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Puck 'Rona: Freeland freshman battles uncertainty during canceled season

During a break in practice, Lizzie lays on the ice and stretches her back, Thursday, Feb. 11. “It must be sore from carrying the team,” She jokes.

Michigan collegiate athletes have faced uncertainty for nearly a year on the status of the sports they love due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freeland freshman Lizzie Angulo felt the uncertainty before her first college class at Central Michigan University began.

Angulo is a member of the CMU women’s club hockey team, which announced it would not play during the 2020-21 campaign on Jan. 12. Angulo said she was devastated.

“Before joining the CMU team in the fall, I took the longest break from hockey since I started playing due to the first shut down, so realizing that this six-month break was going to be extended indefinitely killed me,” Angulo said. “I had been on the same team from sixth grade until I graduated high school, so I was excited for a new team and excited for my freshman season of collegiate hockey. 

"Now knowing that I will never get that is one of the worst feelings ever.”

Ever since she began playing hockey at 9 years old, Angulo has become an aggressive, all-around team player who is not afraid to battle on the boards or deliver body checks. From her first step on the ice, Angulo fell in love with the game of hockey.

“I knew that hockey was my passion; there was never a doubt in my mind that I would keep pushing forward,” Angulo said. “When something means that much to you, nothing can get in the way.”

While most hockey players in the state mold their game after other players like Detroit Red Wing greats Pavel Datsyuk, Steve Yzerman or Henrik Zetterberg, Angulo’s skill set is molded by her personality and her desire to be the best teammate she can be.

“My teammates aren’t just teammates, but my family,” Angulo said. “I was definitely the ‘enforcer’ of my team and was ready to protect my teammates at any given point. Off the ice, I am outgoing, funny and girly. I am always talking and laughing, whether it be in the locker room, during warm-ups, on the bench, or even on the ice.”

Angulo’s stepfather, Brandon Filbeck — a coach for the CMU women’s hockey club team — described her play on the ice as aggressive. He said this is something a lot of other hockey players tend to shy away from — making her different than other hockey players. 

“She plays a lot more like the boys,” Filbeck said. “She’s definitely not afraid of body contact since no checking is allowed in women’s hockey. She is phenomenal in defensive situations. She's hard on the puck and will put a body on someone in the corner to make sure they can’t get by."

Longtime Midland Hornets teammate, Allison Haney, described Angulo as a teammate that is an ultimate competitor on the ice and a great friend off the ice.

“Lizzie can be feisty,” Haney said. “She’s someone who will always be there for you — very considerate and consistent. She’s someone who will always hang out with you and never bails on someone. She always goes the extra mile for her friends, and when she makes a friend she wants to keep the friend long-term.”

While many athletes have opted-out of their respective seasons due to COVID-19, Angulo is staying anywhere but away from the ice despite playing a club sport, which includes no scholarship money.

“I have never been the type of person that plays for recognition, or for love back from a university," Angulo said. "I train hard because I want myself to be better, and because hockey is something I love, regardless of what I get back from it.”

As for her inspiration, Angulo said she saw her parents give their all for their passions and were able to build careers from the persistence. Angulo said she credits her parents for helping her make it as far as she has with the game of hockey.

“Hockey is anything but a cheap sport and I continue to be thankful that I got the opportunity to play, because I know others that didn’t,” Angulo said. “My parents have done so much for me and seeing them work hard for their own success inspires me to do the same."