It was a feeling of dread Kristen Campbell had experienced before.
In the spring of 2017, the freshman goaltender at the University of North Dakota had to live through the shocking announcement that her school was cutting its women’s hockey program.
Almost three years later, the 22-year-old Brandonite and her University of Wisconsin teammates were told Thursday their season was over, another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A day earlier, the No. 2-ranked Badgers were warned today’s quarter-final game at home against Clarkson in the national tournament would be played in an empty arena.
However, those plans changed quickly — dashing hopes of back-to-back NCAA titles.
The all-American goaltender, who transferred to the U of W after leaving UND, led the Badgers to the 2019 national title with three consecutive shutouts in the NCAA tournament, earning MVP honours.
"Yesterday there were some feelings of déjà vu, going through kind of the same process," said Campbell via telephone from Madison, Wis., Friday afternoon.
“If there was one thing I learned from last time I went through something similar is to cope with it (by)tackling it head-on and getting out onto the ice. Just being out there with your team. That’s the first thing that came to mind was even though practice was cancelled, all I wanted to do was be out to go out there and skate with everyone.” — Kristen Campbell
"This time there was some forewarning. The first time there really wasn’t.
"You’re waiting. The coaches come in and they’re basically telling you, the seniors, that our careers are over. I feel like this time around all those emotions were hitting me, coming from different angles than last time."
Campbell said her experiences at UND made it easier to cope with this week’s news.
"If there was one thing I learned from last time I went through something similar is to cope with it (by)tackling it head-on and getting out onto the ice," said Campbell.
"Just being out there with your team. That’s the first thing that came to mind was even though practice was cancelled, all I wanted to do was be out to go out there and skate with everyone."
Campbell, one of six seniors on the squad, must now concentrate on putting the wraps on a degree in rehab psychology.
Classes at U of W have been cancelled until April 10 and all course work has been moved online. With campus facilities set to close, the school is encouraging students to head home. Campbell’s graduation is tentatively scheduled for May 8.
"When I look back on it, I feel like I had a lot to be proud of and a lot to leave behind for our classes to follow," said Campbell.
"I feel like the senior group did a lot of great things here and we have to be proud of that even though it obviously isn’t the ending we would have wanted to write."
With her NCAA eligibility up, Campbell is looking ahead to playing options after college. Pro action with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association showcase tour or a European destination are possibilities.
She may also choose to train with Hockey Canada’s goaltending coaches in Calgary.
GABER’S STELLAR SEASON ON HOLD
Riese Gaber was enjoying one of the best seasons of his hockey career when everything came to a screeching halt this week.
The 20-year-old Dubuque Fighting Saints forward from Gilbert Plains, who will attend UND on a scholarship next fall, was leading the USHL with 34 goals in 47 games while also sitting seventh in the overall points race with 55.
Then came Thursday’s decision to put the 62-game regular season on hold.
"Yeah, it’s pretty tough right now," said Gaber from Dubuque, Iowa. "We’re kinda waiting to see what’s going to happen."
Gaber and his teammates hope to have a clearer picture of their fate next week. In the meantime, they are not allowed to practise or hold team meetings.
"I’m really hoping it’s just a pause and we get to resume," said Gaber. "Obviously, it’s not a full season but it is what it is right now and it’s the right thing for the league to do. It’s happening all over."
The 5-8, 164-pounder has been been a dynamic offensive player at every level in his career, but this season has been special.
"I think what I’ve been able to accomplish this season has been a highlight for me," said Gaber.
"Coming into this year I was confident in myself but there’s a ton of good players in this league. To think I’d be sitting on top right now is probably something I wouldn’t have expected."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Friday, March 13, 2020 at 10:11 PM CDT: Adds photo