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Kaz Watch: Bender’s Journey Brings Her East

02/17/2015, 3:00pm MST
By Doug Williams - Special to

The Washington native is a standout defenseman for the top-ranked BC Eagles

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey.

Not even a puppy could dissuade Lexi Bender from her hockey plan.

Today Bender is a junior defenseman for top-ranked Boston College and a key two-way contributor to a team that has the nation’s best offense and third best defense.

Even on an Eagles team with prolific scorers such as Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa and others, Bender has 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 30 games for BC.

But when Bender was 14 in Snohomish, Wash., she was a long way from being a Division I college player. As much as she loved Washington and her family, she was determined to achieve her potential.

So she convinced her parents to let her go to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota, where the girls’ hockey program is among the best in the world.

At the last minute, though, her mom and dad played their ace.

“My parents decided as a last resort to get a puppy three weeks before we left, so it was a little harder than it would have been [to go],” she said, laughing. “But honestly, it was something I knew I wanted to do since age 11.”

In Washington, Bender was coached by her dad, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks player, and played on boys’ teams that often had to travel to Canada a couple of times each week for games in British Columbia.

The drives were long — two hours each way — and she often got home late at night in the middle of the school week. Plus, she broke her collarbone one night when she stepped onto the ice and was checked by a boy who outweighed her by about 50 pounds.

In terms of girls’ hockey in Washington, she was just a big fish in a smaller pond.

Going to Shattuck, she believed, would allow her to play against terrific girls and sharpen her skills.

“It’s a storied program,” Bender said.

He first year she got the chance to study seniors Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker — who both would win the Patty Kazmaier Award in college and become Olympians in 2014.

“To be able to watch them was just awe-inspiring,” Bender said.

Bender improved each year at the school and was heavily recruited. She and her Shattuck teammates won national championships at the Under-16 and Under-19 levels. Her classmates included current Boston College teammate Dana Trivigno and the University of Wisconsin’s Courtney Burke, Kim Drake and Jorie Walters.

“I think every single one of us went Division I,” Bender said.

So, Bender’s grand plan was a good one. But she’s still working to improve.

In her first season at Boston College, she had 16 points in 37 games and made the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. As a sophomore she had 17 points in 37 games and had a plus-22 rating as a Hockey East second-team selection.

She began this season with her first career hat trick in a 10-2 victory over Syracuse University.

This past offseason, Bender worked specifically on her edges to improve her skating ability and lateral quickness, and she says she can feel the difference. She has more agility and confidence to jump into plays and take extra chances.

She’s always been an offensive-minded defenseman, but with the talent and depth the Eagles have this season, Bender says her goal is to simplify her game and complement the forwards. Instead of lugging the puck up the ice on her own, she’s looking more often to dish it and get things started. Still, she’ll jump up when the lanes and opportunities open.

Bender says being on this team challenges her daily. Every line is excellent. In practices, defensemen can’t rest.

“There’s never a drill where you look up and see someone and you’re like, ‘OK, I can take this rep off,’ ” she said. “It’s always like, ‘All right, I’ve got to be at my best or else I’m going to look stupid.’ ”

Boston College remained undefeated through its first 28 games. It finally lost 3-2 to Harvard University in the Beanpot championship game last week.

Though disappointed, Bender said it just made the Eagles more determined to finish this season strong and go for a championship. B.C. has won three straight since the loss.

“We just want to win the last one of the season,” she said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

2015 Ceremony Information

Saturday, March 21, 2015
McNamara Alumni Center- University of Minnesota
10:30 a.m. – noon

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