For Winnipeg’s Meghan Dufault, hockey always seemed to come easily. She was strong, she could skate and she had that passion and love for the game that is unmatched.
She took that passion for the game to Canada’s National Under-18 team and now she’s one of the best players at the University of North Dakota.
Fact is, the former Balmoral Hall School captain, is now among the scoring leaders with the UND women’s hockey program, a program that is 8-1-1 so far this season and 6-1-1 in conference play.
Last week at Bemidji State, Dufault, 19, had a hat-trick as she led UND to a 6-1 win over Bemidji. Two of her goals were shorthanded. She also added an assist and had 11 shots on goal. She was named player of the game.
“When you talk about the absence of a couple players and someone needing to step up, Dufault embraced that and was dominant,” head coach Brian Idalski told reporters after the game. “I think she was our best player on the ice, making plays and finishing things off. That’s the type of great player she can be. She’s just a sophomore and she’s starting to understand how dynamic and what a difference maker she can be and it speaks volumes for her future.”
Late last month, Dufault, 19, had a goal and an assist as UND beat St. Cloud State 6-1. She is now third on the team in scoring with six goals and five assists in the team’s first 10 games. She’s also a plus-11 for a team that is ranked No. 4 in the NCAA.
“She’s really developing well,” said UND’s legendary Jocelyne Lamoureux, a member of the United States Olympic team. “I played with her for a while, and she really came along. I think she found her confidence: She needed to Keep holding on to the puck, not looking for the pass right away. She’s going to be a big player for UND.”
Last year, in her freshman season, Dufault made an immediate impact. She had 19 goals and 22 assists in 38 games and also single-handedly got her team into the Final Four with a late goal in the Regionals. She was selected to the All-WCHA Rookie Team.
A 5-foot-6 sophomore taking Pre-Business at UND, Dufault won a gold medal while serving as an assistant captain for Team Canada at the 2012 Under-18 World Championship. Last year, she was part of Canada’s national Under-22 program.
When she arrived at UND, Idalski knew he had an outstanding player.
“With this recruiting class we were able to acquire some quality kids up front,” Idalski said at the time. “These kids were some of the best players to come out and I like them all, but I think we got a real keeper with Meghan Dufault out of Winnipeg.”
After her single visit to the UND campus, there was very little doubt that Dufault was excited to attend one of the most revered hockey schools in the United States. She had been offered other opportunities, but she’d always followed UND’s program and was thrilled to become part of it.
“During my visit I felt that I was at home,” she said. “The coaches and players made me feel that I could be part of something very special. The strong academics and athletics program, along with a beautiful facility and campus, secured my decision to attend UND.”
As most Manitoba hockey fans know, Dufault is a dynamic offensive threat who was named Canada’s best forward at the 2011 World Under-18 Women’s Championship held in Stockholm, where she had eight points (2-6-8) in five games to lead Canada to a silver medal.
A two-time Hockey Canada Under-18 Selection Camp invitee, she also played in the USA/Canada Mini Series helping Canada beat the U.S. 2-1.
In 2012, the 5-foot 6 right-handed-shooting forward she was named an All-Star in the Junior Women’s Hockey League, the continent-wide elite women’s hockey loop that includes teams in Chicago, Lake Placid and Washington, D.C.
Before attending Balmoral she played for the Pursuit of Excellence’s Midget AAA team in Kelowna, B.C., and was nominated for Sport Manitoba’s Female Athlete of the Year. She was awarded the Most Valuable Player at the 2011 National Canada Winter Games Under-18 Championship in Surrey, B.C. She has a load of offensive skill.
“Meghan is probably one of the most dynamic kids coming out in the 2012-13 class,” said Idalski recently. “She sees the ice well, distributes the puck and can put the puck in the net. She is going to be a top forward for us and is going to really give us another shot in the arm as far as scoring depth.”