Sophomore Jordan Nash-Boulden is five-feet four-inches tall. She might not be the biggest player on the ice, but she will definitely stand tall in the net for ASU women’s hockey this season.
Nash-Boulden will be the team's only goaltender throughout the first half of the 2017-18 season. Sophomore Brianna Hersom is the other goalie on ASU’s roster, but she suffered a torn ACL at the end of last season and is still recovering.
“She has got to be able to carry the team,” Hersom said. “I have full faith in her and she’s a great goalie.”
Recently, head coach Lindsey Ellis discussed how she hoped to have Hersom back for the second half of the season. However, there is uncertainty regarding the time of Hersom’s return.
“It’s a long recovery. You just have to take it day by day. People usually recover in seven to nine months, and I am on that cusp of about eight months,” Hersom said. “We will see how I am feeling by then.”
With Hersom’s absence, the stage is set for Nash-Boulden.
ASU goaltending coach Kaley Marino played college hockey at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. She was a team captain for two years and she made an NCAA tournament appearance in 2013. Marino is an Arizona native, and she used to be the goaltending coach for the Arizona Lady Coyotes.
This year, she enters her second season as a goaltending/assistant coach for ASU, and she believes that Nash-Boulden will be up to the challenge of being the lone goaltender.
“Any real goalie will always tell you that if you are the only goalie on the team for a while, it’s the best thing that can happen to you,” Marino said. “It’s your team at that point, and you are literally the only one that can be relied on."
As for Nash-Boulden’s positioning and fundamentals, Marino loves what she is seeing out of her sophomore puck-stopper in practice.
“She is super technical,” Marino said. “She is always in position for the save, which comes from the technical ability that she has. She is always in position to make a good save, and to make it look easy.”
With only one goaltender in place, fatigue might play a factor in Nash-Boulden’s play. ASU has six back-to-back games on Fridays and Saturdays, and they also have a tournament in November in which they will play four games in three days, including a doubleheader on Nov. 4.
To conclude the regular season, ASU will play three games in three days.
Despite the rigorous schedule ahead for Nash-Boulden, she feels that her preparation in practice will help her with what lies ahead.
“I think fatigue is definitely going to be a factor,” Nash-Boulden said. “I played a couple of back-to-back games last year, and you definitely start to feel it on your legs, but I think that’s what we are doing in practice now as far as conditioning.”
Nash-Boulden might be the only goalie on the roster right now, but one thing is certain: she doesn't feel alone.
“I have a lot of trust in everybody that stands in front of me,” Nash-Boulden said. “I know that they do their job really well as far as keeping things out of the way for me, and that makes my job a heck of a lot easier.”
Among other things, Nash-Boulden sticks with her game plan and her fundamentals when she is between the pipes for the Devils. She considers herself a hybrid goaltender.
“Being smaller, I don’t cover the top corners quite as much, so you really have to be able to know when to stay up and know when to go down based on where the shooter's blade is and how a puck comes off,” Nash-Boulden said.
Brittany Ott of the National Women's Hockey League’s (NWHL) Boston Pride is five-foot three-inches tall. Last year, she was named the 2016 NWHL Goaltender of the Year with a 1.93 goals against average (GAA) en route to an Isobel Cup championship. She is a player that Nash-Boulden looks to emulate.
“She is about my height, and obviously that hasn’t stopped her,” Nash-Boulden said. “That’s a pretty good role model to have.”
Similar to Ott, Nash-Boulden will be relied upon to make big saves in big moments, starting with ASU’s first game against Grand Canyon University on Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m.