Kaillie Goodnough, a defenseman for the Syracuse women’s ice hockey team, paused as she thought of how to describe something interesting about herself.
“I live on a farm,” she said. “It’s not what a lot of people expect, but it brought me up well.”
However, the freshman defenseman’s game-play stats and other personal attributes make for a much more interesting story than what she first revealed. Goodnough currently has five goals, seven assists and the second most points of any defenseman on the team so far this season.
This weekend Goodnough will join her teammates in Niagara Falls, N.Y., for two games against Niagara. The Orange (9-20-3, 0-7-3 College Hockey America) is still searching for its first CHA victory of the season, but the struggle hasn't been due to a lack of production on Goodnough's part.
“We’re really excited to have her,” said head coach Paul Flanagan. “We love her as a kid. Coming from her background … she’s just a hard worker [and] very dedicated to what she’s doing both on and off the ice. She’s done a great job, and who knows how far she can take it.”
Goodnough's motivation to play hockey begna with her family. Goodnough said she grew up watching her brother Greg, who played in the Ontario Hockey League in the early 2000s, and other family members who played the sport.
“My whole family kind of played hockey,” Goodnough said. “I was almost born in a rink, so that’s inspiration. My brother mostly inspired me.”
In high school, Goodnough played for two seasons at South Jefferson Central in Adams Center, N.Y., before spending her junior and senior seasons with the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y.
During her senior year at the Academy, Goodnough earned First Team Junior Women's Hockey League All-Star and scored 21 goals with 42 assists. She also helped lead her team to two New York state championships.
"It was probably the best experience of my life,” said Goodnough. “Meeting new people from everywhere — Finland, Sweden, Czech — [and] becoming so close with them, too. … It was unreal, just an unreal experience. It definitely prepared me for college because the league we were in was also a top league, so it was fast hockey.”
Goodnough’s teammate Jacquie Greco said one of Goodnough’s strengths is being offensive-minded, which has aided the team. Greco said her teammate’s versatile abilities in aiding the forward positions has helped the offensive attack on the net.
“She’s very nose-driven,” Greco said of Goodnough. “She leads with her nose all the time. I think her ability to play the puck moving forward [sets her apart]. She works it with the forwards in the offensive zone, which helps a lot.”
Flanagan said that he expects Goodnough to be a large asset to the team and be someone he can depend on. Greco and Flanagan both said she has a positive attitude off the ice and agreed her personality away from hockey is a large contributor to her style come game day.
“She’s loud, she’s goofy, she’s all over the place,” Greco said. “She likes to rush the puck a lot. … She’s very aggressive. She knows when to go, when not to go, and when she gets her opportunities, she capitalizes on them.”
Goodnough modestly said her biggest accomplishment in life so far is being a well-rounded person. She noted that she has many things to work on in terms of her play, but keeping her feet moving in a defensive aspect is one of her biggest concerns.
Flanagan, however, did not downplay her accomplishments, hinting at the strength his staff saw early on in the recruiting stages. He said Goodnough has good skill sets and doesn’t get down about anything, including her mistakes.
“She’s the kind of kid that really wants it,” Flanagan said. “She’s eager to learn and eager to get stronger. She has those intangibles of hard work and strong character. The sky is the limit for her.”
To prepare for the game-day excitement, Goodnough said she distances herself from the team, listens to music and tries to get her mindset. As the pregame ritual progresses she slowly merges back into the team dynamic.
When she isn't playing hocket, Goodnough said, she enjoys reading and going to the beach, but she usually tries to remain active. She used to play soccer, lacrosse and softball, too.
Goodnough acknowledges that there are not many options in terms of a future outside of college for women’s hockey, but it is something that she would like to continue.
“I can’t even picture my life without hockey," she said.