December 1, 2011 at 8:40 a.m.

Lushanko puts a pen to the paper, officially headed north

Lushanko puts a pen to the paper, officially headed north
Lushanko puts a pen to the paper, officially headed north

Megan Lushanko will officially be the first girl to play Division I hockey out of the Chisago Lakes girls hockey program.

The senior signed her papers and faxed them up north to Beaver headquarters during the early signing period prior to Thanksgiving.

"I've gotten to coach Megan the last six years, and she has been one of the hardest working players I have ever coached and it has been fun watching her develop into a Division I athlete," Chisago Lakes girls hockey Head Coach Jason Mahlen said. "I think it is a product of our entire girls hockey program. The youth coaches have been doing an outstanding job developing girls and we have a great staff at the high school level and I have been lucky to work with a lot of great girls over the years. It has been fun seeing several of our girls going on to play college hockey."

The decision for Lushanko wasn't an easy one, and not something that could be taken lightly by her or her family.

Lushanko had plenty of interest around the nation, including one of 2010's top-ranked teams in Mercyhurst located in Erie, Pennsylvania. She also drew interest from Providence College, the University of Connecticut and Ohio State University.

Sans any visits, Lushanko's top choice was Mercyhurst. The Lakers are a perennial national power in women's hockey. They've gone 173-33-9 over the last six seasons, including two trips to the NCAA Frozen Four and one appearance in the national championship game.

The aura and power of the Mercyhurst program really propelled them to the top of Lushanko's list, but a lone visit to the school made her quickly realize it'd be a mistake to sign with the Lakers.

Lushanko didn't feel comfortable going to a school that was so far away from her home and from her family. On that same tour, Lushanko visited a few of the other schools out East, but came to the same conclusion at all of them: they were just too far away from her parents and her trio of brothers Cory, Trevor and Landon (Cory graduated from CL last year and is playing in the NAHL, Trevor is a sophomore at the high school and Landon is an eighth grader.)

When Lushanko returned home from the visits, she was contacted by Bemidji State assistant coach Shane Veenker. Veenker told Lushanko that they'd been watching her for some time and were very interested in her services as a student athlete at the school.

Lushanko quickly scheduled an unofficial visit to Bemidji and was hooked after only a short time on the campus. She was already much closer to family, and they wouldn't have to fly to see her play college hockey. But, that wasn't the only thing that hooked the Center City native. She instantly got along with Head Coach Steve Sertich, who was a 1976 Olympian for Team USA, as well as the newly constructed $35 million Sanford Center that the Beavers play their home games in, and another top reason was the ability to play in the tradition-rich Western Collegiate Hockey Association. "Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to play Division I hockey, but I always wanted it to be in the WCHA," she said. "They've always had the best womens hockey teams."

Although a newly formed Big 10 Conference will be vulturing some of the prestigious WCHA teams in mens hockey, the womens conference will remain in tact, preserving the tradition for young hockey minds like Lushanko.

But, off the ice, Lushanko was even more impressed by BSU's education department, as she plans to pursue a major in education while she terrorizes opponents with her speed and crafty stickwork.

"The staffs at Mercyhurst and Providence were great, but the locations just didn't work," Lushanko said. "Right away, the area and the community at Bemidji had me hooked and everything just fit together up there."

Lushanko got to take her official visit to Bemidji in October. She got a chance to meet some of her future teammates, stay in the dorms for a weekend that would be housing the hockey players and attended a game against St. Cloud State.

Although she is mainly a center for the Wildcats right now, Lushanko said she would do whatever the BSU coaches asked of her regarding position. With her speed, any of the forward spots could be a possibility. "They have another very speedy winger up there that they said they might try me with and see how it goes," she said. Lushanko added that she planned on contributing as a freshman and the coaches told her they would be able to use her immediately. "I think I bring a playmaking attitude to the team. I love setting up my girls and a lot of times, making that amazing assist is better than scoring the actual goal," she said.

Mahlen says that the Beavers are getting a hard-nosed young girl. "Megan is extremely dedicated to the game," he said. "She will give you everything she has each game and practice. She is extremely competitive and will not quit no matter what the scoreboard says."

Lushanko knows that with her small size she will often be the smallest girl on the rink in Division I games, but that doesn't intimidate her. "I'll just have to utilize my speed even more and it'll really benefit me as a college player," she explained. "I also am working on getting a harder shot and getting my stick handling stronger to battle with the bigger girls against the boards."

Although she has plenty of senior year left, Lushanko is already excited about some of the new possibilities up in Bemidji. "I can't wait to meet new friends and experience new things and a new environment," she said. Although all of that will be different for her, playing on the rink will be something she's done all her life, and she still plans on using her favorite move when she gets to Bemidji. "I love to fake a shot, slide the puck to my backhand, quickly bring it back to my forehand and slide it through the goalie's five-hole," she explained.

If that's the case, the WCHA goalies better keep those five-holes tight, because the speedy Lushanko is less than a year away from skating up and down the ice with the WCHA's best.

Lushanko wanted to thank Stacy Anderson and Alexandra Zebro, her FHIT instructors at Minnesota Advancement Program at the Schwan's Super Rink in Blaine. "Not only did they help develop my skills," she said, "But, they were in continuous contact with Division I programs interested in me.

"I'd also like to thank my parents for supporting me over the years and my brothers for being so helpful and being there for me."

Comments:

Commenting has been disabled for this item.

Events

February

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
25
26
27
28
29
1
2
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.

Events

February

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
25
26
27
28
29
1
2
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.