Beating her doubts; HC's Hochkins ending historic career.
WORCESTER - Even in her wildest dreams, Stacey Hochkins never thought when she arrived at Holy Cross four years ago that she would accomplish anything close to what she has. And when her playing days for the Crusaders end sometime this weekend, she will be HC's all-time leader in all six major offensive categories.
Heading into today's first-round game of the ECAC Open against St. Michael's in Manchester, N.H., Hochkins has collected 101 goals and 85 assists for 186 points, 18 game-winning goals, 22 power-play goals and 15 short-handed goals.
"I never ever thought any of this would happen," Hochkins said. "I was hoping to play Division 1, and when I didn't get any interest, I was depressed. I doubted my abilities a bit and wasn't expecting much of myself when I got (to Holy Cross).
"Coach (Peter Van Buskirk) kept telling me I was going to be on his top two lines and be an impact player, and I never saw that coming."
Van Buskirk proved prophetic. Hochkins took the ECAC East by storm, scoring three goals and three assists in her first game and never looking back, earning All-ECAC and team MVP honors while setting the school's single-season record for assists (22).
Since then, she has broken her own record for assists and the school record for single-season points (28 and 53, respectively, in 2010-11) and has twice tied Kolt Bloxson in single-season goals with 26. Should Hochkins score this weekend, she will own the goals record as well.
"Stacey is probably the most dynamic and productive offensive player I have ever coached at any level - and that includes some great hockey players," Van Buskirk said. "She was an impact player from Day One and only got better. To look at everything she has accomplished as a player is incredible. I knew she would be a tremendous player for us, but she has surpassed every expectation. How could anyone have expected this from anyone?"
Vermont women's coach Tim Bothwell had an inkling of how good Hochkins could be for Holy Cross. After talking to her about the possibility of coming to UVM but not thinking it would be a good fit, he suggested that Van Buskirk look at Hochkins, who is from New Boston, Mich., and who had led AAA travel team Honeybaked to the 2007 Michigan state championship.
"I am not sure I would have found Holy Cross if he had not done that," Hochkins said. "I was looking to play hockey at the collegiate level and was not getting any interest from the Division 1 schools, and there is not much for Division 2 or 3 in Michigan. I was lucky to find Holy Cross."
Despite all her success, Hochkins was not all that comfortable talking about herself. She credited the hard work of her teammates, particularly three-year linemate Jocelyn Kratchmer and this year's linemates Caroline English and freshman Nicole Giannino, as well as the coaching staff and the strength and conditioning staff.
"There are so many great people I have met here who have helped me and made me a better person and hockey player," she said. "That is what I will remember from my experiences here - the relationships I formed with people. The scoring, the wins, and the championships are all great, but it is everything else - the off-ice sessions, the team bonding, the work off the ice - that leads to that. The people I did those things with mean so much to me."
Though her Holy Cross career will end this weekend - hopefully with a fourth straight ECAC Open championship - it will not mark the end of her playing days. Hochkins said she is hoping to join former teammate Kratchmer in Europe next year.
Kratchmer is playing in the Czech Republic, and though Hochkins would like to join her, she said Austria and Germany are also possible landing points.
"All my friends are talking about getting jobs after graduation, and I am talking about going to Europe to play hockey," Hochkins said. "I would love to keep playing hockey, and it would be the experience of a lifetime."
The Crusaders (18-3-3) play at 1 p.m. today at St. Anselm in Manchester. A victory over St. Michael's would put them in the championship game against second-seeded St. A's or third-seeded Sacred Heart.
Holy Cross is 5-1 against the three other schools in the tournament, with the only loss coming at St. Anselm (6-0) on Feb. 3. HC beat St. Anselm's, 3-2, at the Hart Center and has two wins over both St. Michael's (8-0, 4-0) and Sacred Heart (8-2, 8-0).
PHOTOG: PETER COOKE
CUTLINE: Stacey Hochkins is nearing the end of a stellar career for Holy Cross hockey.