Most college seniors this time of year start to reflect on the four years gone by and how to finish out the season strong.
Some even look for ways to stay involved in hockey, while others are looking at potential job possibilities.
Nina Waidacher plans on doing both, though her plans will involve traveling back home.
The talented St. Scholastica forward initially came to North America four years ago when she followed her dream.
“My dream was always to come to America and play hockey over here,” Waidacher said. “My dad knows someone who went to college with my coach, Jackie McMillan, and that is how that all worked out. My older sister, Monika, was here before me and she always told me how much she loves the atmosphere here. All that made me want to come visit here in Duluth and the second I was here, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. Because the program had just started here at St. Scholastica, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to help develop the program.”
Looking at her stats the past four years, it’s clear finding her role and fitting in was never an issue. With 75 goals and 74 assists for 149 points in 86 games heading into this weekend, Waidacher certainly proved herself as an extraordinary college hockey gem.
Ask her, though, and she doesn’t even mention the staggering offensive numbers. This season, as captain of the Saints, Waidacher has registered at least one point in all but three of her 22 games.
“Being on the team for four years made me stronger as well as more self-disciplined in the game,” Waidacher said. “When I came here, I liked to be cheap toward other players and I didn’t fully understand that this isn’t helping the team. I learned to control myself in certain situations and have a team-first mentality. Also, I used to be a very offensive player and my coaches taught me to first do my job in the defensive zone before I can think about scoring goals. All these little things that I was able to learn from my teammates and coaches helped me to become a complete player on the ice.
“Without my teammates throughout my four years, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had such a great support of each one of them on and off the ice, which helped me to become a leader on the team.”
Waidacher has also made a case for star power at the Division III level by cracking the roster of the 2014 Swiss Olympic Team that won bronze in Sochi, Russia. The D-I players that play for the United States and Canada may get the lion’s share of the attention, but Waidacher has created a niche for herself in her home country.
“[The Olympics] was hands down the best time of my life,” said Waidacher. “All those feelings and emotions are something that I will never forget. Throughout the three weeks we were in Sochi, the team became a little family, which made the experience unbelievable. Even though Switzerland went into the Olympics with high expectations, we would never have expected bringing home a bronze medal. Because we believed in each other every second, we were able to get the best out of everyone and play as one team. We played with heart and wanted to represent our nation the best possible.”
She has also done taken that same attitude and work ethic with her on the ice with St. Scholastica.
“I have grown and learned so much and I don’t regret one single thing,” Waidacher said. “I am really thankful that I had such great girls around me when I first came here. They taught me a lot about the American culture and helped me to get around and meet so many great people. It took me a while to get used to such a different lifestyle, but I am more than happy I was able to get to know it as well as experience it. After these four incredible years, I am excited to go back to my home country and find something new again. I know I will miss so many things over here, especially all my friends that I have made, but I am ready for a new adventure.”
Waidacher will head home this summer to play pro hockey and keep training as a member of the Swiss National Team with an eye on the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. She will also seek out employment in the marketing and management realm, her major at CSS.
Being one of a growing number of Europeans playing women’s college hockey that has tasted success, Waidacher feels more girls should look at the NCAA option.
“I strongly believe that more European girls should take the advantage of college hockey in the U.S.,” said Waidacher. “In Europe, you don’t have the chance to practice more than once a day and get a degree at the same time. Here at a college, you are really able to focus on your sport and put all your heart in it without thinking too much about anything else. Back in Europe, girls have to be lucky to even find a time to practice beside their jobs or education. Besides that, here there are so many girls teams in all different kinds of divisions, which makes the competition level much higher.
“By having more competition, you are forced to work harder to keep up with everyone, which makes you stronger in the long run.”
Adrian goalie Jade Walsh suffered her first loss of the season last Saturday in a 4-2 loss at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She is still a staggering 17-1-4 on the year. … Elmira remained No. 1 in this week’s USCHO.com Division III Women’s Poll, garnering all 15 first-place nods from the voters. … Finlandia has scored just six goals in its last 10 games and is still winless on the year (0-19-0), but all of the Lions’ skaters have tallied at least one point. … After enjoying a seven-game win streak from Dec. 12 to Jan. 24, Franklin Pierce has lost three of its last four games.