Emily Rickwood didn’t always want to play hockey.
Back home in Ontario, Canada she first tried the sport after her dad decided to help coach one of the boy’s teams. He begged her to come out for the team, and she eventually agreed. She made the team and from then on, she was in love. Rickwood played for her dad from that moment on taking on any challenge she faced.
After playing with the boys’ team for many years, she had to switch to women’s after body checking was introduced. Her hockey career only took off from that moment on and her dad’s coaching gave her the skills she needed to succeed at the next level.
She went on to play for the junior’s team in Canada with her current teammates Nicole Kelly, Paige Rynne, and Lauren Martin. That team went on to win the Esso Cup giving Rickwood and her teammates the mindset that they could win at the next level.
After coming to the UNH campus it was pretty clear for Rickwood that she wanted to be here. The Whittemore Center sealed the deal for her in choosing UNH because of the Olympic sized ice rink, which is larger than your typical playing surface.
“Seeing all that ice and space made me really want to play here,” explained Rickwood. “It complements my game really well.”
Arriving at UNH for her first semester was the moment Emily knew how different this place was than home.
“University in Canada is much different than in America. It was like a movie when I first showed up, but I adjusted to it,” she said.
Despite the culture shock of attending college in America, she always produced in her time on the ice. She skated in 37 games during the 2019-20 season and was tied for third on the team in goals. Her experience from her sophomore campaign carried over to her play this season.
Kelly said playing with Rickwood opens up the ice for everyone because of her speed and offensive ability.
“Emily has always been an offensive defenseman and I think that brings out a lot of her talent, her speed and quick decision making,” Kelly explained.
Coach Witt noted Rickwood’s speed as well crediting her for a lot of their success on the offensive end. Rickwood is second on the ‘Cats in assists and first in blocked shots in 2021. Turning defense into offense has been a key aspect of Rickwood’s game with her speed from end to end. Kelly said she can always expect a great pass from Rickwood and complemented her ability to make the right play. Most importantly, Kelly said Rickwood always has her back on defense and as a forward, that’s the best you could ask of a defender.
Her role has changed this season now that she’s one of the veterans on the team. She credited the veteran teammates she had when she arrived at UNH for her growth. UNH head coach Hilary Witt said Rickwood has been a great leader for the team all season on and off the ice.
“Emily has been awesome defensively and as a leader this season,” noted Witt. “She’s taken a huge leap this year and her growth has been amazing to watch.”
Rickwood made it clear she intended to do the same as her teammates did for her by preparing her younger teammates to lead the next class of Wildcats.
Coach Witt said Emily’s efforts in leadership have shown on and off the ice; showing her teammates what it takes to win. Rickwood has started all 20 games for the Wildcats this season while maintaining stellar academic success off the ice. She was named to the Hockey East All-Academic team twice and she was selected as an American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-American scholar in 2020.
She is health and physical education major; however, she hopes she’ll be able to continue her hockey career after college. She wants to keep playing hockey and hopefully stay in the system for Canada’s national team and play in the Olympics. If she’s unable to keep playing, she’s going to use her knowledge and experience to become a coach.
In the meantime, she’s focused on helping the Wildcats win more games. The Wildcats take a 6-13-1 record into their matchup against Holy Cross in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. Rickwood said this team is full of talent and can beat anybody on any given night. Coach Witt shared the same sentiment.
“We’re definitely underrated and that’s okay with me,” said Witt.
The Wildcats face off against Holy Cross on Thursday at the Whittemore Center at 7 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Megan Murphy.