Editor’s note: I am ignoring whatever the NCAA may or may not do regarding player eligibility. Also, judging by Lonergan’s omission in the senior night photo, she may be redshirting and coming back. Nevertheless, she is a senior and features below.
Also, all photos are from Jim Meagher.
This class. Man this class. I feel like I will probably end up writing something like this every year, but seriously. THIS CLASS.
#11 Ella Shelton, Defense – Captain
I once called Ella Shelton the best positional defender I’d ever seen and I stand by that. She is where 2 on 1 and 3 on 2 rushes go to die. Most rewarding was that, once Savannah Harmon and Erin Ambrose graduated, Shelton slid easily into the top defender and leadership roles. She showed that there is offensive flair to her game in addition to lockdown play.
Her 26 goals, 81 assists, and 107 points rank her third all-time among Clarkson defenders behind Ambrose and Harmon respectively, and 16th overall. They are the only three defenders in Clarkson history to top 100 points.
#12 Katherine Beaumier
Beaumier featured in 53 games over her Clarkson career, oft the odd one out, but always stepping up when given the opportunity. This season she got crucial minutes as several Clarkson forwards and defenders alike were sidelined due to injury. On a nifty no-look behind the back pass to Elizabeth Giguère, she notched her first career point this season against Brown.
As a Georgia-born, Richland, WA native who found her way to Clarkson University, her cross-country treks sit near and dear to my Syracuse, NY to Seattle, WA heart. I had hoped she would get that first goal, had thought that it would come in a big moment when we’d least expect it, but alas.
#16 Caitrin Lonergan
Lonergan is part of the season that never was, one where Michalea Pejzlová centers her and Giguère and Gabrielle David centers Kayla Friesen and Rhyen McGill. Where the Knights trot out two scoring lines that would be the top line on all but a handful of teams. Where Taylor Turnquist doesn’t have to play forward and the freshmen defenders don’t immediately get cast into the fire. (Though I must say, they met that challenge handily.) Where Clarkson notches a home NCAA tournament spot and rides the best offense and a surprisingly stingy defense to a fourth national title.
I hope she has more hockey (and eligibility) in her next season because she’d be great to watch in the green and gold, specifically as a player who likes to get the puck on net alongside the more pass-oriented Giguère and David.
#17 Taylor Turnquist
Turnquist played a role this season that I, a lowly rec. player, detest, getting time at both forward and defense. It is hard to go between the two. Sure it might seem easy if you’re a defender who can shoot and stickhandle or a forward who likes to block shots and get physical, but that’s what makes it difficult. Things are juuust similar enough for you to slide back into old habits and juuust different enough for that to be a really bad thing.
That was never the case with Turnquist, who always looked like she belonged at both ends of the ice. After Erin Ambrose and Savannah Harmon graduated, thrusting Shelton into a more offense-oriented role, Turnquist played a crucial counterpart, keeping an eye on the back end and allowing her teammates to get forward.
#25 Rhyen McGill
It’s been a rough couple years for McGill, missing time in each of the past two seasons due to injury. Even tougher to swallow is that Clarkson could have used another shooter and McGill delivered that in spades. Often overshadowed by the shooting of one Loren Gabel, and often tending to other duties as the anchor of the second line, second power play, and top penalty kill unit, McGill has a rocket of a shot.
Even having missed three quarters of a season she sits just 7 off the top ten in goals while, again, leading a penalty kill unit that has been very good for her entire Clarkson tenure.
#29 Kayla Friesen
No one impressed me more, not just as a player, but also as a person, this season than Kayla Friesen. Clarkson has had a number of high-profile transfers over the past few seasons and my mantra is to both be excited to welcome someone new into the fold, but to also be patient and let them find their own way within the team and community.
Friesen delivered immediately, coring in her first game as a Knight and notching career highs in goals, assists, and points. Her 10 goals were more than her last two seasons combined, and her 20 assists nearly were as well.
I am pretty active on social media, and what has always struck me is how well the Clarkson players support each other, and support the sport. It was a surprise to see Friesen jump headlong into that, not as something expected – more like a birthday present. You know you’re getting a gift, you’re just not sure what it is. Kayla Friesen was a gift this season, on and off the ice, and I’m excited to see what she decides to do with her immeasurable talents in all areas.
#10 Michaela Pejzlová
If you asked me to pick a player emblematic of the Golden Knights, one who not only embodies what it means to be a part of this team, but whose characteristics have permeated throughout the roster and been a crucial component of Clarkson’s success, I would pick Michaela Pejzlová.
The last Clarkson game I went to at Cheel was a 4-1 win over Syracuse in the 2017-2018 season. Rhyen McGill stole a puck in the offensive zone and roofed a shot to make it 4-1 with about 5 minutes to go. Some time after that, Syracuse had the puck in the Clarkson end, and someone is diving in front of a shot. That was Michaela Pejzlová. Like…who blocks shots late in a 4-1 game, and who on earth does it as a top-line center? Michaela Pejzlová.
Pejzlová finishes fifth all time in points and goals and tied for fourth all-time in assists. She is just the fifth Golden Knight to crack 100 assists, a mark not even Gabel hit. But it’s everything else about her game that makes her one of the greatest ever to put on the uniform. With Gabel and Giguère piling up points at impossible rates, I feel like Pejzlová was the forgotten part of Clarkson’s back to back national titles.
Does Clarkson’s top line have the success that results in two national championships and two Patty Kazmaier award winners without Pejzlová shoring up the defensive side of playing forward and allowing her linemates to get up the ice more? Probably not. Likewise, does Clarkson seamlessly integrate three freshmen defenders in a year where their second-most experienced defender has to play forward while also bringing in a new starting goaltender (who is, by the way the current all-time save percentage leader) without Pejzlová? Probably not.
Was she good at faceoffs? (Career winning percentage of 54.3%.) Also yes. There was nothing Michaela Pejzlová couldn’t do and nothing she couldn’t do well. That’s why this sits just above a Lego replica of the Clarkson scoreboard in my apartment.