Grace Harrison broadens her crease on campus
A chance collision of two worlds reminded Grace Harrison of the crucial impact orientation leaders make on incoming college students.
“A couple weeks after orientation week, I was on my way to work out,” she reflected in a recent interview with Pucks and Recreation. “A teammate of mine was on a treadmill and was joined by a first year from my orientation group. This first year affirmed and complimented me about my work as an OL to my teammate. Hearing that was pretty cool.”
Harrison, a senior goalie for St. Lawrence, knows firsthand how challenging transitions can be. That holds true for those hailing five minutes away from campus, let alone from another part of the world.
Harrison hails from Auckland, New Zealand. Her unique hockey journey has been documented before, but it is this rich background that shaped her desire to be an OL.
“Not too many athletes are eligible to be an OL,” said Harrison, who volunteered for the fall 2017 semester. “We have to go through a week of training, so with practice many fall athletes cannot participate with practices. I was one of the lucky few that did not.
“I was interested to give back to the school that gave me so much. It was so much fun because my group even had two men’s hockey players in it.”
Many aspects of orientation itself stood out for Harrison. Luckily, her training assisted her in overcoming obstacles posed by the incoming students.
“The week of training gives you the resources to handle most things that come your way,” said Harrison. “When we did get thrown a curveball, I was lucky enough to have a great OL partner (Christian Eveleigh), who was super levelheaded, and we bounced solutions off each other pretty well.”
Despite the challenges, every moment of growth was an important milestone.
“With regard to the orientees the fun moments were watching them pull it together when they were a little skeptical or hesitant at first,” said Harrison. “Christian and I were lucky enough to be put with some veteran community assistants, who were awesome.
“Their First Year Program (FYP) teachers were a hoot too. First Year Program is the class you take with your orientation group. The class helps you further develop the basic skills needed for college through a field you’ve expressed interest in.”
Unlike Harrison, the transition to college life for her orientees seemed to go much more smoothly.
“A few in my group were from the West Coast. But despite that, I think they transitioned a lot better than I did,” she said with a laugh.
Harrison’s easygoing personality and extroverted nature certainly helped the first years in that regard.
“I tend to be pretty social,” she said. “I think that helped me. On campus, I was also part of a group that hosted concerts and events from the spring of my sophomore year to the fall of my junior year. This experience helped in my transition to be an OL.”
A year later, Harrison relishes every opportunity to reconnect with her orientees.
“Now that the group I had is sophomores, it’s awesome seeing them around campus,” she said. “I enjoy talking about what they’re declaring as their major or what clubs and organizations they are getting involved with on campus.
“I genuinely get pretty stoked that they all seem to be willing to stop and spin a yarn (Kiwi slang for conversing).”
Not only did Harrison instill confidence to first-year students, but she also grew to further appreciate her own collegiate experiences.
“There are so many memories,” said the statistics major. “It’s been such an incredible journey. and much of that is due to the coaching staff who have been here a long time.
“In terms of on-ice memories, playing in my first (IIHF Division II World Championship) for my native New Zealand stands out.” Her hometown of Auckland hosted the 2013 tournament, where she finished fifth among qualified goalies with a .895 save percentage. She followed that up with representing her home country in Italy in 2014 and Scotland in 2015.
“However,” she continued, “for St. Lawrence, what stood out most was our playoff series against Princeton in the 2015-16 season.”
That conference quarterfinal consisted of three close games, with St. Lawrence emerging victorious. In fact, the Saints scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 overtime victory. After letting in a 6-0n-5 equalizer with 15 seconds left in Game 3, Harrison and company regrouped to take the thriller in sudden death.
“Now that the group I had (as an OL leader) is sophomores, it’s awesome seeing them around campus. I enjoy talking about what they’re declaring as their major or what clubs and organizations they are getting involved with on campus.” – Grace Harrison
However, it is the strong bonds with her teammates that allowed them to overcome these grueling moments.
“Sharing stories on road trips with teammates and the life lessons you learn from the coaches that are not hockey-related are really valuable memories for me,” said Harrison.
These non-hockey related lessons stand out prominently for the goalie.
“My favorite part about St. Lawrence hockey is that once you cross Main Street you’re just another St. Lawrence student,” she said. “Wellsy (head coach Chris Wells) is likely a part of dying breed of coaches that trusts the character of the players Boomer (associate head coach Ted Wisner) is bringing in to make their own choices.
“Our time outside the rink is our own to do with what we want. In addition, if there are things on campus that we want to get involved with, our coaches accommodate us to the best of their ability.
“A prime example of this was, whilst being an OL, they had to reschedule a couple workouts so I could attend some of the FYP events. They’ve also helped work around me attending SLU connect events and conferences.”
Beyond her career as an SLU student-athlete, Harrison’s coaches imparted wisdom impacting her post-graduation plans.
“Both Mare (assistant coach Mare MacDaugall Bari) and Boomer have attained postgraduate education,” she said. “With that and their coaching experience they have provided me with the capacity to see things through such different lenses I would not have been privy to otherwise.”
While her senior year has arrived much sooner than she expected, Harrison has a few outstanding goals in mind before she graduates. Not the least of those is winning the ECAC tournament, something the storied SLU program achieved in 2012, but at no other time in its history.
So far in Harrison’s career, the Saints are 0-3 in conference semifinals, two of which she has played in.
“Being two wins away the past couple years has been difficult,” she said. “However, I want to graduate from St. Lawrence without regrets. I love our locker-room culture, and I feel so lucky to be here.”
Perhaps that realization is the most important lesson Harrison imparted to her orientation group.
“The great thing about St. Lawrence is that the school certainly puts an emphasis on being a good student or a good athlete,” she said. “However, the most important thing that St. Lawrence has taught me is how to be a good person.”