Mars' Kaufman showing versatility on Chatham women's hockey team
While her start in the sport of hockey may have come a little later than some, Chatham University women's hockey player Karlee Kaufman has developed into the kind of player coaches dream about.
“There are a couple of things we look at (when recruiting a student-athlete),” said Chatham coach Jason Evans. “We knew she is a tremendous student, and we knew she could be successful.
“Karlee is a very smooth skater, she has a passion for the game, and she is very coachable.”
Evans said that Kaufman had other options when it came to colleges, and that she sacrificed a lot to come to Chatham to play hockey.
Kaufman moved around a bit when she was a child, living in Georgia and Arizona before moving to Mars. Her younger brother began playing hockey, and she thought it looked like fun. So, at age 13, Kaufman laced up her skates.
“I was lucky there was a girls team available at Warrendale Bladerunners,” Kaufman said. “Most girls have to start off playing with the boys.”
Kaufman played one season for the Mars junior varsity team, but played most of her games for the Wildcats. Her experience was vast because she played almost every position. Center, left wing, defense, no matter that the team needed, Kaufman delivered.
Kaufman was hopeful to continue her game at the college level. She got involved in travel hockey and helped gain exposure through showcase tournaments like the Beantown Classic in Marlboro, Mass.
In addition to playing showcases, Kaufman invited college coaches to her games. Her options were a bit limited because there were not a lot of schools where she could play hockey and study to be a physician's assistant.
“I reached out to Jason through my junior varsity coach at Mars who played for him at Robert Morris,” she said.
The jump from travel hockey to the college ranks took some adjusting. While there is no checking in women's hockey, there is still a physical adjustment to the game. The speed is much faster, and there are different dynamics to the plays.”
Starting much later than many of her current teammates, Kaufman knew she had a lot of ground to make up, but still wanted to maintain her high academic standards.
“It's tough, and you have to stay on top of things,” she said. “It is something the freshmen have to adjust to. The amount of time spent at practice and traveling for games, I became good at juggling things. You also have to have good communication with your professors.”
Kaufman continues to improve on the ice. Evans said Kaufman is a very versatile player, and he has moved her between offense and defense.
“When you can skate the way she does, you can do a lot of things,” Evans said. “She has a good shot and handles the puck really well.”
The biggest thing Evans said Kaufman had to develop was seeing and reacting in game situations.
“Hockey is continuing action for a whole 45- or 60-second shift,” Evans said. “It's reading tendencies and developing a quick transition.”
As she heads into her junior season this winter, Kaufman said it is possible it will be her last. She is going to begin a program for her graduate work, and she is not sure if she can handle the workload in conjunction with hockey.
“That could change, I will talk to the people at the school,” she said.
No matter what she decides, Kaufman has enjoyed a solid run at hockey.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.