Woodbury resident Bill Schafhauser, coach of the Hill-Murray School girls’ hockey team, has had a life-long love for the sport he coaches. The St. Paul native attended Hill-Murray himself, part of the class of 1980, and played on the varsity hockey team during his four years as a student there. Following his time at Hill-Murray, Schafhauser went on to attend Northern Michigan University, where his hockey career continued.
Schafhauser went on to play professionally for 12 years beginning in 1984. He spent three years in the Philadelphia Flyers system and eventually went on to play for several European Elite teams, spending one year in Italy and eight years in Switzerland.
After retiring from his career as a pro hockey player, Schafhauser returned to Minnesota. Although no longer a player himself, Schafhauser's hockey days were hardly over. Rather, the return to his home town brought his sporting career full circle. In 2004, after several years coaching hockey at the youth level, Schafhauser began coaching boys’ hockey at Hill-Murray before switching to coaching the school's girls team in 2007. Under his guidance, the girls’ team has seen great success. They won the 2A state championship last March, and were runners-up at the same competition the previous year. The team has also been the Classic Suburban Conference champion for eight years running.
According to Schafhauser, the experience has proved a rewarding one from the very beginning.
“It has been an awesome experience for me as a coach,” Schafhauser says. “For the girls, practice is often the highlight of their day. It's really fun to come to come to the rink every day with the energy they bring.”
When the team won this year's Minnesota State High School League tournament, Schafhauser says it was due to the girls' hard work and determination. “The girls really took it upon themselves to figure it out, and make winning this tournament their goal together,” he says. “They were pretty much in the zone there as we finished it off, and it was just a phenomenal experience for both the girls and the coaches.”
Woodbury resident and Hill-Murray sophomore Lindsey Featherstone is a relatively recent addition to the team; she played right wing during last year's season. She cites the closeness and cooperation among the team's girls as a major factor in their success. “My favorite part about being on this team is playing with girls who love the game, are competitive, and want to win,” she says. “I really love how close we are too; we're a family.”
Featherstone say her family has always been one of hockey-loving folk, and she herself is no exception. With an older brother to pave the way and a father who fostered his children's love of the sport, Featherstone started playing hockey at age 5. My older brother played, and so when my younger brothers decided to play, I decided I wanted to try it out too,” she says.
Featherstone says she has been lucky to have a coach like Schafhauser to help her grow as a player and team member. “He knows how to push us to our best abilities, and how to get the most out of every player,” she says. “The coaching staff is really supportive. They're committed to developing us as players, but as people too.”
Seniors Jessica Bonfe and Kennedy Houge agree. “When we need to work on something [coach Schafhauser] jumps right to it, aggressive and ready to work,” Houge says. “He pushes us hard because he knows what we’re capable of.”
Houge, who plays defense, has been part of the Hill-Murray varsity girls team for five years now. Like Featherstone, she started hockey at a young age while growing up in a hockey-loving family.
“Hockey has always been part of my family,” she says. “My dad, grandpa, uncles and cousins have all played and so I think I to be like them and have something that we could all bond over.”
As advice to incoming students who want to join the team, Houge says don't be afraid to go for it. “We aren’t as scary as you think!” she says. “Most of the time we are just as excited as you are when new people come.” Houge says she is looking forward to continuing to play hockey when she goes to college, although she has yet to determine which school she will play for.
Jessica Bonfe is now in her fourth year playing for Hill-Murray. Like her Woodbury teammates, she was first introduced to hockey by her older brothers (she has three). “My oldest brother won a state championship playing for Cretin-Derham Hall, and since then I've always wanted to win one too,” she says.
If her family provided the catalyst that got her interested in hockey, it has been her team that has kept her playing, Bonfe says. “My favorite part about being on the team is the girls,” she says. “I've made so many friends from being on this team because of how close we are; they are my second family. We bond together on and off the ice, and we always have each other's backs.”
Schafhauser's challenging coaching style has also been key to the team's success, Bonfe says. “The most helpful thing he has done is run hard practices,” she says. “He is the type of coach who wants you to have fun, but expects you to work hard.”
Next year, Bonfe will go on to play for the Division I girls hockey team at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Thanks to her time as a part of the Hill-Murray team, she'll be well prepared for the experience, she says. “The most valuable lesson I've learned is to be myself,” she says. “Be a better you instead of a better someone else. Don't try to be something or someone you’re not, but be open to criticism and push yourself.”