Stepping into her junior year, Annie Katonka is expecting to work her way up consistently with the team and win the national championship again.
Katonka was recruited by head women’s ice hockey coach Kevin Houle and said she enjoyed the experience on the team. She said the SUNY Plattsburgh hockey program is stellar and has a good reputation throughout the hockey community.
The team and the coaches were a perfect fit for her. She said the team always stayed together even when it is not hockey season. Katonka also said the Cards always train together, which helped build team chemistry and push each other.
“I live with 10 of my teammates, and we are all like best friends,” Katonka said. “We’re pretty much like sisters; we live together, do everything together. It’s a lot of fun.”
Houle said Katonka is one of the top players on the team. She led the country in goal scored with 31, and said she is always committed to the games and trains hard, giving her all.
“She has great size, strength, and great shots, soft hands,” Houle said. “She combines a lot of different skills to really be a handful to the opposing team to play against.”
Houle said she is an impact player for the team, took a big jump from her freshman year and made a name for herself last year as a sophomore being selected to the All-USCHO First Team.
Houle is expecting Katonka to continue on her success from last year and also step up in her leadership role in the team. He also said Katonka is a self-starter, self-motivator and personable person. She always follows the guidance on and off the ice rink and does it with a smile.
The Cards started their training on ice Tuesday, Katonka said they were working on ice conditioning and getting in shape. She said next week will hold more excitement as it will be the start of game weeks.
“It is just the start of the season but there’s always high expectations. We’d like to win no matter what, no matter who we’re playing,” Katonka said. “Give it your all, work hard and the result will come.”
She also said everyone on the team is competitive and one of the things that the team likes to say is “we don’t lose”. Having that spirit in the team helps the team dynamic
Katonka said the team welcomed the new assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Julie Duquette. Duquette was a four-time national champion for the Cardinals as an undergraduate student-athlete and Katonka said she fit right in with the team and is clear about her job.
Katonka said Houle always expects high standards not only from individuals but the program. Houle does not want to put too much pressure on the Cards but with the strong performance last year, he expects Katonka to have a good start off for this semester.
“It sounds so cliche, but every shift, every time you get on the ice, work hard [and] play for the people next to you,” Katonka said was the best advice from Houle. “It’s a good thing for life to give it your all.”
Katonka also said she has grown a lot as a hockey player as well as a person since joining the team. She said Houle is very knowledgeable about the game and everything related to ice hockey. She also said Houle always tells the team to play system, fundamental, smart and hard.
“I learned more in hockey in my three years here than I did in my entire life of hockey,” Katonka said.
Before coming into college, Katonka used to play softball and run cross country in her high school. However, coming into SUNY Plattsburgh, she decided to concentrate on just ice hockey.
“Although it will be fun to join [softball and cross country], I just don’t think I could swing both of them,” Katonka said.
Even though she is not joining any other sports, she still trains consistently throughout hockey’s offseason. Being a student-athlete is a non-stop grind for Katonka. However, even when she is tired, she is always excited to go into the ice rink.
Katonka expects herself to continue winning games as a team and have fun with hockey.
“It is a grind, so you want to make sure each day is fun,” Katonka said.
She would love to keep playing ice hockey as long as she could or become a coach in her local town. After college, Katonka might move back home or travel but she said she will always miss the ice hockey team when it is over.
“Don’t forget what got you here. [It’s] hard work and perseverance,” Houle said to Katonka. “She should be well on our way to another good year.”