Before we talk about Lovisa Selander, there’s something you need to know: there may not be another rookie entering the NWHL this season with more hype or greater expectations.
The Pride keeper, who was a fourth-round pick, 20th overall, in 2018, is considered by many to be a game changer and all assumptions are that she’ll be the starter in Boston this season. A rangy Swedish netminder, the 23-year-old set the NCAA on fire during her junior and senior seasons, posting a combined .938 save percentage over her final two campaigns at the collegiate level. She was a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier, the first RPI player to earn the distinction, the ECAC Goaltender of the Year and after earning a spot on Sweden’s 4 Nations Cup roster last year, Selander was along for the ride at with the national team at the 2019 World Championship. Oh, she also set the collegiate record for career saves, turning aside 4,167 pucks across four seasons by the time all was said and done.
Considering that last number, one might think that on the eve of her professional debut, Selander is looking forward to her time in the NWHL if for no other reason than that it might offer her a respite from the constant crease crashing she faced at times during her college career. Turns out, quite the opposite. In fact, if Selander has any concern – and “concern” might be a complete misnomer given her calm, cool, almost ho-hum demeanor about her first foray into the big leagues – it’s that she won’t see enough rubber.
“At RPI, some games, I knew I was going to get peppered,” Selander said. “For me, those are almost easier games because you just have to focus on the next puck. But I don't know what the games are going to look like right now. If I'm going from 40 shots to maybe 20, a lot of it is mentally staying in the game, staying focused, without seeing the puck as much.”
That might not be the only adjustment for Selander, however. Though she played in a powerful college conference that included powerhouse clubs such as Clarkson, Cornell, Princeton and Colgate, Selander is set to spend the coming campaign squaring off against top talents from across the women’s hockey landscape. That means adapting to a number of new players who have different tendencies than those she became familiar with during her college career.
“I watch some video, you can talk to others and a couple more experienced players might have some tips and tricks, but what I usually do is assume everyone is a major threat when they come down with the puck and then you go from there,” Selander said. “In a game, you can notice who likes to shoot from the outside, who will want to break in every time. Some things you pick up as the game moves on and some things you can pick up on over the season.”
And making those adjustments and growing her game in the NWHL is what this season is all about for Selander, who made the decision to forego the opportunity to join in with the PWHPA in an effort to hone her game by getting the reps a full campaign with provide. She made that choice with a goal in mind, too, as her sights are set on taking the Swedish crease and stepping into the spotlight on the international stage.
At the moment, of course, there’s a slight hitch in that plan. Ahead of the Five Nations Tournament in August, the Swedish national team banded together to announce they would not participate until a new agreement was in place with Sweden’s Ice Hockey Federation that would create “better conditions for (players) in the current squad – and for (those) in the future.” In a surprise move in mid-September, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation then cancelled the Four Nations Cup. Selander admits the ordeal has served as something of a distraction heading into the season.
“The national team was a big motivation and not having the Four Nations tournament to motivate you, it's a bit of a challenge,” Selander said. “I think what we're doing is right and this was a good time to do it. Hopefully, as the season goes on, I'll hear more information about it, but I think everything is going to work out.”
Selander added that she hasn’t heard any updates recently and being half a world away has resulted in most of her information coming via text messages and group chats. She did say, however, that she believes there is an agreement that is being worked on and that she trusts “the people in charge are doing the right thing.”
But with the season on the horizon, Selander has put that at the back of her mind as she pursues her goal of not only becoming a steady, reliable NWHL starter, but one worthy of the top job when the Swedish national team does get back on the ice. “You just have to put your best foot forward,” she said. “That is my long-term goal. If it happens this season or the next one or how many years in the future, that's what I'm striving for.”
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