Friday, 17 July 2015

Amanda Mazzotta a perfect fit for Quinnipiac Bobcats coaching staff

As the Quinnipiac Bobcats women’s ice hockey program comes off their greatest season yet (26-9-3), a key addition to the coaching staff indicates that an even better season may loom on the horizon. Former ECAC goaltending great Amanda Mazzotta joins the staff, ready to bring her acumen to a team determined to build on the momentum of qualifying for the 2015 NCAA tournament.

Since graduating from Cornell University, where she set an NCAA championship game record for most saves in one game, Mazzotta has maintained an exceptionally busy schedule. Raised in London, Ontario, she returned home, eager to share her knowledge with a new generation of future stars hoping to emulate her own success.

While she pursued a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario, it represented an opportunity to gain coaching experience. Handling numerous duties, with an emphasis on video sessions and goalie coaching (a task she also handled with Team Ontario Red in 2013), there is no question that her influence yielded positive results.

Although she spent only one season with the Western Mustangs, that season involved working with goaltender Kelly Campbell. After that one season with Mazzotta, it was not a coincidence that her statistics improved, culminating with the CIS National Championship in 2015.

Her tutelage will prove crucial for goaltender Sydney Rossman . Heading into her junior season, she will inherit the starting job from Chelsea Laden. Recognized as the top goaltender at the 2013 Nutmeg Classic, the former Minnetonka High School star also won the 2013 Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year Award in Minnesota.

In addition to her work with the Western Mustangs, Mazzotta was also involved with the London Devilettes program at the Bantam AA and PWHL levels. Having played for the Devilettes in her teens, it was a remarkable opportunity for her to give back to the program. The fact that the Bantam AA team captured a gold medal represented a great milestone in Mazzotta’s coaching career.

The most recent season represented a significant breakthrough as Mazzotta earned two significant coaching opportunities. Of note, she served on the staff of head coach Cassandra Turner (who is also part of Quinnipiac’s coaching staff) with the Canadian Under-18 National Women’s Team. From working at an August 2014 goaltender camp hosted by Hockey Canada, to being part of the staff that went to the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, it led into another great position.

With U18 national team colleague Cherie Piper serving as the general manager of Ontario’s women’s hockey entry at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, Mazzotta was named to head coach Bradi Cochrane’s staff. As several members from the Canadian U18 national team were also suiting up for Team Ontario, Mazzotta’s presence was certainly a welcome one, as the squad qualified for the medal round. 

Heading into this season, Mazzotta also has the privilege of being part of Hockey Canada’s U22/National Development Team staff. Such an appointment is testament to her ability to succeed at elite levels while demonstrating a positive attitude. Having also earned a Bachelor of Education from Cornell, along with a specialization in coaching as part of the Master’s Degree that she earned from the University of Western Ontario, she is an articulate and likeable personality who understands the occasional pressures of the game.

Having competed at elite levels of hockey herself (including the inaugural IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds in 2008), Mazzotta is very familiar with more than just succeeding, but the expectations of the game and the occasional self-imposed pressure to succeed. That familiarity not only makes her an ideal fit for a program on the rise such as Quinnipiac, it allows the young players someone that they can look up to as a big sister and a role model.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Ashley Stephenson leads group of women's hockey veterans into 2015 Pan Am Games

As the Canadian national women’s baseball team looks to capture gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games, a proud women’s hockey connection adds to an unforgettable group of characters. As this is the first-ever women’s baseball tournament contested in a major multi-national sporting event, the women’s hockey connection is testament to the potential of women in sport and their ability to excel in multiple arenas of competition.

Having played with the national team since the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Baseball in 2004, Ashley Stephenson comprises a group of five remarkable women with roots in women’s hockey. A versatile infielder who is able to play at both shortstop and third base positions, Stephenson’s strong leadership skills can be traced back to a proud hockey career that involved five remarkable seasons with the nationally prominent Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks program.

Suiting up for the Golden Hawks, her greatest legacy included the 2005 CIS National Championship. Honored as the event’s Most Valuable Player, she would graduate as a CIS First-Team All-Canadian. During 2005, she was also recognized as the recipient of the Canadian National Women’s Baseball Team Most Valuable Player Award. Following her spectacular CIS career, she went on to a seven-year pro hockey career in both the NWHL and the succeeding CWHL.

Stephenson would enjoy two seasons with the Brampton Thunder, before claiming the 2008 edition of the Esso Women’s National Championships with the Mississauga Warriors. That championship game featured three Golden Hawks alums, as Stephenson played with Cheryl Pounder. Opposing goaltender Cindy Eadie was not only a Golden Hawks alum, but she also played softball with Canada at the 2004 Athens Summer Games.

Once again, her success on the ice would be complemented by an accomplishment on the diamond. In 2008, Stephenson not only earned her second Team MVP award with the national baseball team, she earned a spot on the tournament All-Star Team following the 2008 IBAF Women’s World Cup of Baseball.

Part of the final CWHL season in Burlington Barracudas history, Stephenson contributed to a pair of significant moments in franchise history. Joined by several other Barracudas teammates, she participated in the first-ever women’s hockey tournament that Hockey Helps the Homeless hosted. In addition, the last goal of her CWHL career was a game-winning tally against the Toronto Furies. Of note, it would prove to be the final game that Burlington would win.

Fellow Golden Hawks alum Kate Psota also boasts a proud hockey legacy. Having won five consecutive OUA conference crowns, she would help the Golden Hawks capture the bronze medal at the 2010 CIS Nationals. Although Psota never played in the CWHL, two of her teammates from that 2010 squad would go on to play for the Brampton Thunder; Amanda Ironside and Liz Knox, the winner of the 2010 Brodrick Trophy.

Also a charter member of the Canadian national women’s baseball team, Psota has enjoyed an exceptional career on the diamond. Heading into the 2015 Pan Am Games, Psota and Stephenson are the only charter members still competing. Having also played in Australia, Psota has blossomed into a world-class athlete whose team-first approach has resulted in a prominent two-sport career.

In one of the most important games in Canadian women’s baseball history, Psota would log four RBI’s while Stephenson had two as Canada enjoyed its first-ever no-hitter in Women’s World Cup play. Occurring at the 2014 IBAF Women’s World Cup, the no-hitter was thrown by Heidi Northcott and Cindy Evaarada.

With proud connections to the York Lions women’s ice hockey program, Samantha Magalas and Autumn Mills comprise another pair of empowering women with success in multiple sports. A high school sporting legend in Burlington, Magalas spent three seasons on the York Lions women’s ice hockey team. During her athletic career with the Lions, she would make national news as the first-ever female athlete in North America to compete on a men’s baseball team at the university level.

Competing with Psota and Stephenson at the inaugural IBAF Women’s World Cup in 2004, Magalas carved a remarkable legacy during the nascent years of the national women’s team. In World Cup play, she would capture a silver medal and two bronze medals, while earning multiple national championships with Team Ontario.

Although she hung up her competitive cleats in 2009, she is still involved as a first base coach on Andre Lacroix’s coaching staff. Not only does her coaching tenure represent an important step forward with regards to women breaking through as coaches in the female game, it also means that she will have the chance to add to her legacy at the Pan Am Games.

One of the greatest hockey humanitarians to suit up for the York, Autumn Mills brings a heart of gold to the diamond. Having won the OUA’s version of the Marion Hilliard Award upon graduation, she was equally successful in the classroom, earning All-Academic Honors on multiple occasions.

Competing at third base for the Canadian national team, Mills’ greatest legacy with the Lions hockey program was helping them snap a five-year streak of missing the playoffs. Continuously improving on her season point totals, she was a remarkable leader who played alongside the likes of Kelsey Webster, who would represent York in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade.

Having joined the women’s national baseball team at the tender age of 16, Mills is definitely one of the team’s youthful veterans. Of note, fellow York alum Magalas, plus Stephenson are instructors at the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy.

Among the five women of Canada’s baseball roster who have competed on the ice, Daniella Matteucci has enjoyed an NCAA Frozen Four championship. Having won the title with the Clarkson Golden Knights program, the victory resulted in making history twice. Not only was it Clarkson University’s first-ever national championship in any varsity sport, it represented the first time that a conference not in the WCHA won the prestigious tournament.

Currently an outfielder and bullpen catcher with the Canadian team, Matteucci also competed on an all-boys team while attending Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. Although Matteucci was also a member of its nationally prominent women’s hockey team, she would make national news when she threw a no-hitter against an all-boys team.

Recently, one of her former coaches mirrored her two sport glory. Mira Trebilcock, who played hockey and soccer at the NCAA Division III level, balanced her current coaching duties with Notre Dame by joining the Regina Riot of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. In the aftermath of her first season of WWCFL play, Trebilcock played in every game for the Riot, contributing to the club capturing their first-ever league championship. 

Possessing experience at the CIS and NCAA levels is first baseman and pitcher Amanda Asay. Having once played for Digit Murphy at Brown University, Asay was a two-sport star at Brown, also playing on the softball team. Upon graduation from Brown, she would join the UBC Thunderbirds for two seasons. Currently pursuing a PhD in Forestry from UBC, Asay contributed two solid seasons with the Thunderbirds. 

Whether it is on the ice or on the diamond, Stephenson and her teammates exemplify both class and dedication. Gracious with fans and proud to be part of an empowering generation that have brought women’s baseball into the sporting conversation, they are champions before the Games even begin.

Photo credits: Mark Staffieri
Description: (Top right) Psota earning the start in an exhibition match against the semi-pro Ottawa Expos
(Middle left): With number 12 donning the back of Ashley Stephenson's jersey, her impact in Canadian baseball is akin to another Canadian legend who wore #12, Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar
(Bottom left): Autumn Mills featured on the scoreboard at Ottawa Stadium

Monday, 6 July 2015

Proud women’s hockey presence at 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Although the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup ended in heartbreak for Canada, there was a proud hockey presence for the host Canadian team. Although Adriana Leon established herself as a world-class athlete in soccer, her athletic roots can be traced back to hockey.

Having played at the forward position at the Bantam AA level with the Vaughan Flames and the Willowdale Red Wings, the King City raised Leon competed with the prestigious Toronto Aeros at the PWHL level. Of note, Leon would experience many glories with the Aeros, a team that featured superstars such as Erin Ambrose, Jillian Saulnier and third generation hockey player Laura Stacey. As a side note, Ambrose and Saulnier would contribute to Canada’s first-ever gold medal at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, earning the chance to appear on hockey cards issued by Upper Deck in their 2011 World of Sports set.

In the aftermath of a 2008 tournament hosted by the Furies, the honor of the Future Star award was bestowed upon her. She would follow it up with MVP honors at the 2008 Can Am Challenge Cup Showcase. She would duplicate the MVP success following the 2008 Stoney Creek Midget AA Showcase. Stocked with elite teams from throughout North America, she scored the tournament-winning goal.

Before making the transition to soccer, the speedy Leon had one more exceptional season of hockey left. It proved to be a year of double gold for Leon and the Aeros, as the powerhouse not only captured the PWHL league championship, but the gold at the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincial championships.

Having also played competitive rugby, Leon received an offer from Cornell University to play both hockey and soccer. Instead, she had committed to the Canadian Soccer Association youth program, obtaining a soccer scholarship to Notre Dame University. Of note, she would earn her first cap with the senior team in January 2013. Only adding to her two-sport legend was the fact that she scored the game-winning goal in said debut.

Despite Canada being eliminated by eventual third-place winner England in the quarterfinals, young superstars such as Leon prove that a bright future lays ahead for the program. With the 2016 Rio Summer Games approaching, Leon will be eager to make her Summer Games debut while helping Canada improve on its bronze medal from the London 2012 Games.

References: Hockey Canada

Kaleigh Fratkin signs historic contract with Connecticut Whale

As free agent frenzy only adds to the anticipation of the upcoming puck drop in NWHL play, the Connecticut Whale were involved in a historic signing. Boston University alum and 2015 Clarkson Cup champion Kaleigh Fratkin becomes the first Canadian-born player to sign an NWHL player contract. Of note, she already joins a remarkable free agent class that includes forwards Shiann Darkangelo and Sam Faber (who was the Boston Blades leading scorer in their inaugural season), along with former Quinnipiac goaltender Chelsea Laden.

Having served as an assistant captain in her senior season with Boston University, Fratkin will be expected to provide similar leadership with the Whale. Competing on the blueline, Fratkin’s experience playing in front of goaltenders such as Kerrin Sperry and Genevieve Lacasse shall make her a key asset for the Whale.

There is no question that she brings championship experience which shall prove crucial as the Whale hope to become the first franchise to capture the Isobel Cup. In addition to a Hockey East conference title, Fratkin was the only female player on the Vancouver Northwest Giants championship squad that captured a provincial championship in 2010.

Like new teammate Darkangelo, Fratkin also brings international experience. Of note, Fratkin helped Canada’s Under-22/Development Team capture the gold medal at the 2015 Nations Cup, scoring a goal against Finland. As a side note, Darkangelo claimed a silver medal for the United States at the 2014 Four Nations Cup. Considering the potential talent to come in free agency, the chance for the Whale to acquire such experience early on may place them in a position of advantage as the inaugural season progresses.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Boston Blades charter member Angela Ruggiero earns nod to HHOF

In an offseason filled with many memorable moments, the announcement of Angela Ruggiero’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame only adds to such magic. Prior to said announcement, CWHL Board Member Fran Rider became the first female builder to earn a spot in the IIHF Hall of Fame. Although Ruggiero becomes the fourth woman to gain entry into the prestigious Hall, an exciting aspect is the fact that she becomes the first inductee with playing experience in the CWHL.
After the euphoria of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, the CWHL made its first foray into the United States, establishing a team in Boston, resulting in borderless hockey. As a charter member of the Boston Blades, Ruggiero was more than just one of the team’s leaders; she became an ambassador for the team and the league.
During the Blades inaugural season, Ruggiero made her CWHL debut on October 30, 2010 against the Burlington Barracudas. Earning an assist in her debut, it also represented a franchise milestone as it was an assist on the first power play goal in franchise history.
It would mark the start of a four-game scoring streak to begin her Blades career, in which the squad enjoyed a 3-1 record. During the final game of said streak, a 4-2 win versus Toronto on November 21, Ruggiero not only scored the first goal of her CWHL career, she completed the game by recording a hat trick, including the game-winning tally. Fittingly, she was recognized with First Star of the Game honors.
Finishing the season with 26 points in 22 games played, she recorded five multi-point performances, including an impressive four-point output on February 26, 2011, a hard-fought 5-4 loss to the eventual Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars. That season, she would finish second in team scoring to Sam Faber, while ranking third overall in scoring among CWHL blueliners.
As a side note, Ruggiero had once played for the Montreal Axion, a predecessor to the Montreal Stars. Calling the likes of players such as Lisa-Marie Breton Lebreux (a co-founder of the CWHL), Gina Kingsbury and All-World goalie Charline Labonte as teammates, she would help the Axion reach the 2005 Esso Women’s Nationals, the forebear to the current Clarkson Cup.
Helping the Axion to the bronze medal game, she would score two of the Axion’s three goals in the final ten minutes, to prevail by a 4-2 tally. For her efforts, Ruggiero was not only named Player of the Game, but she earned the tournament’s Top Defenseman Award, signifying one of the most exceptional performances by an American-born player in the history of the event.

The chance to play with the Boston Blades would result in Ruggiero continuing to gain the admiration and respect of Canadian hockey fans. Subsequently, making the concept of women’s pro hockey in the United States viable, it was part of a profound impact that represented a turning point for CWHL hockey.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Former Ohio State women’s hockey player Danielle Gagne engages in life changing journey

Redefining the meaning of resilience, Danielle Gagne shall be engaging in a remarkable journey that will not only change her life, but is poised to improve the quality of others lives. Having once played for the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s ice hockey program, Gagne is spending this summer with the ambitions to participate in a bike ride that shall span 4000 miles in 70 days.
Such an ambition is akin to two other empowering women. Last summer, Clara Hughes, who has represented Canada in both the Summer and Winter Games, cycled across Canada to raise money for mental health. Sponsored by Bell, Hughes successfully completed the courageous trek over 40 days.
Another Canadian athlete who engaged in a cross-country journey was hockey coach Ashley Gilbank. Rollerblading across Canada in 2012, she also raised funds for mental health, with Do It for Daron as the beneficiary.
As she recounted to Women’s Hockey Life, Gagne shall be burning approximately 240,000 calories. Having started in Baltimore on May 31, her journey is scheduled to end on August 8 in San Francisco, with the goal to raise awareness for cancer.
Of note, she shall not be engaging in this trek alone. Believing in the power of teamwork, she is part of four difrerent teams, composing 30 total riders, part of an admirable initiative titled 4K for Cancer. The creation of a non-profit organization known as The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, looking to help instill self-esteem in young adults suffering from cancer.
As a side note, a remarkable 89% of funds raised shall go towards the numerous programs and resources aimed to assist young adults suffering from cancer. The ultimate goal of raising over $1 million dollars was actually surpassed on May 29, while Gagne has already met her minimum amount of $4,500.
Gagne is riding with three family members in her heart. Having lost her maternal grandfather to lung cancer, her paternal grandfather lost his battle with liver cancer eight years ago.
Sadly, there is another person that Gagne will be riding for. Her three year-old nephew, Otis Spencer, was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Although he is in his fourth cycle of chemotherapy, no child should ever have to endure such miserable suffering. His toughness and courage is a sense of inspiration for the very determined Gagne.

Celeste Brown adds to RIT Tigers pride by signing with New York Riveters

A June 26 transaction resulted in another historic first for the remarkable RIT Tigers women’s ice hockey program. In the aftermath of qualifying for its first-ever NCAA Tournament this year, former Tigers captain Celeste Brown becomes the first player in program history to sign a contract with the NWHL.

Part of a team that has already signed Janine Weber, the first European to score the Clarkson Cup winning goal, Brown becomes the first American-born player to sign a contract with the Riveters. Looking to add to an already great career, Brown’s experience in postseason play, where the Tigers posted a 15-2 mark during her time there, may prove to be crucial during the inaugural Isobel Cup postseason.

Joining the New York Riveters, she shall remain in the same state where she helped the RIT Tigers rise to prominence at the NCAA level. During the 2014-15 season, which was also her senior season, Brown led the Tigers in goals scored, while contributing to the team’s second consecutive CHA postseason conference crown.

Such accomplishments complement the 2012 NCAA Division III national title that she earned in her freshman campaign, in which she scored the game winning goal. As the program has transitioned to Division I play (in the CHA conference), she has scored the most Division I goals in program history with 30.