Isabel Menard has a knack for boiling hockey down to its basics, just as she has a nose for the net. Both involve the simplest route: straight to the heart, and pity the poor defenseman who gets in her way.
While the sophomore sniper from Syracuse has talent to burn, it’s her motor that makes her such an explosive performer.
“I’m doing this because I like it,” said Menard, as she and rest of the Orange prepared to head out for a two-game set at Niagara. “It’s going to be challenging. But a hockey player has to be committed like that. If you’re really passionate, you’re going to do anything and everything to be better. Balancing school and hockey can be pretty tough sometimes. But you’ve got to manage your time.”
Somehow, the Ottawa native majoring in inclusive education manages to get it all done. She burst onto the scene as a freshman, racking up 15 goals and setting up 22 others, and earned the CHA’s Rookie of the Year honors.
Nice, she said, but not nice enough for her.
“I always want to improve,” Menard said. “Nothing’s enough for me. I changed the way I trained this summer. Getting on the ice two or three times a week. To help with balance, agility, and quickness. And eating well. You should have a great year, and hopefully it continues.”
Oh, it has all right. Menard is on pace to blow past last year’s totals, while helping the Orange stay competitive in the CHA, even with national power Mercyhurst blocking the way at the top of the league standings.
“I really want to make sure I do something every shift that will help my team,” she said. “That’s a big key for me. If you think too much, you get mixed up, and that gets you off your game. Just keep it simple and set some goals.”
One item on her list was to log some time in international competition.
She accomplished that in fine style, helping Canada’s National U-22 team capture the MLP Cup in Switzerland earlier this month.
Menard scored twice in the gold medal game against Sweden to give Canada its second consecutive title.
“It was a great experience for me”, she said. “I really liked it. The competition wasn’t that great. But I think my team had a great bond.”
Having stowed the gold into her carry-on bag, Menard hustled back to help her “other team” sweep Robert Morris in two games last weekend.
If she was feeling any jet lag, she didn’t show it, as Menard set up a goal in the first game, then scored twice (Nos. 12 and 13) in the second.
“The first game was a bit difficult,” she said. “But I adjusted pretty well, and helped my team as best as I could. Either on the score sheet or making plays.”
She can do both and won’t let anyone (or anything) stand in her way. She’s already proven that.
“To be a hockey player,” she said, “you have to have those characteristics. You have to be driven.”
NOTES: Menard credits her family, including twin sister (and Syracuse teammate) Talia, for stoking her puck passions.
“Since I was young,” she said, “I’ve always loved playing hockey. It means getting on the ice and getting better every day. I’ve always thought like that and have always been driven like that. My family is a big hockey family, so that helps.”
Menard said that she and Talia, who occupies a grinder’s role in the Orange forward corps, have always had a way of motivating each other.
“We have different personalities,” Isabel said. “We help each other out a lot. In school and on the ice. We really push each other. It’s not really a competition, because we’re two different style of players. Having her there is kind of special.”