The Overnight

WMCH Playoffs
FSI Shark Tank
St. Louis, MO

March 6-8, 2020


Sometime around midnight, at a Love’s Travel Stop in Mooresville, Indiana, I decided to take stock of my life. There’s something about sleeping in your car that pushes you to do that I suppose, since it’s not a thing one generally does at the end of their best days. Working out some of the primary logistics (which parking spot attracts the least attention, how you’re going to lay in the car, where and how you’re going to clean up in the morning, your plan B if some try-hard manager knocks on your window at 3 a.m.) can keep your mind busy for a little bit, but once that’s done, the options are somewhat limited.

Sure, in this modern age, I have a pocket-sized computer with me at all times. I could’ve easily fired up Hulu and found limitless entertainment that way, although given a nearly-broken charger and car battery paranoia, I decided to ensure that my alarm goes off in the morning and that I don’t end up stranded at an out-of-state truck stop.

Instead, I chose to open a well-worn copy of a book, Hard Promises, a self-published compilation of essays about mid-major college basketball written by Kyle Whelliston. Whelliston was my spiritual forebear and an inspiration, spending nearly a decade fighting sanity and expense while traveling around the country and writing about teams that dwell on a different plane than the North Carolinas and Kentuckys of the world.

For a time, he had a job with ESPN, but mostly he wrote on his own website, Mid-Majority, and was underwritten by his readers. He managed to find the romanticism in the struggle of lightly-followed and lightly-funded teams that will never win a national championship, while telling the stories of those who occupy that world in a way that set him apart from standard-fare sports features.

I instinctively found one of my favorite passages:

It doesn’t get much lonelier than sitting alone in an enclosed, locked, metal container in the middle of American Nowhere. It’s a feeling that encourages a perspective of the universe as viewed from the spectral prism of one’s navel. It helps reinforce the ridiculous illusion of the Self as a singular, special, unique entity on a planet of billions, a “me” adrift amongst an invisible them.

None of the colleges I visited offered classes in Loneliness Studies, and none ever advertised a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in that or any related discipline. But there’s no understanding the power of loneliness as an unstoppable primal force. Our efforts to escape it explain just about everything we do. To stop running from loneliness is to face skull-crushing existential self-absorption, to confront the little-g god inside.

Why else would someone go on the internet and write 1800 posts and 1.5 million words about mid-major college basketball?

Nine paragraphs later, Whelliston finished that post, hit “publish,” then strapped a time bomb to his entire website, the thing that had been the center of his universe for a significant chunk of his existence. After eight years, he had been lonely enough.

In some ways, my eighth year of existence in the ACHA women’s divisions has been even more isolated than Whelliston’s was in his world. Miami RedHawks men’s basketball may not be the most popular sports team on the planet, but it’s certainly more followed than Miami RedHawks women’s hockey.

Although the travel crushed his spirit and his personal life, Whelliston did cultivate a healthy community around his work. Many of his disciples continue to use his unique lexicon and maxims across the internet, and some even participate in an annual game he invented, where players attempt to avoid learning who won the Super Bowl for as long as possible (several this year have yet to learn what’s called “The Knowledge,” and yes, it’s about as hard as it sounds, I tried one time and made it until precisely three seconds following the end of the game, when Fanatics sent me an email hawking Baltimore Ravens championship merchandise).

Me, I have players, coaches, and parents, and that’s about it. Some don’t care for me, a few say horrible things about me well out of proportion to anything I’ve ever said about them, a couple have even tried to get me in real-world trouble, and it seems like the threshold for retribution gets lower and lower all the time. Others…well, do they actually like me, or do they merely tolerate me because I occasionally tweet something nice about them or their team?

Generally, the parents are there as enforcers, the coaches either don’t take me seriously or are mad at me over some opinion I had at one time or another, and the players stay the same age while I keep getting older – I could’ve passed for a peer when I started, but now I get the full-on adult treatment of “friendly, but fundamentally separated.” A few years after anyone from those groups leaves the ACHA, they’re unlikely to even remember I exist.

If you’re looking for validation or community from anyone on any kind of broad scale, no matter how many words you put on the internet, you’re going to spiral into a self-loathing mess. Just trust me on that. You’re never going to get as many retweets or pageviews or donations as you think you deserve. Just as painfully, you’re going to have to watch others who aren’t willing to sleep in their cars en route to a game eight hours away get more attention for doing less, essentially only because they’re engaged with the “right” kinds of hockey, the men’s game or the women’s national teamers, pros, and NCAA players. By the end of the weekend, my radar will be jammed full of the NWHL and WCHA playoffs, with nothing at all about what I’m doing, besides the stuff I said myself.

Others in my life are aware of my activities, but don’t understand them, and certainly don’t consume any of my content. Every so often, someone outside of the ACHA world will ask where I’m going on a given weekend. Sometimes it’s Michigan, sometimes it’s Chicago, one time it was Colorado. This time, it’s St. Louis. “Oh, are you going to see the arch?” they might say. Somehow, when teams visit Lindenwood-Belleville or McKendree, there’s always time for the arch, or that stupid bean in Chicago, or any of about 800 things in Boston, followed by the obligatory Instagram posts from most of the roster.


But no, I’m not going to see the arch, at least not beyond the view from I-55 or the photo on the cover of the WMCH tournament program, which is probably more than I experience most of the places I visit.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to finish my drive to a flooring warehouse that happens to have an ice rink in it, then I’m going to watch three hockey games, then I’m going to find another truck stop far enough away from the city to feel safe and sleep again. Then I’m going to watch a couple more hockey games and drive home in time for work on Monday. I’ll eat, sure, but not at any of the places on a list of things you have to do in St. Louis. Most of it will be gas station food, some of it will be whatever is offered at the rink, maybe I’ll find time to make a run to Crazy Bowls and Wraps if I feel like living it up.

This is a club hockey trip, and I am a person of club hockey means. And right now, I’m alone with my worst thoughts at the Chrysler Inn, looking at the universe through the spectral prism of my navel.

The 500 ASMR videos that are uploaded to YouTube every day aren’t nearly enough for the situation at hand, which includes firing up the car every so often to fight temperatures dipping below 30 degrees, but things still look a little better in daylight, on the other side of a groggy half-sleep.

Almost immediately, a pull I’ve felt a thousand times but still can’t quite explain takes over. It’s 7:00 in Indiana, there’s a hockey game at 12:15 in St. Louis, and I need to get there. To be clear, I’m not entirely sure why I need to get there. It’s a consolation match where I have no role whatsoever, other than as a spectator – I haven’t even promised anyone that I was going to be there or write about it. But I need to get there, that much isn’t negotiable.

I suppose when you really dive into it, that’s the part that makes me unusual, since I don’t occupy a world that has fans. Everyone at a women’s ACHA game is a family member or a significant other or a close friend, and I’m the socially-awkward loner guy who shows up, watches the game, tweets about it, maybe does a couple interviews or casually chats with a couple people, then heads home.

If I had decided to pour my entire capability into attending every home, away, and bowl game played by a college football team instead while obsessing over the latest top ten given by some high school kid, I’d be celebrated as a hardcore fan. But here, I’m weird. As far as I’m aware, I’ve never actually given anyone legitimate cause to think I’m weird, save for the fact that my existence is inherently so, and people can often extrapolate. But the burden to prove a negative is on me.

Or I could just disappear. But at the same time, I’m honestly not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. Cranking out a daughter, with a mother to be named later, and waiting a few years to become a hockey dad seems like a pretty steep admission price just to go to an amateur girls or women’s game without putting anyone off.

I could find a less unusual hobby to chew up my disposable time and income, I guess. Would it somehow be more acceptable to play golf all the time? What about going to bars and finding the meaning of our collective existence at the bottom of a Jack and Coke? Crossword puzzles? Mountain climbing? Antiquing? I could probably stay home on the weekends and watch NHL games on TV, and maybe even write about them. Or, as mentioned, there are always the 18-22 year olds in a more popular college sport with more socially-accepted fandoms.

But, for whatever reason, women’s ACHA hockey – and, perhaps just as importantly, going to see it in person – is what sets my soul on fire. Through some impossible-to-articulate confluence of my past, my present, and my psychology, it feels like what I was meant to do at this moment in time. It doesn’t make a ton of sense in any objective way (and sorting through the different ways people tell me as much does get tiring) but if I possessed a complete understanding of the human brain, I’d probably be able to afford a hotel room.

I see a sign for some nothing town in a southern Illinois corridor full of them named St. Elmo, and get the itch to listen to St. Elmo’s Fire, the song from the classic Brat Pack film of the same name.

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where the future’s lying St. Elmo’s fire

That enclosed, locked, metal container in the middle of American Nowhere can be a prison. Or you can roll down the windows, belt out some cheesy synth pop at the top of your lungs, remember that you’re on your own schedule, doing what you love, and traveling to watch the greatest activity our species has invented to this point, and I promise that you’ll never feel freer or more alive.

Ultimately, someday, I’m going to lose all of those battles, because each of us does, whether upon death or through a gradual chipping of the veneer of first-world liberty. Maybe I’ll get laid off and run out of money. Maybe my next girlfriend will, in fact, force to me to go antiquing on weekends (the early Bumble conversations with 30-somethings that start with big travel plans and quickly move on to jobs and excruciating adult minutiae aren’t promising on that front), or maybe we’ll pop out that hockey kid. Maybe I’ll be blindsided by something else.

But on this day, at this moment, in St. Elmo, Illinois, the choice is completely and undeniably mine. I choose life. I choose to chase that little spark of madness from the Robin Williams meme everyone shared on his passing, only to sneer at those who actually heed the advice.


After the self-doubt, regret, and St. Elmo moments of clarity, someone will always make you glad you showed up. The redemption is not always some grand gesture, it usually isn’t in fact, but any reminder that some people see and appreciate the effort, time, and expense it takes to follow a brand of hockey that often can’t be followed without actually attending the games tends to be enough in most cases.

This time, McKendree assistant coach Nina Elia, star Midland defenseman Ally Conybear, and Minot State captain Sami Jo Henry gave me what I needed to see the value in the overnight. On other occasions, it’s been things like Michigan-Dearborn announcing my presence over the public address, several Robert Morris players wanting to pose for a photo at the end of a particularly tough week, or Lindenwood-Belleville’s Kate Tihema giving me a crumpled Australian national team hat that was undoubtedly stuffed in the bottom of her hockey bag for a while.

At the rink – any rink, really – the bad stuff almost always washes off, which is good, because shower wipes have limits. And despite what some may say, including myself at times, I have made friends simply from attempting to run my best race until the wheels come off. It’s certainly not everyone, but it is someone.

Oh yeah, and there’s the hockey too.

Many times, you know exactly what you’re going to get on the other end of a drive. But the thing is, a certain number of 9-1 quackers can be tolerable, because sometimes hockey can defy every one of your expectations and deliver something magical. A winless Concordia squad can play the best game in program history. Davenport goalie Julia Gaynor can score twice. Underdog Mercyhurst can win a conference title in triple overtime, two overtimes after the ten-player roster looked barely able to stand on their skates.

Then there are the ones where every shift matters, and just watching it can wear you out because of the intense focus needed to ensure that you absorb as much of it as possible and don’t miss That Moment. Every WMCH playoff game was solid as a baseline, appropriately enough as the league’s membership is six very good teams, but two contests stood out: Minot State’s 1-0 semifinal win over host Lindenwood-Belleville, and Liberty’s 2-1 defeat of the Beavers in the next day’s championship match.

Each of those, between two of the top three teams in the rankings, displayed the best hockey the ACHA has to offer, and were quite possibly the first two games I’d offer up if trying to sell someone on the product. They were absolutely riveting if you appreciate this sport even a little, from Minot freshman Jordan Ivanco shutting out a powerful Lynx team, to Beavers linemates Henry and Mackenzie Balogh combining on a pair of sublime goals, to Liberty’s Alex Smibert breaking loose down left wing off of an offsides draw and firing home a title winner with 17 seconds remaining.

And sure, the Flames won the inaugural WMCH trophy, but there’s no reason to expect anything less than another round when all three of those teams head to Dallas in a couple weeks as leading national championship contenders.

It may be a mostly-solitary life, but there’s plenty of living to do.

Senior Day

Midland at Lindenwood-Belleville
FSI Shark Tank
St. Louis, MO

January 25, 2020

Photo: David W. Preston

“We do not record flowers,” said the geographer.

“Why is that? The flower is the most beautiful thing on my planet!”

“We do not record them,” said the geographer, “because they are ephemeral.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Le Petit Prince

Abby Flaherty stood in a doorway at one end of the ice surface waiting for her name to be called, for Lindenwood-Belleville’s senior ceremony to begin, and reflected on her career and the classmates in line to follow her.

“Honestly, it has been an honor,” she said. We came in as a class of 12, and we ended up with five, and for me, it’s the best four girls I could’ve ended with. That’s something that I will always greatly appreciate.”

While LUB assistant sports information director Johnny Lange read Flaherty’s essentials over the public address – number five; Orland Park, Illinois; BS in athletic training – she skated over to the Lynx bench to meet her parents and a bouquet, posed for a picture, headed over near the penalty boxes and head coach Andrew Miller, posed for another picture, accepted a three-ring binder filled with photos and memories offered by her teammates, then finally moved on to the blue line.

Jamie Riselay, an Ontario native and half of one of the ACHA’s best defense pairings, went next, tracing Flaherty’s path and ending up next to her. Then came a couple of IIHF veterans in speedy Alicia Williams, a member of the 2019 US National University Team, and Kate Tihema, who competes for the national team of her native Australia.

And that’s Senior Day. Every year, before one of their final home events of the season, thousands of college sports teams present their outgoing classes, which stand on the precipice of the real world, ready to go pro in something other than sports, as that old NCAA commercial said (save for Flaherty and her fellow athletic training majors, along with the budding coaches, I suppose). The specifics can vary a little from school to school and from sport to sport, but the broad strokes are pretty much universal: families, flowers, the celebration of a race well run, and a look ahead to the future. And, universe willing, a win.

As Winnipeg-native creative writing student Nikki Lillies and a bunch of group photos wrapped up the parade, I couldn’t help thinking that there were 34 players missing from the tribute, the number who wore the Lynx jersey prior to the 28 on the current roster.

Or, more to the point, the only others who ever will get to wear that particular breed of maroon and black wildcat, once Lindenwood completes a restructuring of its system that will end undergraduate degree programs and athletics at its Belleville, Illinois location after the 2019-20 academic year. In some sense, it’s their Senior Day too.

To fully understand the dynamics in play at Lindenwood, it’s important to understand a few things about the Belleville campus. The first, I suppose, is that it actually is a campus, despite its 2003 beginnings in the former location of Belleville West High School. The 1920s vintage – and gorgeous – high school building is its centerpiece, sure, but over the past couple decades it has grown into something greater. There are new-ish dorm buildings and a student center, there’s a complement of athletic facilities including a football field with maroon-and-gray-striped turf that’s either fun or tacky depending on taste, and there are attractive outdoor spaces that include several art installations. It’s a small campus, but a very nice one, and part of the agony of the situation is that it probably won’t be fully utilized after this year. Or seen in daylight for that matter, should the place be limited to night classes.


LUB isn’t what many would consider a typical satellite, in that it stands apart from the better-known location in St. Charles, Missouri both physically (it is, technically, in a different state after all) and culturally. A student-athlete at, say, Michigan-Dearborn might be able to play a hockey game against the flagship campus in Ann Arbor, then show up at the Big House the next day to root for its football team, but it doesn’t really work like that at Lindenwood. Belleville is its own ecosystem; it has its own logo, colors, and nickname, and even gained its own accreditation in 2011. On the best days, Belleville looked across the Mississippi River with a grudging tolerance of its sister. On other days, particularly the more recent ones, the blood has run a little hotter.

“At least in my experience, St. Charles and I were irrelevant to each other,” former Lynx forward Maddy Millar, a 2018 graduate, said. “Belleville was very much its own community and offered very different experiences in student life and athletics from St. Charles. However, big picture, Belleville and St. Charles were more connected than people could see from the outside, if that makes sense. As a student, the only way Belleville was connected to St. Charles was on paper.”

Nevertheless, despite the points of separation and as Millar observed, most administrative decisions continued to be made in St. Charles, and when Belleville’s fate was announced last May, strategically timed at the end of the year to minimize backlash, it was a metaphorical neutron bomb for its 2,000 students. The immediate fallout included the men’s hockey team, which had a mostly-successful five-season run but was seen as redundant with the ACHA offerings in St. Charles, as the Lions have men’s teams in Divisions 1 and 2. Most Lynx squads, including women’s hockey, were given a stay through 2019-20, leaving one last season to play against the future, against endings and those who declare them, and maybe even against time itself.

It’s hard to read a Senior Day game sometimes. Sure, there’s plenty of emotion since teams want to send their soon-to-be-graduates out on a high note, particularly in this case. But there’s also a lot of standing around in full uniform, and it can often be hard to recapture the tempo of pulsating dryland music with that much downtime, resulting in an intensity level approximating that of the NHL’s All-Star Game happening simultaneously in downtown St. Louis. So when Midland came out and earned the better of the play for most of the first period, helped by a couple power plays, it was a little concerning, but not entirely shocking.

That all ended when the Lynx got their own shot on the advantage late in the frame, and Jess Walker made a nice play to keep the puck in at the right point. Two cross-ice passes later, Mackenzie Drost converted to give the hosts the lead and lift the burden of expectation. Early in the second period, immediately following LUB’s successful kill of a Rayel Strayer cross checking call, Michaela Read astutely heaved the puck up ice for Kennedy Frank. Frank, who had just stepped on in place of Strayer, was nevertheless well behind the Warriors’ defense and calmly deposited the resulting breakaway.

If you’re keeping track for some reason, the Lynx were 3-for-3 on the penalty kill at that point (while scoring directly because of the most recent effort) and had hit on their only power play – a quintessential instance of a contest pivoting on special teams.

“I think the energy picked up as the game went on and they started pressing,” Williams said. “We kind of got our stuff together and collectively came together as a group to push on for the seniors, and everyone just kind of came together as a family.”

Things seemed kind of academic from there. Second-ranked LUB was unharmed by Midland’s best punch, then had done damage in retaliation, a formula that almost never ends well for the underdog. While a robust crowd dominated by the school’s rugby and softball teams mercilessly heckled the Warriors (particularly defender Ally Conybear), their friends on the ice piled on in their own way. Later in the second period, Read walked Sydney Spicer’s offensive faceoff win to the slot off of the right wall and fired through. Megan Norris and Dakota McAlpine added goals in the third period to round out a 5-0 victory that might look a little better on a gamesheet than it did as it played out.

The idea that a 5-0 win over a top-ten opponent could be considered kind of rough around the edges might owe its existence to the pressures of the situation. But mostly, it’s is a testament to the type of program Lindenwood-Belleville has built in a very short time.

LUB began play in 2014-15, clocking a decent-enough first season, one punctuated by a stunning 2-1 upset of eventual national champion Liberty on January 30, 2015. New Zealand national team netminder Firth Bidois denied all 53 Flames shots she saw over the final two periods, while the Lynx literally only managed one attempt on the opposite goal during those 40 minutes: Jaylene Anderson’s winning goal with 5:44 remaining. Things really began to fall into place the following year though, when a ridiculously good bit of timing and sheer luck resulted in legendary ACHA player Kat Hannah – who has her number six retired by the now-NCAA team over in St. Charles – returning to her alma mater’s system as head coach.

“My really good friend CJ randomly sent me the link like ‘oh, your old job is hiring,’” Hannah explained. “[At that point], I owned a house, and I was raising a kid in a relationship for a really long time, and it wasn’t going well. And I applied for the job, took charge of my life I guess, I was shocked that they called me back, and they wanted me to come, like, right away. So I packed up my 4Runner, and out to Belleville, Illinois I went.”

“I was living on the east coast, I literally drove into Belleville, Illinois, pulled into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and started to cry because I wasn’t sure that I made the right decision. But it was absolutely the right decision, and I will not regret anything that I did, it was one of the best things that I’ve ever done in my entire life.”


Hannah, who didn’t have any coaching experience prior to the LUB job, largely had to feel her way through the early stages of the very large task at hand. She inherited a good talent base including Bidois, perpetual linemates Millar and Blake Fuller, sniper Ashley Dietmeier, NCAA Division III transfer Hayley Winker, and six-foot Alaskan Alahna Stivers, but needed to quickly add to it while also establishing the team’s identity and culture. Part of the latter goal was accomplished by setting up a permanent home base in the FSI Shark Tank (after splitting time between rinks early on), a quirky facility 30 miles from campus, one quite literally plopped in some extra warehouse space not needed by the neighboring flooring company.

“I am absolutely frigging nuts when it comes to recruiting and competitiveness and culture and travel and experience and all of those things, and I believe that we all have all of those things. When I first took the job, I didn’t have a damn idea of what I was doing,” Hannah said. “I reached out to every resource I know. I followed up on everything. There wasn’t a single email where a kid reached out to me that I did not respond to.”

That zest for finding players from any corner of the globe led to the early Lynx teams uniquely featuring not only Americans and Canadians, but also three southern hemisphere national teamers in New Zealand’s Bidois, along with Australia’s Tihema and Michelle Coonan. But that United Nations approach was only part of the program’s identity.

“We get what we tolerate,” Hannah added. “Hockey is a place that’s supposed to be safe and fun and supportive and challenging and sometimes hard and sometimes beautiful and all of these things, and I talk to the girls about that. And we challenge each other, we hold each other accountable, and I let them be a part of designing what they want to see in a team.”

“I want the type of girl where, if you throw your garbage in the can and you miss it, that you’re not the type of person to say ‘ah, screw it’ and just leave it there. You’re the type of person where it’s going to bother you if you don’t go back and pick it up. Culture really just is about holding each other accountable, knowing what your direction is, then fighting for that direction and doing it together, that’s the bottom line, and that’s what we did.”

Almost immediately, that process started to produce rewards. Those included a series at perennial contender Miami during Hannah’s first season – a blowout loss followed by some overnight coaching and a one-goal loss – that she cited as a moment of clarity for seeing the program’s potential, along with the types of athletes and families who started to become interested in what LUB had to offer. More tangibly, 2015-16 represented a breakthrough season for the Lynx, ending with a WWCHL title game victory over Colorado and a first-ever trip to the ACHA National Tournament, the latter championship run including narrow defeats to Liberty and eventual runner-up Grand Valley State.

“I’ll speak for myself on this but I’m pretty confident I can speak for the whole team when I say Kat Hannah was the reason [for the team’s steady improvement],” Millar said. “I remember the very first practice she came to everyone, without hesitation or question, just responded to her and she brought out this fire in us that none of us knew we had. She made us fall more in love with the game and gave us a real reason to compete and prove ourselves and our little school that wasn’t on the map.”

“Hockey has always been my passion but she found a way to make it everyone’s favorite thing to do and made us crave it when we had a few days off. From then on, our culture became extremely strong, unique and tight knit. We all played for each other. That year is when we all truly became family, and since then we all kept growing stronger, with the odd bump in the road.”

As the squad’s ranking continued to increase over the next couple seasons, from 16 to 6, then to 5, then to 4, so did its expectations. However, the next two trips to nationals both resulted in quarterfinal exits – the first, against UMass, coming in spite of starting with a 1-0 best-of three series lead after the Minutemen missed the opening contest due to a snowstorm, although 2018’s defeat to Miami was arguably a more bitter pill to swallow for a senior-heavy team that saw itself as championship-ready.

A refreshed roster, by then featuring Williams and Marissa Delry down the middle, Lindsay Gillis on defense, and Hannah Stone in net, along with an upgraded schedule, finally crashed through the first-round barrier after a 19-4-3 regular season in 2018-19, holding off GVSU’s upset bid on Dietmeier’s game three overtime goal, then taking down a strong Adrian team in the semifinals. While things wound up one win short after a defeat to Liberty in the final, there was no reason to think that the Lynx weren’t on the cusp of cashing in a title within the next few seasons. Or titles.

Then…disaster, playing out over a hectic 48-hour period eight months ago and producing the sort of jolting breaking news not often seen in the ACHA, at least not in real time. The team in its current form: gone. The school itself: gone. Hannah: also gone, after making a principled stand trying to protect the program and its student-athletes, a decision she describes as “forever leaving a hole in [her] heart.”

Six years. It’s about half of the time it takes to become a doctor. A few types of insects have longer lifespans. In relevant terms, Dietmeier played out her full eligibility in Belleville and was a part of the roster for every Lynx season until this one.

Six years is not much time.


To be sure, LUB isn’t the first ACHA program with a mere blip of an existence, nor will it be the last. Plenty of teams start up with the best of intentions, then fizzle out after a couple seasons when they can’t drum up enough interest to keep going, to cite one common scenario. But the Lynx may be the most tragic of the group, thanks to their success level with a consistent, upward trajectory, only to be abruptly cut off by outside forces – they didn’t fail, they were failed – just as they approached the pinnacle. That, of course, leaves only this season to win the biggest trophy before the transition to St. Charles throws everything into a pool of uncertainty.

“We gotta leave it all out on the ice,” Flaherty said. “It’s our last year, and you know, we have the saying ‘#lastlynx,’ I think that’s something that we really need to live by, and just keep it going, make our impact.”

It also creates a little bit of a special feeling in those lucky few who were able to wear the Lynx colors while helping to build what they represent, along with that urgency to leave things on the proper terms, to get that metaphorical Senior Day win for all who have been a part of the program before everyone, and everything, moves on to somewhere else.

“It’s honestly one of those feelings you can’t describe, because part of it is so special and part of it is so disappointing,” Millar said. “It’s really cool to be able to say that I played for a college hockey team for pretty much its entire existence, that’s for sure.”

“On the other end, I wish it would have continued and given more girls the amazing opportunity I got by going there and being a Lynx. It was remarkable, challenging and life changing. It’s too bad that legacy couldn’t live on and I won’t be able to watch the program grow even more than it already has in such a short time.”

“It’s really awesome, and really special,” Hannah said. “I hold the Lynx gear very close to my heart because of that, because it’s like special stuff. There are only certain people that it will have ever really existed to. I tell the girls that. It’s [also] nice to continue and watch the girls grow into adults and take on the world and be successful. And you want to visit and talk, and follow up, and travel, and be curious and share things. That’s what it’s all about man, I’ve been humbled in that.”

“It’s great to have been a part of a group where we’ve shaped our own culture,” Williams added. “We’ve made what we have here with our past coach, and now the older girls have taken the initiative, and we’ve kind of taken the reins, and guided our freshmen, and helped everybody.”

“This is the first year we’ve collectively come together as a group without having Kat here, without having [former assistant coach Kaitlyn Johnson] here, we’re kind of like ‘this is our ship, and we’re in control of where we’re going with it.’”

While the Lynx have occasionally seemed a bit off center this season, understandably so given the upheaval, most of the time they’ve had the look of a team that is fully capable of realizing their very-openly-stated goal at the end of the year, including winning two of three meetings with Liberty, along with an early sweep of the ACHA’s other 2019-20 top-three regular, Minot State.

As Jake Taylor told his teammates in Major League after finding out that his fictional version of the Cleveland Indians was doomed, there’s only one thing left to do.

And if they pull that thing off?

“That would be amazing,” Williams admitted. “Obviously that is the end goal, and that is something that I know is in everybody’s heads, not just mine, not just in the seniors, not just in the juniors, it’s in the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, like… we want to show up next year at Lindenwood St. Charles with a ring on our new ice, being honored at the Centene [Community Ice Center] in front of the NCAA program. We want to show them why we deserve to have a program.”

“I think it would kind of be like a good ‘hey, take us seriously,’” Flaherty said. “Because it’s like, you know, we have St. Charles, and it feels like they kind of look down on us. And we have these teams that are like ‘oh your school’s closing.’”

“And yeah, our school’s closing, but we still got a ring.”