As the saying goes: one must learn how to walk before they can run. For Ohio State women’s hockey senior defender Lauren Boyle, however, walking on land and skating on ice were abilities she acquired simultaneously.
Boyle has taken quite a few steps in her career on the ice rink since then. On Dec. 21, she became the first Buckeye ever drafted to play professionally for the National Women’s Hockey League when she was selected by the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Boyle said her objectives on the ice have always centered on the task at hand. But her selection in the NWHL draft afforded her the opportunity to reflect on how far she’s come.
“You kind of have to take a step back and realize what’s really going on,” Boyle said. “That’s a big deal if you can play professionally in your sport.”
Firsts are nothing new in Boyle’s accomplished tenure at Ohio State. A year ago, the Toronto native scored the program’s first-ever goal in the NCAA tournament with a game-winner against No. 4 Boston College that propelled Ohio State to its first trip to the Frozen Four.
Her acclimation to the ice began early. Boyle said her father, Scott, a lifelong hockey fan who served as her coach throughout her youth, made a habit of pushing his daughter around a local Toronto ice rink in a stroller as a baby.
“My parents always joke ‘No wonder you can skate so well, you did 1,000 laps before you could even walk,’” Boyle said.
Figure skating, however, was Boyle’s first choice as to how to put her standout skating skills to use.
“It only lasted six months before I decided to trade in my white skates for black ones,” Boyle said.
Playing for the Whitecaps would be a full-circle experience for Boyle, who, at 6 years old, moved from Toronto to Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where she became an All-American high school player and three-time All-State performer.
In Eden Prairie, Boyle was neighbors with current Ohio State senior forward Charly Dahlquist, whose father, Chris, drew on his 11-year NHL career experience to further develop the future college teammates’ prowess on the ice.
Boyle said a key component to her decision to become a Buckeye was the hockey program’s inclusion in the WCHA conference, which has produced 18 of the past 21 national championship winners.
“The second I got here, I fell in love with the atmosphere,” Boyle said. “I fell in love with the tradition, the entire athletic department and all the opportunities it has to offer.”
After kicking off her Ohio State career with a WCHA All-Rookie Team nod, Boyle has continued to accumulate accolades. Amid racking up 63 career points, she has been named both WCHA Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week, received NCAA No. 2 Star of the Week honors and made Academic All-Big Ten in each of the past two seasons.
Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said Boyle’s physicality and confidence set her apart as one of the elite defenseman in the country.
“She has incredible explosive speed down the ice,” Muzerall said. “She’s just like a pitbull. She just goes.”
Muzerall said Boyle’s selection in the draft is a testament to a culture change for Ohio State women’s hockey and shows how much the program is evolving to foster pro-level talent.
For Boyle, however, the value of the individual praise she received pales in comparison to the bonds she’s made with teammates and coaches at Ohio State.
“It’s all about the girls; it’s all about the culture,” Boyle said. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters is the relationships you build here and the team within the team.”
One teammate Boyle has had an impact on is sophomore forward Emma Maltais, who said the senior defenseman has been a role model for her ever since she stayed at Boyle’s house during her first visit to Ohio State.
“Boyle is so awesome,” Maltais said. “On the ice, especially, she’s so fast and such a good defense and always reliable back there. On and off the ice, she’s just a really good leader and a good person.”
Boyle said playing in the NWHL is not necessarily an automatic decision due to the small size of the league, which was founded in 2015.
Before she looks that far ahead, Boyle said she has business to finish with the Buckeyes who will try and snap a five-game losing streak and make a run at a second straight Frozen Four appearance.
Boyle said she hopes her legacy at Ohio State doesn’t hinge on wins, losses or awards. Rather, the senior star emphasized her desire to be remembered for her intangible qualities.
“It’s great to succeed, but leaving a personal impact on other players and your teammates is most important to me,” Boyle said.