Hensley skates to national level

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Daniel Williams
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LAKEWOOD - One of Lakewood’s own is making it big and making even bigger saves.

Nicole Hensley, a 2012 graduate of Green Mountain High School, recently completed a stellar rookie campaign as a freshman goaltender playing NCAA Division I ice hockey at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

The 19-year-old gained national acclaim for her 90-save effort in a CHA Conference playoff game against Robert Morris University on March 1, setting an NCAA Division I record for saves in the entire CHA Conference playoff tournament in only one game.

On Friday, Hensley learned she will be recognized for her 90-save game on the Lindenwood website as one of the university’s “Top 10 Sports Moments of the Year.”

On Friday the Lindenwood website will note the accomplishment.

The award is only one of many awards that Hensley has racked up in just a single season. After earning both starts as a freshman in the season opening series against nonconference Western Collegiate Athletic Conference (WCHA) opponent Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 28-29. Hensley went on to become the No. 1 goaltender for the Lady Lions and garnered numerous awards at the university, conference and national level during the 2012-13 season.

Her first award of the season was the Lindenwood Female Student Athlete of the Week Award, followed by three CHA Conference Honor Roll awards, five CHA Conference Rookie of the Week awards, and the CHA Conference Rookie of the Month Award for February 2013.

Additional awards came at the end of the season. Hensley was a unanimous selection to the CHA Conference All-Rookie Team, was selected CHA All Conference Second Team, and was named CHA Conference Rookie of the Year, finishing second in the CHA Conference with a .939 save percentage in league games, just .001 behind the leader.

But Hensley is far from satisfied. She is already geared up for her sophomore campaign.

“At this point, my goals include making it back to the Warren Strelow Goaltending Camp next year as well as making August Fest sometime in the future which is a camp that brings together players from the national team, as well as hopefuls for the future teams and possibly one day the Olympics,” Hensley said.

While becoming a member of Team USA is just a dream for many, it is a potential reality for Hensley, who was invited by USA Hockey to attend the Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in Ann Arbor, Mich. last May. The camp featured the top 12 female goaltenders in the U.S. eligible for international play in select age groups.

While she continues to excel, she recalls the early days fondly.

“One of my other favorite memories would’ve been when my High Plains hockey team, the Black Widows beat the Polar Bears in overtime to win the state championship. It was really cool because my sister was on the team and those games are always fun because you have friends on every team,” Hensley said.

Her sister, Brittany, will be a junior at Green Mountain High School this fall and is a letter winner for the Rams in soccer, basketball and academically.

Nicole, an exercise science major, is looking forward to a strong sophomore athletic and academic year at Lindenwood, with the 2013-14 ice hockey season opening series at home on September 27-28 with a non-conference series against WCHA opponent Bemidji State from Bemidji, Minn.

Lindenwood is a member of the College Hockey America (CHA) Conference along with Penn State, Syracuse, Mercyhurst, Robert Morris and RIT.