Gaining the prestige of serving as the captain of the Dartmouth Big Green in her senior season, it was the crowning achievement in a memorable career for Mackenzie St. Onge. With fellow seniors Kennedy Ottenbreit and Eleni Tebano serving as alternate captains, it helped bring all their careers full circle, representing a proud tradition of hockey in Hanover. Having starred at the North American Hockey Academy for three seasons, also gaining a spot on the National Honor Society, such assiduousness allowed the Big Green with a player whose fundamentally sound approach would result in an efficient durability.
Having missed only two games during her Big Green career (both games took place during her sophomore season), St. Onge appeared in 115 games, establishing herself as an iron woman during her four years in Hanover. Equally important during such a proud career was the fact that she was also bestowed the highlight of being an ECAC All-Academic Team honoree. Setting a positive example both on and off the ice, it represented the values that make St. Onge proud to embody the positive example of life as a student-athlete,
“Academics have always been important to me. In part because of a true love of learning and part because of the understanding that athletics can only open so many doors until academics need to step in to get you to where you want to go. Keeping my grades up in high school played a big part in allowing me the opportunity to play for my number one choice of schools (Dartmouth of course) and I see it the same way in terms of moving on to the job field. In terms of setting an example, I really just try to do my best whether it’s on the ice or in the classroom. I always hope that in striving for that I can inspire others to do the same.”
As St. Onge prepared for her final season with the program, it marked the inaugural season for head coach Laura Schuler. A former competitor with the Canadian national team, highlighted by a silver medal from the 1998 Winter Games, Schuler has crafted an equally impressive legacy as a coach. Balancing responsibilities for Dartmouth while also serving as the bench boss for Canada’s national women’s team, the first player in national team history to serve in that role, it provided St. Onge with an opportunity to elevate the quality of her game.
In addition, the presence of Schuler represented a unique case of six degrees of hockey separation. A member of Dartmouth’s Class of 2016, former Dartmouth captain Laura Stacey enters this season as a member of the Canadian national team. Part of the Canadian roster at the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Plymouth, Michigan, Stacey also holds the distinction of calling Schuler a coach.
Of note, Stacey also holds another unique connection to St. Onge’s career. In reflecting on a preferred focal point in her time with the Big Green, she is compelled to mention a scoring play that involved an assist from Stacey. Taking place in a very unique exhibition game, which saw Montreal’s McGill University Martlets tour the various US schools on the Eastern Seaboard, an October 18 match saw the Martlets visit Thompson Arena.
With the game signifying St. Onge’s first-ever competition as a member of the Big Green, she began said game on a line with center Sam Zeiss and right winger Catherine Berghuis. Of note, the first goal of the game for the Big Green would be scored by Kennedy Ottenbreit, who was also in her debut. As the Martlets enjoyed a 3-1 lead after two periods of play, St. Onge would take a cross-ice pass from third generation star player Laura Stacey, burying the puck past Taylor Hough for the first point of her Big Green career. Also credited with an assist on the landmark goal was Olivia Whitford, representing a cherished highlight that still resonates for St. Onge.
“My favorite moment of my career has to be my very first game my freshman year. It was an exhibition game against McGill and I scored my first goal off a great pass from the talented Laura Stacey. After that game we ran our cool down lap as a team, running by the cheering parents for the first of many times, and I felt on top of the world for the opportunity to share that moment with my family. I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear and relish in the joy that was both the satisfaction of a dream achieved and the unfolding potential of so many great things to come.
During her senior season, St. Onge would display some offensive flair, exceeding the offensive total accumulated in her first three seasons. Logging a career-best seven points (she would only register three points in the three seasons prior), five of those points would take place against conference opponents, reflecting her ability to rise to the occasion.
“I was unbelievably excited for my senior season. Knowing I only had one year left with the incredible group of girls on our team I wanted to make the most of it. Being named captain was an incredible honor and one that I couldn’t be more grateful for. I saw it as an opportunity to serve and give back to a program that for three great seasons had given so much to me.”
Having appeared in every game during the 2015-16 campaign, the stay-at-home blueliner did not register one point. Despite this scoreless streak, a more important statistic may be the fact that St. Onge did not serve one penalty during the season, testament to her highly disciplined play.
Heading into the senior season, the last game in which St. Onge logged a point took place on December 31, 2014, in a 5-1 triumph against the Northeastern Huskies.
Looking to set a positive example in her leadership role through hard work and devotion to team and teammates alike, the ability for St. Onge to place her name on the score sheet only added to the thrill of the captaincy. Said streak would reach its end in a road match on November 28, as she logged an assist on a goal scored by Christina Rombaut in a 4-0 final against the Maine Black Bears.
Subsequently, the goal scoring drought would end on home ice as St. Onge managed to slip the puck past Kyra Smith in a January 10 contest against New Hampshire, with Kennedy Ottenbreit and Kate Landers earning the assists in a 2-1 final. Of note, there would be more offensive heroics to come for the Big Green captain.
Considering that St. Onge would register at least one point in the Big Green’s final five games of the season, establishing the longest scoring streak of her career, it stood as a fitting way to bring a proud career to a memorable finish. Starting with an assist against nationally ranked St. Lawrence on February 4, it was part of an admirable effort for the program, shutting down their opponent’s high scoring offense in a tightly contested 2-1 loss.
Six days later, the Big Green would gain their first win since January 14. Taking on Rensselaer on the road, St. Onge scored an empty net goal, with Hailey Noronha gaining the assist. Coincidentally, the January 14 win also took place against Rensselaer. Assists in back-to-back losses against Union (February 11) and Ivy League rival Brown (February 17) were followed by another Ivy League match to signal the end of the season while heralding the arrival of senior night. As the careers of several seniors on both teams reached its peak, it was an opportunity for a pair of the Big Green’s leaders to shine.
St. Onge extended her scoring streak, registering an assist in a 4-1 victory, while fellow senior captain Ottenbreit, an Honorable Mention All-Ivy, registered a hat trick, allowing both the opportunity to end a memorable time on a winning note. Joined by the likes of goaltender Robyn Chemago, a Second Team All-Ivy selection, blueliners Emma Korbs and Eleni Tebano, along with fellow forward Devon Moir, it was an event that allowed for a storybook finish.
While the flood of emotion that comes with senior night affects all players in different ways, it was after the game itself that St. Onge absorbed the true meaning of the event. Although there would be an outpouring of tears, an understandable reaction to the closing of a treasured chapter, the feelings leading up to senior night were defined by friendship and admiration.
“Honestly, I had expected to cry the whole night. In reality the tears didn’t come until later, after the game, in the dressing room. The emotions before the game were of pure gratitude (and slight disbelief) for all that I’d experienced and the lessons I had learned in four years.
For me, senior night was an opportunity to take pride in what it meant to be a four year, division one student athlete, and to play one last time for all the family, friends, coaches, and people who had helped me to get to that point.”
In the aftermath of the victory against Yale, St. Onge would add to her memorable senior season by capturing the team honor of the Sarah Kennedy Award. Eligible to any junior and senior on the Big Green roster, the integrity of the honor is based on the criteria of putting the team first above individual goals, dedication to team and school both on and off the ice, perseverance in the face of adversity, and a love of the game. Undoubtedly, St. Onge embodied all these qualities this season. Displaying heroic efforts on multiple times, providing her team with confidence, and showing a solid work ethic which translated into more than just career highs offensively, but an opportunity to motivate those around her to carve their own legacies and make their own lasting memories.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Dartmouth Big Green Athletics