Sports helped hockey star come out of her armour

[attach]5436[/attach]A toe-drag, deke and top shelf.

It was with one swift motion that Malvern’s Catharine MacKeigan beat a stunned Etobicoke Rams goalkeep in a January varsity girls hockey match.

Canada’s game has been attached to MacKeigan’s schedule like a DNA strand in her family’s blood.

“We always had a backyard skating rink when I was growing up, so I’d always be playing on that with my brothers,” she said. “I have a younger brother, who goes to Malvern actually, and two older brothers.”

Nine years after strapping on the skates at age four, and countless hours spent with her three brothers Jeff, Danny and Mike, she entered high school where she joined the Black Knights on the ice.

The 18-year-old has stretched her athletic abilities into other arenas like field hockey and rugby, and has grown into a natural leader, according to her field hockey and rugby coach Lesley Gage.

“For all of the teams she’s on she acts as a liaison between the coaches and the players,” she said. “Catharine’s the one that if I need anything or the word spread on changes, I email her and then everyone knows.”

It wasn’t always like that though. MacKeigan’s shyness in grade 9 only gave her enough motivation to try out for hockey. But with encouragement she broke out of her own armour and donned Black Knights’ field hockey and rugby gear in later years.

“I was thinking about it a lot today, my attitude as a grade 9 — the immaturity,” she said. “I grew up a lot and I feel I became a better leader.

“Being able to encourage girls has definitely improved but I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t play any of the sports I have.”

It’s an attitude she’s obtained from Malvern alumna Danielle Underwood and Emily Pitre.

“They’re definitely some role models I look up to when I play,” she said.

But ice hockey is her dominant sport, where her on-ice speed as a winger has won many a game for Malvern.

Down 3-1 in their last regular season game against Lawrence Park, the Black Knights mounted a comeback.

And with eight seconds on the clock, “Keigan” as Gage refers to her standout player, scored the game winner.

“I know she plays a pivotal role fostering the relationships with the new kids,” Gage said. “We have a lot of varsity teams, which is great because it gives the senior kids an opportunity to take on the leadership role.”

That championing of confidence is also an attribute that helps MacKeigan co-captain the school’s Peer Leader Group of 70 members. Her partner in crime is Dylan Ciccarelli.

On top of the leagues she plays out of the school, including Balmy Beach Rugby and Leaside Wildcats, MacKeigan consistently makes the school’s honour roll.

MacKeigan admits time management is what she’s learned, and will need in university. At present she’s applied to St. Francis Xavier, Bishop’s, Western and Guelph.

It will be a tough sell whether she plays ice hockey or rugby though.

Still, MacKeigan says she doesn’t regret getting into sports.

“I would have to say playing sports at Malvern was the best decision I have ever made,” she said. “I made a lot of friends and it’s opened a lot of doors for me for sure.”

It’s been a high turnover in the girls athletics department at Malvern, and the loss of MacKeigan and field hockey teammate Abi Moody won’t go unnoticed.

“It will be a huge void and not only because of (MacKeigan’s) steely nerves in net (field hockey) and her aggression — the motivation that she brings to the team,” Gage said. “She’s a bit of a joker and she knows when to be focused and intense.

“She also knows when the team needs some comic relief whether it be to pick some kids up, lift their spirits.”