Danika Botterill just wrapped up the most successful year of her hockey career but she's hoping to top that next season. The Portage-born forward committed to the University of New Hampshire (UNH), which is in the NCAA Division 1 (the highest level of collegiate sports).
The 18-year-old made the transition from the U18 AAA female Central Plains Capitals program to the U22 Etobicoke Dolphins in the Ontario Women's Hockey League for this season. Botterill was tied for fourth on the team in points with 16 in 24 games. She says this was the stepping stone she needed before heading off to university.
She was surprised by how quickly everything got finalized with UNH.
"They came to our provincials. I hadn't really talked to them. Maybe a week before, I had reached out to them, and then they came," Botterill explains. "They watched one game and were like, 'Oh yup. We want you on our team.' That was pretty much it. We talked after the game, and that's how it all went down."
Congratulations to @JrDolphins forward Danika Botterill on committing to @UNHWHOCKEY #BleedBlue #FillTheBoard pic.twitter.com/vLCXJ7HxaF— 𝐄𝐭𝐨𝐛𝐢𝐜𝐨𝐤𝐞 𝐉𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐨𝐫 U22 Elite (@JrDolphins) April 18, 2023
Knowing that the UNH coaches only needed to see her play one game was very encouraging for Botterill.
"That makes me feel really good and confident about going there," Botterill continues. "I feel like I'll be able to make a difference right away if they're that comfortable with me."
The UNH women's hockey program has struggled the last few seasons. They have had more losses than wins in three consecutive seasons, and they haven't qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2010. Botterill outlines what made her want to help turn this program around.
"I really like their coaches. They're really supportive. Their facility is so nice. It's a really good school with a lot of different majors I can choose from," says Botterill. "As a plus, it's right by the ocean. That'll be a nice area to live."
Not only did Botterill move out to Ontario for the 2022-23 campaign but she also was named the team captain for Team Manitoba's U18 team at the Canada Winter Games. With a few weeks to reflect on the season it was, Botterill describes how important this year was for her development.
"First off, moving away from home was important. Now, going off to university, it'll be way easier for me because I've already adjusted to living away from my family," Botterill continues. "For hockey, having people around me that are so competitive was really awesome. That really helped me develop throughout the year."
She notes getting out of her comfort zone and moving to a completely new place was the best decision she could've made. Botterill adds it's a lot easier to work on your craft when the everyday distractions disappear, and the people around you have the same goal in mind.
There are two main points of emphasis for Botterill this offseason.
"I'm going to be working on biomechanics, so I can get faster feet and improve my skating. I'll do some off-ice workouts, as well, to get some more strength."
The Portager is grateful for her season with the Dolphins and can't wait to suit up for UNH when the 2023-24 season rolls around.