Maryna Macdonald, a member of the Ditidaht First Nation, is now a rookie patrolling the blueline with the Harvard Crimson women's hockey team. (Gil Talbot photo)
Though she has been at her post-secondary school for more than two months now, Maryna Macdonald still often finds herself marveling at where life has taken her.
Macdonald, 18, and a member of the Ditidaht First Nation, is a first-year student at one of the world’s most prestigious schools, Harvard University, located in the Massachusetts city of Cambridge, which is part of the metropolitan Boston area. Macdonald, who plays defence, is also a rookie with the Harvard Crimson women’s hockey team.
“It’s a pretty incredible place to be,” Macdonald said.
Since she is only in her first year, Macdonald has yet to declare her major at Harvard. She is hoping to eventually study environmental engineering. The teen has also seemed to adjust rather well to the rigours of university hockey. She has appeared in all five regular season matches the Crimson have played thus far. Harvard has been dressing seven defence players for its games.
The Crimson participate in a 12-squad team conference called ECAC Hockey. This grouping was previously called the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
Macdonald and her teammates managed to win their regular season opener 3-1 against the visiting Dartmouth Big Green from New Hampshire back on Oct. 19.
Though they’ve come close the Crimson failed to register a victory in their next four outings.
For starters, Harvard was edged 3-2 by Cornell University, which was ranked seventh nationally at the time. Colgate University, which was ranked ninth in the country, then eked out a 1-0 win over Harvard.
The Crimson then suffered another 1-0 loss, this time to Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University. Harvard, however, managed to pick up a point, settling for a 2-2 tie versus Princeton University in its last game staged Nov. 3.
Macdonald said her teammates are not getting discouraged at all knowing all three of their one-goal losses, including two against nationally-ranked opponents, could have gone either way.
“If we had one bounce go our way, that could have been a win,” she said.
Macdonald said the Harvard squad is definitely in a rebuilding mode as the majority of the players on the roster are either in their first or second year.
“Obviously we’re building,” she said.
Macdonald and her teammates are currently in the midst of a 17-day break between games. Harvard’s next action is Nov. 20, a non-conference game against state rival Holy Cross.
Macdonald said the Crimson have welcomed the time off since they have been able to practice on areas of the game, including their special teams, which need improvement.
Though she is a rookie at Harvard, this isn’t the first year Macdonald has spent away from her home in Port Alberni. Last season she had moved two and a half hours away from her home to attend Shawinigan Lake School, a private co-ed boarding school. Macdonald made the move so she could suit up with Shawinigan Lake’s Female Prep squad, which competes in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. Macdonald appeared in 18 games for that squad and was its top-scoring blueliner with nine points (four goals and five assists).
Before playing at Shawinigan Lake, Macdonald starred for two years with the Vancouver Island Seals’ Major Midget AAA squad. During both of the years that she was with the Seals, 2015-16 and 2016-17, she had the most points among those who played defence.
The majority of Macdonald’s pre-university contests were played in front of sparse crowds, primarily family members and friends of the players. As a result it’s quite a bit different this season. Almost 700 fans attended Harvard’s home contest against Dartmouth.
Though an attendance figure was not recorded, Macdonald said playing in front of a packed raucous crowd at Cornell has been a highlight thus far.
“That was a pretty electric game to play in,” she said.
Macdonald added players can feed off the crowd energy whether they are at home or the visiting team.
“You can use that at any rink,” she said.
Macdonald also believes she is comfortably making the adjustment to university hockey.
“It’s definitely faster,” she said. “It’s definitely a jump up from the level I’ve played.”
Harvard had registered a conference record of 10-10-2 a year ago, placing seventh in its league standings.
Despite winning just one of their first five league matches so far this season, Macdonald said winning a league championship is still one of the team goals for the Crimson.
“It’s anybody’s ballgame,” said Macdonald, who also represented British Columbia four times on its female squad that participated at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, winning a bronze medal at the 2017 tournament.