Minnesota State University, Mankato was the first team to recruit Red Wing’s Nicole Schammel, who started playing varsity girls hockey for the Wingers as a seventh-grader.
The Mavericks approach paid off Sunday as head women’s hockey coach Eric Means received a verbal commitment from Schammel, the state’s leading scorer.
“From the beginning, coach Means has really recruited me,” Schammel, a junior at Red Wing, said. “Mankato’s always really pursued me and always made it clear that they wanted me as a player.”
Getting a chance to play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association was a huge selling point for Schammel as she will face the country’s best players every game.
“When I was little I always knew I wanted to play in the WCHA,” she said. “It’s the best league to play in; the most competitive.”
“For women’s hockey, that’s like playing in the SEC in football or the ACC in basketball,” Red Wing head girls hockey coach Scott Haley added. “You want to have an opportunity to play in the best league in the country.”
Bemidji State University, St. Cloud State University and Ohio State University were also considered before Schammel chose MSU-Mankato.
Schammel should get an opportunity to play as a freshman at Mankato, especially on special teams, and the Mavericks hope her scoring ability translates quickly to the college game.
“One of the biggest things (Means) said is that they need that reliable goal scorer,” Schammel said. “They play a really defensive game. … I wanted to go into a program where I’d be an impact player. The year I come in, they lose six forwards. That was really important to my decision.”
The decision to play for the Mavericks also allows Schammel to remain close to home and her brother, Blake, who goes to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
“It’ll be nice having my family be able to still come to games,” Schammel said. “My freshman year I’ll be ten minutes away from (Blake) and I thought everything just matched with that.
“My family has invested a lot of time in me; driving me up to the Cities to play. You have to thank my parents for spending all that time with me and helping me make that decision and make that dream come true.”
Scott Haley said he was impressed by the Mavericks’ coaching staff and the work Means has put into the making the future bright in Mankato.
“The thing that I’ve been impressed with is they’ve been grabbing some pretty high profile players,” he said. “I think they’re really a program on the rise.”
Rose Alleva, who plays for Princeton University, started Red Wing’s rise as a program and the current run of Red Wing girls hockey players playing Division I hockey. The Wingers are currently 17-1 and ranked No. 2 in Class 1A, with Paige Haley committed to play at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and now Schammel.
“Rose set the standard and Nicole has done her part to set a standard for a different group of kids, and Paige also,” Scott Haley said. “(Schammel)’s progressively gotten better every year which is the key to taking it to that next level. That’s not as easy as it sounds sometimes. … I don’t care where you’re playing Division I athletics, you don’t just show up at the gym or the rink without putting some sort of work in.”
Another reason for picking Mankato was the school’s graduate programs. Schammel said she will enter college as a sophomore credit-wise after taking post-secondary education classes. While at Mankato, she can use her scholarship to continue her education beyond undergraduate studies.
Schammel currently leads the state in scoring with 74 points (42 goals, 32 assists) in 18 games. If she continues her current pace in the final seven games, she will finish fifth in state history for points in a single-season with 103 points, according to the Minnesota State High School League.
Winnie Brodt, of Roseville, scored 129, Ronda Curtin had 137 for Roseville and Krisy Wendell tallied 149 and 165 points in separate seasons for Park Center to hold the top two scoring seasons in state history.
Means used Wendell as an early recruiting pitch to Schammel.
“When I went on my first visit there as a freshman, he told me, which stuck in my mind throughout the whole process, that the University of Minnesota has already had their Krisy Wendell’s,” Schammel said. “He wants someone to be the face of their program. Hopefully I can help bring some other girls (to Mankato). That was a big part of it for me.”