Freshman hockey player on pace for record-setting season
Freshman hockey player on pace for record season
Tied 1-1 halfway through the second game of a critical back-to-back against conference rival Mercyhurst, Orange forward Anonda Hoppner ties up her opponent on a faceoff in the Lakers’ zone. Lindsay Eastwood swoops across the right circle and picks up the puck. The redshirt senior captain skates toward the high slot and feeds her partner Mae Batherson, who strides toward the left circle and launches a high slapshot. The puck whizzes by the Mercyhurst netminder’s outstretched glove hand, and Syracuse takes a 2-1 lead.
Courtesy of Syracuse University Athletics Department
“Honestly, I just shot it as hard as I could and it ended up going in,” Batherson said at intermission.
The Orange went on to lose that Jan. 11 game in heartbreaking fashion, as the Lakers tallied the winning marker in the final second of overtime. But Batherson’s goal was her fourth point of the weekend–she assisted on three Orange goals in the previous night’s 8-3 victory. Those four points were a primary reason why College Hockey America (CHA) gave Batherson Rookie of the Week honors for the second time in her freshman campaign the following Monday.
“It was definitely a big adjustment at the start,” Batherson, who played junior hockey in Ontario, said of her transition to the American Division I college game. “The girls are a lot faster and stronger up here. It’s been tough at the start. But I’m finding my game now.”
Take one look at Batherson’s offensive statistics, and you wouldn’t believe she’s had any difficulty acclimating to Division I competition. She’s a top-five scorer on the Orange, and 26 games into the 2019-2020 season, she’s on pace to set multiple scoring records.
“You always look for your freshmen to come in and be impact players,” Orange Head Coach Paul Flanagan said. “And for some, it takes longer than others. But from my perspective, from day one…for her [Batherson] to arrive here and make an immediate adjustment to everything about the division one game…I thought right away, ‘This kid’s gonna be good.’”
“She’s stepped right in and played a huge role for us,” Eastwood said. “She’s been thrown into a lot of different situations and she’s reacted well.”
Flanagan trusts Batherson to quarterback the Orange power play, a rarity for a rookie defender, and regularly sends her out to kill penalties.
“For me, she’s a veteran,” he said.
The Nova Scotia native has found the scoresheet in several of Syracuse’s toughest matchups this season. Batherson registered a helper in the season opener against defending national champion Clarkson. She assisted on goals against Hockey East powerhouses Boston College and Northeastern. And she scored her first two goals in Syracuse’s first weekend of conference play (against RIT).
“At the start, I was just trying to keep it simple,” Batherson explained. “Now I’m trying to improve my offensive game.”
“From my perspective, she’s just learning the game at a quicker rate than freshmen typically do,” Flanagan added.
“She’s a very calm person,” Eastwood said. “That shows on the ice. You don’t see her panic ever. That’s super important, especially for your confidence and your teammates’ [confidence].”
Batherson said her teammates’ support has made her feel comfortable assuming more on-ice responsibility as the season has continued.
“[My teammates have been] telling me when I make a good play and what things I can do to improve,” she said. “Having Digi [Jessica DiGirolamo] as a partner has really helped me, as well. I look up to her a lot and so it’s been fun playing with her and I’ve been learning a lot.”
With eight regular season games and at least one postseason game remaining, Batherson also has a shot at becoming just the tenth freshman skater in program history to eclipse the 20-point mark. But she isn’t concerned with chasing records in the final weeks of regular season play.
“I’m just trying to stick to the systems we have as a team and just make the plays I know I can make,” she said. “Keep it simple and contribute offensively and defensively.”
“She’s very reliable,” Eastwood said of Batherson. “If I want to jump up in the play, I know she’s got my back there. If I make a mistake, I know she can help me out.”
“Whether forward or D, she’s one of the best rookies in the league,” Flanagan said, referencing the CHA. “She’s a real good player now. But she’s got potential to be a great player.”