Nicole Munro hasn’t always been a player at the forefront of the University of Maine women’s hockey team.
“The reason I’m on the top line is because Jarin [Sjogren] went down,” Munro said. “I feel bad that that’s how I got there. I told her that every goal I score and every point I get will be for her.”
She certainly hasn’t disappointed.
Munro was moved up to the top line to play between two of the most prolific scorers in the ECAC Eastern women’s hockey league: Karen Droog and Megan Aarts.
The move seemed fairly natural for the junior. The three grew up in small towns fairly close to each other in Ontario. Munro and Aarts played on the same team there, the Bluewater Hawks. Droog played on the rival Peel Storm.
Droog, who is 5-foot-11, was known as “the big girl from Listowel” to Munro’s high school classmates in Egmondville. Part of that “legend” came from a high school golf longest drive contest in which Droog outdrove everyone, including the boys.
“We didn’t really know each other back home, but we knew who each other were,” Munro said. “Karen and I were just laughing about a few days ago. It’s kind of neat that we ended up here at the same college and now we’re on the same line.”
Knowing each other is a major help in playing together, Munro said.
“We knew our tendencies coming in. It was a little rough at first. But after a couple of games, we knew where each other were going to be on the ice and what we do with the puck.
“It’s neat to playing with them,” Munro said. “They are both such great players. It is a lot of fun to play with them.”
It’s beginning to be fun for the UMaine women’s hockey team as well. Last season, the program finished above .500 for the first time at the Division I level. After struggling at the beginning of this season, the team went on a seven game unbeaten streak, including six wins in a row between Jan. 20 and Feb. 8. That streak included a 2-1 win at 10th-ranked New Hampshire to start the streak, and a 4-3 overtime victory at second-ranked Northeastern on Feb. 8.
“It feels really good to be winning games,” Munro said. “My first two years here, it felt like we’re losing a lot. This year, the team is really starting to be more of a team, we’re getting along really well and we’re playing a lot better.”
Munro has also played better. In her first two seasons, she totaled three goals and five assists for eight points, playing in 40 games. This season, she has scored eight goals and dished out 11 assists for a total of 19 points.
Munro attributes the success a lot to becoming a better skater.
“I stayed here over the summer and worked on my skating,” Munro said. “Coach [Rick Filighera] is happy too. He’s like, ‘you’ve got wheels now.’”
She said that maturity is another key to her improvement.
“Some players can walk right into the lineup and play well,” Munro said. “I really needed the time to get used to this level of play. I needed it to get my skill level up to the point where I could be successful.”
Munro is focusing on the future, both the rest of this season and her senior year next season.
“We’re pretty disappointed that we’re not going to get home ice for the [ECAC East] playoffs,” Munro said. “We wanted to be able to get that first playoff game at home, so we can have our fans here and play in front of them. But we’ve played well on the road all season.”
As she looks ahead to next season, Munro is excited.
“We have come together as a team more than we have since I’ve been here,” she said. “The players that we have coming back are very talented. We’re starting to play very good hockey, and I’m looking forward to next year. We’ll be very good.”