both played together at the PWHL level with the Nepean Wildcats, their careers practically ran parallel to each other, both developing a symbiotic connection as leaders.
“As with any other season I tried to be the best person I could be and do the best I could on and off the ice. I saw myself as someone that wanted the best for each of my teammates and for our team as a whole. It was an honor to be recognized as an AWHCA National Scholar Athlete. Along with playing hockey these past years at RIT, my academics have been very important to me as well.”
Statistically, Stone may not have enjoyed her greatest season, but it was her leadership that stood out during her senior season. An assist on November 4, 2016 against the Colgate Raiders signified Stone’s first point since March 6, 2015, when she recorded a multi-point performance against the Mercyhurst Lakers, which eliminated them from the CHA playoffs. A January 14, 2017 tilt with those same Lakers on the road provided Stone with her first goal since the March 6 playoff match as well.
Later in that month, Stone would record the final goal of her Tigers career, scoring against in the second period of a January 27 match with the Lindenwood Lady Lions, which saw the Tigers emerge victorious in a convincing 5-0 final that saw Jenna DeJonge earn the shutout. Gaining the assists on such a meaningful goal were Stenason and Kendall Cornine. In that game, longtime friend and teammate Taylor Thurston would record three assists.
Fittingly, Stone would register a point on senior night as the Tigers hosted their state rivals, the Syracuse Orange. The February 17 match was the first of a home-and-home series, with the Tigers serving as host team. Gaining an assist on a goal scored by Cornine, it was the first of the game for the Tigers in an eventual 5-2 loss. Stone’s inspiring performance, in a season defined by a courageous comeback, certainly provided a positive influence for an incoming class of freshmen that shall look to emulate her achievements and aspire to her character.
“I had a really big mix of emotions on senior night. I was feeling a combination of happiness and excitement as well as nostalgia and sadness. Senior night was exciting because I was able to celebrate my accomplishment of playing four years of hockey along with my classmates with our team and our families.
We were lucky to have the support we had to make our senior night as special as it was. At the same time, these feelings of excitement were also mixed with sadness because it would be our last time ever playing a game at home and being a part of the locker room and atmosphere in the Gene Polisseni Center.
A playoff match with Penn State provided the stage for the last point in Stone’s NCAA career. Hosted at Buffalo’s Harbor Centre, the CHA postseason tournament resulted in Stone getting a serendipitous assist, truly bringing her career full circle. Along with Cornine contributing an assist, the goal was scored on the power play by Thurston, helping to add one final bit of luster to their bright careers.
With co-captain Clayton logging the game-winning goal, it was an unforgettable performance that added a special chapter to Tigers lore, while commemorating their careers in grand fashion.
“I will miss a lot of things about playing for RIT. I am going to miss the opportunity to go on the ice whenever I want, playing hockey everyday of the week and looking forward to weekends for game days. But most of all, I will miss getting to spend every day with my teammates and best friends, being in a team environment and being a part of the tiger culture that we created in our locker room.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photos from RIT Tigers Athletics