Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Memorable week at CBHA Nationals adds to event's growing impact

Home to the prominent Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League (OVWBHL), the hockey mad city of Ottawa played host to the 2015 Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) nationals. Hosting six women’s teams, including three from Ontario, at the Jim Durrell Recreation Complex, the quest for gold featured an exceptionally strong amount of talent.

From the outset, the OVWBHL featured two of its teams in the Nationals, including the Vanier Mooseheads, who captured the 2014 championship. Their top players were goaltender Nathalie Girouard and forward Elysia Desmier, who both played for Canada in a gold medal effort at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds.
Joining them were OVWBHL rivals, the Ottawa Rebels, featuring several Team Canada alumnae, including Fannie Desforges and Jessica O’Grady. Of note, both were also members of the 2014 Mooseheads, with O’Grady scoring the gold-medal winning goal. The presence of such talented players ensured that the promise of high quality ball hockey defined the event.

The British Columbia Benders, Newfoundland United and Team Manitoba were provincial all-star teams, each featured players that contributed to Team Canada’s gold medal victory at the 2015 ISBHF World Championships. The Benders featured Melanie Jue and Silvia Traversa, competing in her tenth nationals. Chantal Larocque and Jessie McCann donned the blue and gold colors of Team Manitoba.
A remarkable quartet of Newfoundland-raised talent, Kristen Cooze, April Drake, Amanda Kean and Dawn Tulk, were not only members of Team Canada, but represented some of the finest young talent that Canada has to offer in women’s ball hockey.

Team Canada’s head coach, Diane Brown was also on-hand at the CBHA Nationals. Serving as the bench boss for the Toronto Shamrocks, one of her star players was Lexie Hoffmeyer, who not only played for Team Canada in 2015, but has her name engraved on the Clarkson Cup. Hoffmeyer would enjoy the opportunity to add to her remarkable list of hockey accomplishments as she helped the Shamrocks to their second championship in four years.
Despite the dream of many local hockey fans, hoping to see the Mooseheads and Rebels compete against each other in the gold medal game, the two were part of the competition for the bronze medal. The Rebels managed a first place finish in the preliminaries but a heartbreaking loss to Newfoundland United in the elimination round derailed their championship ambitions. As a side note, Newfoundland United would advance to the gold medal game with a losing record.

The Shamrocks avenged the loss they suffered to the Mooseheads in the gold medal game at the 2014 CBHA Nationals. With three-time Team Canada member (and former Harvard Crimson player) Jenny Brine scoring the game’s only two goals, the Shamrocks prevented the Mooseheads from a second straight trip to the gold medal game.
Having also played against each other in the OVWBHL playoffs, the Rebels and the Mooseheads renewed rivalries in the bronze medal game. Although it was not the color of medal that either team was hoping for, there was a heightened sense of intensity as neither team wanted to emerge empty handed.

Chelsea Grills, a former player and coach at the NCAA level, scored in the first period, providing the Rebels with the only goal that they needed to win the game. Despite some superlative goaltending by Mooseheads backstop Nathalie Girouard, the strong level of defensive play on both ends of the court prevented her team from tying the score, allowing the Rebels a podium finish.
For one of the Rebels’ players, the bronze medal victory was enhanced by another special milestone. Isabelle Aube, one of two former players with the CWHL’s now defunct Ottawa Lady Senators competing with the Rebels (the other being Erika Pouliot), was rooting for her husband. Competing in the men’s Masters Division with the Ottawa Blues, Aube’s husband was part of a gold medal triumph, as his team qualified for the Men’s Masters World Championships in June 2016.

While Newfoundland United’s memorable run culminated with a silver medal, the strong performance of its players has shown that a great future lay ahead. Goaltender Ayla Frank has established herself as one to watch when the next ISBHF World Championships are held in 2017. Nullifying several Shamrocks power play efforts in the gold medal game, her heroics were a key factor in an overtime of the Rebels in elimination round play.
Along with 2015 Team Canada members such as Kristen Cooze, a 2014 CBHA Nationals All-Star selection, rising star April Drake, who scored Newfoundland’s only goal in the gold medal game, plus Amanda Kean and Dawn Tulk, the future for Newfoundland United is one that should include a CBHA national championship in the very near future. Taking into account that Newfoundland’s men’s team also enjoyed a podium finish, the province is establishing itself as one of the premier regions for elite ball hockey.

While the gold medal game culminated with an overtime finish, the high quality of hockey only added to a legendary finish. With Jenny Brine scoring the gold-medal clinching goal, while the Shamrocks were short-handed no less, it only added to her legendary status as one of the greatest ball hockey players in Canadian history, having played for the national team on three separate occasions.

The Toronto Shamrocks walked away with more than just a national championship. While Jenny Brine added to her ball hockey legacy with a pair of game winning goals in elimination round play, the future for Team Canada may have been on display as well.

Despite being injured, Julie Allen (the recipient of the Top Forward Award at the 2014 CBHA Nationals) began the tournament on a top line with CWHL teammate Carolyne Prevost and Jamie Lee Rattray, the recipient of the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award. Adding a CBHA national title to her promising ball hockey career, Allen’s strong playmaking skills have definitely placed her on the national team’s radar. 
Making their debuts with the Shamrocks at the CBHA Nationals, Prevost and Rattray were nothing short of electrifying. Rattray brought significant experience as she won the 2014 CBHA Nationals MVP Award as a member of the Mooseheads. Taking into account Rattray’s schedule with the national women’s ice hockey team (winning a silver medal at the 2015 IIHF Women’s Worlds), she was unable to compete for Team Canada at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds. Should she be available for 2017, it would certainly assure Canada of gold.

One of the most remarkable multi-sport talents in women’s hockey, Prevost is another talented member of the Shamrocks that should land a spot with Team Canada in 2017. From provincial championships in taekwondo and soccer as a teenager, to Cross Fit competitions in her 20’s, Prevost’s athletic gifts shine in hockey. Adding a CBHA crown to an NCAA Frozen Four title and a Clarkson Cup, she is one of the most underrated superstars in women’s sport in Canada.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hockey couple Sami Jo Small and Billy Bridges participates in Para Pan Am Torch Relay

Prior to the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Para Pan Am Games, ice sledge hockey superstar Billy Bridges was recognized for his inspiring legacy as an elite disabled athlete by having the opportunity to participate in the Para Pan Am Torch Relay. Adding to the magic of this milestone was the fact that his spouse, CWHL co-founder and Triple Gold Club for Women member Sami Jo Small joined him.

Of note, they had the opportunity to be part of a historic torch relay. Two separate Para Pan Am flames were lit on August 3, the first day of the torch relay. Flames were lit in Canada’s capital of Ottawa, along with iconic Niagara Falls. The five day journey, the largest ever for a Para Pan Am Games, consisted of 250 torchbearers and 700 kilometers on the road, culminating in the two flames unifying in Toronto.

Bridges and Small had the privilege of unifying both flames at David Pecaut Square near Toronto’s City Hall. In addition, legendary Paralympic athlete Rick Hansen, immortalized for his Man in Motion tour, was also on-hand for the ceremony.  From there, the unified flame travelled to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and then, the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.

The chance to participate together is an extension of their commitment to participating together in sporting endeavors, while supporting each other. When Bridges captured a bronze medal in ice sledge hockey at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games, Small was proudly in attendance. The two have also participated as instructors in ice hockey clinics, including a memorable event in Iceland, working with The Women of Winter founder Deirdre Norman, expanding the game to another corner of the globe.

Having made Toronto their adopted home, the city has held special meaning for both. Bridges juggles being a world-class athlete while studying at the University of Toronto. Small not only captured her first Clarkson Cup championship as a member of the Toronto Furies, she had the opportunity to compete in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game held in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Perhaps one day, both shall deservedly gain induction into Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame.

Their mutual participation in the Para Pan Am torch relay was not only a fitting tribute to their accomplishments, but an extension of their remarkable service as athletic ambassadors. One of the great power couples in hockey, along with Canadian sport, the heartwarming journey of Bridges and Small signifies how sport can help the disabled build self-esteem and confidence, while providing inspiration to people of all backgrounds.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Cydney Roesler named captain for upcoming Quinnipiac Bobcats season

Named the thirteenth captain in the history of the Quinnipiac Bobcats program in NCAA Division 1 play, Cydney Roesler is part of a proud Hockey Canada connection among the program’s leadership. Having competed with the Canadian Under-18 team in a gold medal effort at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 worlds, she is joined by interim head coach Cassandra Turner. Of note, Turner was the head coach for Canada’s Under-18 squad during the 2014-15 campaign, culminating in a silver medal at the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds.  

During the 2014-15 Bobcats season, Roesler and Shiann Darkangelo (who has graduated to the NWHL) both served as alternate captains. Helping contribute to the club’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament this past season (along with a program-best 26 wins), her strong leadership makes her the perfect choice to have the honor of captaincy bestowed upon her.  As a side note, she becomes the first blueliner to serve as captain since Regan Boulton in 2012-13, which was Roesler’s freshman season.

While Roesler provides a solid presence on the blueline, highlighted by tying for the team lead with 52 blocked shots, she has been able to supply an offensive flair. A pair of multi-point performances against Penn State (October 11) and Union (January 2) were part of a career season for Roesler. Not only did she log at least one point in 11 different games, she registered a career-high seven goals. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she showed a very strong style of disciplined play by logging only four penalty minutes, down by 24 minutes compared to her junior campaign. By season’s end, she was recognized by the Bobcats with the Best Defensive Player Award.

Shelby Bram extends proud family hockey legacy by signing with Buffalo Beauts

As the youngest member of the Bram hockey family, 22-year old forward Shelby Bram has carved a proud legacy that complements the achievements of her seven brothers and sisters, along with father and influential coach Bill. Having recently signed with the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts franchise, she is part of a growing trend of strong Canadian talent joining the incipient league.

Of note, she is one of several accomplished Canadian forwards joining the Beauts growing roster, including the likes of CIS stars such as Dana Skeats from Wilfrid Laurier, along with UBC’s Tatiana Rafter (who signed on the same day as Bram).

Following in the footsteps of her older sister Bailey, she spent the last four seasons playing with the prestigious Mercyhurst Lakers program in Erie, Pennsylvania. Of note, the two sisters were teammates during the 2011-12 Mercyhurst Lakers season.

Majoring in exercise science, Shelby played in more than 100 consecutive games with the program.
Among some of her impressive credentials includes the fact that she was recognized as an All-CHA First Team member in 2013, complemented by a pair of honors in 2014. Of note, she was named to the CHA All-Tournament Team, while earning the 2014 CHA Best Defensive Forward honor.
With Buffalo a stone’s throw away from Erie, it comes as no surprise that Shelby has opted to stay in the region to continue her hockey career. Having compiled 109 points during her Lakers career (she logged a career high 35 points in 2013-14), the product of Ste. Anne, Manitoba also brings experience with Canada’s U18 and U22/Development programs.

Considering that the Lakers have competed against programs from New York State in CHA conference play (along with NCAA play), hockey fans in the state are already familiar with her swift skating and strong playmaking abilities. Although her senior season saw a dip in her productivity, logging only 22 points, she did manage a pair of power play goals and short-handed goals, along with one game winning tally.

In her final 10 NCAA games, she managed 11 points, including a remarkable pair of multi-point performances. On her senior night (a February 14 tilt with Penn State), she compiled three points, including the game-winning tally. In addition, a four-point playoff performance against Lindenwood resulted in a series sweep.

Taking into account that Bailey Bram is a member of the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno franchise, the thought of the two sisters playing together once more was cause for optimistic speculation. Although Shelby’s decision to suit up with the Beauts prevents Western Canadian hockey fans from such a great opportunity, the consolation is the fact that she shall contribute to a great and exciting new chapter in women’s hockey.

Beth Hanrahan joins fellow Providence alum Janine Weber on the New York Riveters

Heading into the inaugural season of the New York Riveters, another proud member of the Providence Friars has opted to sign with the club. Having competed in 140 games with the Friars, Beth Hanrahan joins fellow alum Janine Weber, the first player ever signed to an NWHL contract.

Logging 75 points in her NCAA career, Hanrahan’s perseverance and work ethic exemplified a leadership that should translate well to NWHL play. Graduating with a degree in Health Policy Management and Sociology, she was the recipient of the 2015 Hockey East Sportsmanship Award, along with Hockey East All-Academic honors, she was also bestowed the honor of Team MVP in 2014.  
Should she manage to establish on-ice chemistry with fellow Friar alum Janine Weber, the possibility of an Isobel Cup is a strong one. During their one season in Providence together (2013-14), the two combined for 31 points, including two game-winning tallies. Of note, Weber’s game-winning goal clinched the prestigious Mayor’s Cup for the Friars.

During Hanrahan’s senior season with the Friars, Weber would go on to become the first European to score a Clarkson Cup clinching goal, helping the Boston Blades defeat their archrivals, the Montreal Stars. Coincidentally, Hanrahan and the Friars competed in a preseason game against the Stars, enduring a 4-1 loss.

With Hanrahan on the Riveters roster, there shall be no shortage of leadership. Named the team captain for her senior season, it resulted in her finest season offensively. Statistically, Hanrahan experienced a six-point improvement, registering 26 points, leading the team in scoring. In her sophomore and junior seasons, she logged consecutive 20-point efforts. Her finest performance came in a November 9 contest against the Connecticut Huskies, as she logged three assists.

Graduating as one of the Friars’ all-time leaders in games played with 143, she certainly brings high endurance to the ice. Having also won a New York State Championship in 2010 with the National Sports Academy, she is an ideal fit for the debut of professional women’s hockey in the state.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Women's hockey alums bring home silver in baseball at Pan Am Games

As the host country for the 2015 Pan Am Games, Canada was hoping to capture the first-ever gold medal in women’s baseball. Of all the feel-good stories that the Games produced, no other sport enjoyed as remarkable a connection to women’s hockey as baseball.
From York Lions hockey alum Samantha Magalas serving on the coaching staff, she was joined by five former women’s hockey players on the roster. Autumn Mills, who played for Dan Church at York University as a forward brought experience to Canada’s team as a third baseman.
Heading into the Pan Am Games, Mills was named to the roster as a pitcher, a decision that would pay remarkable dividends. Statistically, Mills provided the best all-around pitching performance. Mills faced 50 batters and appeared in 13 innings, tops amongst all hurlers in Pan Am Games play. In addition, Mills was one of five pitchers with a 1.000 fielding percentage. Along with US hurler Stacy Piagno, they were the only pitchers to enjoy a 2-0 mark.
Having won national hockey championships at the CIS level, along with the former Esso Women’s Nationals, Ashley Stephenson was an invaluable leader for Canada. Along with former Laurier Golden Hawks hockey player Katie Psota, the two were the only Canadian players to have played in every IBAF World Cup of Baseball.
Competing at third base for Canada, Stephenson’s field percentage of .833 ranked fourth among all third basemen at the Games. Ranking second on Canada with a .369 batting average, Stephenson also ranked third with a .455 on-base percentage. As a side note, she ranked second on the team behind second baseman Nicole Luchanski in hits and runs scored.
During Canada’s first game of preliminary round play, a 13-1 win against Cuba, Stephenson went 2-5 with a run scored. Amanda Asay, a former player at the NCAA and CIS level served as the designated hitter. Going 1-3 with an RBI, earning two walks, she was not the only women’s hockey alum to see playing time. Mills would be inserted as a pinch runner, scoring a run.
While Asay and Stephenson each managed one hit in the second game of the preliminaries, prevailing 9-3 against Venezuela, with Stephenson scoring twice, Psota was named the starting pitcher for Canada.
Both Asay and Stephenson endured struggles in the following game. Emerging with a narrow 3-2 win against Puerto Rico, both went hitless, although Stephenson managed one RBI. While Stephenson managed a 2-3 performance with 1 run scored in the fourth and final game of the preliminary round, the result was a loss against the United States.
Despite said loss, Canada qualified for the medal round. Competing against Venezuela, the losing team would be awarded the bronze medal while the victor earned the opportunity to avenge their preliminary round loss to the United States for the first-ever gold medal in women’s baseball at the Pan Am Games.
Once again, Mills shone on the pitching mound for Canada. Throwing a complete game against Venezuela, she was helped by Stephenson, who logged two hits, while scoring a run. Asay would go 1-3, logging an RBI in the victory against Venezuela.
Against the United States, such success was not duplicated. With the US enjoying a 4-0 lead after just one inning of play, it set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Making an appearance as a pinch hitter in the game was Daniella Matteucci, who helped Clarkson University capture the 2014 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four. As a side note, her only other appearance in the Pan Am Games was in a pinch running role during preliminary round play.

Asay managed one single and Stephenson went 0-3, while Psota struck out in the final inning of play. Despite the heartbreak of the loss, four women’s hockey heroes earned the opportunity to play in the historic gold medal. Taking into account their role as pioneers in both women’s hockey and women’s baseball, the silver medal signifies a legacy that future generations of Canadian women will hope to emulate, while providing a solid foundation for women’s baseball to build upon.

Player Position Avg Games At-Bats Runs Hits 2B 3B RBI SLG % OB% SO BB
Asay, Amanda 1B/DH 0.222 6 18 2 4 0 0 4 0.222 0.391 2 4
Matteucci, Daniella PR 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 0 0
Mills, Autumn Pitcher 0 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Psota, Katherine Pitcher 0 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.333 1 1
Stephenson, Ashley Third Base 0.369 6 19 5 7 0 0 1 0.369 0.455 1 0


Player Throws Wins Losses Saves Games ERA Hits Runs Earned Runs Walks Strikeouts
Asay, Amanda Right 0 0 1 2 1.50 5 1 1 0 0
Mills, Autumn Right 2 0 0 2 0.54 8 3 1 0 6
Psota, Katherine Right 0 0 0 1 6.01 4 2 2 1 2
Denotes team leader