Monday, 30 July 2012

The Silent Heroes of women's ice hockey

A generation ago, the builders of women’s hockey, icons and figures like Fran Rider, Nancy Drolet, Samantha Holmes, Andria Hunter, and France St. Louis, toiled in obscurity while setting the table for future generations of women. Eventually, figures such as Cammi Granato, Angela James, and Justine Blainey would become household names, but their stories were ignored for too long. In modern women’s hockey, the aforementioned were the first silent heroes of the game.
In the early years of the 21st Century, players like Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero are in the same realm as Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky. Despite the quantum leap that women’s ice hockey has taken in the last 20 years, every generation still has its players that left a unique, indelible mark on the game. Said mark may not have been made on the ice, but their actions had a remarkable effect on many others.
The silent heroes may walk down the street and go unnoticed. Their actions may have a tremendous role in the lives of others and alter their lives for the better. While there would never be enough space to recognize all of the silent heroes, all are truly appreciated. Here are some of those silent heroes, and the legacies that they have built:
Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux
As the founder of the Montreal Stars, Breton helped to create the first dynasty in modern women’s ice hockey. She can boast three Clarkson Cup championships (2009, 2011, and 2012) to her credit. A big part of her contribution to the Stars also stems from creating the finest culture in women’s hockey. The teammates' enjoyment of playing with the franchise is a key component in the team having success.
Along with Stars general manager, Meg Hewings, the two have worked on a superlative outreach program. The Youth Club Affiliate program is an initiative to get more local youth hockey associations and communities involved with the franchise. Breton has also used her position with the franchise to assist in funding for breast cancer research. In a January 29, 2011 contest, pink jerseys were donned by the Stars in support of the disease, one that her mother, Johanne Lebreux survived.
A superstar at Concordia, Breton would help the Stingers to the first CIS women’s championship. In the nascent years of the tournament, Breton was one of its first superstars, helping to build a legacy that others would follow in. In addition, she is one of the few women in CIS history to have participated in five CIS National Tournaments.  She still gives back to the Stingers community by contributing as an assistant coach to the women’s team.
As a member of the Montreal Axion, she scored the game winning goal that beat Brampton by a 1-0 tally to capture the NWHL title. The stick that was used to notch the game winner was given to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Perhaps one day, the Hall will open their doors to her in the Builders Category. 
Kendra Fisher
A competitor at numerous Esso Women’s National events, Fisher competed for the Toronto Furies in their inaugural season as a backup goaltender to Sami Jo Small. Speaking out on depression and anxiety, Fisher has shown a lot of courage. In the early 2000s, she was a favourite to gain a goaltending spot on the Canadian National Team, but her dream was disrupted by her problems with anxiety.
Despite her struggles, Fisher still managed to represent Canada on an international scale. Fisher would win the gold medal at the World Inline Skating Championships in 2005 and 2012, respectively. In the 2012 tournament, Fisher earned a 12-0 shutout over Brazil in the first game. She would log three more periods of shutout hockey in a 4-0 blanking of France. The Spanish team would score against her in the semi-final, but Fisher was too strong between the pipes. In the gold medal game, Fisher logged a shutout versus the United States.
While other sports have had athletes publicly discuss depression (primarily in pro football with Terry Bradshaw, Ricky Williams and Warrick Dunn), Fisher is the first women’s ice hockey player to speak openly about the problem. Speaking at schools and using the twitter hash mark #mentallyfit, Fisher’s comeback with the Toronto Furies and with inline skating is a story of courage that no Hollywood film could depict any better.
Aleca Hughes
As a student-athlete at Yale, Hughes was involved in charity work, including Athletes in Action, a group of Christian athletes that performs community service. Of all her charitable efforts, the one that captured the hearts and minds of hockey fans everywhere was the organization of a bone marrow donor drive for teammate Mandi Schwartz. As a freshman with the Yale Bulldogs was in 2008-09, Hughes skated on the same line with Schwartz, a native of Wilcox, Saskatchewan that competed in the 2003 Canada Winter Games.
A Goals for Mandi fundraiser for teammate Schwartz was spearheaded by Hughes. In addition, a fundraiser titled White Out for Mandi at Ingalls Rink on November 12, 2010 raised more than $15,500. Although Schwartz lost her battle with recurrent acute myeloid leukemia on April 3, 2011, she knew that Hughes was more than a teammate, but a dear friend whose tenacity to find a donor was unmatched. At the end of the 2010-11 season, the Yale Bulldogs introduced the Mandi Schwartz Award, in recognition of courage, grit and determination. Hughes was named its first ever winner.
Despite the tragic of loss of Schwartz, the Bulldogs dedicated their season to her and did not stop raising funds for cancer research. In 2012, Hughes efforts saw her emerge as the recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award, in which the parents of Mandi Schwartz were in attendance. Hughes would add more hardware, as she claimed the Sarah Devens Award, and the Coach Wooden Cup (the first Ivy League athlete to accomplish the feat). Her impact as a hockey player expanded to one as a role model. She built a foundation upon which Yale athletics will always contribute to the well-being of others, but to a small community in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, she gave them hope.

Kim McCullough
A former member of the Dartmouth Big Green, McCullough followed in the footsteps of other legends that graced the ice at Dartmouth. During the 2001-02 season, she was a co-captain with the Big Green, and finished with 130 career points. In later years, McCullough would be one of the founders of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Despite her contributions to the game, McCullough’s greatest gift to the game would come through the sharing of her wealth of knowledge in strength and conditioning. As the Director and Founder of Total Female Hockey, the certified strength and conditioning coach (through the International Youth Conditioning Association) has contributed to the betterment of over 5000 players, 1000 coaches and 100 teams.
In high demand, McCullough was involved in a coaching clinic for the Wickenheiser International Women's Hockey Festival in 2010. With Hockey Canada, she has also had involvement with the National and Ontario Under-18 programs. McCullough has also written a collection of hockey training books called Best Hockey Season Ever.
In an effort to improve women’s ice hockey on a global level, many players, coaches and trainers from Canada and the United States have served in various consulting capacities to countries not as competitive. McCullough made her contributions to international goodwill by helping the Czech National Women’s 2014 Development Team as Strength and Conditioning Coach. McCullough has used her athletic gifts to help other athletes cultivate theirs.

Mariel Lacina
A former goaltender, Lacina played competitively for the Chatham Jr. Outlaws of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League in Ontario. Her first NCAA contest came on January 5, 2007 as a member of the Dartmouth Big Green. She would make five saves against the Quinnipiac Bobcats. The first victory of her Dartmouth career would also involve Quinnipiac. Lacina came in a November 3, 2007 in an 8-1 whitewash of the Quinnipiac Bobcats.
While a member of the Big Green, Lacina started giving back. She volunteered as a goalie coach for the Lebanon High School girls' hockey team in New Hampshire. Her coaching career would continue with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. One of her biggest marks on the game would be through the beginning of a used-equipment redistribution program titled Green Gear.
By continuing to spread her love of the game, she has helped underprivileged children enjoy the game. With the invitation by the grandfather of a young Dartmouth fan, Lacina noticed that despite the elementary school having an outdoor rink, the children did not have skates. She discovered very few students owned skates and that was the catalyst to bring about change.
Used gear from Dartmouth students and Hanover residents were collected, and then allocated to underprivileged young people. Like fellow Big Green alumnus Kim McCullough, made a great impact after her NCAA career. Her effort to start a donation program for used hockey equipment may provide a future game changer the chance they never had. In many cases, Lacina may be the best friend some beneficiaries of said donations never met.

Kelsey Tulloch
Regina native Kelsey Tulloch ranks in the top five in terms of all-time scoring for the Saskatchewan Huskies.  A very assiduous student athlete, her heroics on the ice has helped the Huskies remain postseason contenders on an annual basis. For this Civic minded athlete, her heroics off the ice have just as much impact. Providing inspiration, she is helping people to be contenders in life.
As the 2012 Canada West nominee for the Marion Hilliard Award, Tulloch is a four-time All-Academic, while representing her team on the Huskie Athletics Council. Her charitable efforts have included the collection of used shoes to send to Africa, and helping the Huskies organize a Christmas hamper. In addition, she has coached hockey with lower income Saskatoon schools along with assisting Saskatchewan women’s hockey programs at the bantam, midget and pee wee levels.   

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Mercyhurst continues to contribute future stars to the draft

In the nascent history of the CWHL Draft, a large source for its talent has emanated from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. One of the aspects of any sporting league’s amateur draft is the quality of talent that emerges from a handful of schools. The respectable percentage of talent produced at a specific school also becomes a key recruiting aspect.
Many franchises in pro basketball have found their building blocks based on the superstars that were developed at Duke University and the University of North Carolina (notably Michael Jordan and James Worthy). While pro football has procured its talent from institutions such as Southern California, Notre Dame and Florida State. Mercyhurst has poised itself as one of the premier institutions of developing talent for the CWHL.
While the 2010 CWHL Draft was more of a restructuring, three former Lakers were among the top 12 picks. Ashley Pendleton (who competed in the 2010 and 2012 Clarkson Cup finals) went eighth overall to Brampton. Defender Michelle Bonello went tenth overall to the Toronto Furies, while high scoring defender Natalie Payne (who also played with Wayne State) was selected twelfth overall by Burlington. Other Lakers included Courtney Unruh (who finished her career with the York Lions of the CIS) going at 29 to Brampton, and Samantha Shirley at number 36 (going to the Burlington Barracudas).
The 2011 CWHL Draft resulted in three Lakers players (Meghan Agosta, Vicki Bendus, and Jesse Scanzano) being selected among the top five picks overall. Meghan Agosta (one of the greatest players of her generation) went first overall to the Montreal Stars. The acquisition immediately paid dividends as Agosta broke the league scoring record. Agosta would finish her rookie campaign by helping the Stars claim their third Clarkson Cup in four seasons. Ironically, Bendus would play against Agosta in the championship game of the Clarkson Cup.
Through no fault of her own, Bendus was placed in a bizarre situation. The Burlington Barracudas had the opportunity to draft her but traded the pick to the Brampton Thunder for the rights to Delaney Collins. After accepting a coaching position with Mercyhurst, Collins never played for Burlington. The end result was a one win season for Burlington, while Bendus helped Brampton compete for a Clarkson Cup.
Scanzano did not enjoy a high scoring season with the Toronto Furies. While she made appearances with the Canadian National Team, the highlight of her season was composed of a return to Mercyhurst. As a member of the Brampton Thunder for one day, Scanzano (along with former Lakers teammate Bendus) competed in a very rare NCAA vs. CWHL exhibition game. The Thunder bested the Lakers by a 3-1 score as Bailey Bram logged the only goal for Mercyhurst.
Hillary Pattenden (no stranger to making history) made some more history by becoming the first ever goaltender to be selected with the first overall pick in the CWHL Draft. The all-time wins leader among goaltenders in NCAA history, Pattenden was a key reason that the Lakers were a nationally ranked team during her four years there. Alberta selected her with the hope of being a long-term fixture between the pipes, while providing a consistent level of play that may bring the Clarkson Cup to Western Canada.
Bailey Bram was the eighth pick overall in the draft, going to a very talented Brampton team, while Kelley Steadman was selected twenty-fourth by the Boston Blades. As Bram helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds, she will be counted on to help a hungry Brampton squad win the Clarkson Cup. Although she has played with the likes of Agosta, Bendus, and Scanzano, she was the go-to player during the 2011-12 season, and finished in the top 10 in the NCAA scoring race. A tireless, unselfish player, Bram is one of the greatest to have every donned the blue, white and green of the Mercyhurst program.
Kelley Steadman, a member of the NCAA 100 point club, will be counted upon to provide offensive depth to a Boston Blades that relied far too often on one consistent line during the 2011-12 season. As a member of the United States national team, Steadman joins fellow national teamers Hilary Knight, Anne Schelper and Jen Schoullis as part of the Blades 2012 draft class.  With Mercyhurst, Steadman enjoyed consistent production, while improving on her numbers on an annual basis. As a freshman, she logged 22 points. The following two seasons saw her point totals rise to 28 and 29 points, respectively. Her senior season saw her finest production, 33 goals, 20 assists and 53 points, all career highs.  
 While Bram, Pattenden and Steadman are poised to be impact players in the CWHL, the league is being cheated out of not having all of Mercyhurst’s seniors participate. Lakers captain Pamela Zgoda was a stoic, hard working, stay at home defender with a team first attitude. A member of the 2010 College Hockey America All-Academic Team, and 2011 CHA First Team All-Stars, Zgoda would have bolstered the blueline of any squad in the CWHL. Jill Szandzik (a transfer from defunct Wayne State) was another defender that played hard, while having a steady presence on the blueline. Jess Jones, a member of the NCAA 100-point club was a hardworking, reliable forward that was named to the 2009 College Hockey America All-Rookie Team and 2009 CHA All-Tournament Team, respectively.
While the cupboard is a little bare for the upcoming season at Mercyhurst, the future promises some great talent. Goaltender Amanda Makela (who represented Ontario at the 2011 Canada Winter Games) is the next in line to Hillary Pattenden as goaltender. Kristine Grenier is a competitive sniper from Manitoba that will ease the loss of so many seniors in 2012. Shleby Bram, younger sister of Bailey Bram, has competed with Canada’s national team at the Under 18 and Under 22 level. Molly Byrne is an offensive minded defender that led all CHA defenders in scoring as a freshman. Hailey Browne competed at the IIHF Under-18 women’s championships and has all the qualities of being a future captain. The aforementioned are all part of the Class of 2015 and they will help to cement Mercyhurst’s reputation as a school for developing elite hockey talent, while giving CWHL scouts plenty to look forward to.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Bravo to Hockey News for its coverage on Emerance Maschmeyer

In a time when women’s hockey hardly gets any ink, it is refreshing to see the August 1, 2012 cover dated edition of The Hockey News feature a full page story on goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer of Alberta. If one theme emanates from the article, it is that for Maschmeyer, hockey is definitely in her blood. Her sister, Brittaney Maschmeyer played for the legendary Edmonton Chimos and the Syracuse Orange of the NCAA. Currently, Brittaney plays for Team Alberta in the CWHL.
Her career in Alberta is a key point of discussion for the periodical, and how she became the second female to play boys hockey at the AJHL level in Alberta. Of note, she had the opportunity to meet Shannon Szabados, the first female to hold that honour. In continuing the story of bloodlines, her brother (competing with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons) once skated against her in a shootout.
While Maschmeyer talks to the periodical about her dreams to one day participate in the Winter Games, her next priority will be to help restore the pride at the Under 22 level for Canada. As Canada claimed a heartbreaking bronze medal at the 2012 Meco Cup (formerly known as MLP Nations Cup), Maschmeyer will be a big part of the puzzle in hoping to claim gold at the 2013.
Carmen MacDonald (of the St. Lawrence Skating Saints), her soon to be rival in the ECAC, helped Canada win the gold at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 women’s worlds. The two should be the one-two punch between the pipes that anchors the Under-22 squad for the foreseeable future. With the graduation of world class goaltenders Florence Schelling and Genevieve Lacasse from Hockey East, one can only ponder at the possibilities of Maschmeyer vs. MacDonald in ECAC competition.
With the presence of Toronto Furies goaltender Erika Vanderveer working for The Hockey News, one can only be optimistic that women’s hockey coverage is a trend that will continue.  Her excellent blogs for the periodical is a step in the right direction. As the quality of hockey continues to grow, there is no question that at least one page of every issue should be devoted to women’s ice hockey.
While it is the finest hockey periodical in North America, it is frustrating how some issues feature coverage about the East Coast Hockey League or NCAA men’s hockey, while there is no mention of NCAA women’s ice hockey whatsoever. There are signs of encouragement though. Earlier in the year, the publication wrote on L.A. Selects team captain Cayla Barnes, and how she helped her team capture the Quebec PeeWee championship (in their respective age group). It also devoted space to Meghan Agosta breaking the CWHL scoring record, and the Montreal Stars winning their second consecutive Clarkson Cup.
As she gets ready for the next chapter of her hockey career, by playing for the legendary Katey Stone at Harvard University, Maschmeyer will hope to continue in the tradition of elite Harvard goaltenders such as Ali Boe and Christina Kesseler. If Maschmeyer can help Harvard become the first ECAC team to win the NCAA Frozen Four, she will force the Hockey News to consider putting her on the cover.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

2012 CWHL Draft report card

While all the franchises had different needs, all had the same common goal: building the next Clarkson Cup champion. Although the Montreal Stars have made winning look easy, the embarrassment of riches in the 2012 CWHL Draft has contributed a great confidence to every team. With several national team members from Canada and the United States available in the draft, the biggest challenge was determining which player would be selected first overall.

The superlative quality of goaltending available resulted in Mercyhurst Lakers backstop Hillary Pattenden (and NCAA record holder for wins) going first overall to Alberta. Pattenden becomes the first goaltender to be selected first overall in the history of the CWHL Draft.

With the second pick overall, Canadian national team member Rebecca Johnston went to the Toronto Furies, in the hopes of improving their offensive woes. Haley Irwin (another Canadian national team member) was selected by the Brampton Thunder in the hopes of returning to the Clarkson Cup final.

Winter Games silver medalist Hilary Knight is reunited with several United States national team members in Boston. The Blades selected her with the fourth pick overall to address their need of adding more scoring. All-World goaltender Charline Labonte went fifth overall to the defending Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars.  

# of players drafted by position: Defense (2), Forwards (2), Goaltender (1)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian
First selection: Hillary Pattenden, Goaltender, #1
Most intriguing selection: Leah Copeland, Forward, #21
Needs addressed: Defense, Goaltending, Special Teams

Assessment: (A+) In hoping to build a team that can compete for a postseason position while having long term success, Alberta has drafted wisely. As a second year club, Alberta’s biggest challenge was addressing special teams. Picks Jocelyne Larocque and Tara Watchorn will be able to relieve a lot of pressure from the face of the franchise, Meaghan Mikkelson.

Alberta Pandas forward (and CIS national champion) Leah Copeland hopes to bring her championship ways to the club. An accomplished player that helped the Canadian national team capture the gold medal at the 2009 Winter Universiade, Copeland is out to prove that CIS players are capable of excelling in the CWHL.  

The only obstacle that Alberta needs to overcome is finding the patience to build a team and develop team chemistry. The pieces that are now in place reflect a great leadership ability which should help develop the squad into a cohesive unit. While not yet ready to win a Clarkson Cup, Alberta is going in the right direction.


# of players drafted by position: Defense (1), Forwards (3), Goaltender (1)
Nationalities drafted: American, Canadian
First selection: Hilary Knight, Forward, #4
Most intriguing selection: Genevieve Lacasse, Goaltender, #9
Needs addressed: Goaltending, Offense

Assessment: (B) Although Brampton and Montreal are the class of the league; Boston has been clawing at their heels since their inception into the league. The acquisition of Hilary Knight makes Boston capable of pulling off an upset in any contest. Knight, Kelley Steadman, and Jen Schoullis add another scoring line to a team that relied too often on their top line for production.

While the Blades sorely miss the presence of Angela Ruggiero on the blueline, the superlative quality of their goaltending can overcome any deficiencies. While Florence Schelling played her entire NCAA career in the Boston area (with the Northeastern Huskies), the Blades surprised many by selecting Canadian national team members (and Providence Friars legend) Genevieve Lacasse.

Although Schelling would have been the sentimental favourite, Lacasse has proven in the NCAA that she can singlehandedly make any team better. The only factor holding back the Blades is how well the new players will adjust to the league. 


# of players drafted by position: Defense (1), Forwards (4)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian
First selection: Haley Irwin, Forward, #3
Most intriguing selection: Suzanne Fenerty, Forward, #23
Needs addressed: Infusion of youth to aging offense

Assessment: (A-) In the hopes of claiming the elusive Clarkson Cup, Brampton has added a group of young accomplished forwards (Haley Irwin, Bailey Bram, Laura MacIntosh). While Charissa Stadnyk (captain of the Princeton Tigers) was the sole defender selected in the draft, the forwards selected will help to ensure that Brampton has a core group of players in place for long-term success.

While not as prolific a scorer as her fellow draft picks, Suzanne Fenerty is a quiet, dignified player that has all the makings of a future captain. A key factor in helping turn the St. Francis Xavier X-Women into a national power, the native of Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia (Sidney Crosby’s hometown) was the X-Women team captain in her senior season. CIS scoring champion (and teammate) Alex Normore cited Fenerty as an influence, while the St. FX coach called Fenerty a game changer.


# of players drafted by position: Forwards (5)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian
First selection: Rebecca Johnston, Forward, #2
Most intriguing selection: Jordanna Peroff, Forward, #22
Needs addressed: Offense

Assessment: (A) Coming off a difficult season in which the team did not recover from Jennifer Botterill’s retirement, the Furies seem ready to strive forward. While not yet ready to gain the upper hand in the Battle of Toronto (versus their cross town rivals Brampton), the Furies have started to build a solid foundation.

Jordanna Peroff is another prominent player from the CIS that is ready to prove her worth to the young franchise. While playing in the shadows of several superstars as a member of the McGill Martlets, the stoic, hard working Peroff was a key contributor to the Martlets five consecutive appearances in the CIS National Tournament. An alternate captain with the Martlets (and Most Valuable Player at the 2011 CIS National Tourney), Peroff also boasts a gold medal with Team Canada from the 2011 Winter Universiade.

Despite the loss of NCAA legend Jesse Scanzano being a visceral one for the team, the Furies have done a superlative job of rebuilding their offense. Fourth round selection Catherine White played with Rebecca Johnston at Cornell, and should complement each other’s skills nicely. The draft day acquisitions of Rebecca Johnston, Natalie Spooner, and Jenn Wakefield have put the team a quantum leap ahead of what it was last season.


# of players drafted by position: Forwards (3), Goaltenders (2)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian, Swiss
First selection: Charline Labonte, Goaltender, #5
Most intriguing selection: Florence Schelling, Goaltender, #20
Needs addressed: Added youth and depth to offensive corps

Assessment: (A) Part of the reason that Montreal is the model franchise of the CWHL is attributed to their ability to acquire strong leaders with a winning attitude. Case in point, the selections of Winter Games medalist Charline Labonte and 2012 BLG Award winner Ann-Sophie Bettez make Montreal that much tougher. Having both emanated from the McGill Martlets program, both have been groomed to be leaders under the tutelage of legendary head coach, Peter Smith.

With a franchise rich in goaltending, the acquisition of Florence Schelling was surprising. As the team already has Kim St. Pierre, Jenny Lavigne and a first round investment in Charline Labonte, Schelling still offers many possibilities. Schelling can be brought along slowly, or pursue an opportunity in Europe, while Montreal retains her rights. Should St. Pierre or Lavigne decide to retire, Schelling would help Montreal maintain its status as the finest team in the league.  

While the Big Three (Meghan Agosta, Julie Chu, Caroline Ouellette) of the Stars are among the finest players in the world, the Stars selections may be the Next Three (Ann-Sophie Bettez, Carolyne Prevost, Marieve Provost). Prevost has won the Frozen Four with Wisconsin and played for Mark Johnson, the head coach of the US National Team. Marieve Provost is the all-time leading scorer in CIS history, and another CWHL Draft Pick that can proudly state she has a gold medal from the Winter Universiade. The Stars have added depth and determination to a team that already has the best team culture in the CWHL.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Former Barracudas hope to extend their careers through the Dispersal Draft

NOTE: Special thanks to Outlook Hockey for their up to date draft information
In the struggle to win the Battle of Toronto, the remaining franchises in the Greater Toronto Area, the Brampton Hockey Club and the Toronto Furies evaluated what remained of the underachieving (and defunct) Burlington Barracudas roster, and selected the players still hoping to continue their careers.
With the 2012 CWHL Draft offering an attractive amount of high quality talent, the value of some of the dispersal draft picks may not be appreciated until the 2013-14 campaign. That is when rosters will be gutted of their finest players, as they must undertake an almost year long commitment for their national teams at the Sochi Winter Games.
Of all the players selected, Brianne McLaughlin is the most intriguing. As she never played a game in the CWHL, let alone for Burlington, she should have been declared a free agent. Having played for current Brampton General Manager Jody Katz at Robert Morris University, the familiarity between the two may serve as a deciding factor if she decides to compete at the CWHL level.
Currently, an assistant coach with the Robert Morris Colonials, McLaughlin’s career would greatly benefit if she could help Brampton win a Clarkson Cup. As a third string goaltender for the US National Team, the only competition that McLaughlin has for that spot is Alex Rigsby, an elite backstop with the Wisconsin Badgers. A big factor in the US winning the gold at the 2009 IIHF Under 18 Worlds, Rigsby followed it up with a Frozen Four title in her freshman year at Wisconsin. She has made a bold statement that she is one to watch. A Clarkson Cup for McLaughlin would result in her status with USA Hockey being solidified, while Rigsby may wait until 2018 for a roster spot.
As Outlook Hockey pointed out, Mallory Johnston registered a plus minus rating of +2 for a club that had a dismal -104. The Chatham, Ontario native and former Colgate Raiders member will be a suitable defense partner for All-World player Molly Engstrom. With the Thunder having played in the Clarkson Cup final two of the last three times, a veteran presence such as Johnston means that the Thunder can still draft a young defender. The benefit is that the club does not have to rush the development of that player. Clearly the best defender selected in the draft, she will be the key cog in helping to nullify the Montreal Stars offensive power.
Lindsay Vine appears destined as an insurance pick for the club. With such a loaded roster, she will likely occupy a marginal role during the 2012-13 season. Her value as a pick will emanate in the 2013-14 campaign, when Brampton is decimated by the losses of Gillian Apps, Jayna Hefford and Cherie Piper. The irony is that she would have been counted on to provide a huge leadership role with Toronto. A former member of the now defunct Niagara Purple Eagles in the NCAA, Vine played in the 2002 NCAA Frozen Four. She holds the Purple Eagles record for consecutive games played, and was the captain for Niagara in her senior season. A long time veteran of the NWHL (the precursor to the CWHL) with the Oakville Ice, Vine’s leadership skills are at a true premium in the still young league.
The wild card selection in the dispersal draft is the 2011 Laura Hurd Award winner (awarded to the top player in NCAA Division III), Sarah Dagg. As one of the greatest players with the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, Dagg was expected to be a building block for the Barracudas, while providing offensive capabilities. After the disastrous season with Burlington, Dagg is a work in progress. In the same mold as Jayna Hefford, Dagg is a sniper with game changing abilities. She will now have the opportunity to learn from Hefford, one of the greatest who ever laced up in the women’s game. If she can regain her scoring touch from RIT, she offers Brampton a myriad of possibilities on the offensive side of the puck. She will definitely be counted upon to deliver in the 13-14 campaign.
In selecting Ohio State legend Jana Harrigan, one cannot wonder if there is an element of strategy to that choice. With two Buckeyes available in the draft (all-time Ohio State goals leader Natalie Spooner, and Laura MacIntosh, the Buckeyes all-times scoring leader), Harrigan would be a great mentor for either, or both. While Harrigan has many seasons of hockey left, her presence on the team would be of great benefit to any rookies on the club.
Elmira College alumnus Allison Cubberley is the true unknown in the dispersal draft. With thanks to Outlook, scouts are quick to recognize that her Goals Against Average of 4.48 is better than Burlington’s team GAA of 5.56. A Division III legend in the same mold as Sarah Dagg, Cubberley rewrote many of the goaltending records for the Elmira College Soaring Eagles, but has been relegated to backup duty in the CWHL. Heading into Brampton, she will once again occupy a third string role, as she will lag on the depth chart behind Knox and a potentially more experienced goaltender (whether that is McLaughlin or a draft pick). Last season, the Montreal Stars suited up four goaltenders as they grabbed their third Clarkson Cup. Depth is an important factor in building a championship team, and if Knox (or McLaughlin, if she decides to play) is invited to their national team selection camps for Sochi, Cubberley may get her opportunity to shine in 13-14.   
While the Furies made fewer selections, there is definitely a sense of urgency to them. In observing the Furies picks, all have a veteran presence, something the young Toronto club can benefit from. Of note, Shannon Moulson is one player that would have been an ideal fit for either franchise. Having played with Brampton sniper Ashley Riggs at Niagara University, Moulson’s defensive skills would have provided a strong upgrade on Brampton’s defense. Moulson will be counted upon to relieve a lot of the defensive burden on Furies superstar Tessa Bonhomme.
If the CWHL ever introduces an award honouring a player’s charitable contributions (in the same vein as the Clancy Trophy in the NHL), it deserves to be named after Amanda Shaw. Another defender selected by the Furies, she is one of the faces behind Hockey Helps the Homeless. One of the great humanitarians of the sport, Shaw exemplified leadership at Boston University, while providing stability to a young BU squad.
Should the Furies decide to draft prominent defender Tara Watchorn (another star player who excelled at Boston University), Shaw would be a great influence on her. Not a prolific scorer by any means, her quiet and stoic presence will assist the Furies in maintaining their focus on winning throughout the season. For a team looking to return to the Clarkson Cup, Shaw’s experience and great attitude will be a welcome addition to the locker room.
In looking for an heir to Sami Jo Small’s goaltending throne, Christina Kessler may fit the bill. Just like Brampton backstop Liz Knox, Kessler has also competed for the Canadian national team. She was part of the Canadian roster that claimed gold at the 2010 Four Nations Cup. As a former starter for the Harvard Crimson, Kessler is the program’s all-time wins leader, and the NCAA’s all-time leader in save percentage. The 2008 ECAC Goaltender of the Year and former All-Ivy First Team league selection, she will help to anchor the Furies goaltending needs for the rest of the decade.
There are many variables to consider in determining which franchise emerged as the winner from said draft: long term vs. short term, quantity vs. quality, offense vs. defense. From the outset, Brampton emerged as the winner in terms of quantity as the club claimed six players. In the short term, Toronto holds a slight edge because their defensive selections will contribute immediately to a beleaguered defensive squad that requires strong leaders.
As both teams made strong statements regarding their goaltending, said draft will be defined as the goaltending draft. While the upcoming CWHL Draft will affect the balance of power in the league, whichever one of these goaltenders can help their team win a Clarkson Cup, that team will emerge as the true victor of the dispersal draft. 
Although Brampton needs a stifling defense in order to have any chance at usurping Montreal’s grip on the Clarkson Cup, the club stocked up on forwards as insurance in anticipation for the unknown 13-14 campaign. In addition, the hockey club acquired two goaltenders that will relieve some of the pressure from starting backstop Liz Knox. Based on the amount of quality backstops available in the draft, Brampton could have easily foregone one goaltender and selected Shannon Moulson or Amanda Shaw to bolster their blueline.
If McLaughlin decides to play for Brampton, on paper, she is the most talented selection made by either team. As Molly Engstrom is one of the few members of the US National Team to have competed for a Canadian based CWHL franchise, McLaughlin and Engstrom can develop a strong defensive rapport. Should McLaughlin decide to suit up for Brampton, her presence can easily hide any deficiencies on the blueline, while easily providing the club another five wins.
Facing the loss of Jesse Scanzano, the Furies did not select one forward. This is only intensified by the absence of CIS legend Brayden Ferguson in the dispersal draft, a two year member of the Barracudas. Therefore, a key focus for the draft is offense, offense, offense. While it is true that that defense wins championships, the Furies need to subscribe to the notion that one cannot win if they do not score.
A key factor in the emergence of St. Francis Xavier as a national power in the CIS, Ferguson won the 2008 Brodrick Trophy as the most outstanding player in CIS women’s hockey. Ferguson made a key contribution to international women’s hockey. A member of the Canadian contingent that competed in women’s ice hockey at the 2009 Winter Universiade (the first time that women’s hockey was contested), Ferguson scored the first ever Canadian women’s hockey goal at the Universiade. Not only would Ferguson go on to claim the gold medal, but the puck that was used to score that historic goal is at the IIHF Hall of Fame. While her tenure with the Barracudas has been a rude awakening to the increased level of competition in the CWHL, her presence reinforces how CIS players are an integral component in comprising talent for CWHL rosters.
Since the retirement of Becky Kellar, the Barracudas were unable to find a suitable replacement, and the end result was a sharp decline. As the franchise now joins the graveyard of other defunct teams, the truly tragic aspect is how quickly it could have been turned around. While Burlington seemed to endure obstacles which became insurmountable in the 2011-12 campaign, the franchise would have been assured the first pick overall. With it, the embarrassment of riches to choose from included Natalie Spooner, Rebecca Johnston, Haley Irwin, Jenn Wakefield, and Bailey Bram. In all likelihood, one of those players would still have been available with their second pick in the draft, thus creating a strong scoring line.
Their third pick could have been a goaltender (which included Amanda Mazzotta, Genevieve Lacasse, and Hillary Pattenden) to complement Christine Kessler, while anchoring its goaltending for the next decade. Later picks might have included NCAA legends Sara Bauer and Laura MacIntosh, to play alongside Barracuda prospects such as Sarah Dagg. In the space of one draft, its fortunes could have been reversed, and a foundation lay towards redemption and reward.
While the demise of the Barracudas brought an abrupt and perhaps unforeseen ending to many players’ careers, the dispersal draft offers the opportunities for some players to revive their careers. Although Becky Kellar was its greatest player, the opportunity for these few remaining players to claim a Clarkson Cup triumph will bring a glimmer of shine to a franchise whose history in shrouded in a dark and downward spiral.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Triple Gold Club opportunities abound for CWHL Draft Picks

Although it is not officially recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation, more and more fans are recognizing Winter Games gold, an IIHF Women’s Worlds Championship Gold, and a Clarkson Cup as qualification for a Triple Gold Club for Women. The Triple Gold Club for Men is formally recognized as Winter Games gold, Men’s Championship Gold, and a Stanley Cup.
The first women that were deemed to have Triple Gold Club status were Caroline Ouellette and Kim St. Pierre in 2009 (the first year that a Clarkson Cup was held). In the following year, Jenny Potter would become the first American to gain entry into said club. Coming off a Winter Games gold medal in 2010, Sarah Vaillancourt would win the Clarkson Cup in 2011 to become the fourth fantastic member.
The 2011 CWHL Draft produced two more members of the Triple Gold Club for Women, Meghan Agosta (first pick overall), and Catherine Ward, respectively. Their accomplishments would be attained in the year 2012. The year marked three women overall gaining entry into the club. Meghan Agosta ended her superlative rookie year with the Montreal Stars by winning her first Clarkson Cup, and becoming the fifth woman to earn Triple Gold Club status.
Marie-Philip Poulin would win a long awaited gold medal at the IIHF Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont to gain entry. Catherine Ward would have the most memorable 2012 of all the newest members by winning the Clarkson Cup and the IIHF Worlds to qualify for the gold. Heading into Burlington, Vermont, Agosta and Poulin had already had two of the three requirements, while Ward only had one (the Vancouver gold).
As the 2012 CWHL Draft promises to be one of the finest drafts ever, several prospects have the potential to gain entry into this unique club. Charline Labonte, Rebecca Johnston, and Haley Irwin are one Clarkson Cup away from becoming new members.
 Top prospects Bailey Bram, Natalie Spooner, and Jennifer Wakefield only have one of the three requirements (IIHF World Championship Gold), but all three are strong candidates for spots on the 2014 Sochi Winter Games roster.
Canadian draft prospect Jocelyne Larocque, along with American prospect Hilary Knight has the opportunity to take their accomplishments to another level. While both skaters need a Winter Games medal and a Clarkson Cup championship, what they already have will provide them with the chance to join very elite company. As a member of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Larocque won the NCAA Frozen Four championship in 2010. Knight claimed the Frozen Four crown with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Only two women, Caroline Ouellette and Jenny Potter, have won Winter Games gold, World championship gold, a Clarkson Cup and an NCAA Frozen Four. This very rare grand slam in women’s hockey is within the grasp of both Larocque and Knight.
As a side note, Haley Irwin won the Frozen Four with Minnesota Duluth in 2008, so a Clarkson Cup victory in 2013 would make her the third woman to earn the grand slam. Of all the prospects in the 2012 CWHL Draft, Larocque, Knight and Irwin are among the very few that have won the Frozen Four. A Canadian variation of this grand slam was accomplished by Catherine Ward. Rather than an NCAA Frozen Four, she won a CIS championship. Considering Charline Labonte also has a CIS championship, a Clarkson Cup would also place her in unique territory also.
Although winning a championship is an integral part of the game (and a status symbol for some), the most important thing for these draft picks to remember is that every time their skates adorn the frozen surface of the rink, they are continuously making history. Although winning seems easy (even in a five team league), something that will always carry more value is the admiration of fans, and the opportunity to lay the foundation towards constructing the finest women’s league in the world.