A trip to Alberta to represent Prince Edward Island put Sarah MacEachern on the radar.
She was only 14 when she pulled on the Team P.E.I. jersey at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer, Alta., while many of her teammates were three years older.
The smooth-skating defenceman from Canoe Cove didn’t disappoint.
MacEachern made Team Atlantic for the 2019 nationals in Winkler, Man. At the camp, she was the fittest athlete as an underage player. She also attended a Hockey Canada summer camp this year and is in Ontario playing with some of the country’s top young players. In addition, she has committed to play Division 1 hockey for the Cornell University Big Red in Ithaca, N.Y., in 2022.
“Before Canada Games, I didn't really consider (going to the United States),” she said. “Then I got offers from universities when I got back, and that’s when it kind of started to get real and I started to consider it as an option.”
The 16-year-old daughter of Thane MacEachern and Sherry Gillis said receiving the offers was “amazing”.
“It makes you feel good about all of the stuff that you’ve done leading up to it,” she said. “I love hockey and want to play it in future years, so it just makes you excited and more motivated to do better in hockey.”
Chris Harkness, who coached the Island’s Canada Games girls’ hockey team, said MacEachern has earned every opportunity she has received.
“Sarah is a pretty special person,” he said. “She’s one of the quickest learners I’ve ever coached. She had an exceptional ability to learn on the fly. … She is also one of the most physically fit athletes I have ever seen.”
MacEachern started playing hockey before she started school and has always played defence.
“I just like shutting down the offence, I think that’s my favourite part,” said the five-foot-eight, 150-pound blue-liner, “and you still get to go join the offence.”
MacEachern played boys hockey from her second year of atom through peewee and bantam before joining the Mid-Isle Wildcats midget AAA girls’ squad in 2019-20. She was named the league’s top defenceman and a first team all-star.
At a glance
- Who: Sarah MacEachern, a 16-year-old Canoe Cove resident.
- Athlete: The five-foot-eight, 150-pound defenceman is playing in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League in Ontario and for her varsity team at Appleby College. She is in Grade 11 and has committed to Cornell University for 2022.
- 2019 Team P.E.I. coach Chris Harkness said: “Her mobility is so good it just makes her so efficient on the ice.”
- Did you know? MacEachern was named Hockey P.E.I.’s female player of the year in 2019-20.
- Officiating: MacEachern has also worked as hockey official.
- Other sports: MacEachern was a co-captain the past three seasons with the P.E.I. F.C. provincial soccer team and played field hockey. She also competed in a number of sports at Bluefield High School in 2019-20. “I love to run,” MacEachern said, noting she competed in cross country and track and field. She competed in the Future Elites Combine in February and was one of the top two females with Vanessa Keefe.
Earlier this month, she moved to Ontario where she will play in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) for the Etobicoke Junior Dolphins. She will also suit up for the varsity team at her school, Appleby College in Oakville.
She has practised with her teams, but Appleby doesn’t play until November while MacEachern’s first opportunity to play with the Dolphins is this weekend.
“I love it,” she said. “I think the transition went really good and smooth. I love the level of hockey. It’s good, fast-paced girls’ hockey.”
The Grade 11 student said she made the decision to head to Ontario for academic and athletic reasons. The PWHL, an under-22 league, is widely considered one of the top leagues in the country, and Appleby has a strong academic program that will prepare her for Cornell.
“It’s a wonderful school,” she said, noting there were five students in her class.
MacEachern brings a team-first attitude to her new squads and a strong work ethic.
“That type of opportunity is a reflection of how hard Sarah works, and I think it’s a reflection of the type of person she is,” Harkness said. “She’s a great person, she’s a great teammate. Everywhere she goes, she’s well received.”
MacEachern was one of 59 players (20 defencemen) who took part in Hockey Canada’s under-18 virtual summer camp where they discussed a variety of topics, including at-home strength and conditioning, nutrition, dry-land skills and skating simulations.
“It was a great experience, even though we didn't actually get to go in person,” she said.
Abby Hustler, a forward from St. Louis, was also part of the camp. She has committed to attending St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., in the fall of 2021.
No one knows where the future will take MacEachern, but Harkness is confident of one thing: “Whatever Sarah decides she’s going to do in her life … she’s going to be successful.”