Continuing an accomplished career with the opportunity to play professionally in the highly competitive Sweden Women's Hockey League (SDHL), garbed in the colours of AIK, Reagan Rust’s endeavors, on and off the ice, embody a strong sense of friendship and compassion. Having also participated in numerous podcasts, speaking about mental health with admirable candor, Rust is equally respected as a strong leader and revered role model.
Having made history as the first player raised in the state of Mississippi to compete in NCAA women’s ice hockey, Rust honed her skills with Southaven and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite Program. Originally wearing the Orange and Black colours of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers at the NCAA level, Rust appeared in 69 games. Quickly emerging as an indispensable player, the experience saw the development of strong leadership skills, enabling her to become a valued contributor.
Just as impactful in Rust’s time with the Tigers involved the highlight of participating in the Do It for Daron (DIFD) fundraiser for mental health. Wearing a commemorative purple jersey, the signature colour of DIFD, said jersey adorned with its trademark purple heart logo, the January 22, 2016, event versus the Syracuse Orange, held at Gene Polisseni Center, marked a major milestone for Rust, whose impact still tugs at the heartstrings,
“I struggled a lot throughout my youth with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, so being able to wear that jersey and support a cause so close to home was amazing. I am grateful that RIT allowed us to wear those jerseys because mental health still was not being talked about a lot when that game took place," she said.
"There were definitely a ton of emotions that night, and we all knew that the game was bigger than ourselves. It is one of those memories that I will never forget.”
The second half of Rust’s NCAA career took her to the hockey hotbed of Boston. Playing for the perennial contender Boston University Terriers, led by iconic head coach Brian Durocher, she would amass 31 points in 74 appearances.
Although Rust’s arrival to Beantown brought with it an adjustment, leading to an uncertain time of sadness, with her future in doubt, courage eventually eclipsed despair. The decision to forge onward paid remarkable dividends for Rust, resulting in the great reward of revered recognition as team captain.
Considering the great lineage of captains at BU, including the likes of All-World player Marie-Philip Poulin, among others, the prestige of the captaincy remains an integral facet of her athletic endeavors. Making her first appearance with the captain’s C adorning her jersey involved an epic confrontation with the cross-town rival Northeastern Huskies, reflections of the outcome involved aspects of humility and determination.
Bouncing back the next day with a tie, Rust’s season as captain (2018-19) saw the Terriers enjoy a sparkling 8-1-1 record when she logged at least one point. Before that season’s end, Rust would leave her mark in both program, and Beanpot Tournament, lore.
Scoring a highly emotional shootout goal that resulted in victory against nationally-ranked Northeastern in tournament play, Rust also placed her name on the score sheet in the Beanpot championship game triumph versus the Harvard Crimson, a 3-2 overtime win. Undeniably, Rust’s ability to rise to the occasion in the Beanpot marked her greatest moment in Terriers red. Proud to continue the heritage of great captains in program lore, also gaining induction into the Beanpot Hall of Fame, the time as team captain marked a privilege that remains one of the pillars of her great career. “There have been some amazing captains at BU like Poulin and Leslie. I was honored and super grateful that my team and coaching staff gave me the opportunity to be one of the captains that year," Rust told OFFSIDE. "I felt a lot of pressure mainly from myself to be a good leader, especially in that first game against Northeastern. But as you know in hockey, some games do not always go the way you would hope. I was on for all five goals in the 0-5 loss and was definitely disappointed in myself. There is nothing more humbling than that experience, and to be honest, I laughed about it after. I wrote down on a piece of paper that I would never let that happen again, and we went on to have one of the best seasons I had in my college career.”
Stayed tuned for Part 2 from Mark Staffieri.