Calumet native Chelsea Jacques overcomes injury to play in Frozen Four
HAMILTON, NY — For Calumet native Chelsea Jacques, a trip to the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four championship game was an amazing experience. What she personally went through to get there says a lot about the makeup of the third-year defenseman on the Colgate Raiders.
Jacques started well, spent almost half the season injured, had her defensive partner leave the team to compete in the Olympics, returned from injury in time to get her game together for the ECAC playoffs, and scored her first career goal all during the winningest season in Raiders’ history.
The whole experience was surreal for the junior.
“Everybody is really excited,” Jacques said. “The campus is really fired up about it. It’s the first time that women’s hockey has ever done something like that.”
Jacques came into the 2017-18 season in great shape, and the normally defensive defenseman started the season with a point in the opening game of the season on the goal that iced a 3-0 victory over St. Cloud State.
She was really pleased with the quick start.
She played three of the next four games, getting hurt along the way and trying to play her way through it. The injury won out, and she soon found herself having to watch games at the Class of 1965 Arena from the press box as opposed to on the bench with her teammates.
Jacques missed the next 14 games. During that stretch, the Raiders went 10-2-1, and she found herself getting frustrated that she wasn’t making the kind of progress she had hoped to.
Fortunately for the junior, head coach Greg Fargo kept tabs on her progress. While Jacques worked through her frustration, Fargo made sure that she was ready before inserting her back in the lineup.
For Jacques, that type of attention from the coach was just what she needed to remind her that she was on the right track.
“The communication with my coach was good,” Jacques said. “He said he wanted to get me back into the lineup and see how I did and everything. He wanted to make sure that I was ready before I was in consistently.”
She rejoined her teammates for their Jan. 13 matchup against Dartmouth. It proved to be too early and Fargo held her out of the next two games. Jacques again rejoined the ranks for the Jan. 26 game against St. Lawrence, and she picked up her second assist of the season in a 5-2 win.
Two games later, her defensive partner, Livia Altmann, was out of the lineup with a great excuse: Altmann had joined the Swiss Olympic team in Pyeongchang. In a funny twist that shows how small the hockey world is, Jacques’ defensive partner from her freshman year, Nicole Gass, joined Altmann for the Olympics.
Jacques and her teammates had fun razzing their teammate upon her return to the squad.
“If you call her an Olympian, she will tell you to shut up,” Jacques said. “She doesn’t like the special treatment. She’s really great.”
Jacques was happy to have her partner back just in time for the start of the ECAC playoffs. Altmann and Jacques slid right back into a comfortable feeling on the ice in a 6-4 win over Harvard to open the series on Feb. 23.
Then something very special happened in Game 2.
With her team up 5-1 late in the third, Jacques fired a shot that snuck through Crimson goalie Beth Larcom, giving the Calumet native her first collegiate goal.
While the goal did not make a difference in the final score, it still meant a lot to Jacques.
“It felt good,” she said. “I’m not much of a point-getter, and it can be a little frustrating at times … Finally making something like that happen felt really good.”
The Raiders defeated No. 6 Cornell, a rival, to make it to the ECAC Championship against No. 2 Clarkson, the defending national champions. The Golden Knights emerged from that game victorious, but the Raiders had already done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
Drawing No. 9 Northeastern in the quarterfinals, Jacques and her teammates were happy to see a team they had already swept earlier in the season. Jacques was excited because this time she would get to play against the Huskies, as she was injured during the previous series.
The Raiders took the game, 3-1.
“I wasn’t playing when we played them the last time,” Jacques said. “So, I got to look from above (during that weekend). I was really excited to draw them up and get to play them because I hadn’t gotten to before.”
The win meant a Frozen Four semifinal matchup against the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. Three times in regulation the Raiders led by one, and all three times the Badgers fought back to tie the game. It took nearly a second full overtime before Breanne Wilson-Bennett punched the Raiders’ ticket to the title game against a familiar opponent, the Golden Knights.
In the title game, the Golden Knights jumped out to a 1-0 lead 16:29 into the contest. The Raiders evened things just 2:27 into the second and that was all the scoring for either side until overtime. In the extra session, the Raiders had three shots in a row blocked by the Golden Knights defenders before Elizabeth Giguere, daughter of former NHL goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, went the other way and ended Jacques’ season with a goal at 7:55.
Despite the loss, Jacques and her teammates finished the season 34-6-1 overall and 19-3-0 in ECAC play. The 34 wins were the most by a Raiders team in the history of the program.