Brooke Stacey knows what it’s like to win a gold medal for her country as she won one for Team Canada’s Under-18 team in the World Hockey Championships.
It still doesn’t match the University of Maine women’s hockey team’s 4-3 overtime win over Boston University on Sunday that sent the Black Bears into the Hockey East semifinals.
It was “probably the most exciting moment I’ve ever had in hockey,” said Stacey, who scored three goals in a seven-minute span of the third period Sunday to force overtime, then set up Tereza Vanisova for the overtime game-winner.
“It felt so much different because of the relationships I have with my teammates here. We have a special bond,” Stacey said.
It was the 5-foot-10 Stacey’s first career hat trick in her 133 games at UMaine, and the two wins were the first in the program’s Hockey East playoff history.
“Perfect timing,” the Black Bears assistant captain said.
“I’ve never seen a player skate through a team and make as many plays as she did. And she had three or four other scoring chances,” UMaine head coach Richard Reichenbach said. “It was a really special moment for a senior who has put so much into the program.
“It was the most memorable game I’ve ever coached,” Reichenbach added.
It still hasn’t sunk in for Stacey.
“I haven’t wrapped my mind around it. It’s a blur. But I’m real happy,” said Stacey, who humbly downplayed her role.
“The whole team pushed forward. It was pretty evident through the entire game. We kept pushing hard to get goals. We had 40 shots,” Stacey said.
Stacey’s journey to Orono began on the Kahnawake, Quebec, Mohawk Territory First Nations Reserve on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Montreal.
“My grandparents made me a rink in the front yard. I was 2 years old. My uncle taught me [how to skate and eventually play hockey],” Stacey said.
The second of Sean Stacey and Tina McComber’s four children fell in love with the sport. She eventually played for both the Team Canada and Team Quebec Under-18 teams and attended the Ontario Hockey Academy.
She stuck with hockey because “my dad was afraid I’d get hurt playing soccer in the summer.”
“We loved the way she worked on the ice and we loved her size,” said Reichenbach, who recruited her with fellow assistant, Sara Simard, who is now his wife.
“We had a real good visit with her, and she connected with Sara,” Reichenbach said.
He noted that head coach Maria Lewis had just left the program, and he and Simard didn’t know what the future would bring. They were named co-head coaches for a year before Richard Reichenbach became the head coach and Sara was named the assistant.
The Reichenbachs have a special fondness for the seniors “because they committed to us when we didn’t have a head coach. They had to believe in us, and they didn’t even know if we were going to get the job here.”
Stacey’s statistics have improved every year, and that’s no accident, Reichenbach said.
“She is definitely one of the most mentally tough athletes I have ever worked with,” he said. “Whether she’s been having a good day or bad day or she’s sick or injured, she has worked at an extremely high rate for her entire four years. That’s why she has been able to develop.”
Stacey had four goals and seven assists in 33 games as a freshman, 9 & 9 in 35 games her sophomore year, 15 & 13 in 30 games last winter and has 13 & 17 in 35 games this season. She ranks second behind Vanisova (16 & 29).
She was the runner-up for Hockey East Defensive Forward of the Year last year.
“There aren’t a lot of players around with her size and speed,” Reichenbach said. “She’s not a super fitness type of player. She plays a really tough game. She’s physical.”
Stacey arrived in Orono a reserved person, but has really come out of her shell, he said.
“She is still a quiet person, but she’s more comfortable as a leader and interacts a lot more,” Reichenbach said.
Building “self-confidence” has helped Stacey on and off the ice, she said. The sociology major is proud of her Mohawk heritage and has a minor in Native American studies.
“I’ve learned a lot about the Wabanaki people,” Stacey said.
Reichenbach said Stacey’s success throughout her career is a “real big deal to her community. When we play at home, she’ll have 10 to 15 family members come down for the games.”
“They’ve been very supportive. My mom fills everybody in on what I’ve been doing,” Stacey said.
The Black Bears went 30-64-6 in her first three seasons, but she is thoroughly enjoying the team’s success this season (19-13-5, 11-9-4 HE) and credits a lot of it to hard work on the ice and in the weight room.
“It has been a roller coaster [career], a lot of ups and downs. But I’m happy with how my senior year is playing out,” said Stacey, who is looking forward to the Hockey East semifinal against No. 4 Northeastern at Matthews Arena in Boston at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
A win over Northeastern would send UMaine into the final against either top seed Boston College or No. 7 Connecticut at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re going to leave everything on the ice,” Stacey said.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.