Last week, the women’s hockey team took the ice versus the Cortland Red Dragons. This was the first action the Cardinals saw since the COVID-19 shut down. The powerhouse of the North East Women’s Hockey League looked like they had not missed a step, winning the game 5-1. A big part of the win was graduate forward and captain Annie Katonka, who contributed a hat trick.
The 2019-2020 first team all-American, the Cardinal female player of the year and the team’s leader in points, goals and assists has a knack for making sure the puck finds the back of the net. For Katonka, she believes that the sum of the whole is much more important than just her impact on the ice.
“I think we have a pretty good team, we have a pretty solid core of older people who know what’s going on so I think there’s a good group of older kids that can teach the younger kids what to do.” Katonka said.
Although there is a core of older players that is still there from their tournament win from two years ago there are a lot of new faces on the team that now have to carry on the legacy of winning. The program has been strong for over two decades.
“It’s tough because there were only nine people that played when we won in 2019 and now I think there’s 26/27 kids [on the team],” Katonka said. “So many kids haven’t played in the NCAA tournament. They don’t really know what Plattsburgh hockey is really about yet, but I think each day we do a little something more to show what we are about and we are here to win.”
For Katonka, hockey wasn’t only a sport, it was something she was surrounded by from a young age.
“My neighbors played hockey, then my brother played hockey and I really wanted to play,” Katonka said. “I started playing when I was seven or eight and my bones can feel it, I’m hurting.” Katonka said.
A return to the ice means a return for fans in the stands, and Katonka couldn’t be more excited.
“Even when we played Cortland on Saturday it was nice to see the fans back,” Katonka said. “I feel like it’s been so long since something happened here it’s been so dead. I mean there was Lacrosse and baseball and all that last year but to have people in the rink it’s so nice to have people back.”
Katonka is currently in her last year on the team,and she wants her impact on the program to be more than one of individual success.
“I think the icing on the top of everything would be to win it all,” Katonka said. “The reason why I came back was because I didn’t want to end on COVIDs term. I had so much fun with my teammates and my friends, I didn’t want to sit back and watch my friends play and sit back and regret it.”
COVID-19 was an opportunity for a lot of athletes to retool and figure out new techniques and sharpen their game for when they returned back to play. For Katonka, it was business as usual in training for the eventual return of competition.
“We only had six weeks of skating and some of it was broken up so we couldn’t practice as a team,” Kantonka said. “I wish the younger kids could see or even play a game.” “For me personally, I just did what I did to prepare for any season so I mean it sucked when it got canceled, but we made the most of it.”
The Cardinals look to take ice versus. Norwich College on Wednesday Nov. 10. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10. Kotonka is looking forward to a good game.
“I’m excited it will be a really good game,” Katonka said. “Everytime we play them it’s always competitive. They have really skilled players. I think we need to come out there and do what we do and we’ll be fine.”