Brooke Zaleski practically grew up in an ice rink.
The Whitmer graduate started ice skating not long after she began walking. Frequent trips with her family to watch the Toledo Storm at the Toledo Sports Arena created a desire to play hockey.
Her skill with a hockey stick has improved to the point where she's become one of the top players on the Adrian College women's hockey team. And she's only a sophomore.
More significantly, Zaleski, a forward, was recently selected to the All-Northern Collegiate Hockey Association team for her efforts, which helped Adrian finish second in the conference.
“It feels like a really big success because there are a lot of really, really good girls in the league,” Zaleski said of being chosen for the all-conference team. “My biggest qualities as a player are I'm very motivated and I'm very competitive.”
Adrian coach Melissa Lomanto became the coach for the three-year old hockey program two years ago. She hadn't recruited Zaleski, but needed to hold only one practice to see that she was the kind of player needed to help build the Bulldogs program.
“She has a work ethic that is unreal,” Lomanto said. “She showed up and was the most intense person on the ice, and she leaves it out there on the ice every game.”
Zaleski's body of work this season has been noticed by more than just her coach. She and fellow sophomore Kelly Salis are the two Bulldogs named to the All-NCHA team. Zaleski paced the Bulldogs (15-10-2, 11-4-1 NCHA) during the regular season by scoring 18 points. Her team-high 1.12 points-per-game average and 0.69 assists per game ranked fifth-best in each category in the conference.
“That's a great accomplishment as a sophomore,” Lomanto said of Zaleski, who tallied 7 goals and 11 assists in 16 conference games.
Zaleski arrived at Adrian College in the fall of 2008 after several years of honing her skills against top-level competition on travel teams that played throughout the Midwest and Canada. She played against some of the best high school talent throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Zaleski said several Division I colleges expressed interest in her abilities, but she ultimately decided on attending Adrian College and suiting up in a Bulldogs women's hockey uniform.
Zaleski believes Adrian College, which competes at the Division III level, offered her the best of both worlds for someone looking to compete in athletics at the college level.
“It's awesome and I love it,” she said. “The school is really good and the hockey program has a new ice rink and locker facilities.”
Zaleski, who is a psychology major, played softball for two years at Whitmer. However, her favorite sport remained hockey throughout high school. Her favorite athlete is Detroit Red Wing center Pavel Datsyuk.
The all-conference performer, who displays her passion for hockey every time she steps on the ice, produced a sophomore season to remember.
“I don't necessarily think I've gotten better, but I just think I've gotten more comfortable and confident with the level of competition and with my teammates,” she said.
Contact Donald Emmons at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6302.