Ohio State standout goaltender Kassidy Sauve didn’t know what to expect after bilateral hip surgery and 581 days off the ice.
The results have been remarkable. Sauve spent a year and a half away from the game she loves following her surgery only to rebound as one of college hockey’s best goaltenders, putting the redshirt junior in the conversation for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey.
“There are days where my hips give me a hard time and it becomes frustrating, but I generally feel that’s in the past now, which is a great feeling, to know I’m not dealing with that anymore,” Sauve said. “Being in the mix after what I had to go through is definitely great and I feel very fortunate that things panned out that way for me and I was able to make a comeback.”
Sauve missed the 2015-16 season following her surgery, and rebounded as a second-team All-American, becoming the first goaltender in school history to earn All-American honors. Sauve came back the following season with a full summer of training, making the transition to the current season easier.
It was still a frustrating process leading to this point.
“When you’ve been doing something your whole life and then you’re sitting in a doctor’s office and they tell you the best bet is to get surgery, it’s a lose-lose,” Sauve said. “You either get surgery and don’t know what’s going to happen, or you don’t get surgery and tough it out, but don’t play to your full potential.”
Sauve, a Whitby, Ontario native, credited her parents Dan and Tammy Sauve for the support throughout the process.
“It’s frustrating when you’re 18 years old and trying to figure out what decision is best for your hockey career and life after hockey,” Sauve said. “It was definitely a frustrating process, but I had such a great support system around me that it made it seamless.”
The biggest challenge was the slow-moving nature of Sauve’s recovery.
“When I felt like I was ready to move onto the next steps, I had to do two more weeks of what I was doing,” Sauve said. “It didn’t feel like it was going to end, but I eventually got to the point where I put skates and pads on for the first time. The little milestones were the most rewarding.”
Sauve initially injured herself early in her freshman season. Her surgeon said she didn’t need surgery at the time, but it would eventually be necessary, and give her an opportunity to play pain free. Sauve said it’s still a process, and she undergoes a daily set routine to make sure she can play back-to-back games during the weekend.
“One thing is to be responsible with my body and make sure it’s feeling 100 percent,” Sauve said. “The second I’m not, it bites me. It’s just good to know that I went through something like this and I’m able to play hockey. I never know if it could be my last game, so I try to play with my heart on my sleeve.”
In the second game of the season, Sauve broke the program record for shutouts. She ranks third all-time in program wins and will soon establish the school record for all-time saves.
Sauve, who is on pace to set program records for goals-against average and save percentage, is tied for second in the NCAA with eight shutouts and ranks among the top three nationally in saves. She also recently led Ohio State to a sweep against Wisconsin, allowing just one goal and shutting out the No. 1 team in the nation.
“There are so many talented goaltenders in the NCAA,” Sauve said. “It’s really amazing to be considered among the top caliber because there’s so much talented and such a deep pool when it comes to goaltending.”
But Sauve is selling herself short. As a Kazmaier contender, she’s considered one of the best college players regardless of position.
“To even be mentioned with Patty Kazmaier and the players who won the award in the past is an amazing feeling,” Sauve said. “It’s a really humbling feeling that people think of me on that high of a level, but I still have a lot to prove and a lot to show people on the ice. I try to hold myself to the highest standard, so it’s one of those things that’s definitely a feel-good moment to be considered for something like that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.