Here on the coast of Maine Caitlin Cahow may be relatively unknown, but in the world of women’s ice hockey, the part-time Vinalhaven resident is a virtual superstar.

Cahow finished her collegiate career March 20 as a tri-captain for Harvard College when the Crimson lost in the first round of the Frozen Four to reigning NCAA champions Wisconsin, 4-1. However, it was one of the games that got them there that is so notable. Cahow led the Harvard women to the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship on March 9 in an overtime defeat of St. Lawrence. With the game tied, Cahow skated the length of the rink to score the winning goal, securing the ECAC victory for the Crimson.

The 22-year-old senior was later named the ECAC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and she was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team for the third year. In addition, Cahow was the only U.S.-born player named a First Team All American this year. Of the six players, four are Canadian and one is Swedish. Not least on her list of accolades is Cahow’s inclusion in the top 10 finalists for the U.S. Hockey Foundation’s Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given annually to recognize the top player in NCAA Division 1 women’s ice hockey. Players are nominated by their coaches.

Despite being left out of the top three finalists for the Kazmaier Award, Cahow has the admiration of her teammates. Harvard teammate and Kazmaier Award winner Sarah Vaillancourt called Cahow “the best defenseman in the entire nation” in a Feb. 12, 2008 article appearing in the Harvard Gazette. In actuality, Cahow is ranked second in the nation among defensemen, with 1.04 points per game.

Cahow also plays for the U.S. National Women’s Hockey Team, and won a bronze medal with them in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Vinalhaven native Richard Carlsen has known Cahow’s family for years, and watched her in the Olympic games. “You saw a little here and there, she got in a couple of shots, maybe,” he said. In spite of her relatively small amount of airtime, Carlsen admitted it was exciting to see someone he knew playing in the Olympics on TV. Carlsen has also seen her bronze medal. “It’s so heavy!” he said. “It was really cool.”

According to her mother, Barbara Kinder, Cahow hopes to compete in the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. After graduation this spring, she will spend the next two years training in Minneapolis.

When she is on Vinalhaven, Cahow likes to stay in shape by working out at Carlsen’s gym, Aerofit. However, this level of hockey doesn’t allow much time away from the ice.

“She is in training and playing games all year,” said Carlsen. “She can’t go out and party [like other kids her age.] She’ll be here for a week and then go off to play a game anywhere, wherever the national team takes her. She’d stay here all summer, but there’s no place to train.”

This month, the national team is taking Cahow to Harbin, China where the team will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Women’s Championships on April 4-13. This is considered the premier international tournament in women’s ice hockey. The U.S. team will be looking to beat Canada, to whom they placed second last year.

“I don’t think people understand the magnitude of what she’s accomplished at her age,” said Carlsen. Yet, he continued, “she has no ego. You can hang out with her and you’d never know she did anything” because she doesn’t talk about it, he said.

While Cahow appears to live, eat and breathe hockey, there are other things on her horizon. At Harvard, Cahow is a biological and social anthropology major and has a minor in French language and literature. According to Kinder, “after the Olympics she may move on to other things. She is thinking about law school among other possibilities.” Whatever she chooses, if she approaches anything else with the same determination and work ethic with which she approaches hockey, Cahow will surely find further success.