By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Anyone familiar with women’s college hockey in southern Minnesota must know the Mackleys.
Since the fall of 2004, at least one of the three Mackley sisters has been skating for Minnesota State or Gustavus Adolphus.
Brittany Mackley played for the Mavericks from 2004 until 2008. Melissa Mackley played for the Gusties from 2006 until last spring. And now Ariel Mackley is beginning her junior season at MSU. She’s also been voted team captain.
“When I waa young I played with both sisters,” Ariel Mackley said. “Britt was a senior (at Burnsville High School), Mel was a sophomore and I was in seventh grade. That was the best time. I was always younger, and they were always moving up, but that seventh-grade year was fun.”
Through the years, Ariel said, the sisters have supported each other, watching each other’s games in Mankato and St. Peter.
“We’re always criticizing each other’s games and giving pointers,” Ariel said. “It’s just a great support system.”
Ariel Mackley must have received some good advice from her sisters. Not only is she wearing the “C” on her jersey, but she’s being counted on to be a stable presence on defense, playing a regular shift, penalty kill and some power play, just as she did last season when she played in all 34 games.
“She has a great attitude and a very calming demeanor. She doesn’t get rattled,” Mavericks coach Eric Means said. “She played really good for us at the end of the year last year, and we expect her to pick up where she left off. ... She can play a lot of minutes. She’s physically in good shape; she doesn’t tire.”
Mackley credited that solid play to working with Means, who was a rookie coach for Minnesota State last year.
“Since Means has been here I’ve improved tremendously,” she said. “From my thought process to shooting pucks, I’ve improved so much from last year at this time. But I’m still at the starting ground. I have so much more to learn.”
With three seniors on the roster, Mackley was a little a surprised to be awarded the team captaincy. Means said players not only voted, but they wrote down a description of what they were looking for in a leader. Mackley’s name rose to the top.
“I think she’s going to do a great job,” Means said.
Mackley will be leading a team that won seven games last season and has 11 freshmen on the roster. The blue line also has veterans Jackie Otto, Amy Udvig and Erika Magnusson. Emilia Andersson is back on the on defense after spending last season with the Swedish National Team and playing in the Olympics.
“The blue line has to be good for us because we’re really young up front,” Means said.
Offensively, sophomore Lauren Smith is the top returning scorer, compiling seven goals and 16 assists as a freshman. Emmi Leinonen led the Mavericks with 10 goals last season; she also had eight assists. Moira O’Connor had 15 points, and Nina Tikkinen, a member of the Bronze Medal-winning Finnish Olympic team, had 10 points.
In goal, junior Alli Altmann will start the Mavericks’ first game. She played in 30 games last season and got all seven wins.
“She proved that somewhere in there, there’s a goalie with No. 1 ability,” Means said.
The Mavericks will open the season at 7:07 p.m. Friday at All Seasons Arena with the first game of a nonconference series against Niagara. The second game will be at 3:07 p.m. on Saturday.