Hensley saves her best in rewriting NCAA record books
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To think that when Nicole Hensley first left her Lakewood home to attend and play hockey at Lindenwood University, she was a bit lost and called home for guidance – often.
Four years later, she’s an NCAA record-holder.
Early in the first-period Jan. 29 against Robert Morris University, Hensley’s first save of the game represented her 3,810th career save, a new NCAA record.
“It’s definitely not something I had ever imagined reaching,” admitted Hensley. “It does not reflect how much our team has improved over the past two years. It is definitely something I can look back on and say I never gave up in a game or I never gave up on a puck. I fought for every one of those saves.”
During her freshman year, Hensley saw 92 shots in a College Hockey America triple-overtime playoff game against Robert Morris, stopping 90, but losing 2-1.
Now a senior, Hensley looks back and wonders – where has the time gone?
“You’re telling me,” she said. “When I was a freshman, I remember our seniors telling us to enjoy every second because it flies by. They weren’t joking. It has definitely been an unbelievable four years, on and off the ice. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
That freshman season, though, was full of emotional roller coasters.
“My freshman year was a lot of adjusting to being away from home and calling my mom every other day to ask how to do something,” said Hensley. “We had a very close team and they were all very welcoming, which made being away from home easier. On the ice, it took some time to adjust to the speed of the game. My first start at Ohio State, I remember how nervous I was, but nothing will compare to getting on the ice with the jersey on for the first time.”
Her junior year, Hensley helped the Lions beat national power Mercyhurst University for the first time and earlier that year, topped Bemidji State University for LU’s first win over a ranked opponent.
Lindenwood, located in suburban St. Louis and in close proximity to Kansas City, where Hensley has extended family, was one of several schools that recruited her during her last season with the Colorado Select program. She said Lindenwood showed the most interest in her and that’s what drove her to the commitment.
Playing for the Select certainly helped Hensley’s national exposure. From Mini-Mites to Midget Minor, Hensley played for the Foothills Flyers.
“The Select really prepared me for college hockey and I may go so far as to say, I was over-prepared,” explained Hensley. “(Former Select director and 19U AAA coach) Marnie Hill ran a tight ship and treated us like we were college athletes and expected the same effort from us in return. I have no doubt Kendall Hanley runs the program the same way now. I had amazing coaches in both organizations and I owe a lot to them.”
An exercise science major, Hensley is planning on getting her personal training certification after graduation this summer and also has plans to come back to Lindenwood and get her Master of Arts degree in sports management. While doing that, Hensley is going to be a graduate assistant coach for what will then be her former team. Her long-term goal is to be a head coach for a collegiate women’s program and “definitely to play in the Olympics.” Playing in the National Women’s Hockey League is also a possibility.
“For my last semester on the ice, I would really like to see our team advance to the NCAA tournament,” said Hensley. “It is definitely a doable task and would be a first for the program. For myself, I am just looking to stay consistent and give my team a chance to win every night.”
— Matt Mackinder