From Lakewood, Colorado to Saint Charles, Missouri, and now to possibly the Olympic stage, goalie Nicole Hensley is making a name for herself in women’s hockey.
The 23-year-old goaltender made her way to Lindenwood University in 2012, immediately earning a starting role with the NCAA program.
During her subsequent four years at for the university's team, Hensley played in 122 games, ending her college career with a .921 SV% across the prolific sample size.
She was a four-time all-conference selection and a three-time Academic All-American - and to add to the already-impressive resume, she's also the only women’s goalie to have made over 4,000 saves in a NCAA Division I career.
For Hensley, though, her hockey career would not end with her graduation.
The Colorado native first played for team USA in 2014 as a member of the U.S. Women’s Under-22 Select team, posting a .857 SV% in her one appearance as a new national team skater via an overtime win.
One could say it was a performance far from indicative of her talent level, though, and she's been pushing for better numbers ever since.
Fast forward three years, and Hensley’s latest achievement is being named one of three goaltenders on the USA Hockey roster for the 2017-18 Women’s National Team, coming off of an already impressive series of performances to make a name for herself at the national level. Along the way, she's backstopped the U.S. net in two International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships and one Four Nations Cup, posting two shutouts along the way.
Heading into centralization, the 5-foot-6 talent is making a strong case to be the U.S.’s starting goalie come the 2018 Olympics.
Of course, she has some stiff competition. Hensley is joined on the roster by fellow goaltenders Alex Rigsby and Maddie Roonie, neither of which will be easy to edge for the clear number one role.
While having never played in an Olympic Game herself, Rigsby is the veteran netminder for Team USA of the three candidates.
Her time with USA Hockey spans a whopping eight years, dating back to 2008. She brings with her a ton of experience and a winning record, and many would not be surprised to see her start a majority of games for Team USA.
Still, Hensley’s recent success at Women’s World Championships has put her name in contention for the job.
The U.S. women’s gold medal win came just after the entire national team vowed to boycott the event in order to fight “for equitable support and wages.” It was a move that had women throughout the system, and fans across the globe, standing with them to see a marked change in how women are paid to play hockey to represent their nation.
After agreeing on terms with USA Hockey, the team went on to take home the gold medal - a sweet victory in an of itself, but even sweeter given the contextual situation.
Not only did Hensley help lead the team to their first win with strong supporting wages, she helped them take home their first gold medal win on home soil.
Hensley played in three games in the tournament, posting two shutouts and recording a final save percentage of .964 after stopping 54 of the 56 shots she faced.
This, of course, is including the gold medal game, in which the Americans topped Canada 3-2 in overtime.
Robb Stauber, who coached the U.S. women to their most recent gold medal win, will also coach the U.S. Olympic team - giving Hensley a little extra edge.
A former goalie himself, and the first goalie to win the Hobey Baker Award in 1988, Stauber has liked what he has seen in Hensley’s game, but in recent interviews has admitted that there are aspects of all three goaltender’s game to like. It is not likely that he will name a starter until closer to the actual games.
While that might be the case, though, and the Olympics are still quite a ways away, Hensley is making a pretty solid argument for the starter to be her.
For Colorado fans, that's a native to get behind.