Canevin grad scoring big with Cal U women's hockey team
It still hits Kelsey DeNardo how fast she has progressed with the California (Pa.)University women's hockey team.
Despite being in only her second year with the Vulcans, the Bishop Canevin grad was selected as one of the alternate captains for the 2013-14 season.
“I don't know what made me think about it recently but I say my prayers before each period of each game and I looked down and saw the ‘A' on my jersey,” DeNardo said. “I was taken aback for a second when I realized I was a sophomore and an assistant captain. In high school when I played soccer, only the seniors really were captains.”
DeNardo is leading Cal U. in points with 15 goals and nine assists — nearly matching her 28 points in her freshman season. Her 24 points is second to West Chester's Becky Dobson in points(28) and goals (18) at the American Collegiate Hockey Division 2 level.
“Her biggest asset is her ability to think and dissect the game,” California coach Gregg Kaminski said. “Having a player of her caliber makes my world as a coach a whole lot easier. I know I can put in her in a lot of situations and her God given talent will come through.”
Despite the strong start, the sophomore said it hasn't always been easy. She said her freshman season was difficult playing with older players, though playing at a high-level travel team in high school prepared her skill wise.
And even though she is finding success with her abilities, DeNardo is constantly working to improve.
“I am trying to work on skating with my stick down,” DeNardo said. “It is a bad habit I have. If I keep my stick on the ice, I will able to intercept passes. I have just been working on a lot of things that can improve my skating and strength.”
While the team is considered a club squad, the schedule is as trying as many varsity-level sports. The team has games the majority of weekends from November to March with bus trips to Delaware, Michigan and New York.
“Being in college, I would like to hang out with my friends,” DeNardo said. “Hockey does hurt the social aspect of college. And it gets tiring. We went to Delaware and got back at midnight on Sunday and I had class at 8 a.m. It really tests my time management.
“But the trips are always fun. I get to be with a lot of friends every weekend and play hockey. I can't really complain.”
The Vulcans joined the new College Hockey East Women's Division. The new league features Delaware, Penn State and West Chester. California joined the conference to increase the level of competition — the Rams defeated the Nittany Lions, 5-2, for the Division 2 nation championship last season.
“We have pretty good rivalries with everyone in our league,” DeNardo said. “We all get really excited knowing Penn State or West Chester in coming up on the schedule.”
And with an increased level of competition during the regular season, California is expecting to be better prepared for the playoffs.
“It is my fourth season and every year we have gone a little further,” Kaminski said. “We keep steadily progressing. Our goal every year is to win a national championship. We made it to the playoffs last season but fell short.
“We think we have the depth and talent this season to find a lot of success.”
California returns to the ice this weekend as it welcomes Delaware in for a pair of games at the Rostraver Ice Garden. The puck drops at 10 p.m. on Friday and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.