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The Game Lives On

By Clara Boudette, 03/13/24, 10:15AM MDT


The University of Michigan Women’s Ice Hockey Team Embraces Domestic & Global Opportunities American College Hockey Association Provides

Michigan Women's Ice Hockey Team - by Nolan B

It’s nearly 10 p.m. on a chilly winter night in Ann Arbor, Mich. Rustic barn-style doors creak open to reveal historic Yost Ice Arena. While most students are hunkered down studying or are out getting an early start to the weekend, the University of Michigan Women’s Ice Hockey Team steps on the ice for practice.

A highly skilled and competitive team, the Wolverines compete against other schools in the Division 1 level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

However, just four years prior in high school, Robin Goldman, a senior forward from Birmingham, Michigan, wasn’t sure she’d be able to continue playing hockey in college.

Goldman, like many student-athletes nationwide, made hockey a huge part of her life. However, she didn’t see a future in NCAA Division I, II or III. She also knew she wanted to go to an academically rigorous school. It wasn’t until one of her high school coaches, an ACHA alum herself, told her about a route that would allow her to pursue her academics, while also not sacrificing her love for hockey.

The ACHA supports the growth of collegiate hockey while emphasizing academic performance and personal development and provides an avenue for more than 13,000 student-athletes to continue playing hockey at more than 460 schools across 48 states.

“I based all my applications around schools that were not only good schools, but also places that had ACHA teams,” said Goldman. “Growing up, my friends were always on my hockey team, and I wanted that same kind of community in college. I literally can’t imagine college without my hockey friends.”

Robin Goldman skates at a Michigan Women's Ice Hockey Practice - by Nolan Bona

Robin Goldman skates at a Michigan Women's Ice Hockey Practice - by Nolan Bona

Goldman wasn’t alone in her decision to attend Michigan because of the opportunity to keep playing hockey.

“I would say it was pretty much a deciding factor,” said Mariana Ceballos, a sophomore from Florida, who concluded it would be worth it to go to college out of state if it meant she could play hockey.

Jessy Simmer, a senior from Ann Arbor, Mich., was drawn to Michigan primarily for its academics, but she couldn’t help but factor hockey into her decision.

“The only other college I was looking at was Princeton,” said Simmer. “But they only have an NCAA team, so I knew if I went there, I would have had to give up hockey.”

Being on the team and having a supportive group of teammates provides a well-needed outlet from the stress of school. As part of a class project for her electrical engineering program, Simmer helped design a braille note-taking device and presented it at a campus expo.

“A lot of people from the team showed up and I got to show them my poster and the device,” said Simmer. “I’m very grateful everyone is so close.”

Simmer also found community within the diversity of her team. It was the first time in her life she had other Asian American and
BIPOC teammates.

“It’s really nice having people who also understand it,” said Simmer.

The Wolverines boast a 17-6-1 record as of the middle of March and are ranked ninth in the nation heading into the 2024 ACHA National Championship tournament.

“Our team recognizes that we have one of the most diverse rosters across any level of hockey,” said Jenna Trubiano, head coach of the University of Michigan Women’s Ice Hockey Team. “From my perspective, it’s something that’s led to our success on the ice.”

As the only women’s ice hockey team on campus—Michigan does not have an NCAA women’s program—the Wolverines are role models in the community and try to give back and grow the game.

A few players recently teamed up with Ice Hockey In Harlem, a New York-based organization that works to improve the social and academic well-being of children through participation in hockey, at an event in Detroit.

Some players’ efforts to grow the game go beyond the Michigan community too. 7,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean, to be exact.

Goldman, an Asian studies major, spent last summer in Taiwan as part of a study-abroad program. It didn’t take long before she wondered if there was any hockey in the country.

Turns out, the only rink on the island was just a few bus stops from her accommodation.

“I found a Facebook group for teams in Taiwan and ended up messaging the Taipei Tigers,” Goldman said. “They provided me with a pair of skates, some gloves, and a stick and I got to help coach some of their kids.”

Goldman coaches the Taipei Tigers - by Chris De la Rocha

Goldman coaches the Taipei Tigers - by Chris De la Rocha

Not only did coaching the Tigers allow Goldman to get some ice time while abroad, but it was also a great way to practice speaking Chinese Mandarin and immerse herself in the culture.

“I had to think on the fly and make up some drills,” said Goldman, who was a little overwhelmed at first, but used her experience to make a practice plan. “I wanted to focus on shooting, especially with the girls, because I remember I didn’t lift the puck for a long time.”

Back in Florida., Ceballos participated in the Amerigol LatAm Cup, an annual tournament and equipment drive that brings together players from Latin American countries. Ceballos, the daughter of Mexican and Russian immigrants, served as captain of the Mexican women’s team, which went on to win the tournament.

“It was a very interesting experience to play hockey while speaking Spanish and embracing my culture in an unexpected way,”
said Ceballos.

For these Michigan players, the opportunity to keep playing hockey in college led to more than just on-ice and academic achievements. The team's passion for the sport transpired into local, national, and global initiatives to grow the sport.

Teamc celebrate the Amerigol Cup - courtesy of Marina Ceballos

Teamc celebrate the Amerigol Cup - courtesy of Marina Ceballos

“It adds a whole other element to our program,” Trubiano concluded. “It makes our players appreciate where they’re at even more.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the 2024 March issue of USA Hockey Magazine.