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Ex-Cardinal ready for the ice bubble

Plattsburgh hockey alumna excited for NWHL season in Lake Placid

Kayla Meneghin is seen in 2017 in her senior season at Plattsburgh State University. (Provided photo — Plattsburgh State University)

The National Women’s Hockey League will be playing its entire 2021 season in Lake Placid, and a familiar face to many in Plattsburgh will be one of the players on the ice at 1980 Rink-Herb Brooks Arena.

Former Plattsburgh State women’s hockey standout Kayla Meneghin, who is now a member of the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts, will be in the league’s bubble in Lake Placid.

“I am super-excited,” Meneghin said. “It’s unreal. Everyone who I have talked to in the league has been so excited about it. It’s at Lake Placid, and there are already so many memories there with the 1980 Olympics, USA Hockey and all the tournaments.”

Plattsburgh alumna

Meneghin played four seasons at forward with the Cardinals from 2014-15 to 2017-18 and won three national championships.

“I miss everything about Plattsburgh,” Meneghin said. “That was a great part of my life and my hockey career that I spent there.”

She finished her career fourth in Division III women’s hockey history in points with 188 and ranked fifth all-time in career assists with 102.

Meneghin earned three CCM/AHCA All-America Honors and was also the 2015-16 ECAC West Player of the Year as well as the Northeast Women’s Hockey League Tournament MVP in 2017-18.

With all the accolades she garnished with Plattsburgh, she is excited to make some new memories in Lake Placid.

“Being in Plattsburgh, I would go to Lake Placid a couple times throughout the year just for fun,” Meneghin said. “It’s exciting to be able to get back up there. Cardinal Country is special, and I will be close to that again. I call Plattsburgh home, so it’s awesome to be close to home again.”

The bubble

The NWHL intends to play its entire regular season as well as the 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs from Jan. 23 to Feb. 5.

The league’s bubble season is designed to play in a protective environment that prioritizes the health and safety of players, staff and the surrounding community.

Meneghin, who has served as an assistant coach for the St. Anselm’s women’s hockey program since 2018, is making many sacrifices to enter this bubble as will all the players participating.

“I want to stay healthy, and I don’t want to risk anything for my teammates and coaches,” Meneghin said. “Right now I am not working. I am just concentrating on hockey and working out. It’s different than it has been the past two years with coaching, but I am excited to have this opportunity.”

The season

The NWHL’s six teams include the Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, Toronto Six and the Beauts.

The season in Lake Placid will feature each team playing five regular-season games before four teams advance to the playoffs for a single-game semifinal round followed by the championship.

With the fast-paced season, Meneghin said one of the keys to success mirrors the approach she applies to games.

“With how quick everything is going to be, you can’t dwell on anything,” Meneghin said. “In games, it’s always about focusing on the next shift. You can’t dwell on mistakes, and it’s going to be really important to have a short memory in a season like this.”

Joining Buffalo

This will be Meneghin’s first season with Buffalo after spending the previous two seasons in the Connecticut organization.

With more depth added to the Beauts this year, especially on defense, as well as a familiar system, she’s excited to be joining Buffalo.

“They talk about sacrificing and playing from the defensive zone,” Meneghin said. “That’s how I was brought up to play in Plattsburgh. I am super excited to get back to a way I have known for four years, and I feel really comfortable about it.”

Meneghin was known for her scoring at Plattsburgh but also did not mind grinding plays out and playing in the dirty areas, which is something she looks forward to bringing to the table with the Beauts.

“My freshman year at Plattsburgh, I sacrificed a lot blocking shots,” Meneghin said. “That’s something in my game right now that is my greatest asset. I love to block shots. I don’t care if I get hurt. I get so much adrenaline off of it. That’s something I strive for and want to keep doing. It can be a momentum changer in a game.”

Getting ready

While there’s plenty of excitement regarding the upcoming season in Lake Placid, there’s still work to do, and Meneghin has been busy preparing.

Her typical training days include Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, which are grouped with skill practice on Tuesday and team practice Wednesday and Friday.

“Based off of that, I will try to find extra ice somewhere else to get a little more of a workout in and get on ice and work on some skills,” Meneghin said.

While she had tons of success at Plattsburgh, Meneghin knew when she joined the NWHL that she would need to improve her game in many ways.

That’s why her training schedule could be described as grueling at times.

“My first year in the NWHL, I struggled a bit,” Meneghin said. “There is a difference between Division I and Division III hockey. The thing I would say most is the speed. Just making quicker plays. The last two years I have had to work on my speed and finding a way to make plays.”

Enjoying the time

Regardless of how the season goes, Meneghin said she looks forward to soaking in all the moments and being part of a historic time for the NWHL.

“The whole bubble concept is the best of both worlds,” Meneghin said. “You always want to go somewhere with your team and hangout. It’s kind of college all over again.”

As a whole, Meneghin sees this Lake Placid opportunity as a great chance for the league to grow even further and open more windows for women’s hockey in the future.

“I did not have this to look up to when I was younger,” Meneghin said.

“The main reason I am a part of this league now is I want little girls to be able to look up to us and see where we are right now and work up to that goal. It’s everyone’s goal to go to a professional league. It’s cool to have that and those girls look up to you.”

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