Carly Jackson of the University of Maine women's hockey team makes a save during a 2017 game. The Nova Scotia native was drafted third overall by the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League. Credit: Courtesy of Peter Buehner

Carly Jackson has thought about playing professional hockey for a long time. Now, the University of Maine goaltender is going to get that opportunity.

The Amherst, Nova Scotia, native became the highest draft pick in UMaine hockey history on Tuesday when the Buffalo Beauts made her the third overall pick in the National Women’s Hockey League draft.

Her Black Bears teammate, center Tereza Vanisova, was selected in the second round by the Boston Pride. She was the 12th overall pick.

“I am just so happy to get to play hockey next year,” Jackson said. “You always dream about getting paid to play a sport that you love.”

She will join a Beauts team that finished fourth among five NWHL teams last season with an 8-15-1 record. Buffalo allowed a league-high 116 goals.

The NWHL will be a six-team league next season with the addition of the Toronto franchise.

Jackson credited her coaches and teammates with making her pro dream a reality.

“I am so grateful I was able to work with [head coach Rick Reichenbach] and his staff and develop the way that I did over my five years here,” Jackson said. “They always believed in me and pushed me. They guided me on and off the ice.”

The 5-foot-5 Jackson improved every season and wound up with the nation’s eighth-best save percentage this past season at .934. She posted a 1.90 goals-against average that ranked 14th.

She concluded her time at UMaine as the program’s career leader in wins (45), saves (3,029), shutouts (10), lowest GAA (2.15) and highest save percentage (.918).

Jackson is excited about facing some of the best players in the world, including several Olympians.

“I’m really looking forward to the competition level and, hopefully, I’ll be able to make a difference with the Beauts,” Jackson said.

She is also happy about Vanisova being drafted.

“She is an elite player, a franchise player and a special person. It will definitely be weird playing against her,” said Jackson.

Vanisova, who plays for the Czech Republic national team, wound up as UMaine’s leading career scorer with 129 points in 129 career games. The 2017 Hockey East Co-Rookie of the Year and 2018 All-Hockey East second-team choice scored 63 goals and notched 66 assists.

Vanisova owns the Black Bears’ career record for assists and is second in goals.