WHITBY — Kassidy Sauvé has a remarkable story of grit and determination.
The Whitby athlete and student at Ohio State University (OSU) bounced back from sitting out a full hockey season after bilateral hip surgery to playing in every game but one this season, and finished as the first goaltender in Ohio State history to earn All-American distinction.
Sauvé said she was fortunate to be able to play so many games this season, in a telephone interview from Columbus, Ohio.
“I was hoping to get in at least half of the games just because physically I didn’t know if my hips were going to be able to withstand the amount of effort that goes into every game,” she said.
The former Whitby Wolves player also finished the season for the Buckeyes with the all-time single-season saves record (1,135) and was the save percentage leader (0.942) in the team’s history. She posted six shutouts to bring her career total to 12 and started 36 of Ohio State’s 37 games, saved 129 more shots and spent more time in net for her team than any other netminder by the end of OSU’s season.
But, Sauvé said it was support and hard work from her athletic trainer and physiotherapist which made a huge difference in helping her body rehabilitate.
Sauvé said, “My coaches gave me a lot of practices off and that allowed me to play way more matches than I was hoping for.”
Sauvé is former student of Donald A. Wilson H.S. in Whitby, and first took to the ice playing house league hockey with her brother in a boys’ league. She said it was not easy to transition to the women’s game in Grade 11 when she played for Durham West and later with the Whitby Wolves.
“The women’s game is very different from the men’s game where the girls are very crafty and do hold on to the puck for a long time, and they’re very smart with what they do with the puck,” said Sauvé. “So, I really had to adapt the style of my game for that.”
All-American status means Sauvé was judged by the coaches to be one of the best athletes, both athletically and academically, across the National College Athletic Association. The vote goes to a panel, which makes the final decision.
The Buckeyes were denied their chance to progress and play for a national championship last season in a hard-fought, first-round playoff series against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. However, Sauvé showed her maturity in her personal blog where she posted a photo of her failed attempt to save the overtime-winning shot.
“It’s always hard, especially being a goalie,” said Sauvé. “You’re the last person between the net and the puck and it’s hard when your season ends on account that you didn’t stop the puck.”
But Sauvé is philosophical about the team’s final position and where it leaves her going forward.
“The way I see it is, I didn’t even know if I was going to play hockey again. So, now every little failure means a lot more,” said Sauvé. “I’ve tried to pay more attention to those kind of things just because it is really a blessing that I’m still playing after everything I had to go through last year.”
The All-American goalie plans to stay at the university campus over the summer to stay with her team and develop, train and grow closer as a family. She said the team has a lot of young talent coming through for next year and they are already getting ready for next season.
Nadine Muzerall, head coach of Ohio State’s women’s ice hockey program, only joined the Buckeyes last fall and said the season was a learning curve for everyone, players and staff alike.
“When you’re coaching, you want to coach from the back up. You want your strongest to be between the pipes and then you build around that,” said Muzerall. “Sauvé was the backbone to our program and she didn’t let her physical limitations limit her abilities. I’m glad she battled back, because we surely needed it, and for the future.”
Sauvé, a goalie on Canada’s U18 world championship-winning squad in 2014, has been invited to Hockey Canada’s summer strength and conditioning camp May 3-7 in Hamilton. She will be entering her fourth year at Ohio State in the fall, and third season with the hockey team there.
Sauvé said, “We’re just getting started for next year, about to hit full throttle, really give it all summer just so we can be the best going into our first game of the year.”