While most people would disregard the draft of the National Women’s Hockey League, it held some significance for the University of New Hampshire in the 2018 draft, as senior defense, Jenna Rheault was selected 25th overall by the Boston Pride. She was one of nine women from the Hockey East division alone to be selected in the draft. The draft was held via Twitter and went over the course of two days and it originally came as a shock to her as she wasn’t expecting to be drafted.
“I found out on the Monday before and it was really hard keeping that secret to myself because I really wanted to tell everyone,” Rheault said. “But being able to able to grow the game of women’s hockey is really cool and I was just honored and very thankful and grateful.” She is also the third Wildcat to be drafted since 2017. During her four years she played in all 143 games posting six goals and 18 assists for 24 points.
Rheault classifies herself as a stay at home defenseman, putting her responsibilities on defense first then worrying about offense. “I do try to use my skating ability to get up in the play and this year I feel like I did connect more offensively, being able to connect passes when I should.” She also won the Colleen Coyne Defensive Player Award, which is a team award handed out to who gets nominated by the players and coaches.
“It’s an honor to be nominated for having a great defensive game because I take a lot of pride in being a stay at home defenseman. My team pushes me everyday to get better so I can’t thank them enough for helping me receive this award.”
This past season was the best of Rheault’s career with two goals to tie her career high while also posting a career high eight assists for a career high 10 points. But she still stayed true to her stay at home defenseman mentality as she was second on the team in blocked shots with 50, trailing only freshman Warren Talli’s 52 blocks.
“I like to block shots a lot, prevent the puck from getting into the back of the net,” Rheault said. Blocking shots was definitely something she did well, tallying up a massive 218 blocks over the course of four seasons, which averages out to just over 1.5 blocked shots per game. Rheault also said she likes “doing the little things, like blocking shots, getting the puck out (of the defensive zone) the first time, winning one on one battles. I take pride in that.”
That idea of doing the little things seems to extend off the ice. Teammate, junior, Meghara McManus said, “Her contagious energy and competitive spirit are among many assets that she brings to the team. Not only is she a great person, but her talent that she displays on ice is remarkable. Her skating and hockey IQ enable her to be the playmaker that she is. Jenna’s work ethic and leadership is inspiring to those around her.”
Just because she is going to a new team doesn’t mean she is going to become a new player. “I still want to have that defensive mindset, but I do want to be able to contribute offensively and be able to build off of what I was able to produce this year as a senior,” she said.
As did many other kids who grew up playing hockey, she got into it from family members who played. In her case, this was her grandfather, father, uncle and brother who all also played at the collegiate level as forwards. Unlike they did, Rheault went with defense as she wanted to be different from them. As a matter of fact, her first college level goal came at Clarkson, where her grandfather used to play.
“I believe it was because he was watching over me, but that was a really exciting moment for me,” Rheault said.
Until she is called by the league to sign contracts, Rheault will still be at home training off the ice and skating with a professional women’s program in Bedford, Massachusetts.