Michaela Read is going where no Chilliwackian has gone before.
This fall, the soon-to-be GW Graham grad is packing up her skates and stick and taking her hockey talents to Illinois. Read has committed to Lindenwood University-Belleville where she will join the Lynx.
“The team name is unique. It’s not something I’ve ever heard before,” the teenager said with a smile. “I like it.”
Lindenwood’s hockey program is just three years old. The Lynx debuted in the Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League (WWCHL) in 2014-15. The eight team circuit includes Wisconsin, Denver, Colorado, Colorado State, Arizona State, Minnesota and Midland (Nebraska).
Guided by head coach Kat (Katherine) Hannah, the Lynx have quickly established themselves as a powerhouse, winning the last two league titles.
“She’s a big reason why I’m going there because she’s young and female and she was really relatable,” Read said. “She was able to connect with me a lot on issues I was worried about, like the cost of school and moving to Illinois. She understood those things and was really helpful.
“And she’s Canadian too.”
If Read had any concerns about the coach being genuine, they were put to rest when Hannah gave her contact info for a handful of Lynx vets.
“They all said the same thing — she’s an amazing coach and such a nice person,” Read said. “Hearing those other girls only have nice things to say really backed it up.”
More than anything Hannah said, it’s what she didn’t say that tipped the scales. Read started with a list of seven or eight schools, most of them U-S based, but quickly narrowed the list as coaches pushed her to sign.
“A lot of them were like, ‘OK, it’s time to pick,’ and it became very stressful,” the 17 year old recalled. “It wasn’t all the schools, but some had these deadlines for commitments, and I just wasn’t ready to make a choice yet.”
Read had her list narrowed to three schools. Post University in Connecticut and Miami (Ohio) University were the other contenders. Read visited the Post U campus and thought she was going there, but one final phone call with Kat locked up Lindenwood.
“Kat always said it was my choice and she didn’t want to push anything on me. She was like, ‘It’s OK. You do what’s best for you,’” Read said. “I was in our basement, got off the phone with her and my dad said, ‘How did it go?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to Lindenwood.
“I was just that confident.”
So how exactly does a Chilliwack kid get on the radar of a university in Illinois?
It helps to be a fantastic and tall (five foot eleven) hockey player. As a fourth-year forward for the B.C. Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s Greater Vancouver Comets, Read tallied seven goals and 16 points in 30 games. Her team, which also included Chilliwack blueliner Camryn Gormley, only lost one regular season game (29-1-0).
They followed that with a dominant run through the playoffs, sweeping the Kootenay Wild and Northern Capitals to claim the championship.
“The Comets were the most amazing experience and I learned so much from my coaches and my teammates,” Read said. “The success I had with the team really pushed the recruiting process forward.”
Read had plenty to work with posting her hockey resume/video profile online at ncsports.org, but she remained unsure as she reached out to potential schools.
“Putting yourself out there is always stressful because every time you do there’s fear of rejection,” she said. “It’s kind of weird though that I liked the nerves before I called a coach.
“It was a stressful process for sure but it was also a lot of fun.”
Read still hasn’t seen the Lindenwood campus. She’s never been away from home for more than a week or so and that has her feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement.
“It’s so far away and it is a different country, so I’m anxious about that, but I’m way more excited than nervous,” she said with a smile. “I am looking forward to having this new experience and I’m just so happy to see all of my hard work paying off.”