A youth hockey coach in Germany spied a youngster in protective headgear skating effortlessly across the rink and decided the boy could help his youth hockey team.
“He asked my dad if his son wanted to play hockey. My dad said, ‘You know, it’s not a boy. But you can ask her if she wants to play.'”
University of Maine women’s hockey senior Raffi Wolf, who was 8 years old at the time, went to her first practice that next Monday and played her first game two days later.
“I didn’t know anything about the game. I had no clue,” said Wolf, a forward-turned-defenseman who is Maine’s career scoring leader with 53 goals and 28 assists for 81 points in 79 games. “At the first practice, the coach taught me the offsides rule and then, basically, he put me out there and told me to skate and have fun.
“I loved playing it. It certainly was a challenge for an 8-year-old. But the game was very exciting.”
Skating came naturally to Wolf and she loves a challenge.
Her career was launched and, last winter, she realized the dream of a lifetime by playing for Germany in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“It was an unbelievable experience. You really can’t compare it to anything,” said Wolf, who left Voerde, Germany, as a teenager so she could develop her hockey skills in Canada. “You would have had to be there to understand what I’m talking about.
“It made me realize that all the hard work paid off. It was all worth it. You got to eat with different athletes and living in the Olympic Village in itself was quite an experience. Everybody was friendly and having a good time.”
The German Olympic athletes had their own house and she said, “It was great to meet the other people from your country.”
Wolf said, “The whole experience changed me as a person. I look at things differently. It taught me a lot. Since I have accomplished my goal and my dream, my whole priority is to play for Maine this year. I’m very excited to be back after taking a year off.”
There are plenty of people around the Maine program who are excited about her return.
Maine coach Rick Filighera said moving her back to defense “will help us break the puck out of our zone consistently. I saw that happen in the first week [a sweep over Vermont]. You can’t generate any offense if you can’t break the puck out of your zone cleanly.”
He also expects her to generate offense.
“We’re able to create shots from the point on the power play and Raffi will be the key to that. She shoots the puck as hard or harder than anyone in our league,” said Filighera, who noted that Wolf’s confidence level has grown significantly since her return.
“She has tons of confidence and she is more calm playing defense,” concurred senior left wing Cindy Biron. “She’s going to help us out a lot both offensively and defensively. And can she ever shoot the puck! She keeps it low and it’s accurate. Four or five of our goals at Vermont came off her point shots.” Providence College coach Bob Deraney said Filighera’s decision to make Wolf a defenseman is a “great move.”
“She has speed, skill, and tenacity, and now she’ll be on the ice a lot more. That spells trouble for the rest of Hockey East,” said Deraney. “She will give them a boost immediately. I don’t look forward to playing her three times.”
Wolf said the move is going well.
“After my freshman year, people knew who I was and they would put two people on me when I got the puck,” said Wolf, who scored 31 goals as a freshman. “I couldn’t go anywhere. Now I have more room and I can skate the puck from one end to the other. I’m happy with the position so far.”
She said the biggest adjustment is “anticipating what our team is doing and what our opponent is doing. You have to decide whether you’re going to get in there and pinch [to keep the puck in at the offensive blue line] or just sit back.”And she likes what she sees from her teammates.
“It’s amazing. We’re completely different now. The [skill] level has changed so much. It’s really exciting. We’re actually working as a team now. When I first came here, we had a bunch of individuals trying to do their own thing,” said Wolf.
25 ? Maine 4, Vermont 1
26 ? Maine 4, Vermont 0
2 ? New Hampshire 5, Maine 1
3 ? New Hampshire 1, Maine 0
9 ? Providence, 1 p.m.
10 ? Providence, 1 p.m.
15 ? at Quinnipiac, 5 p.m.
16 ? at Quinnipiac, 8 p.m.
29 ? at Yale, 2 p.m.
30 ?at Princeton, 2 p.m.
7 ? at Niagara, 3 p.m.
14 ? at Harvard, 7 p.m.
6 ? Colgate, 7 p.m.
7 ? Colgate, 7 p.m.
11 ? Boston College, 1 p.m.
12 ? Boston College, 1 p.m.
17 ? at Connecticut, 7 p.m.
19 ? Northeastern, 1 p.m.
25 ? Niagara, 1 p.m.
26 ? Niagara, 1 p.m.
31 ? Cornell, 7 p.m.
1 ? Cornell, 7 p.m.
8 ? Quinnipiac, 1 p.m.
11 ? New Hampshire, 7 p.m.
15 ? at Northeastern, 2 p.m.
16 ? at Northeastern, 2 p.m.
22 ? at Boston College, 2 p.m.
23 ? at Providence, 2 p.m.
1 ? Connecticut, 1 p.m.
2 ? Connecticut, 1 p.m.