The whistle blew, and McKenzie Sederberg kept skating.
Then it blew again ... and again ... and again.
Finally, Sederberg stopped, looked around and noticed that all of her Minnesota State teammates and coaches were standing still on the ice. She smiled somewhat sheepishly before laughing about the moment along with everyone else.
“Oh yeah, I usually wear my hearing aids,” Sederberg said after practice on Thursday as the Mavericks prepared for this weekend’s women’s hockey series against No. 2-ranked Minnesota. “Funny story. I just came right from class. I didn’t have time to put them in. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to get on the ice.’”
Sederberg, a defender and senior captain from Andover, Minnesota, was diagnosed with hearing loss in middle school when friends began to notice that she was unable to keep up with conversations in the lunchroom. After some monitoring of her hearing, she eventually began wearing hearing aids as a high school sophomore.
Her hearing loss hasn’t affected her hockey playing too much, other than those occasions when she doesn’t realize there’s been a stoppage in play.
“I can’t hear high pitches, so I wear (hearing aids) to hear the whistle,” she said. “As you can see, I cannot hear the whistle sometimes. If you watch our games, sometimes that happens. I’ll be skating for the puck after an icing, and I’m looking to see the refs and looking to see if people are still chasing me or not.”
Once in high school, she shot a puck on goal after a whistle, which normally is a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“My coach was like, ‘No, no. She literally can’t hear the whistle,’” said Sederberg, who ended up avoiding two minutes in the penalty box. “But I shot the puck. Oops.”
An elementary education major, Sederberg doesn’t shy away from her hearing loss.
“My biggest thing is, they’re just like glasses,” she said. “Glasses help people that can’t see; hearing aids help people that can’t hear. It’s how you look at it. You can be really negative and dwell on it, like, ‘This is going to hold me back,’ but I think it’s been a really good motivation-booster, like, ‘Work harder. Work smarter. Play better.’”
She’s done those things for the Mavericks, with her ice time and responsibilities increasing each year.
After playing about half of Minnesota State’s games as a rookie, she played all but one game in both her sophomore and junior seasons. Last season, Sederberg was named an assistant captain, and this year she’s wearing the “C,” along with fellow senior Emily Antony.
“She puts the team first,” Mavericks coach John Harrington said. “She wants to make everything better for everybody — not for her, not for a few players.”
In last weekend’s season-opening series against Rensselaer in Troy, New York, Sederberg had two assists and blocked three shots as Mavericks swept the Engineers 4-0 and 3-0.
“I think I’ve definitely improved,” she said. “I’m trying to keep up with the pace, not fall. My biggest thing was falling. I was a Zamboni 2.0. I’m not even kidding. I was taking out everybody in my sight. I’ve definitely improved that way, where I’ve gotten stronger on my edges, stronger on my feet. My shot has improved immensely, getting my head up and getting the puck to the net for people to get rebounds. I know my role, I’m not going to be the one that’s going to be scoring, but if I can get the puck to the net and have my teammates score, that’s what matters.”
Sederberg has three goals and 16 assists in 85 career games, but she’s blocked 123 shots.
“You never get a poor effort from Mac,” Harrington said. “She plays hard all the time.”
The Mavericks will play their home and WCHA opener at 7:07 p.m. Friday at the Mankato Civic Center against the Gophers. The second game of the series will take place at 2:07 p.m. Saturday.
“It will be a really good challenge,” Harrington said. “Obviously, the level of play, when you get to our league, goes up exponentially. We play them five times this year, maybe more. But we had some great games with them last year, and our players are excited to play.”
The Mavericks, who lost 3-2 in overtime in the teams’ last meeting on Feb. 16, have just three wins all-time against the Gophers, the last one coming in 2007. Sederberg was 9 years old then.
“We’re going to have to play really tough, play gritty, have confidence and just play smart,” Sederberg said. “My biggest thing is you play your best when you’re having fun. So we have to go out there, have fun and play smart and play sharp.”