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Hockey pioneers

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 10. 2015 9:45PM

Neither Sam Faber nor Shenae Lundberg expected to be playing professional hockey this winter but on Oct. 11, both will make history. Faber and Lundberg will be on opposing sides at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Conn., that day in the National Women’s Hockey League’s inaugural game.

Lundberg, who grew up in Peterborough, signed a one-year contract with the NWHL’s New York Riveters on July 26. Faber, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2009, was one of the first three players signed by the Connecticut Whale.

“It’s a whole new step that I didn’t really know was possible,” Lundberg said. “It’s a big leap for women’s sports and the little change of getting paid, no matter how much it is, it’s still the dream to professionally play the sport you love.”

Lundberg graduated from Union College this spring and led the nation last season with 1,110 saves alongside a .918 save percentage. She is one of 21 members of the NCAA Division I women’s hockey 3,000 (career) saves club, finishing with 3,023 for the Dutchwomen.

Faber, 28, was content in her position as the youth hockey director at Chelsea Piers before hearing about the Whale.

“When I found out the NWHL had come together and the Whale will play at the rink that I work at, I went to tryouts and it’s an amazing experience. I’m lucky to be a part of it,” Faber said.

Faber and Lundberg will play on two of the founding four NWHL teams, competing against each other as well as the Boston Pride and Buffalo Beauts throughout the regular season.

Lundberg’s competition for New York’s starting goaltender job is Nana Fujimoto, the goalie for the Japanese women’s national team.

“I can only expect that she’s always going to work hard, fighting for that spot and that means I’m going to be doing the same,” said Lundberg. “I’m excited. It’s nice to have somebody to constantly compete against that you respect.”

Faber will try to score on either Lundberg or Fujimoto come Oct. 11. It will be her first competitive game since tallying a team-high 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League during their 2010-11 campaign.

Over her career at UNH, Faber led the Wildcats to four straight Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles and two NCAA Frozen Four appearances. The forward finished her college career with 189 points on 77 goals and 112 assists.

“At UNH I was very lucky to have such an amazing team all four years,” said Faber. “(UNH has) such a rich history and tradition and taught me so much about the game and life itself.”

Given her age and experience, Faber expects that she will likely serve as a veteran presence in the Connecticut locker room.

“I consider myself a leader on and off the ice,” said Faber. “My job is to put points on the board but I’m a playmaker so I can teach them to move the puck, be calm in tough situations and face adversity.”

Lundberg cannot wait to play against Faber’s Whale squad in the league’s first-ever contest.

“I’m really excited,” Lundberg said. “I know both goalies and quite a few of the players on the Connecticut team, one of which I met at a USA (national team) hockey camp ... It’s always nice to play against people you know.”

Lundberg said she hopes her performance with the Riveters will help her earn a spot on another U.S. women’s national team squad. She was a member of the U.S. team that won the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World U18 Championship in 2011.

Something Lundberg learned while with the women’s national team program that she wants to fine tune this season is being active around the net.

“College hockey didn’t emphasize stickhandling and getting involved,” Lundberg said. “They were more like, ‘Hey, stay in the net.’ But when you watch the NHL, I know people freak out sometimes, but (goalies) get involved ... it’s something that I need to work on and get better at.”

As a big Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist fan, Lundberg realizes New York’s hockey faithful are accustomed to watching quality netminders.

Faber’s goals for this year are simply to have fun, tally as many points as possible and stay in good shape.

“We know we’re making history but we love this game and that’s why we’re playing this game,” Faber said. “Most of us thought our career would probably be over but this is our passion and I’m extremely thrilled by it all. It’s something that I’m never going to forget.”

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