Having ascended towards the class of elite programs in Hockey East play, Sarah Steele served as one of the anchors for the Boston University Terriers blueline unit. As the 2016-17 season signified her last with the program, it was an opportunity for her to help the younger players transition towards greater things with the Terriers, instilling in them the values that make donning the crimson jersey an unforgettable experience.
With six incoming freshmen, including four on the blueline, Steele took on what was, subsequently, a leadership and mentoring role. As one of only two senior blueliners on the roster, it was a role that she accepted with responsibility, understanding that part of her on-ice duties would also incorporate sharing time with a freshman as a defense partner.
Among the freshmen comprising the blueline corps this season included the likes of Dawson College grad Alexandra Calderone, Abby Cook, an alum of the Pursuit of Excellence, Breanna Scarpaci of Shattuck St. Mary’s, and Detroit Little Caesars competitor Katie Shannahan,
“We had fairly large freshmen class come in this year so it was the seniors’ role collectively to retain the BU culture that we had come to learn and live by over the past four years. Being one of the two senior defensemen on the team, I would say I definitely felt it was my responsibility to mentor the younger players and lead by example.
With that being said, I think we had a really special team dynamic this year wherein there was not a typical sort of hierarchy that is usually perpetuated from older players on sports team; I can say with confidence that the freshmen class integrated into our team seamlessly, and that was due to welcoming nature of the upperclassmen.
As one of the older defensemen, I got to play with a freshman partner on several occasions. The freshmen class became key members of the team and created depth for us as the year went on.”
Along with fellow Canadians Alexis Crossley and Samantha Sutherland, joined by Maddie Elia, Natalie Flynn, goaltender Victoria Hanson and grad student Mary Parker, Steele was part of an exceptional group of competitors that comprised the Terriers senior class. Considering that the emotions of senior night can bring with it a combination of joyous celebration and visceral loss, it was a night defined only by euphoria for Steele.
Knowing that a large gathering of family had landed on Boston for this event, it was an element that only added to the feeling of celebration. With Steele hailing from the maritime province of Prince Edward Island, it was a great point of pride to be able to share this cherished night with her parents in attendance.
“I was more excited than anything on senior day. Everyone’s families and friends were there so the rink was buzzing. My parents were able to come to the game– I’m from Prince Edward Island, Canada so it was a bit of a trek for them. My parents did not get to attend many of my college games because of this factor so it was nice that they got to see me play in person rather than on the computer screen.”
Complemented by the fact that the Terriers had qualified for the Hockey East playoffs, there would be the opportunity for other games on home ice. With regards to senior night itself, Walter Brown Arena served as the backdrop for the Terriers hosting the Maine Black Bears on February 19. Steele would experience the jubilation of recording a point on such an important night in any player’s career.
Logging the assist on a third period power play goal scored by fellow senior Sutherland, it would also stand as the final point in Steele’s NCAA career. Worth noting, five members of the senior class would log at least one point in the 5-0 win against Maine, with Parker scoring a goal, while Crossley and Elia each contributed assists.
Steele’s final goal occurred in the third period of a January 14 contest against Vermont, which saw both teams combine for five goals in the third, part of a 3-3 final. Earning the assists on Steele’s goal were Nina Rodgers and Victoria Bach. As a side note, her best performance during the season was a two-assist effort against archrival Boston College in a November 5, 2016 home game.
As the postseason resulted in Steele’s final appearance with the Terriers, renewing rivalries in the semi-finals against fellow Beantown program Northeastern, it was an event that brought with it a lot of emotion and tradition.
During every postseason, Terriers pride shines brightly, reinforcing the feeling of family that exists within the proud program’s culture. As Steele elaborates, this ritual is one that encompasses what it means to be a Terriers skater, while bringing a much richer meaning to the favorite moment during her four seasons in the crimson jersey,
“I would say that winning the Hockey East Championship my sophomore was probably my favorite moment. The BU women’s team had won Hockey East for a consecutive three years, so it was a really special experience to be able to carry on the legacy of BU hockey in this respect.
Every year at this time, our team gathers before the semi-final game to watch a video compilation of past players who send their best wishes. The Hockey East tournament that year felt especially important not only because a championship win was on the line but because we had the honor of preserving the title as four-time Hockey East Champions.”
With the postseason having reached its close, finals becoming the new priority, the reality that there will not be a next season is one perhaps difficult to absorb. Although such feelings will be definitely visceral come next autumn, the bigger picture reflects a greater image, one where former teammates now evolve into friends for life, testament to the camaraderie that enriches the life of a student-athlete.
“The reality of my college career coming to a close still had not set in fully on senior day. Now that the season has ended, I am definitely experiencing the heartbreak of not playing and spending time at the rink with my teammates every day. That is what I am going to miss most.
BU hockey has not only been a lifestyle for me, but it has given me the privilege of attending a prestigious school. I am going to miss going to class and spending time with friends, but I really do owe all of my experiences here to hockey itself, and I am truly grateful for how far it has gotten me.”
Along with teammate Alexis Crossley, who hails from Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia, Steele represents a growing group of highly successful Maritimers competing in NCAA hockey. This season, Sidney Crosby’s younger sister Taylor, who also hails from Cole Harbor, stood between the pipes for the St. Cloud State Huskies.
The last few recent seasons have also seen Nova Scotians Jillian Saulnier and Blayre Turnbull make their mark. Having both won a Clarkson Cup with the Calgary Inferno in 2016, Saulnier starred with the Cornell Big Red, while Turnbull starred with the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers. As a side note, Paradise, Newfoundland resident Sarah Davis also competed in the WCHA, winning a national championship with the Golden Gophers.
Although Steele’s hockey odyssey involved having to play outside the Maritimes as a teenager in order to gain more exposure, the experiences made there always held a special place in her heart. As players such as Steele herald a new generation of elite skaters from the region, they have helped to inspire a new generation emulate their successes. With the increase in the number of players in the region, the quality of play mirrored this. Looking to the future of Maritime hockey with tremendous optimism, Steele is proud of her hockey roots, eager to see the potentially growing impact to come.
“I made the decision in tenth grade to attend private school in Ontario because it would allow me more me more opportunities education and hockey-wise. I cannot say that I would have had the same exposure in the Maritimes because the competition was not at the same level.
I have been away from home for seven years now because of my hockey endeavors. With that being said, I think the women’s side of the game is definitely expanding and more girls are getting involved at a younger age. Because of this, I think we’ll see more female players coming out of the Maritimes in the next few years.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: BU Terriers athletics