There are several moments in sports that are monumental because of the heroes that delivered, immortalizing them while capturing the hearts and minds of fans. In a year that saw Marie-Philip Poulin score the gold medal winning goal in Sochi and Britni Smith score the overtime winner to give the Toronto Furies their first Clarkson Cup, another hockey hero followed in their glorious footsteps.
Hailing from Mount Herbert, Prince Edward Island, Shannon MacAulay etched her name in women’s hockey lore, scoring one of the most important goals in the history of the NCAA Frozen Four. Facing the two-time defending national champion Minnesota Golden Gophers in the championship game, MacAulay would bury the puck past Minnesota Golden Gophers backstop Amanda Leveille on a breakaway at the 15:44 mark of the third period for the 5-3 lead.
Despite Baylee Gillanders reducing Clarkson’s lead to one goal merely 35 seconds later, the fans in Hamden, Connecticut witnessed history as MacAulay’s goal would stand as the game-winning tally as time expired in a 5-4 triumph. Of note, the goal had tremendous ramifications historically as it marked the first time that a program not based in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) earned the Frozen Four title, snapping a 13-year streak that began since the inception of the event, dating back to 2001.
“It means a lot to me to score the winning goal in such a crucial game and to contribute to this historic win for Clarkson. It will always be a memorable moment moving forward in my career and a big part of that memory will be how my teammates brought so much positive energy to the ice, giving me the confidence to put the puck in the net.”
The game-winner was part of a three-point effort for MacAulay in the March 23 win, her highest scoring output of the entire season. Every point MacAulay logged in the contest had positive impact for the green and gold. After Minnesota grabbed a 1-0 lead at the 9:40 mark of the first period, MacAulay would assist on Christine Lambert’s goal to tie the game with only 1:23 remaining.
It would lead to two more unanswered goals, as MacAulay also assisted on Kazmaier Award winner Jamie Lee Rattray’s goal at the 0:38 mark of the second stanza for the 3-1 advantage. Although Minnesota would tie the score before the stanza would expire, MacAulay reflects on how the green and gold believed that they could emerge with a victory.
“There was belief. With the game tied going into the third, we knew this was huge for us, competing with the number one ranked team in the nation. We were going to do whatever it took to come out with that win. Even when we went up two goals, we could not ease up against a team like Minnesota. It was not however until the final seconds of the game that we realized we were going to win.”
MacAulay’s contributions in the historic Frozen Four victory also signified the first national championship in any varsity sport for Clarkson. Taking into account that the program faced an opponent in the Golden Gophers that set an NCAA record with a 62-game winning streak, having lost only one regular season game in the last two years, the championship is one that shall be cherished by the university for generations to come.
Proudly wearing the green and gold for the Golden Knights, MacAulay was part of a magical recruiting class for the program in the autumn of 2012. Along with fellow “Class of 2016” recruits Erin Ambrose and Cayley Mercer, she was part of Canada’s gold medal winning contingent at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds.
Olivia Howe, the all-time leading scorer for the Notre Dame Hounds and two-sport star Renata Fast was also recruited as part of the Class of 2016. These five fantastic competitors would all prove to be a key piece of the championship puzzle.
For MacAulay, who previously played in the JWHL for the prestigious Warner School in Alberta, she has logged 40 points in 77 games played (on the strength of 22 goals) for Clarkson. In her NCAA debut on October 13, 2012, she would log her first NCAA goal and assist. This season, the sensational sophomore has recorded at least one point in 15 games, resulting in a 14-1-0 mark.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that she is also part of a pioneering group of women from Atlantic Canada making their mark in NCAA hockey, joined by the likes of Alexis Crossley and Jillian Saulnier. As a side note, her grandfather, Wilfred Shephard, was inducted into the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame for baseball. Taking into account the remarkable legacy that a young MacAulay has already carved in women’s hockey, she certainly deserves to be enshrined in the Hall.
An exceptional presence, she will be counted upon to provide an even bigger leadership role this fall, as the Potsdam, New York-based Golden Knights shall welcome seven new recruits. Gracing the ice with a combination of enthusiasm, maturity and a love of the game, there is no question that MacAulay will be up to the challenge. For the chance to be part of such an exceptional program is one that provides her with exceptional happiness, reward and friendship.
“There are many things I like about playing for Clarkson. Yet the most important to me are the friendships that I have made with my teammates and how they positively influence me as a person, not only on the ice but off. Anyone who has been a part of a winning team knows what I mean. It is like being part of a family; a lot of fun with memories that are always being made.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: The Associated Press (obtained from cbc.ca), Jim Rogash, Getty Images (obtained from zimbio.com)