Kucharski leads the way for GVSU women’s hockey
Transforming from a one-dimensional player as a youth into a well-rounded offensive machine, senior assistant captain Shelby Kucharski is lighting up the score sheets this season for the Grand Valley State University women’s club hockey team.
Kucharski, who has 11 goals and nine assists in 19 games this season, is playing with new line mates for the first time. Junior Lauren Barlog and freshman Katie Danto replaced longtime teammate Lindsay Coursem, whom Kucharski played with prior to coming to GVSU.
“It was a huge change,” Kucharski said. “Lindsay and I played together growing up. I’ve played with her almost my whole life. Lauren Barlog and I click the same way that Lindsay and I did.”
With keen vision of the ice, especially with the puck on her stick, Barlog has become the play-making center piece that has allowed Kucharski to continue to score consistently. Danto also helped Kucharshi with her game and leads the team in goals with 12.
However, the team has faced challenges this semester.
“We have definitely had our highs and lows,” Kucharski said. “We’re in a low point right now. Hopefully we pick it back up for playoffs in two weeks and then hopefully qualify for nationals.”
In 2011, Kucharski faced a different kind of high-level competition with the first female U.S. hockey team ever to compete at the World University Games in Turkey.
“It was crazy,” Kucharski said. “Europeans play much different then the girls in Canada. Europeans play much more technical, physical and better with the puck (than North Americans). We got beat.”
With the playoffs and a spot at the national tournament in Washington D.C. in their immediate future, co-head coach Sean McKernan believes Kucharski will have to be playing at her best for the Lakers to make waves this postseason.
“For her being a senior, that’s motivation enough to go out and play like each game is her last,” McKernan said. “She’s one of the hardest workers both on and off the ice, a leader who can help keep the team in the right frame of mind. When she is out there playing motivated, the rest of the team feeds off that. When she goes, the rest of the team goes. We try to get her on the ice with the right people to give them all the best advantage offensively to continue to produce points.”
Kucharski cited family, hard work from the past and building on skills and experience as the keys to her success and continued high level of performance at the American Collegiate Hockey Association level.
“I owe it all to my dad,” Kucharski said.
Being a high scorer over the tenure of her career, Kucharski receives more attention from the opposition than one might normally see, as they hope to get one of the Laker’s best off her game with physical play and tighter defense.
“Other teams definitely focus on her, rough her up a bit, but she does a good job continuing to play hard,” McKernan said.
McKernan went on to praise Kucharski’s all-around play and leadership as a captain.
“She is a gifted player who can skate, pass and shoot,” McKernan said. “She leads the team offensively this year. As an alternative captain, she has leadership qualities displayed on-and-off the ice. Not too vocal, but when something needs to be said, she’s not afraid to step up and say something to the team.”