Lucas and Neumann enjoying fresh start in UCHC

Bek Lucas of Neumann (Neumann Athletics)
Bek Lucas of Neumann (Neumann Athletics)

It’s taken three full seasons, but Bek Lucas figures she’s finally found her comfort zone on the ice. After breaking her wrist in her freshman year, and then playing with it broken her sophomore year before having surgery and working through rehabbing it her junior year, Lucas is as healthy and ready to compete as she’s ever been.

She and her Neumann Knights are currently tied atop the new UCHC after a convincing weekend sweep of Manhattanville. The UCHC preseason poll had the Knights sixth, while many (USCHO included) picked Manhattanville as a dark-horse candidate for the top spot.

With a healthy offensive leader, however, and what Lucas says is the most team chemistry she’s ever experienced and a whole lot of confidence, though it’s obviously still early in the season, Neumann looks poised to surprise quite a few folks.

Last year, Lucas was still recovering during the off season, so this season is her first chance at doing it right. Freshman year she was a bit lost, and her sophomore and junior years were compounded by the injury and healing, but this off season she was committed to the gym. She focused on every aspect of her off-ice conditioning, and it’s put her in an amazing spot as the season gets started.

“Just being healthy — when I had my surgery, I wasn’t able to do all the workouts. This year I’ve been healthy, and I’ve been able to go 100 percent in the weight room and on the ice. I think that’s made a difference for me,” Lucas said.

In her rookie season, she was second on the team in scoring. Despite her wrist injury, she led the team in scoring her sophomore and junior seasons, and she’s building on that legacy. In just six games so far this season, Lucas has scored 10 goals and added three assists. She’s already more than halfway to her career high in goals (19) with a minimum of 16 more games to play this season. She’s third in the nation in scoring and has two game-winning goals through the first three weekends.

Lucas attributes her increased success this season to finally feeling at home on the ice.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with the team this year,” she said. “The whole team just seems to just be clicking this year. Just with our lines on the ice, we all seem to have a lot more chemistry. Things are just flowing really naturally for us. It’s going well so far. It’s a lot of fun this year.”

Mentally, the move to the UCHC has also helped Lucas and her teammates. It’s a blank slate and a chance to start over, in some ways. The brand-new conference has no history, and that means no pressure and no expectations for the Knights.

“I think (the new league) affected us positively,” she said. “It’s a fresh start. It’s a new league. It just gave us a whole new confidence that we never had before. We know that we can do well in this. This league is a lot more competitive than the past league that we played in; it’s just given us confidence.”

There’s still plenty of season to go, but on paper, Neumann looks set up to succeed. They head to Utica this weekend to face the Pioneers, who were projected to finish second in the conference. The Knights are riding a high from last weekend, and Lucas said everyone in their locker room has bought in and is believing in what they can accomplish. From there, the Knights have quite a bit of time to build momentum; they don’t have to face nationally ranked Elmira until the final regular season weekend.

Lucas said she prefers to focus in on the more immediate future — the next shift, the next practice, the next game — but that she believes in what Neumann can accomplish this season.

“I think we were all kind of surprised that we got ranked that low, and it made us just work that much harder and take everything that much more seriously,” she said. “I think it’s paying off so far. I know it’s only the first couple of games, but we all seem to be playing really well together.”

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