(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)

After a semester long of speculation, it was confirmed Thursday that despite graduating Dec. 11, Arizona State women’s hockey forward and assistant captain Dannika Borges will be eligible to spend the remainder of the 2017-18 season on the roster and playing with the team.

With graduation for Borges looming, head coach Lindsey Ellis looked to find a way to keep one of her team’s most outspoken players and scoring leaders on the ice.

“I was always in the mindset that she was going to play the whole year,” Ellis said. “She’s always giving 110 percent effort, she makes those hard plays in games and she’s a two-way player, she’s willing to play both forward and defense when we’re short there. Vocal in the locker room, vocal on the ice, she just brings a lot of different attributes to the ice.”

With the team not being NCAA-sanctioned and technically a student club at ASU, the rules for player eligibility differ, especially league to league. In order for players to be on the roster and a part of the club at school, they must be actively enrolled in class, so Borges will take an additional class next semester in order to maintain eligibility and finish her degree.

With the confirmation she will be around for the remainder of the schedule, the Sun Devils hold on to one of their most valuable players, as Borges accounted for nearly 20 percent of the team’s goals last season and almost 25 percent this year.

In the 17 games of the Devils’ season, Borges scored five goals and acquired six assists, for 11 points, which led the team. Borges also led the Devils in penalty minutes with 66, 40 more than the next closest player.

Through just 12 games this season, Borges has already matched her goal total from last year of five, with two coming Oct. 7 against the University of Colorado.

Borges, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, made sure to give her all on the ice and to the team.

“I just wanted to play,” Borges said. “I love to play. Getting out on the ice and giving it everything I have was pretty much my focus. Getting closer to walking the stage was a little bit more nerve wrecking because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play for the last half of the season. I am able to play thankfully and it makes it a lot easier for me to play. My mindset was so focused on doing everything that I can and being a good leader.”

Moving forward, her mindset does not change in regard to the rest of the season.

“I’m still going to give it everything that I have,” she said. “It shouldn’t change, it should always be give it everything you have, one hundred percent of the time. Hopefully that will show the other girls that ‘this girl was almost not going to be able to play and she did everything and now she’s coming out here and still doing everything,’ that it should be continuous throughout the season.”

With a short bench to begin with, keeping Borges around is a substantial benefit to the team with an extremely vocal presence on what is an otherwise quiet squad.

“Having leaders be able to step up vocally and being able to tell someone certain things during the game or practice when us coaches are busy or whatever it may be, that is a reason why she is a leader,” Ellis said.

Teammates too, are thankful she will still be around.

“She’s a big powerhouse on the team and we rely on her for a lot of things,” senior forward and captain Amber Galles said. “We are really excited to have her come back playing with us and try and get to those playoffs … she gets us all kinds of riled up if we’re skating down, she gets us moving and get us to realize that we can do this. It’s very important.”

With her spot on the roster secure for the rest of the season, Borges will have 10 games left to play in her collegiate career. In order to make the playoffs, the team must win both games against Denver at the end of January. This weekend, however, the Sun Devils conclude their season series against rival Grand Canyon, a series that is currently tied 1-1-1.

“Playing against GCU again, is still like a home game for us because it’s only across the valley and that is so new to us,” Ellis noted. “Obviously with the rival game, (the team is) all excited to play, they’re all pumped up and they know the series is tied, so they want to beat this team and they know they can. We’ve done it before, we just can’t grow complacent because they’ve also beat us.”

Borges is excited for the games, as they will have extra meaning to her.

“I just want to win. My family is going to be in town, so I’ll have all that support. It’s on the opposing team’s icee and it’s just across the way. Hopefully we can come out and be like ‘no, Arizona is ours, not purple and black, it’s maroon and gold.'”

Past the weekend against GCU, the team will have over a month over before returning to action against Assiniboine College Jan. 12 for a three-game series.

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