Just 298 days elapsed between Lexi Templeman, Emily Curlett and Raygan Kirk learning that Robert Morris was cutting their men’s and women’s hockey programs and the trio winning a national championship with Ohio State on Sunday.
The three players were announced as transfer signings just two weeks after the shocking news at Robert Morris.
Templeman, who was captain of the Colonials in her senior season, led the team to a CHA tournament championship in March 2021. It was the program’s second-ever tournament title and was a dream come true, she said, as the team has lost the tournament championship game for the past three years straight.
Everything has worked out about as well as anyone could have hoped – the players are celebrating their title and the university has reinstated hockey, with a plan to put teams back on the ice in the 2022-23 season – but that doesn’t mean the past year hasn’t been tumultuous.
These three players in particular went from despair to elation in the span of a year, but also had to work through a cadre of other emotions as they had to completely revamp their lives in a matter of months.
“It has been the craziest 12 months of my life,” said Templeman.
SIgning on quickly at Ohio State helped calm some of the anxiety that arose thanks to the RMU news, but Templeman said it was still a really terrible time that, frankly, never should have happened.
Still, she knows she’s lucky not just to have ended up a Buckeye and national champion, but to be playing at all. Some players were able to transfer to other schools in DI and DIII, but a few of her former teammates left the game of hockey after the team was cut.
“This is a great group of girls. Everyone is so driven and cares so much. That was such a great step in my playing career. I couldn’t ask to finish off my five years of college hockey any other way,” said Templeman. “Getting the opportunity to come here and play with this group of girls and this team with this program at this school is a dream come true.”
While Templeman believes things happen for a reason and everything fell together for her in the way it was supposed to, she said it’s a shame that things went down at Robert Morris the way they did.
“I think that putting those athletes through that was unnecessary when you look back at it.
I am really happy for the future of RMU hockey. I think that’s really important for the city of Pittsburgh. It will be really important moving forward. I do think they have a bright future ahead, but it’s really unnecessary, what they put those athletes through,” she said.
For the Colonials that transferred to OSU, it was about making the best of a bad situation, something Templeman said athletes are used to doing on a regular basis. Having to regroup wasn’t ideal, but all that turmoil was obviously worth it when looked at with the benefit of hindsight and a national championship.
But this outcome wasn’t necessarily inevitable. Templeman wanted to continue her education and play at a big school. She knew the Buckeyes made the 2021 Frozen Four. She knew what was possible. She didn’t quite grasp what a big deal her new team would be.
When the news of the trio transferring to Ohio State broke, Templeman said she received a number of messages of congratulations that said “your team is going to be so good!” Templeman said the messages surprised her. She knew Ohio State had played in the previous year’s Frozen Four and she was happy to be moving to a big state university with seemingly endless resources, but in the turmoil of pivoting her life in a matter of two weeks, she hadn’t really thought of the transfer in that way.
She knew the team was good, she said, but until you step on the ice and play together, nothing is for sure. But as the season went on, Templeman said the idea of winning a title went from a hypothetical to attainable.
The Buckeyes had 10 new players this season – eight total transfers and two rookies. Leading returning scorer Emma Maltais took the year off to centralize with Hockey Canada and eventually win a gold medal. But the players came together, with things really solidifying for the Buckeyes after the winter break. They lost just three games over the final three months, finishing the season on a 10-game winning streak.
“When I first committed, I knew (the championship) was a possibility, but as the year progressed, I realized how good our team is, and our culture is. I think that as we continued to grow over the year, it became ‘national championship sights set.’ It wasn’t a thought anymore,” she said.