Shenae Lundberg behind the mask, between the pipes and over the seasons. Whale photos on bottom by Troy Parla.

SHENAE LUNDBERG: OUR ONCE AND FUTURE WHALE

When Cetacean Nation first reached out to our goaltender Shenae Lundberg, it was while she was in the category of OW, an Original Whale, one who last played in the NWHL during Season Two, wearing uniform #1. But when we conducted our interview with Shenae, she had become a “Once and Future Whale”; as she returned to the Pod here in season four in game thirteen, and is now our #31. And she has been able to pick right up where she left off, and played inspirational hockey between the pipes. We think that when you read Shenae’s words, you’ll find them to be inspirational as well. Shenae prefaced her remarks to us by explaining the direction she would be taking her narrative in her responses. She began by saying “ I feel like I have been seeing a lot of current players getting a ton of recognition for their success now, and I would really like to redirect some of my attention towards the individuals that inspired me and helped me become the athlete and person I am now. The people I mention deserve more acknowledgement and gratitude than I even know how to give. And I hope that sharing my story will provide insight on how these incredible people have led me to lead a very special life and I am blessed that we have gotten to cross paths.”

Shenae comes from the town of Peterborough in New Hampshire, a communiy  A community of less than 7,000 inhabitants that lies about 3.5 hours NE of Stamford. It is pretty country, and the Contoocook River runs through it, a stream Ted Williams would drive up from Boston to fish on off days. So Cetacean Nation wanted to know how little Shenae got her start in sports there. She explained “In my youth I tried t-ball and swimming but predominantly played soccer. I was first introduced to ice hockey as a 9 year old playing on a U12 Soccer team in Peterborough. They wanted to start a U12 girls hockey team with the Henniker Huskies and asked me to be their goalie. I had never skated before and was told “don’t worry, it’s just like soccer goalie except the net is smaller! You don’t really need to know how to skate!” …oh how false that was”. 

Shenae continued, “ I remember going to the rink with my dad, which was about 45 minutes away and seeing the girls skating on the ice. I remember thinking that the girls on the team were amazing skaters and were so good that they were doing backflips. (haha) Now when I was younger I had extremely sensitive skin (it’s known as "A" topical skin) and could feel a hair on my foot so putting on all the goalie equipment was extremely uncomfortable. So I finally managed to get the gear on and well, I hated it!! I went to two practices and bailed just after I stepped on the ice. When I did finally manage to get out there, I spent more time on my rear than on the skates! After about the 3rd time of trying and doing the same ritual of getting the gear on, stepping on the ice, and crying, on the way home my Father said to me " if you don’t like it, you can just stick with soccer, you're doing awesome!". But I said "if I don’t play they won't have a team…" my dad said to me “then it looks like you have a choice.” I chose to play and never looked back! “

Not surprisingly then, two of the influential people in her life are Shenae’s parents. She had this to say about their support of her chosen path. “No part of my life would have been possible without the time and dedication that my parents put into me living my dream. Many children do not have parents that dedicate their time like they did and I am so lucky to have had parents that believed that this was what I was meant to do. It is all because of you both that I am who I am, have done what I have done, and accomplished what I have accomplished.”Continuing with her comments on her early hockey days, Shenae revealed this. “There was this USA Hockey ref/trainer/evaluator Mr. Hal Tuttle, who was a goalie back in the day and who offered to train me if I would commit to the girls. So I did and him and his son would come out to my practices and work with me. They did this for the first few weeks and then he told my parents to get me a real goalie coach. That's how it started!”

As Shenae explained the next phase of her hockey development, she introduced us to another of the people who have been a major influence, Mike Buckley. Shenae explained “ When Hal Tuttle told me to get a goalie coach, I began working with Rob Day who was awesome at getting me going with the basics and focusing on skating. Rob at the time began working with a young up and comer Mike Buckley. Rob ended up giving a lot of his younger goalies to Mike. Then when it was time to go back, I had created such a strong bond with Mike that I wanted to stay and work with him. From when I was 10 and a half to into my professional career, I trained with Mike Buckley. I would skate with him once or twice a week for about 4 years and do his camps in the summer, and progressed quickly. My time with him was what allowed for me to be able to play at a tier-1 national level after only 2 years of playing hockey. He would push me to go harder and faster than I even believed I could. To get the fast twitch muscles that allowed for me to be able to compete and play with the boys all the way through college. By the time I was 16, I would stay and help coach camps and by 18 I was coaching to pay for my training.” 

Shenae added ”Through Mike I was able to meet many incredible goaltenders. I was fortunate that I was good enough to get to work with the older goalies and was able to learn and train with them and see what it really took to be an elite athlete. I would get to train with goalies such as Mike Spillane (UVM), Brain Foster (UNH), Brendan Sullivan (Lake Forest), Paul Dainton (UMass Amherst), Dan Rosen (Brown), John Muse (BC), Alex Westlund (Yale), and Chanda Gunn (Northeastern, USA) all when I was just a teenager and into my college career and then ultimately as a professional. I was young and they were my idols. When people asked me who my favorite goalie was I never wanted to name an NHL goalie, I saw how hard these goalies worked and how good they were and they were my true role models. Getting to train and work hard on the ice beside these individuals pushed me and inspired me to want to work hard not only to prove to coach Mike that I could be there training with them but that I was deserving of being on the ice with this caliber of athletes.” Shenae concluded her comments about Mike saying “ He is now the goalie coach for the Pittsburg Penguins and with them has helped them win 2 Stanley Cup Championships. I am extremely proud of him and thankful for all the time and energy that he put in with me and helping me to be the detail oriented goalie and goalie coach I am now.”

Another of those individuals who Shenae fondly acknowledged as a key in her early personal and team success development was Mike McGrath. “I played for Mr. Mike McGrath from when I was 11 until I was 18 for two different organizations. He was a great coach and extremely supportive and helped to push me to be an elite goaltender. I played for him on Assabet U11Red, U12Red, U13 Red, U14Red, and then The Wizards U19 3yrs.After winning the U14 National Championship (in 7 overtimes) I was asked by Mr. Carl Gray to stay on with Assabet and I would be the U16R Goalie. I remember when we were 12 he told us that not everyone would make it, he would take us to the edge, then continue to push. So, after my 2nd national championship title "U12 & U14" Cosch McGrath moved to the Wizards and I went with him. I told Mr. Gray who couldn’t believe I was leaving, and that I wanted to see how good I was and see if I could help lead a team to beat the Assabet Juggernaut” That is a pretty bold move for someone to take who was on a trajectory to elite status with her current team, especially at a young age. But Shenae has always been more about what she could do for the team, rather than just herself, a trait she has exhibited with the Whale as well. And let the record show, little Shenae knew what she was doing.

“My first season with the Wizard u19 team I was a backup goalie to Chelsea Knapp (who went on to play for Ohio State.) That year we played Assabet and lost in the championship at states. The next year I shared the net with Lauren Slebodnick (who went on to play for Cornell, and then the Boston Pride) That season we got knocked out in the quarter finals. My third season, it was finally my turn, I was the starter with Janice Michaud as my goalie partner for U19 Wizards. That year we won States beating Assabet Valley for the first time ever at states (at the u19 level) and were the #1 seed from Massachusetts to go to Nationals. Mr. Gray came and congratulated me and reminded me that I wanted to see if I could do it! Mike McGrath was supportive all those years and into my career at Union and I hope he knows how grateful I am for his time and support all of those years.” Cetacean Nation hopes so as well, but if he did not know before, he knows now

During this time, Shenae had decided to attend Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, Cetacean Nation wondered how that decision came about, and Shenae told us this. “I knew that I wanted to play D1 women’s hockey, and my ultimate goal was to play in the Olympics, as there was no NWHL at the time. I learned that the best way to get to play high level hockey was to go to prep school. This was, at least, the path that all the good female ice hockey players went to in order to go play in college. When I was growing up I played for several teams at a time. From the age of 10 to 14 I barely remember a time that I wasn't on the ice at least once a day. One of the coaches I had for boy’s hockey was Mr. Jack Strain. He was incredible coach. Positive, constructive, and knew how to get players to really want to work for him. He lead by example and NEVER asked us, or the other coaches, to do ANYTHING that he wouldn't do himself. Every time we skated he skated with us. He is a Deerfield Academy Alumni (Deerfield Academy Class of ‘80) he coached me when I played for both the 495 Stars & North Star Selects boys hockey teams.”

Shenae’s path to Deerfield was becoming clearer to us, and Shenae connected the dots. “ When I started looking at going to prep school, he suggested that I look into Deerfield. He mentioned that another female goaltender I idolized went there and also played for the same girls organization I was a part of at the time. This was the famous Molly Schaus. I visited Deerfield and fell in love with the beautiful campus, but more so wanted to be a part of Deerfield family so I could be more like my amazing coach Jack and follow in the footsteps of Molly Schaus. I remember before I decided to go there my dad and I spoke with Molly at Assabet Valley where she explained, “I go to Deerfield to get a great education and shots, I play for Assabet to win championships.” This motto became extremely profound in my career as I believed that this was how you become a world-class athlete. This belief was what lead me to going to Deerfield Academy, where I would get shots and playing for Assabet Valley, and then the East Coast Wizards, to win National championships. This method led me to playing for the Team USA u18 National Team and then finally to Union College. I believed that if I played for Union I would be getting the shots I needed to be putting me in the best position to be a desirable candidate for the u22 National team and then ultimately the Olympic team, unfortunately playing in the ECAC was not considered the best direction to go (so USA hockey believed}”

At Deerfield Academy, Shenae thrived both academically and athletically. She was the starting goaltender for each of her four years, and was Assistant Captain and team MVP as a senior. During her time at Deerfield, Shenae was a member of the World Champion USA Under 18 National Team in 2011, and also a member of the USA Under 18 Select Team in 2010, and was chosen for USA Hockey's Player Development Camp four times. In addition to her time the ice between the pipes, Shenae also lettered as a goalie for the field hockey team, and tied the program record for saves in a game. In addition, Shenae also lettered in Track and Field as a thrower, and twice qualified to compete throwing the discus at the New England Championships.

Discus is a very technical event, and we wondered how Shenae came to take it up. She explained “At Deerfield we were required to play 3 sports at Deerfield so I was fortunate to get to try different sports. My first spring I didn’t want to play softball and thought that sprinting would be a good thing to work on fast twitch muscles. Every spring they have a day where you could try out the different events and see if you liked them, I tried shot put and discuss, and found that I really enjoyed discus, as it was a very technical position, just like goalie and then stuck with it. I ultimately made it to New England’s, which was rare for someone my height, but I had a blast with it.”

Shenae had mentioned some of what led her to Union College, and Cetacean Nation asked her to elaborate. “ I choose Union as I thought that the opportunity to see a lot shots would make me the best candidate for the US National Team or offer me a shot at the Olympics. However, I was told that USA hockey thought that I wasn't interested in continuing playing at a high level because, according to what I heard, if I was still interested I would have gone to a hockey college like Wisconsin, Minnesota, BC or BU. Nevertheless, I received a great education and had an incredible hockey career there.” She certainly did, and a record setting one as well. And one of those records is still her fondest accomplishment at Union. “My proudest accomplishment would have to be setting the NCAA men’s and women’s record for the most saves in a shutout 59 against Northeastern, after coming off a 58 save game against Quinnipiac the weekend before. (the record was broken, during an Olympic year)

Shenae also added “The most memorable moment would be, the game we played against Clarkson and they needed the win in order to be the league champs. I think we were tied for last place that season and Clarkson was in first. At the end of the first period the announcer made an announcement to everyone in the rink that that the trophy was in the house for the "ECAC league champs." The only thing was they forgot to tell us and we came to play. The game remained tied until the end and we took them into OT. They ended up winning in OT but it was great to see the last place team hold off the first place team right to the end.” Shenae stopped thirty pucks in that game, part of her remarkable total of 3,023 saves she made as a Dutchwoman, which ranked her 20th on the all time NCAA saves list. And as a senior, her 1,110 saves was the 6th most in NCAA history.

So with such an impressive resume, and with the NWHL coming into existence, the chance to turn pro was there, and we asked how that actually occurred. Shenae said “After my senior season I was looking into potentially playing men’s professional hockey, or going overseas. Then I heard about the NWHL and since I grew up in NH I reached out to the GM of the Boston Pride (Hayley Moore) to see if they had any need for another goaltender. They had already signed their goaltenders but she connected me with the GM (Dani Rylan) of the Riveters. I went to the tryout and signed after my game to a season with the New York Riveters.” So Shenae was here in the NWHL for its birth at Chelsea Piers on 10-11-15. Shenae told us about that, reminiscing on some of what season one was like. “Season one was extremely memorable as we did photo shoots in NYC, went to Japan to play their National Team, and was coming together in the mixing pot, Brooklyn NY, with incredible players from all over, not only the US, but the world.

“My first game playing for the Riveters was actually an exhibition game where we played against the local firemen teams that played nearby. We went to visit the firehouse to do some pictures and get some NWHL awareness out and then played against the team.” Shenae had begun to settle in with the Riveters, but then 1/27/16 dawned, and Shenae was suddenly part of the fledgling league’s first trade. Shenae was sent to the Connecticut Whale in exchange for goalie Chelsea Laden.  After being acquired by the Whale, Shenae started two games and picked up victories vs the Buffalo Beauts and the Riveters making 46 total saves in those games. And Shenae continued as a key player for the Whale in season two, at one point making a combined 88 saves in back to back outings against the Boston Pride.

But at the time, the trade was not without its challenges for Shenae. She explained “The trade was originally not as happy of a moment for me as it may have seemed. I had just come back from my high ankle sprain, which I got doing community service for the Riveters. I had a good relationship with the head coach and had been back on the ice and was confident and ready to play. It was Wednesday morning and I had already spoken with Coach Wiseman and he planned to have me start the game on Saturday. I got a call from our GM and she told me I had been traded and would hear back later from the GM of the Whale regarding details, but I was not to report to practice that night and instead I would be reporting to practice at Chelsea Piers CT the following evening. This was a complete shock. I called my coach and he had no idea that was happening and I was caught off guard. I had uprooted my life from New Hampshire and moved to the Rockaways NY, which is just below Brooklyn, so I could live with teammates and be close to the rink to train. Now as I was stuck in a lease, I had to drive 2 and a bit hours to practice twice a week and then again on the weekend for games. I had gotten extremely close with my housemate/teammates and was heart broken that I had to leave the team I had become so close to, especially when they had originally said that there would be no trades during the first two seasons, I learned to make sure everything is in writing from then on.”

Shenae continued, “When I arrived at the Whale practice the first time they were in the middle of a coach change and things were not run as cleanly as it had been with the Riveters. HOWEVER, many of the girls were extremely accepting and warm about the trade, in particular Jordan Brickner, Sam Faber, and Kelly Babstock. They were friendly and kind and made me feel like part of the team. I had remembered always needing to be aware of when Babs was on the ice when I played at Union and we bonded over that so I often stayed over at Kelly Babstocks place after practices so I wouldn’t have to commute so late at night. When I finally got into playing for the Whale it began to feel right and I was happy to be playing with such a talented bunch of girls, regardless of how the coaching and GM staff was changing.”

 

Shenae also added this interesting tidbit on her arrival with the Whale. She revealed “It’s pretty embarrassing, but it was my first time starting for the Whale and I was skating to my crease and began to cut up the ice when I caught an edge and fell right on my butt. I thought I was lucky enough to have not been seen, but as soon as I looked up I saw the camera right on me that was videoing the game, and did my best to act like I was stretching.” (Shenae sent us the video for us to use, and we do think it is hilarious.Take a look here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BD6S_TTMHgy/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=tnz9zzy90yj2)

Cetacean Nation had long been curious about why Shenae left the team after Season Two, and how we were able to bring her back in our hour of need. Shenae addressed both questions, bringing up some familiar topics and faces. “There were a few reasons I stopped playing, but the main reason was because I couldn’t financially afford the time it takes to dedicate to be a true professional athlete. The nights I would spend going to the rink I could make more money working and unfortunately needed the money more to be able to live. Especially after the pay cuts that happened mid season that second year, it put me in a really difficult position. I work as an ice hockey goalie coach for Pro Crease Goaltending in CT, which I fell into as a result of the pay cuts that second year. Our organization does a lot of work with IPH (I Play Hockey) our sister company that coaches players. I ran into Jamie Goldsmith who was playing and mentioned that I was interested in playing again because I missed it. Jamie relayed that I was interested, and a bit after this one of the goaltenders quit and the starter got injured and they were in a tight spot. Laura Brennan reached out and asked if I was interested and I was, and so I hopped on the ice a few times to skate again. Then it was official that their starter was done and they needed someone for their game against the Boston Pride and so I signed a PTO (Professional Try Out) and played in their game after one practice with the team and four skates of my own. Then I went to a few more practices and it was a good fit and I signed back on for the rest of the season.”

And Shenae played great for the Pod in goal, making some spectacular saves and adding a veteran presence in the crease. She spent 140 minutes between the pipes and posted the best numbers of her NWHL career in that stretch. Cetacean Nation was delighted with the insightful and thought provoking content that Shenae provided, and was thrilled to have our “Once and Future Whale” wearing the Whale colors again. In closing, Shenae offered us this: : “The NWHL is only able to thrive as a result of the fans. Thank you for your love and support and I hope you realize that your involvement and love for the game allows for us to live out our dreams. Thank you for this blessing. “

Fins Up to that and to you Shenae!