Have you ever felt so tired, you just had to sit down? Like your legs were past the point of burning with pain or exhaustion, and they just felt dead? That’s how Leah Schwartzman felt during the longest state championship girls hockey game in Minnesota history.
“We were all exhausted because we were playing two lines the whole game,” Breck freshman Leah Shwartzman said, “so I just thought ‘well, I have no games after this, so I might as well give it my all.'”
She really did give it her all, right to the very end.
“Right before (Senior Milica McMillen) rushed the puck down, I was thinking about getting off the ice because my legs were so dead.” Leah said. “Then I thought ‘Milica has the puck. I might as well try to skate down and crash the net like coach always tells me.’ At that moment I just was like, ‘I don’t care if my legs are dead, I’m going for it.’ I saw that shot come, I saw the puck and I just whacked it with my stick as fast as I could.”
During the Feb. 24 game, McMillen passed the puck to Senior Prentice Basten, who passed it to Schwartzman. Schwartzman saw an opportunity, and she took it. Ten minutes and 55 seconds into the second overtime period, she ended the seemingly never-ending game with a goal to give Breck a 3-2 win over South St. Paul.
“Then Milica jumped right on top of me,” Leah said, “and that’s the last thing I really remember about that because then (my whole team) was all on top of me.”
That wasn’t the first time Schwartzman has locked in a great win against South St. Paul within the last few seconds of a game.
“Last time we played South St. Paul during the season, I actually tied the game up with nine seconds left, and we ended up winning it,” Leah said. “My coach (Chris Peterson) was just like ‘You must have a thing for these guys, because every time we play them, you seem to do something like this.'”
Her coaches had some wise words ready to motivate the team during the longest game in state championship story.
“We were super nervous, but our coaches were telling us that’s how you win championships — by being the stronger team at the end,” Leah said. “It felt like I was out there for hours. I didn’t even remember the first period by the end, but it was fun. It was worth it.”
Luckily for Schwartzman, she still has a few more years to try for a repeat performance of that memorable state tournament. As a freshman, this is her second year on varsity. She started playing for the team last year as an eighth grader, and she first started playing hockey when she was about five years old. Her dad played hockey in high school, but her biggest influence to start skating in the first place was her two older sisters. With an age gap of 14 and 15 years between Schwartzman’s sisters and her, they were two of her biggest role models.
“I was always at the rink so I could watch my sisters play,” Leah said. “I would tell them ‘I want to play that when I’m older,’ and that’s what I did. They always used to cut out their team pictures and hang them in my room. I’d always know all their player numbers and names and stuff. They were the ones that first taught me how to skate.”
Schwartzman has her sisters to thank for introducing her to hockey, and for the bright future that she has ahead of her in the sport. She hopes to eventually play in college, whether it is for a Division I or Division III team. She also plays tennis and lacrosse, but hockey is still her favorite sport, despite other’s opinions on what she’s better at.
“Some people say they like watching me play lacrosse more,” she said.
She’s hoping to work in something that has to do with sports or coaching when she is older, but she has plenty of time to decide which career path she will take.