They were both teenagers looking to play college hockey in a state where no women’s college hockey programs even existed.
Today, that narrative has changed, and they have broken the ice for women's college hockey in Arizona.
Last weekend, ASU clinched its first-ever Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League playoff berth after sweeping the University of Denver. For McGovern and Ellis, the victory and the establishment of a legitimate women’s college hockey program on the West Coast was long overdue.
"My biggest takeaway was that I had to work extra hard just being from here with our limited resources,” McGovern said. “It was just that you had to work twice as hard (to play college hockey).”
McGovern and Ellis played a stint of their club hockey careers for the Vosha Lady Coyotes under current Princeton head coach Cara Morey.
Together, both players achieved success, with Ellis going on to play and win a national championship in the American Collegiate Hockey Association at Miami University in Ohio, while McGovern went onto a fantastic four-year run in the NCAA at Minnesota-Duluth.
“Whenever we went to tournaments, the first person scouts looked at was Katie," Ellis said. "Obviously she played at a very high level. She was obviously a very good player but also a great team player with leadership skills.”
While both coaches went their separate ways as players, they kept in touch during their time apart.
The coaches even have a group text that includes some of the most notable female hockey players from Arizona, including current Boston College captain and Scottsdale native Makenna Newkirk.
“There is a group of us Arizona hockey players that stay in touch still to this day,” Ellis said. “It’s just really cool to be in a group text and be spread all over the entire country and just be able to still have that close of a connection.”
While the band of hockey players might be busy in different time zones with hectic schedules and jobs, the group still finds time to reconnect and bond when they are all back in the Valley.
“In the summertime, we all get together, and we like to go hiking,” Ellis said. “We all tend to go on hiking trips together and different trips to Sedona...it’s always just good to see everybody and see all of their accomplishments when they come home.”
Some members of the group even vouch for ASU hockey gear despite their allegiances to other schools.
“All of the girls are so supportive of our team,” Ellis said. “Makenna is always wanting gear and all of the girls want gear, so it’s always exciting for them just to be able to support us.”
In addition to McGovern and Ellis, Kaley Marino is the third member of the ASU coaching staff, serving as ASU's goaltending/assistant coach.
Although Marino didn’t play on the same club hockey team as McGovern and Ellis, she was yet another Arizona native who excelled on the ice while playing her collegiate hockey at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin.
At St. Norbert, Marino made an NCAA tournament appearance and was a two-time captain as a goaltender for the Green Knights.
When Ellis decided to kickstart the program at ASU, Marino got in contact with Ellis.
“Lindsey and I weren’t really close growing up because we were just different ages, so we didn’t know each other,” Marino said. “I knew of her, and when I started to hear about the team and when it was officially announced, I just texted her and said ‘Hey, if you need help with anything, just let me know.’”
Ellis added Marino to the inaugural coaching staff at ASU, and the rest has been history as the Sun Devils are now off to a historic season with the trio of coaches at the forefront.
“We bounce ideas off of each other, and having a group of three is kind of nice because we vote on things and it’s super subjective,” Marino said. “We all have good ideas, and we all come from different areas, and we have all had the same experience in playing women’s hockey at a college level. I think we just match up really well.”
ASU will look to close out its regular season at Ellis's alma mater, Miami University.
The Sun Devils will travel to Oxford, Ohio this weekend to take on the No. 6 RedHawks. Puck drop for game one of a two-game set is set for 8:45 p.m. MST on Friday, Feb. 9 at the Goggin Ice Center.
“It’s hard to say where my life would be without it (hockey),” Ellis said. “All my best friends play hockey. My family loves hockey. I mean, it’s just consumed so much of my life and taught me so many life lessons. I guess I don’t know where I would be without it.”
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