Abby Hustler has made a big decision.
A Grade 10 student at the Mount Academy in Charlottetown, Hustler has announced her commitment to join St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., in the fall of 2021. St. Lawrence is a Division 1 school, which is the top tier of NCAA hockey.
“I was pretty honoured to get that opportunity,” the 15-year-old daughter of Paul and April Hustler of St. Louis told the Journal Pioneer. “It will definitely be a great experience when I get there.”
Hustler, the granddaughter of former Tignish Aces’ senior player and coach Dale Hustler, is playing this season with the Mount Academy Saints in the Under-16 Division of the Junior Women’s Hockey League, which features teams in Nova Scotia, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Vermont and New Jersey.
“The league we play in, the JWHL, there is a lot of exposure to university scouts,” said Hustler, who is a forward and plays mainly left wing. “I was talking to quite a few NCAA universities, but St. Lawrence contacted me, I was talking to the coach and toured the campus.
“It just seemed like a perfect fit for me. It’s a small community with less than 3,000 kids at the university. It’s a smaller environment, which I’m used to on P.E.I. It will suit me well.”
Saints head coach Kenny MacDougall said this is a “huge” accomplishment for Hustler.
“For a Grade 10 girl from St. Louis, P.E.I., to be recruited and committed to a D1 NCAA school, it doesn’t happen very often,” said MacDougall, a former head coach of the Summerside Western Capitals’ junior A team. “It speaks to the talent level she has.
“What people underestimate about Abby is she works extremely hard to get her goals. Work ethic, desire, natural ability and an excellent student, 96, 97 average in school, she is a well-rounded kid.”
Hustler said her decision to attend the Mount led to exposure that resulted in being scouted by St. Lawrence.
“If you don’t explore outside the Maritimes, or even Canada, it’s hard to know how good the competition really is,” said Hustler. “There are a lot of good players, but there are also a lot of good opportunities.
“There are 30 NCAA Division 1 schools and they take 20 players, so there is opportunity if you play the right way and get noticed. It is good this year that the Mount is in that league. It’s (JWHL) one of the top leagues in North America for girls.”
It hasn’t taken Hustler long to make an impact in the JWHL. She has scored 30 goals and added 15 assists for league-leading 45 points in 19 regular-season games.
“Abby has had a tremendous season,” said MacDougall. “She is a pure goal-scorer, and she scores goals in many different ways. She can beat you with a shot, she can beat you with a deke, she is a strong play-maker, she has a high hockey IQ.
“One thing people don’t know about Abby is she puts a lot of work into her game. She is a student of the game, she takes notes, she works out before the game, she cools down after and she takes the game of hockey seriously. It’s nice to see that effort rewarded.”
Hustler says she is focusing on playing a complete game.
“I score a lot of goals, but I like to think of myself as a playmaker,” said the five-foot-10 Hustler. “I think that’s my biggest strength.
“I’m pretty tough in the corners, too. I’m much taller than a lot of the girls I play against, so I like to use my size to my advantage and in front of the net. My linemates and I work well together.”
As for her immediate goals, Hustler is looking to continue working on developing her game.
“This weekend, we are going to Boston and (St. Lawrence) is coming up to watch and looking at a few other girls, too,” said Hustler. “They will definitely keep in touch with me to see what I can improve on. I definitely like that part.”