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Saints introduce first women's hockey coach

Jackie MacMillan isn't a stranger to handling the difficulties inherent with a new program. As a student at Buffalo (Minn.) High School, she played on the boys hockey team because there was no girls team. By her senior year, she was a co-captain....

New Saints women's hockey coach
Jackie MacMillan is the first women's hockey coach at St. Scholastica.

Jackie MacMillan isn't a stranger to handling the difficulties inherent with a new program.

As a student at Buffalo (Minn.) High School, she played on the boys hockey team because there was no girls team. By her senior year, she was a co-captain.

When she arrived at the University of Wisconsin, she practiced with the men's hockey team and then played goaltender on the inaugural women's team in 1999. Within three years she led the nation in goals-against average.

So when MacMillan heard that St. Scholastica was beginning a women's hockey team, she was quick to respond.

"When I found out Scholastica was starting a program, it was a very appealing option for me because I had been a part of that as a player," she said Wednesday at an introductory news conference at Burns Wellness Commons. "The experience I had there was very unique and very special; it's something I'll never forget."

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St. Scholastica athletic director Don Olson said MacMillan was the best fit among the 55 candidates who applied for the position. Part of that dynamic involved her experience in Wisconsin's formative days.

"What she expressed to us, and it certainly makes a great deal of sense, is that being a part of that inaugural program [at Wisconsin] gives her a feel as she starts the [St. Scholastica] program of what it's going to mean to those student-athletes who are a part of our first recruiting class," Olson said.

Olson cited several other reasons for hiring MacMillan, including her experience as head coach at Division III New England College the past three seasons and stints as assistant coach at Division I Union College (2004-07) and Division III St. Olaf College (2003-04). New England College, like St. Scholastica, is a private, liberal arts college, which Olson said was another factor in MacMillan's favor.

St. Scholastica has run a successful women's club team the past six years, and with the strength of girls hockey in the region and the strength of the Saints men's team, Olson said it was natural to move to an intercollegiate women's program.

Adding women's hockey gives the school an equal number of women's programs and men's sports (10 each).

"It gives us a balance between men's and women's programs," Olson said. "We feel that's a very positive step for us."

MacMillan was born in Duluth and grew up in Buffalo, Minn., and recently completed her master's degree by taking a two-year online course in education leadership at Minnesota Duluth.

MacMillan said she wants the Saints to be competitive right away in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association and a top-10 team nationally within four years. She plans on doing that by recruiting players who fit her mold.

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"For me, the value of hard-working and disciplined players is something I want to build the program around," she said. "I want to get the best players from around the area -- certainly in northern Minnesota -- but I want to get the most competitive players and the players who will be impact players at the Division III level."

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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