UWRF senior caps women’s ice hockey season with best player award
A tremendous, record-breaking, award-winning season for UW-River Falls women’s hockey forward Dani Sibley has been capped off with the senior earning the 2017 Laura Hurd Award for the best NCAA Div. III player.
Sibley is the first player under Head Coach Joe Cranston to win the honor, which is awarded by the American Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA).
“Dani has worked extremely hard every year to become the player that she is today,” Cranston said in an ACHA press release. “She is not only the best player I have ever coached, but also the best player I have seen at the Division III level.”
Sibley grew up in Monticello, Minnesota, where she played high school hockey for the North Wright County River Hawks. Due to a strong family influence, the passion for hockey has been present for Sibley since she was a child.
“I started playing when I was five, and my dad has coached me all the way until high school,” said Sibley. “My mom is my biggest fan, and the support system is really indescribable for me.”
Before she was awarded the Laura Hurd Award, Sibley became the second straight Falcon to win Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Player of the Year. Former Falcon Chloe Kinsel won the award last year. However, Sibley said she wasn’t caught up in winning the award.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think about that award,” said Sibley. “It’s really meaningful to me and my teammates and the coaching staff.”
The recent awards to Sibley were the last two she received in a long line of accolades this season. Sibley finished the season scoring 27 goals, eight of them on power plays, gathering 38 assists and tallying 65 points. All of those marks are single season records in the 18-year history for women’s hockey at UWRF. Kinsel held the records from the team’s title run last year. Humbly, Sibley plays down the achievements.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing for me is that I do everything in order for our team to have success,” she said. “We want to be back in that National Championship game, so if I don’t get another point from here until the end of the season I would be totally fine. I’m just giving it my all and giving my team the best opportunity to win and succeed.”
However, the team failed to reach its ultimate goal. The Falcons’ season ended at home against Gustavus Adolphus in the first round of the NCAA tournament, which also brought Sibley’s career at UWRF to a conclusion. Sibley spent four seasons at UWRF, and Cranston said he saw improvement each year.
“When she got here, she wasn’t very fast. She wasn’t a big difference maker immediately, but by the end of her freshman year, you could tell she was going to be a dominant player here,” said Cranston.
During Sibley’s freshman year at UWRF, Cranston sat Sibley for a game and told her she needed to get faster.
“To think I sat her out as a freshman and now she’s that good. It’s pretty remarkable what she’s done,” said Cranston.
Sibley’s hockey career is over, but she will continue at UWRF pursuing a degree in elementary education.