The University of Maine women’s ice hockey season ended last week, one win shy of the team’s lofty goal — the first Hockey East tournament win in the program’s history.

The ending still stings with Waterville native Katy Massey, and not just because it was the forward’s last game in a Black Bears uniform.

But Massey is also weighing the pain of what she sees as the premature end of her hockey career against the fact that, as a walk-on four years ago, she almost didn’t have the chance to put on the uniform in the first place.

“I’m really trying to realize these four years came close to not happening,” she said.

Fresh out of Waterville Senior High School, where she was a member of the 2010 boys’ state championship team, Massey expressed interest in joining the program multiple times to then-coach Maria Lewis. But each time, Lewis, perhaps judging Massey by her 5-foot-1, 110-pound frame, made it clear the feeling wasn’t mutual.

Massey persisted and ultimately got a chance to prove how determined she was to continue her hockey career.

“I think (Lewis) got a better understanding of who I was and that I really, really had a passion to play there,” Massey said. “I just wanted to represent the state and I don’t think they’d had a player like that for a couple of years with that kind of passion.”

Over the next four years, Massey would set herself apart in other ways and become an irreplaceable player for current coach Richard Reichenbach.

“Katy graduating is an enormous loss to our program,” Reichenbach said. “I don’t think the coaching staff will ever run into a player like her again.”

Massey’s imprint on the program went far beyond the stat sheet, although there is one stat above all else that shows her level of passion for and commitment to the Black Bears.

The final game — Maine’s heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to Connecticut on Feb. 28 in the Hockey East quarterfinals — was the 132nd of her career, the most in program history. That eclipsed the mark of 131 shared by Myriam Croussette, Dawn Sullivan and Cheryl White.

Reichenbach credited Massey’s ironwoman resume to her total commitment to Maine’s offseason training program. Aside from working a part-time job, her summers were dedicated to the weight room and skill development.

“It was pretty intense,” said Massey, who missed just two practices in four years at Maine. “But I knew I wasn’t going to have this opportunity after college, so I had to make the most of it.”

Reichenbach said Massey raised the bar in her training each year because she knew it would take more than the persistence and passion that got her on the team to become a key cog at Maine.

“I think you have to be smart to know how to get better at this level,” he said, “You can’t just do it with hard work.”

Hockey East has recognized Massey’s intelligence numerous times, naming her Top Scholar Athlete three straight years. Each time, Massey, a psychology major with plans to attend graduate school, earned the honor with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Reichenbach said she will probably make it 4-for-4 when the award for 2015 is announced in June.

Massey flexed her academic muscles early, but it took a little longer for her work in the weight room to translate to the ice.

“After my first year, I learned I was definitely going to have to improve on my strength, particularly my upper-body strength,” she said.

As she got stronger, her size became less of an issue because defenders had a harder time knocking her off the puck. She also upgraded her puck-handling skills. As those improved, the game slowed down for her and she got more comfortable with being a playmaker.

She switched between wing and center her first three years before settling back to the wing for her senior year. Her speed, forechecking and defensive skills made her a mainstay on the penalty kill the last three years and one of the top defensive forwards in Hockey East.

This year, Massey had two points (both assists) on a team that scored 54 goals in 33 games. The Black Bears got off to a strong start and were in the top four in the Hockey East standings all season. They secured their first ever home playoff series at Alfond Arena and had hopes of advancing to the semifinals in Hyannis, MA for the first time in the program’s history.

“I think this was the strongest team we had, top to bottom, in my four years here,” Massey said. “The whole year, we knew what we wanted to do. A lot of us expected to go to Cape Cod and play in that tournament.”

The Black Bears fell on hard times in February, however, and dropped their last eight games, including the first two in a best-of-three quarterfinal series with Connecticut to finish 10-20-3.

It wasn’t a storybook ending, but Massey believes the program she and five other seniors leave behind will be able to accomplish more unprecedented feats in the near future.

“We learned that we can beat anybody if we show up with the right mindset,” she said. “We had a belief in ourselves and a belief in the program, which I think had been missing. I’m very proud of the team and where it’s going.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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