By Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After helping build the hockey program at her high school, senior Bella Sutton knew she wanted an opportunity to have that same impact again.
"With Penn State being a newer program," said Sutton. "I really wanted to be a part of something bigger and leave the program better than it was when I joined it."
Sutton began playing hockey when she was three years old on the lake in her backyard. Now, she is leading the 2017-2018 Penn State team as captain. She was voted captain by the team at the end of last year's season.
"I am so thankful that they chose me to help lead them," she shared. "Especially with this transition year. Being able to lead and help build the other leaders that are on this has been really cool for me. I may wear the "C", but the team is filled with leaders and it's been really helpful because I learn from them as much as I hope they learn from me."
Not only does she act as a captain on the ice (having her best season yet with 17 points), but also in the classroom. She has been a member of the CHA All-Academic Team for the past three years, was awarded the CHA Student-Athlete of the Year in 2014-15, and was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and AHCA All-American Scholar last year.
Sutton explained that balancing school and hockey can be hard because the team misses a lot of Friday classes when in season. This requires her to find time to schedule outside meetings with teachers and figure out when she can squeeze in her labs for biology.
"Honestly, it is really cool to see that they honor academics because there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes for us," explained Sutton. "I am just honored to have that recognition added on because to me, just coming here, school is very important so that is just an added bonus."
Being able to manage all of these things has not gone unnoticed by her coaches and teammates. Teammate and roommate, Brooke Madsen, has had the opportunity to get to know Sutton more outside of the ice arena.
"It's been great playing alongside someone like her," Madsen said. "She's just an overall great team player. She holds us accountable not only on the ice, but in the weight room as well. She's a great player in the offensive zone. Overall she is a great kid."
Head coach Jeff Kampersal had nothing but praise for the team captain and could not be more thankful for helping him with this transition in his first year at Penn State this season.
"I told her that she'll be graduating as captain and leaving Penn State hockey with a new culture that her and her senior teammates have set," said Kampersal. "She helped me learn what Penn State was like, how things worked here and more. She was really there when I needed her."
When asked to describe Sutton in three words, Madsen said "caring, enthusiastic, and spunky". While Kampersal described her to be the mature leader of the team that all the girls feel comfortable around. As Sutton prepares for her final games during the CHA Tournament, she has reflected on things she learned from her time being a Penn Stater.
"Yes, hockey means the world to me," Sutton said with a smile on her face. "But the relationship I've built with these girls along the way, that is going to mean so much more to me after my years here are done."