By Colin Feeney
EDWARDSVILLE – Paige Hunt, a goalie for Edwardsville’s Mid-States Club Hockey Association team, signed a letter of intent to play for McKendree University’s women’s hockey team in a ceremony held at the school Wednesday evening.
Hunt had a save percentage of .697 in making 53 saves last season for the Tigers and provided valuable leadership both on and off the ice for the team.
In a post-ceremony interview, Hunt said she chose McKendree for very simple reasons.
“I liked the school atmosphere,” Hunt said, “and I liked the hockey team and all the players. They were really nice.”
Hunt will provide resiliency and a never-say-die attitude, something that is very important in hockey or any sport.
“I think I am a really resilient player,” Hunt said, “and I never give up. And I think that’s something that’s really good for a hockey team.”
In addition to brining resiliency to the Bearcats, Hunt also had other reason why she chose McKendree.
“Well, I wanted to go to a smaller school and McKendree’s a smaller school,” Hunt said. “And they have a really good hockey team, they have a very good teaching program and a really good business program, so I could into either of those.”
Hunt plans on majoring in either education or sports management at McKendree, and also considered Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., Missouri State University in Springfield, among others. The Bearcats are one of the best teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which is a club hockey version of the NCAA, and recently competed in the ACHA Division I National Championship tournament, losing to Massachusetts 4-1 at the Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights, Mo. The quality of play in the ACHA is very high and Hunt is looking forward to playing in the ACHA.
“No, I think it’s pretty good hockey,” Hunt said. “They went to nationals this year, so did Adrian; they all played at nationals together and I think that’s a good team.”
Tigers head coach Jason Walker is very proud of Hunt and her accomplishments, and agrees that the Bearcats are getting a very good goalie and teammate.
“It’s an awesome day and we knew this day was coming for Paige,” Walker said. “It’s sad that she’s leaving us, but it’s awesome for her next step.”
Walker agrees that Hunt will bring much to the table to the Bearcats program.
“Outside of the fact that she’s an outstanding goalie, she was one of the leaders on our team,” Walker said. “She’s one of the players that people look up to, because of the way she carries herself, the hard work she puts in. I don’t think we could send somebody to McKendree and to represent our program better than her.”
Walker feels that Hunt’s future at the school is unlimited and very good.
“Well, I mean for me, I’m just looking forward to being a fan, sit in the stands and watch her play,” Walker said with a smile. “Like I said, she’s going to do great things there, she’s going to do great things in the classroom and certainly on the ice. And I think it’s just a great spot for her. Selfishly, it’s nice she’s close to home, where we can watch her play.”
Hunt is hoping to make a difference in everything she does on and off the ice, and it’s a great intangible to have on any team.
“Yeah, I mean, for us, the difference that she made on our team this year was just incredible,” Walker said. “Just the teammate she is, the character she shows in practice and in the games. I mean, like I said, she’s going to carry that on in college. And when it says Edwardsville High School next to her name in the program, we’re going to take great pride in that, because she just does everything right.”
When asked about his favorite memory of Hunt, Walker didn’t hesitate to say it was the way she kept herself in the games and offered help to her teammates.
“I think the thing that sticks out to me this year is just how engaged she was in the games when she wasn’t playing,” Walker said. “She’s like an extra coach on the bench, saying ‘I think we need to do this, I think we need to do this.’ She was always into it and it made it better for us, kept the energy up on our bench for sure.”
Walker is looking forward to seeing Hunt go far in her future.
“Like I said, hockey just something she’ll do in college,” Walker said, “but in the classroom, I know she’ll do great things and beyond. She has a lot to offer in whatever aspect of life she decides to choose.”
Hunt’s club coach for the St. Louis Cyclones also sang Hunt’s praises.
“I’m very proud of Paige and her accomplishments,” said Cyclones and veteran St. Louis coach Joe Bova Conti. “In looking at players going on to the college level or the next level, they have to have character, coachability and talent. Paige happens to have the trifecta; she has all of them. She’s a tremendous teammate, she’s a very, very hard worker, very dedicated and she has the best demeanor in the locker room and with the team of any girl I’ve had. She’s just awesome.”
Intangibles like that are important in any sport and are especially true in hockey, which has a very close-knit, almost family type atmosphere among teams.
“Oh, absolutely and I think it carries on in life, too,” Bova Conti said. “Paige, even when she wasn’t in the net and the other goalie was playing, she was the biggest cheerleader on the bench. Actually, we called her ‘Coach Paige,’ because she could offer insight that a lot of players can’t. She watches the game, she’s a student of the game and I think she will bring to McKendree a great deal of talent and a great deal of excitement to coach (Derek) Pallardy and the girls of McKendree.”
Bova Conti also feels that Hunt will bring much to the table for the Bearcats in her time of the team.
“Well, I think just her attitude and her demeanor in the way she carries herself,” Bova Conti said. “I think she will prove herself to be a team leader in a short time.”
And his favorite memory of Hunt as a Cyclones player?
“Just her athletic ability,” Bova Conti said. “She’s a combination of (Dominek) Hasek and (Marc-Andre) Fluery, all in one. Her athleticism is just unbelievable, but what’s even more important is just her whole demeanor in the locker room and as a part of the team. She is a true teammate.”
Bova Conti is also looking ahead to see Hunt succeed at the next level.
“Absolutely,” Bova Conti said. “Knowing coach Pallardy as long as I have, he and I worked together with the Triple-A Blues. He’s getting a really good player, he’s an awesome coach and I think the girls at McKendree will be very happy with their choice.”
For Hunt’s part, she has very high hopes and ambitions for herself and her new team.
“I want to earn a degree, obviously,” Hunt said with a laugh, “and I want to make a difference with the program, I want to do something different, I want to be better than everybody else,” she also said with a laugh.
As far as her future in hockey, Hunt is looking ahead to new challenges and accomplishments along the way.
“I’m not sure,” Hunt said. “I knew I wanted to play in college when I started high school and that was just, like, my goal. And I haven’t set a goal for myself past college, because I haven’t started college yet. But I’m sure it’s worth the end what I want to do with hockey, but I want to continue to play anyway. Or I want to coach, I want to do something with it.”
(Originally published at https://www.riverbender.com/articles/details/hockey-goalie-paige-hunt-signs-with-mckendree-brings-leadership-to-bearcats-womens-team-was-like-an-extra-coach-on-the-ice-and-bench-58429.cfm)