Waseca’s Jayde Pederson has envisioned playing college hockey and now she’ll get the chance.
Pederson recently committed to Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan, located on the Upper Peninsula of the state, to play for the women’s hockey team. It’s seven hours away from Waseca, and that made Pederson hesitant for a bit to join the Division-III program for a bit. But the team traveled to St. Paul last season to play St. Catherine University and St. Joseph to play the College of St. Benedict.
A coaching change at Finlandia helped assuage Pederson’s concerns about moving so far away. The Lions named Owatonna native Lindsay Macy as their head coach in May. Macy played at the University of Wisconsin and Minnesota State University, Mankato before heading into coaching.
“She just helped me understand that being that far away from home isn’t that big of a deal as people think it is,” Pederson said. “You have teammates around who can make you feel at home.”
Pederson leaves Waseca as the all-time leading scorer after she amassed 113 career goals since joining the varsity program as an eighth-grader and she’s the first Bluejays girls hockey player to play at the college level.
“Excited was an understatement,” Pederson said about the prospect of playing college hockey. “I’ve been working to play college hockey since my freshman year. To do that is unbelievable.”
Pederson will join a program in the midst of retooling. Finlandia went winless last season and dealt with injuries throughout the year that limited them to 10 to 12 skaters late in the season.
Pederson is one of six incoming freshmen for the Lions next season. The team graduated four seniors from last year’s roster, including starting goaltender Sarah Gundry, who left as the program’s all-time leader in minutes played, saves and save percentage.
The returning roster should help Pederson feel at home, too. Six returners come from Minnesota.
Pederson remains optimistic she’ll get some ice time as a freshman. She’s told Macy that she doesn’t mind where she plays on the ice after Pederson moved between forward and defense last season for Waseca.
For now, Pederson has found some ice time at All Seasons Arena in Mankato, where she’s attending a camp with other hockey players headed off to play collegiately along with players who have recently completed their first year of college hockey. Pederson plans to continue to work out to build strength for the upcoming college season, too.
Pederson hasn’t landed on a major quite yet but plans on taking care of her general courses her freshman year before picking a major.
“It’s a pretty small campus,” Pederson said. “The town size is a little less than Waseca. I think it will make me feel a little more at home.”
Pederson plans to move into her dorm on campus two weeks before school starts Aug. 24. Hockey practice will start around two weeks after the first day of class.
“I’m hoping with the new coach we can figure some stuff out and succeed more than they did last year,” Pederson said.