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Thursday, January 08, 2009

WSU women getting national attention

By Matt Mackinder/ MiCHO Managing Editor

After a terrific first-half, the Wayne State women’s team is getting national attention.

Now in its tenth season, Michigan’s only Division 1 women’s program has made great strides since head coach Jim Fetter took over in 2003. Last year, WSU earned a spot in the national rankings and they’ve also cracked the top 10 on several occasions this season.

The Warriors, however, have yet to win a College Hockey America tournament championship, but were co-regular season champs last year with Mercyhurst College.

That may change this season.

“We are playing better and won some big games against Mercyhurst last year and entered the polls a few times,” WSU senior forward Melissa Boal said. “People are beginning to realize on campus that we are a contending team and it’s just as exciting as men’s games. We are a strong team with a good record and we are starting to get fans because of that.”

Boal, 22, is making news of her own. After being a Patty Kazmaier Award (women’s version of the Hobey Baker) finalist last season, she recently scored her 100th career goal for the Warriors and became just the fifth woman to do so since women’s hockey became a recognized NCAA sport seven years ago.

“It’s always nice to help my team anyway that I can, but scoring that 100th goal with my parents in the stands will definitely be something that will stick with me for the rest of my life,” said Boal. “Sam Poyton, my linemate, will also be reaching this feat very soon as well and it’s just amazing to go through this process with her and be surrounded by all the great players that are on the 100-goal list.”

From the Ottawa, Ontario, area, Boal started playing hockey when she was three years old on a boys’ team in her local association.

The last year she played boys’ hockey was her second year of atom (mites in the United States).“I played both girls’ and boys’ that year and then made the transition to girls hockey my first year of Pee Wee,” remembered Boal. “Up until my second year of Pee Wee, I played defense, but I would like to think that I was always a big presence on the ice.”

When she was 18 and looking for a college program, the idea of going to Wayne State wasn’t a very hard sell.

“I chose WSU because I knew this was a program that was growing and had a lot of potential,” said Boal. “If I came here, I knew I would be given every opportunity to grow as a player and be just as successful from my freshman year to my senior year.”

As a freshman Boal tallied 48 points, 45 the next year and then last season led the team with 69 points and became the first women’s player in school history to be selected to the RBK All-American First Team. She was also named First Team All-CHA and to the CHA All-Academic Team after setting season school records in points (69), hat tricks (4), power-play goals (11), shorthanded goals (3), goals in a game (5, Oct. 19, 2007 vs. Union), points in a game (7, Oct. 19 vs. Union) and points in a series (9, Jan. 25-26, 2008 at Robert Morris). Boal recorded a career-high 18-game point streak from Jan. 5-Mar. 7, 2008 and led the nation in points-per-game (2.16).

This year, Boal has 28 points going into the semester break, once again among the nation’s leaders.

And to think that she never had it in her head that being one of the country’s best players could ever be a reachable goal.

“I always thought I had what it took to play college hockey, but I really didn’t realize it until my second year of grade 12 in high school when I started getting recruited that I actually had the potential,” admitted Boal, who said she’d like to keep playing next year, possibly in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. “It is always nice to score goals and help my linemates out, but really, having big numbers means nothing if we haven’t been successful as a team.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 5, 2009 issue of Michigan Hockey.

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