by Bob York
“Ever since I watched the United States Women’s Olympic Hockey Team win the gold medal back in 1998, I always dreamed of making the team … and winning a gold medal,” said Schaus, who was one of three goaltenders who earned a USA jersey and journeyed to Vancouver to participate in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The Red, White, and Blue came up a little short in its bid for world supremacy in its ongoing “Cold War” with archrival Canada, however, as the Canadians chalked up a 2-0 victory during the gold medal encounter and forced the United States to settle for sliver.
“So,” added Schaus, who is arguably the premier netminder to ever suit up for Deerfield Academy during the 24 years its girls hockey program has been in existence, “that part of the dream is still unfulfilled.”
It’s still very attainable, though.
Schaus was granted a mulligan in her quest of gold when she and 20 other teammates learned in late December that they had survived the final cut and would be representing their country at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, beginning on February 6. Then, on New Year’s Day, the roster was officially announced and the team was introduced to the world during the National Hockey League’s annual Winter Classic.
“The Winter Classic was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Schaus of the team’s introduction, which took place between periods of the NHL’s annual New Year’s Day outdoor extravaganza. This year’s game, which featured the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, was held at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium— the largest stadium in the United States—in front of more that 105,000 people.
“Putting on our Olympic jerseys for the first time in front of over 100,000 people was incredible,” said Schaus, and it was definitely an exciting, emotional, and memorable day for us all.”
Schaus’s appearance at “The Big House” signified the scripting of yet another chapter in her storied hockey life. The preceding chapter began the moment Schaus stepped away from the medals podium at the last Olympiad and recounted how she maintained her hopes for achieving Olympic gold by spending the past four years literally taking the best shots the elite level of world hockey had to offer and how all the hard work—not to mention all the saves—paid off.
When the final decisions came down on whose names would be dotting this year’s Olympic roster, no teammate who has ever taken comfort in knowing Schaus had her back, nor any opponent who has ever felt the frustration of trying to put a puck past her, nor any coach who has ever breathed a sigh of relief because she’s on your side, should have been surprised she made the cut.
Gregg Meier, who coached Schaus during her days at Deerfield, certainly wasn’t surprised. In fact, the former Big Green girls hockey tutor acknowledged how far he felt his prized goaltender could go when he presented her the team MVP award following her senior season.
“I remember saying in my speech at our awards assembly that ‘Molly will trade in her green and white for the maroon and gold of Boston College next year,’” said Meier, “’but I fully expect to see her wearing red, white and blue of Team USA someday.’
“It was an easy prediction to make,” said Meier, after watching his guardian of the goal produce three consecutive seasons with a goals against average at 1.50 per game or under, a save percentage of .930 or higher, plus 23 shutouts. “That leap from Deerfield to BC to Team USA had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Molly’s personal strengths and the strong support of her family, friends, and teammates.”
“I was fortunate to have had some very good goalies here in Emily Vitt, Shenae Lundberg, and Kayla Lessard,” added Meier. “They all had strengths that made our team better and enabled them to play on the collegiate level. What separates Molly isn’t necessarily physical because in some ways, each of them did some things better than Molly. But Molly was the most well rounded of them all … the complete package of physical skills, mental toughness and personal qualities.”
The process by which Schaus has earned back-to-back berths on Olympic rosters has been rough, tough, and unforgiving. Since settling for silver in Vancouver, she helped the USA post a silver medal in 2010, then gold in 2011 during the Four Nations Cup Tournaments. She also played a key role at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championships as well, as she helped lift the USA to a gold medal in 2011 and a silver medal in 2012.
She began her four-year Olympic interlude by returning to Boston College for her senior season and wrapped up her career with the Eagles in 2011 by being named as a first-team All American. During her four years at The Heights, Schaus posted a record of 80-36-18, while establishing career records for wins, goals against average (1.82) and save percentage (.934).
“Entering camp, we had a good grasp of what Molly brings to the table,” said Katey Stone, head coach of the women’s Olympic hockey team, and Stone was quite aware of what Schaus could do for the team well before training camp opened. Stone coaches the women’s hockey team at Harvard when she’s not heading up the American squad, “so I’d seen Molly play a number of times and was well aware that she was an outstanding goaltender. I was also aware that she works extremely hard, is a very determined individual, and a great teammate. She still had to come in and earn that spot though, because our depth at each position continues to grow and she did exactly that. ”
Schaus and her Team USA teammates spent a good deal of their time tuning up for this winter’s Olympics by conducting a seven-game exhibition series with Canada, the very team the USA is expected to meet in the gold-medal game. Team USA won the series, 4-3, but had to sweep the last four games to do so, and Schaus got the nod in goal for the last two games. She sparked a 3-2 win in an all-or-nothing Game 7 with a 25-save effort and 4-1 victory in Game 6, after chalking up 17 saves. She also played two periods during a 6-3 loss earlier in the series.
“We are fortunate to have strong goaltending and Molly is an important part of that mix. All three have been there (Olympics) before,” said Stone of Schaus, as well as Jessie Vetter and Brianne McLaughlin, “and they provide a veteran presence no matter who is playing. Molly fits in well with the dynamic of that group and always competes hard and gives us what we need. They all get along fantastically and they push each other to be the best whether it’s on the ice or in the gym.”
“Molly is very calm and collected under pressure … she has a quiet confidence about her that gives her an edge,” said Rob Stauber, the team’s goaltending coach. “She plays a positionally sound game, is very focused on the ice, and pays attention to the details of the position. Off the ice, she trains hard and keeps herself in the best shape possible to compete at an elite level.”
Following her graduation from BC, Schaus spent two seasons with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The Blades, the lone American entry in the CWHL, used their first pick—and the second overall selection in the league’s 2011 draft—to take Schaus.
Using such a high draft pick on Schaus only meant one thing: the Boston Blades’ officials saw the same very same qualities in her that Meier witnessed five years prior.
“During Molly’s stint here at Deerfield, she was our only goalie,” said Meier. “She was the backbone of our team … with a lack of depth, we relied heavily on Molly to keep us in games.
“As for what made her so good,” added Meier, “was the fact that she showed up every day ready to compete and consistently pushed herself to get better. Molly is extremely competitive and she used that competitiveness during every practice and every game to play her best.
“She was our co-captain her senior year (with Kit Hamley) and was an unquestioned leader of the team,” continued Meier of his former two-time MVP. “Molly wasn’t a rah-rah, in-your-face cheerleader type … she led by setting the example for her teammates to live up to with her unequaled work ethic.”
Despite her stingy stats and her hefty work ethic, Meier remembered one game— the last of her junior season—during which Schaus allowed quite possibly the only hat trick of her Deerfield career. The player accomplishing that feat was none other than Steph Olchowski, a Deerfield defenseman.
“Steph accidently deflected in two shots from the point,” remembered Meier, “then, in trying to clear a puck while we were shorthanded, she rifled one over Molly’s shoulder and into the net … and we lost, 4-3.”
Schaus’s hockey career began unceremoniously enough “by serving as the designated goalie of the family,” she explained. “When you have two older brothers and you want to tag along with them you have to impress them somehow and that meant playing the position they want you to play. In my case, that was goalie.”
What began as a smart move for the family now appears to have been a smart move for the entire country, as well. Schaus soon left older brothers, Steven and Michael, on the ponds and began hanging out at the rinks and qualified for the first of numerous USA Girls’ National Festivals at the age of 15.
“In some ways, these past four years since the Vancouver Olympics have seemed to go by rather slowly,” said Schaus, “but in other ways, it’s seemed as though the time has just flown by.”
Whether the time has passed quickly or not, Schaus has crammed a lot of good things into the last four years. In addition to maintaining her goaltending skills at an Olympic level, she has accomplished much away from the ice as well. Her return to Boston College saw her culminate her senior year by being presented with the Athletic Director’s Award for Academic Achievement, as well as being named BC’s Scholar-Athlete Award recipient. Plus, upon graduation, she enrolled in BC’s Lynch School of Education as a human development major, with a minor in biology.
Ironically, a good number of the players who have gone on to skate at the Olympic level have known each other for quite some time. Most knew each other well before earning a spot on the 2010 team … many knew each other prior to their college careers, because many of our future Olympians honed their hockey skills right here on the rinks of the New England Prep School Athletic Council.
“It seemed as though just about every team we had on our schedule that year (2005-06) had at least one future Olympian on it,” said Meier. “Hilary Knight was at Choate … Kayce Bellamy was at Berkshire … Caitlin Cahow was at Hotchkiss … Sarah Parsons and Helen Resor were at Nobles … Megan Duggan and Erika Lawler were at Cushing.
“Those games were fun to watch,” added Meier, “they were tough to coach in, though.”