Cochrane hockey player headed to Harvard
As far as Ivy League hockey programs go, Harvard is one of the best. It’s also at the top of Cochrane’s Samantha Sutherland’s list.
The 17-year-old hockey player has committed to play for the Harvard women’s hockey team during the 2013-2014 season. It’s been her dream since she was Grade 9.
“It was the first time I played in the Harvard rink when my team went to Boston,” Sutherland said.
“Our line got 11 points in the game and I felt I was doing so well in that rink. Then, we got a tour and I loved it. It’s so nice and I love how old the campus is.”
However, before she can make the trek down to Cambridge, Mass. and suit up for the Crimson, Sutherland has one more season left with the Warner Warriors.
She played minor hockey in Cochrane from the age of four until her second year bantam.
Her 5’3” stature eventually became a deterrent once she reached the levels where body contact is allowed on the ice, so she switched to women’s hockey.
However, she eventually outgrew the house league teams and set out to find a bigger challenge.
She enrolled at the Warner Hockey School in Warner, Alta.
She considered joining other high-profile hockey academies, but was drawn to Warner’s close-knit community. The small farming town has a population of 331 people and lies just south of Lethbridge.
“It’s very, very small,” she said. “It’s really community based. If it wasn’t for the hockey team, the high school wouldn’t have enough kids to continue. I love the community. You’re much closer with the team and it gets you ready for post-secondary.”
Sutherland began playing with the Warriors in her first year of high school and was put on a line with Sarah Davis, a senior with the team who now plays for the Canadian U22 team.
That year, Davis committed to play with the University of Minnesota women’s team and inspired Sutherland to play college hockey.
“I wanted to be part of something like that,” she said. “I wanted to keep getting better and I liked the idea of going to the States.”
Cue the trip to Boston. The Warriors play in the Junior Women’s Hockey League (JWHL) against teams from across Western Canada, Minnesota, Vermont, Colorado, New York and, of course, Boston.
It’s where Sutherland developed her attachment to Harvard and began taking the idea of one day playing for the Crimson seriously. Even though she spoke to a number of prestigious schools - like Cornell, Boston University and Ohio State University - Harvard wanted Sutherland as much as she wanted to be there.
“I knew they were interested in me when they emailed me just after midnight on the day they were allowed to talk to me,” she said.
“I remember telling the coach I committed and it was the biggest weight off my shoulders.”
While many young female hockey players aim to play at college or university, many also aim for making the national team, and Sutherland is no different.
Last year, she got a taste of Team Canada, participating in the spring U18 camp and made the roster of this year’s summer camp.
Along with 40 other players from across the country, she competed for a chance to play in a five-game series against the United States. Sutherland didn’t make the cut to play against the Americans, but making the summer camp roster was a step in the right direction.
“I was really hoping to get to the August camp, so when I got there I was really excited,” she said.
“It was amazing to be a part of. You’re treated so well. I was a little disappointed (I didn’t make the series), but I’m going to focus on doing my best and getting to the next level.”
Just like playing for Harvard has always been one of her dreams, so is one day playing for Team Canada.
She grew up idolizing Cassie Campbell, one of the country’s most prolific female hockey players.
“I remember being younger and getting my Team Canada jersey and I got ‘Campbell’ put on the back of it,” Sutherland said.
“Not a lot of people watched women’s hockey and I’d tell everyone about her.”
The two have met briefly a few times, once when Sutherland was younger and playing with a boys’ team from Cochrane.
The team was watching the women’s team practise and Campbell spotted Sutherland standing in the stands. She came back out of the dressing room and handed Sutherland, the only girl on the team, one of her sticks, a souvenir Sutherland still has.
“I always looked up to her,” Sutherland said. “She’s just so nice.”
While Harvard is a year away, Sutherland can’t wait to suit up for one of the best NCAA teams in North America and attend one of the oldest, most esteemed universities in the world.
“It’s been my dream to go there,” she said.
“It’s going to be awesome to be from Harvard.”