Among the most inspiring and wonderful stories of the 2019-20 hockey season, perhaps none tug at the heartstrings more than the remarkable journey of Amanda Conger. Belonging to the Saint Anselm Hawks senior class, with the captain’s C adorning her jersey, Conger’s standing as both, impact player and hockey hero, took on greater meaning. Raised in Swanton, Vermont, where she starred with Rice Memorial before donning Hawks colors, a highly compelling offseason placed the talented forward into an exciting realm of admiration and commendable character.
During the offseason, Conger gained a place in the hearts and minds of the St. Anselm Community by giving the gift of life. An act that embodied bravery and kindness, she graciously donated her kidney. With a community-wide search required in order to find a match for Cameron Ouellette, afflicted with Stage Five Kidney Disease, it became a defining moment for Conger.
Discovering that she was a compatible match, Conger made the very gallant decision to become a donor, allowing a grateful Ouellette an opportunity for a new life. Worth noting, she found the inspiration from her older brother, who actually donated bone marrow four years earlier.
Such a show of compassion, demonstrating remarkable spirit, Conger’s display of character would extend beyond the donation and the recovery. To a casual observer of the game, understandably, the fact that Conger was able to recover and return for competitive play in 2019-20, was nothing short of miraculous.
Entering the season, Conger already had tremendous momentum. Having earned the honor of the Most Outstanding Player Award at the 2019 NEWHA Tournament, complementing the honor of a place on the All-NEWHA Second Team, it already placed Conger into an honored place in program lore.
Taking into account that Conger had already made the decision to donate her kidney, the tournament brought with a degree of urgency and importance. Discussing how the last few games remaining as the tournament progressed could signify her final games in Hawks colors, as the time required for recovery from such a procedure could not be anticipated. Indubitably, it provided a sense of motivation, amplifying the feeling of high impact such contests held on her own fascinating hockey odyssey.
Delivering on all accounts, it marked a cherished pinnacle for the gregarious Conger. Gaining the recognition of the Outstanding Player Award, showered with praise, it provided Conger with a tremendous feeling of possible, yet glorious closure. Contented in the remarkable effort exerted, the event held the potential to be the high point of her career. Instead, it proved to be prologue for the game, and season, of her life.
“Being named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 NEWHA Tournament is placed pretty high on my memories of being a Hawk on the Hilltop. In the semi-final and final game of my 2019 season, I was already in the process of giving my kidney. I was told if I continue and the procedure takes place there is a high chance (that) I would not be able to play my senior year.
I believe I ended on such a high note because to take from the above question, I played these two games as if they were my last hockey games I could ever play. I wanted to end my hockey career on a high note, so I played with everything I had, and I was so thankful at the end of it to be named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 NEWHA Tournament.”
Returning to the ice in an October 4-5, 2019, weekend series at Post University, it signified a tremendous personal victory for a courageous and commendable Conger. Although she did not gain any points versus the Hawks, racking up a +1 in each contest, her presence was nothing short of uplifting for her Hawks teammates, finding a combination of strength and encouragement, a series sweep saw the squad prevail by a cumulative score of 11-2.
Fittingly, Conger would gain the well-deserved opportunity to skate in the starting lineup in the Hawks home opener, part of an October 18-19 weekend filled with plenty of emotion versus visiting Sacred Heart. Gaining the assist on a second period goal by Kelly Golini of a hard-fought 2-1 loss on October 19, it signified Conger’s first point of the season, demonstrating a defining moment in her senior season.
Merely six days later, an October 25 affair provided a unique coincidence. Hosting the Post Hawks, Conger, once again placed into the starting lineup enjoy her first goal of the season. Capitalizing on a power paly opportunity in the first period, as Gabby Monaco earned the assist; it also proved to be the game-winning tally in a 6-0 final, allowing her two proud milestones with one goal. Worth noting, goaltender Caroline Kukas enjoyed her first win, complemented by the First Star of the Game Award.
November would emerge as a breakthrough month for Conger. Enjoying a four-game scoring streak, spanning from November 2-15, it also saw the high-flying Hawks boasted an undefeated mark. Highlighted by a 10-0 road win versus the Salem State Vikings, which was part of their Military Appreciation Night festivities, Conger would record four assists, tying with Katie Meehan for a game-high four-point effort. As a side note, Katie Guay, who would be one of the officials during the 2020 NHL Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Showcase in St. Louis, served as the referee in the 10-0 final.
The month would also see Conger and her fellow Hawks enjoy a taste of professional hockey, competing in a November 9 exhibition versus the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale in Manchester, New Hampshire. Conger would emerge as an impact player, assisting on a third period goal by Kenadie Cooper, which gave the Hawks their first lead of the game, enjoying a 3-2 advantage. Although the Whale would tie the game at 3-apiece, the Hawks’ Haley Marshall would score unassisted with only 12 seconds remaining to win the game, subsequently earning the First Star of the Game Award.
In a season that culminated with Conger gracing the ice in a remarkable 32 games, also reaching a career high in points, such an impressive display of dedication and perseverance was a source of awe and wonder among teammates and opponents alike. Discussing the recovery and the preparation needed to return to the ice following the medical procedure, she attributes a philosophical approach as a key factor in her empowering path. Gaining a newfound appreciation for life, while living in the moment, absorbing all its sights and sounds, placing an important premium on the beauty of every single day, simultaneously bringing a highly infectious energy to the rink,
“What I believed helped me to find success on the ice was I tried to play every game as if it was my last. After having my surgery, it really helped put a lot in perspective of how lucky we are to be healthy every single day and that could be taken away at any moment. Every game I just tried to push myself and play in the moment as if it was my last game I would ever play.”
Fittingly, the season allowed Conger to return to her capacity of serving as team captain for the second straight season. Sharing in leadership duties among the likes of … and …, comprising a distinguished group, it was an achievement that signified a proud career highlight, accentuating her standing as a program cornerstone.
Also enjoying the treasured milestone of Senior Night, Conger, part of a Class that included Kaley Campbell, Jamie Gottwald, Michaela Kane, Megan Klaus and Haley Marshall, were celebrated on February 15 in Manchester, New Hampshire, prior to a contest versus Long Island University. Accentuating another stellar achievement, which saw Conger graduate as the Hawks all-time leader in games played with 114.
Setting the record with her 110th game, the landmark event took place on February 7, 2020 versus the Sacred Heart Pioneers at the Rinks in Shelton. Surpassing former teammate Jackie Guy, a member of the Hawks Class of 2018, the contest also saw fellow seniors Kaley Campbell and Megan Klaus take to the ice for their 107th appearance in Hawks colors. Although Conger’s eventual final game as a Hawk took place in the postseason, facing off against Long Island Univeristy in the NEWHA Champiuonship Game on February 23, 2020, the feat versus Sacred Heart was part of a much richer and unique narrative, as the achievement of skating with the Hawks during a full season marked a heroic comeback.
“Setting the program record for most games played was something I never could have imagine if you told me going into my freshman year. When I was told (that) I was only five games away from breaking the record I could not believe it. It allowed me to reflect back on my four years of playing for Coach Matthews and to remember the seasons with my old teammates.
Being named a Captain both my Junior and Senior year was very special to me. The feeling of being chosen by your teammates who want you to lead and be the liaison between the team and coaching staff is incredible. I am thankful that my teammates saw potential in myself and helped me grown and learn what it means to be a great leader.”
The aftermath of the season allowed for numerous precious accolades, serving as the exclamation mark to a magical time. Placing Conger in a celebrated status in St. Anselm athletics history, the honour of the Hockey Humanitarian Award ascended her towards a mythical place.
In addition, Conger gained further acclaim with Saint Anselm’s prestigious Donna M. Guimont Service Leadership and Engagement Award. With both honors, adding to a splendid haul of hockey hardware, including the 2020 All-NEWHA Sportswomanship Team, joined by teammates Megan Klaus and Katy Meehan, the Charles J. Quinn Sportsmanship Award, plus the privilege of recognition on the Saint Anselm Dean’s List for Spring. Undeniably, each subsequent achievement not only burnished a legacy destined to grow greater with time, such triumphant touches brought a more profound meaning to a glorious season that seemed in doubt just a few months prior.
“When I found out I was the recipient for the Hockey Humanitarian Award I was in shock. I never could have imagined a little over a year ago making a donation would have changed my life as much as it did. Needless to say, I was extremely honored to receive such a prestigious award. I never wanted as much recognition as I have received for making my donation, although I now embrace it and use its multiple platforms to spread awareness and importance of organ donation.
To follow up and receive the Donna M. Guimont Service Leadership and Engagement Award was also an incredible honor. Out of the many other amazing students at Saint Anselm who dedicate so much of themselves and their time to the community, I was extremely honored to be recognized as the recipient of the Donna M. Guimont Award.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”