Schaack Value: Jamestown senior looks to cap outstanding careerIt isn't easy for Amber Schaack to watch her teammates play the position she loves. Schaack's scoring ability makes her a natural forward, but that's not the position she plays as a senior on the Jamestown High School girls hockey team. The all-stater has been thriving on defense for the 17-6 Blue Jays. “We didn't really have anybody with experience to go back there,” said Brad Schaack, her coach and father. “We need her back there.”
By: By Chris Aarhus, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
It isn't easy for Amber Schaack to watch her teammates play the position she loves.
Schaack's scoring ability makes her a natural forward, but that's not the position she plays as a senior on the Jamestown High School girls hockey team. The all-stater has been thriving on defense for the 17-6 Blue Jays.
“We didn't really have anybody with experience to go back there,” said Brad Schaack, her coach and father. “We need her back there.”
Schaack has fared well on defense, but she's also taken it upon herself to break offensive lulls by going coast to coast and burying the puck in the back of the net. It's those times when it's plainly obvious where Schaack's real potential lies.
“I prefer forward, yes,” Schaack said. “But if I need to play 'D', I'll play 'D'. We lost three of our four defensemen last year, and I've played defense before. It seems like I can still play forward and 'D' at the same time and still get back.”
It wasn't easy right away, but in the same breath, she's quick to share her love for the team.
“Anything, whatever's best for the team,” she said. “It was kind of tough right away not being able to go into the corners on the offensive end, and to sit back and watch the forwards do the work. It took a little while to get used to it.”
Wherever she plays on the ice, she's become one of the most dominant players in the state. Her 39 goals are third-best in North Dakota and she's sixth in points headed into the state tournament, which begins Thursday in Grand Forks. Over the course of her four-year career, she has 130 goals and 172 total points.
The game seems to come easy to Amber, but she faced an adjustment period switching from boys to girls during junior high when her father took over as head coach. The worst part? No checking in girls hockey.
“The first year it was kind of tough not checking,” she said. “Once I met the girls, they became my second family. The year before I had played on a girls summer team, so that helped me. But it was a little slower, but some girls were the same caliber as boys so it wasn't too bad.”
Her dad remembers her hitting ability as one of the best parts of her game when she was playing with boys.
“She was their best hitter; she'd lay boys out,” Brad recalled. “Some of these opposing coaches and parents would get mad (about players) getting hit by a girl. She had no fear on the checking deal.”
But his fatherly instincts got the best of him, moving Amber up to play girls hockey instead of one more year of PeeWees, which could have led to Bantams.
“I don't think I would have let her play Bantams,” Brad said. “That probably would have been too much.”
Amber struggled letting go of the physical part of the game often seen in boys hockey, evident by the penalties she took as a freshman and sophomore. She had 21 penalties for 50 minutes her first two years, but has since logged only seven penalties for 14 minutes.
Instead, she's embraced it, skating from one end to the other often untouched before slipping the puck past a diving goaltender. Even with numerous players putting their sticks out to defect the puck, Schaack seems to find a way around them. It's her puck-handling that keeps many opposing coaches in awe.
“My dad always taught me to protect the puck really well,” Schaack said. “With the boys, you had to do that or they could bump you off the puck. You had to protect the puck a lot more.”
Those long trips across the ice bring the forward out in her, something she's looking forward to when she starts school at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., in the fall. She'll be at her natural position for the NCAA Division III Cobbers, who lucked out getting Schaack after she considered going D-1.
“I think the main thing was I wanted to be able to play four more years,” Schaack said. “I feel at Concordia I may be able to start right away, rather than not be playing my freshman year. I want to get the most hockey I can out of my four years in college.”
It's a decision that suits Brad just fine.
“It's all up to her; it's not my decision to make,” Schaack said. “She's going to school to get an education, get her Master's and get a good job. Hockey ain't gonna pay the bills, not for girls.”
Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at email@example.com