Returning Olympian Schaus leads Boston College

Boston College goaltender Molly Schaus hunches over slightly as she stares down the forward skating towards her. She watches as the play develops, shifting in front of the net as she responds to the moves around her. Northeastern’s Kristi Kehoe finally took a shot; Schaus’s save looked as effortless as stretching her arm out to the right.

Most of her saves look effortless, probably because she is confident her ability to make them. A year playing with the Olympic team can have that effect on a player. Practicing with the best women in the country and playing the best women in the world can only improve one’s skills and confidence, and it definitely did both for Schaus.

“You learn a lot of things playing with the best 20 women in the world every day,” said Schaus. “It definitely made me quicker, made me learn to read plays a little bit quicker, stay on my feet a bit more. Coming back here, it’s made me more confident and helped me be able to read and react a little bit quicker than when I left.”

Schaus’s confidence is well deserved. In her first three years at BC, she averaged a .931 save percentage and received numerous player/defensive player of the week awards. This season, Schaus has been named player of the week once and has a .938 save percentage. In addition to her success in Hockey East, Schaus was selected to represent her country in multiple tournaments, including the Four Nations Cup and the IIHF Women’s World Championships.

These factors combined attracted the attention of the Olympic Selection Committee, and Schaus was invited to try out. A few months later, Schaus was in Minnesota, along with BC teammate Kelli Stack, training for the 2010 Winter Olympics. February 14, 2010 Schaus played in her first Olympic game against China. She recorded a 1.000 save percentage with five saves.

“It really was a dream come true,” said Schaus. “It’s all kind of a blur, and sometimes I have to remind myself that it really happened. It was easily the three best weeks of my life being up there and meeting all the new people and just experiencing the Olympics.”

Upon returning to BC, Schaus was named team captain along with Olympic teammate Stack and fellow senior Katelyn Kurth. Transitioning back to college hockey took some time for Schaus and Stack. On top of having become accustomed to a faster-paced game, they were returning to a different team than the one they left.

Schaus, who lives in Natick, Mass., spent time at BC during the spring and took summer classes, which allowed her to start to get to know some of the new teammates. Even so, “It’s a different generation of BC hockey; it was something to get used to and learn the new dynamics of the team,” said Schaus. “At first, it was interesting getting to know my role again, but it’s been a fun year.”

It did not take long for Schaus to find her role as captain. Head coach Katie King described her as quiet, saying that she leads mainly by example.

“She goes into the weight room and works extremely hard and when she’s on the ice, she works extremely hard to get better and help her teammates get better,” said King. “She really tries to keep everyone focused because she’s so focused.”

Stack had similar sentiments, but Blake Bolden, a sophomore defenseman, saw a different side of Schaus.

“Usually at intermission, she has something to say, because she sees everything that we don’t see,” said Bolden. “She usually tells us what were doing wrong, what we could do better, or what we’re doing well, depending on the game.”

Even when she gives criticism, it is from a positive outlook. Rather than yell at her teammates that they need to pick it up, she reminds them what they are all capable of.

Schaus might not even realize herself that she plays that role. As she reclines in the plastic chair, very relaxed, Schaus says she likes to sit back and watch her teammates play. She only speaks up if she sees something drastic or notices a tendency in the goalie.

The Eagles rely on Schaus mostly for her solid play in the goal. Knowing that she is behind them is a relief for the team.

“Having Molly in the net, everybody has a weight lifted off their shoulder,” said Bolden. “If I make a mistake, I know that Molly is back there to stop everything coming at her. A goalie that you have 128 percent confidence in is a very good thing to have.”

Even in goal, which some say is the hardest position in hockey, Schaus is calm and composed. As the goalie, the captain, and one of the team’s resident Olympians, some pressure is inevitable, but no one watching Schaus would know it.

“Watching Molly, it looks so easy,” said Bolden. The defenseman brags about Schaus’s flashier saves. “There was this one save against Providence, the girl had the whole net open and Molly just sticks out her leg. I think her leg grew and she just saved it. We all thought she was going to score, but just kidding, we have Molly.”

It should not be surprising that Schaus is comfortable on the ice and in the goal. She was born in Minnesota, the hockey heartland, where she learned to skate on the pond near her house at the same time she learned to walk. For years, she played pond and street hockey with her brothers and friends. She then lived in the Chicago area, another hockey hub, for seven years before moving out to the Northeast.

Schaus has thus lived, and played, in the main hockey regions of the country, and can be comfortable in any of them. She started playing organized hockey as a third grader. A couple years later, USA won the gold medal in the 1998 Olympics, led by Cammie Granato, who lived one town over from Schaus.

“I got a chance to meet Cammie, talk with her, and wear the medal when I was 10 years old, and that planted that seed in the brain that it might not be as popular, but there are definitely a lot of places you can go,” said Schaus. “So ever since I was ten, going to the Olympics has been my main goal in hockey.”

One Olympic appearance and a silver medal is not enough for Schaus, who plans to continue training for the 2014 Olympics. Before that, she wants another Beanpot title and a chance at BC’s first national title.

That chance means a lot to Schaus, who has helped build the program from one struggling to make the Hockey East tournament to a consistent team in the top 10.

Currently, the team is ranked No. 7. Many of the players credit the two “grandmothers,” Stack scoring on one end of the rink and Schaus in goal on the other.