“Good Game, Ms. Beikirch!”

When Morgan Beikirch is not donning the blue and black for the Buffalo Beauts, she is shepherding sixteen 9-year olds for Warsaw Central Schools. Though, the fact that their teacher is a professional hockey player goes a long way in earning the kids’ admiration.

“They are ecstatic and think it is the coolest thing ever!” Beikirch says. “They love talking hockey and the Beauts with me, and they are super supportive.” Warsaw is about an hour’s drive to the city of Buffalo. Even still, this did not keep her students from cheering her on in the stands.

“Actually about 5 or 6 of them made the trip up to Buffalo with their families for our last home game this year. That was pretty emotional for me to see them in the stands with their ‘Ms. Beikirch’ signs. It’s pretty awesome to come into school and have one of my little guys say, ‘Good game Ms. Beikirch! My mom let me stay up and watch it on her iPad!'”

Youth Hockey

Beikirch is from Livonia, New York and had a highly accomplished youth career. She claimed a New York State Championship with the Buffalo Bisons youth hockey team in 2002 and 2004, and she was also a medalist at the 2003 and 2004 Empire State Games. But it was the local collegiate men’s hockey team that initially garnered Beikirch’s interest in the sport.

“These accomplishments were while I was playing on girls teams, but I grew up playing boys hockey in Geneseo. It was a great place to start, and my passion for hockey was immediately sparked as a young girl by watching Geneseo’s college hockey team.”

Beikirch and her family realized that in order to make a break in hockey and to get her name out there as an elite player, she should opt for playing on a girls team instead. Making the switch would enable her to achieve the aforementioned titles.

“At about 11 we realized that pursuing girls hockey was important, especially for exposure, so I played in Rochester for a couple years and then we made the transition to the Bisons.”

I have had the chance to interview a number of other hockey players who are either products of the Bisons organization or who are presently playing in the program. There is a common theme of fostering veteran players who show the way for the younger regime. It has worked too, for the Buffalo Bisons shine as an elite hockey program across North America. The same method was utilized during Beikirch’s time with the team.

Dad Is A Trooper

“There were a lot of older, stellar players in the Bisons organization at the time, and I wanted to surround myself with players who pushed me. The commute wasn’t easy. My dad is a trooper and lived on Mountain Dew for about 4-years straight; he still claims he is catching up on the sleep to this day. He laughs when I mention being tired after practice nights with the Beauts. The plus side is we drove so much between home and Buffalo that now it doesn’t seem like a big deal to commute to practice.”

Western New York is a “hockey hotbed”. I am sometimes irked by the fact that Detroit captured the “Hockeytown” moniker because I think that Western New Yorkers, specifically Buffalonians, feel that the title could be applied to our city as well. In addition to Beikirch, fellow Buffalo Beauts Jacquie Greco, Emily Janiga, Emily Pfalzer, and Hayley Scamurra are also from this same “neck of the woods.” I asked Beikirch her thoughts as to why the sport runs so deep in our region.

“Well, we have a lot of NHL guys that grew up in the area; one of them being my second cousin, Ryan Callahan. You go to the rink and see the Cally, (Brian) Gionta, (Patrick) Kane and (Shane) Prince jerseys floating around, and it’s inspiring. Kids think that if these guys grew up playing here and made it, why can’t I?  We also have crazy winters with frozen ponds and the Finger Lakes. Perhaps it’s the ‘adapt to your surroundings’ theory we have in our favor.”

Robert Morris University Career

Beikirch played 4 years of NCAA hockey with Robert Morris University. With 28-goals and 41-assists in 127-regular season games, she ranks in the top ten statistically for the Colonials in goals (tied for 8th), assists (tied for 7th), shots (10th), and points (8th), as well numerous other categories in the program’s history. Upon wrapping up a superb college career, the opportunity to join the NWHL in Buffalo made things come full circle for Beikirch.

“There is definitely an extra sense of pride playing so close to home,” she tells me. “Naturally you root for the Sabres and the Bills growing up because of your surroundings, but now little girls can wear Beauts jerseys and hopefully pursue hockey as a career and not just a hobby.”

For any championship team, every player’s role is a vital one. The all-time greats of hockey (Mark Messier comes to mind) will always emphasize that. The individual pieces that each player brings to the team comprise the whole which allows them to become champions when the components are mixed just right. Beikirch’s role for the Beauts’ championship run was equally important as the role of her teammates.

In 3 games this NWHL season, Beikirch won 7 of 13 faceoffs. And though her opportunities to contribute on the ice may have been limited during the season due to her teaching duties, she still made a heartfelt difference to the team by adding in some Beaut-ly love from her students. “Some weekends when I didn’t travel because of work I would send the team a picture or a video of the kids cheering ‘Let’s Go Beauts!'”

Opportunity To Meet Isobel?

And now Beikirch is an Isobel Cup champion and will have her name forever inscribed on the trophy, a feat that certainly has not been missed by her students or the school where she teaches. “As far as meeting Isobel goes, I have had some requests, to say the least. We have a whole school assembly at the end of every month so it would be pretty cool if I showed up carrying the Cup. Fingers crossed, we’ll see!”

On top of winning the Cup, Beikirch has a very busy, exciting offseason in store for her. One that includes another passion of hers, as well as a momentous occasion in her personal life. Winning Isobel was perhaps only the beginning of the festivities.

“I’ll be molding young minds until the end of June,” She tells me. “Then it’s living at my home away from home, Livingston Country Club. Not many people know but I am a huge golfer; I actually played in college too. I am known to play 18-36 holes almost daily in the summer. I guess living at the golf course in the summer helped because I met my fiance there a couple years ago and we are getting married at the end of July. I am very excited for our honeymoon in Punta Cana because most of my ‘vacations’ have always revolved around hockey or golf tournaments.”

Even with the excitement of marriage and the fun of indulging in pastimes over the summer, Beikirch has not lost sight of hockey and what lies ahead for the Beauts.

The Off-Season

“I think we need to reinforce the importance of off-ice training in addition to on-ice development. We are very fortunate to have one of the best training facilities with IMPACT Sports Performance at the HaborCenter (home arena of the Beauts). I truly believe that helped play a role in our success, especially late in games.”

I would agree with Beikirch’s assessment, especially when it got late in the game of the Finals versus the Boston Pride. The Pride were relentless in their attack in firing over sixty shots on goal but with their conditioning the Beauts never wavered in withstanding the onslaught.

Separate from the future of the Beauts in defending the team’s title, there is Beikirch’s personal future with regards to playing hockey. Being a full-time teacher, getting married, thoughts of raising a family and being a professional hockey player, is a platter bigger than most could handle or even fathom. Beikirch is able to put it into perspective though.

What The Future Has In Store

“I would love to play another year if the right opportunity arose. I am obviously in a little different situation than most because I have a very demanding and time-consuming job that has to be my number one priority. I face sixteen 9-year-olds every morning before 8 am, which is pretty tough when you are not getting home from practice until almost 1 am. At the same time though, there is a very limited time frame for us as females to fulfill these opportunities before starting a family and settling down. Regardless of what happens, I am beyond grateful to have been able to live out a childhood dream.”

And when it comes to her students, Beikirch is able to tie her hockey career into key values that she imparts to her class. “I hope that they have learned the importance of dreaming big, setting goals, and living your passions.” From the sounds of it, those are lessons that ‘Ms. Beikirch’ has taught them most well.