Emma Theriault will be a key player as a senior defender for the St. Dom’s girls’ hockey team this season. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Emma Theriault comes from a hockey heritage, but the St. Dominic Academy senior has made a name for herself the past three years with her own play on the ice.

In that time, the defender has been a part of two state championship teams and 55 victories in 61 games, all while playing at an all-conference and all-state level her whole career.

Her final act for the Saints should be her biggest performance yet, and she’ll need to play a starring role as the team tries to get back to the state championship game despite all the teammates that have departed along the way.

Saints coach Paul Gosselin said Theriault will be “extremely important, in so many ways.”

“She’s a great role model for her work ethic. She’s got a great personality. She’s never negative. She comes to practice every day, and that’s where you get good, is in practice, so that works out well,” Gosselin said.

Working hard has always been what has made Theriault “invaluable,” according to Gosselin.

“She approaches the game with a lot of work, a lot of hard work,” Gosselin said.

It has served her well playing defense, and working on her weak spots throughout her career — “those are far and few between right now,” Gosselin said — has turned her into one of the top defenders in the state, in Gosselin’s eyes.

“It’s awesome. It’s always nice to see kids get rewarded for the hard work they put in,” Gosselin said. “It’s not to say that she’s not naturally skilled, because she is. But her added work and persistence has really helped her out, and obviously us.”

“Since freshman year I think I have become much more engaged in different aspects of my game,” Theriault said. “I have become more aggressive, and I have had to become more of a puck-moving defenseman.”

What makes Theriault an even more invaluable player for the Saints is what she can do — and has done in her career so far — at the other end of the ice.

“Not only is she good defensively, but she’s one heck of an offensive threat. When she goes down she’s got a heck of a snapshot, she’s got a heck of a slapshot,” Gosselin said. “She can put the puck in, so she’s very offensive as a defenseman.”

Gosselin also said that Theriault is “one of the better stick-handlers out there.”

One skill that Theriault has that even Gosselin can’t teach is her fearlessness, calling her “very sacrificial.”

That will serve her well in a leadership role that she’s grown into, and that will be even bigger this year. Along with senior forward Avery Lutrzykowski, Theriault will be looked upon to be one of the Saints’ key leaders. She’s always been a “great team player, big team supporter,” Gosselin said, but she’s become more vocal since she came in as a shy, quiet freshman.

“I think my role on the team just evolved into (being a leader), and Avery and I helped out Katya (Fons) last year and the role carried on to this year,” Theriault said. “We work well together, and we both work really hard to do what’s right for the team, so I think that also played a role in our leadership positions.”

Theriault said she wants to make the most of her final season with St. Dom’s, which she and the Saints hope ends in the state championship game at Androscoggin Bank Colisee — a venue her grandfather Roger once owned.

“I think our team has the drive and heart to succeed this season,” she said, “and we have a great group of girls who work really hard, so that takes some of that pressure off (me).”

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