Monday, 25 January 2016

Gold medal performance at Nations Cup gives Jamie Lee Rattray major championship for third straight year


Continuing to stake her claim as the next superstar in women’s ice hockey, Jamie Lee Rattray finds new ways to impress. Her two-goal performance in the gold medal game of the 2016 Nations Cup proved to be the difference maker as Canada’s U22-Development team prevailed over Finland.

With the gold medal proudly adorning her neck, it has now represented the third consecutive year in which Rattray has won at least one major hockey championship. This season continues a run of achievements that can be traced back to 2014, which also signified the end of a major chapter in her hockey career.

In her senior year with the Clarkson Golden Knights (based in Potsdam, New York), Rattray captured the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, the first in program history to do so. Followign it up with a 2014 Frozen Four championship (the first national title in Clarkson University history), such a glorious ending would only set the stage for the beginning of a sensational legacy.

Competing with a group of star players from the Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League, which included Canadian national ball hockey players such as Fannie Desforges and Nathalie Girouard, Rattray would also make her presence felt. The end result was a national ball hockey championship. Finishing as one of the tournament’s leading scorers, it represented the second championship of 2014 for Rattray. As a side note, she would end 2014 by competing in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.  



From a ball hockey perspective, there were many more heroics left for Rattray. Although she was invited to compete with the Canadian national ball hockey team at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds, commitments to Canada’s national women’s ice hockey team superseded, as Rattray made her debut at the IIHF Women’s Worlds, competing in Malmo, Sweden. Despite a silver medal finish, Rattray was presented with another gold medal opportunity.

 

With the Canadian national ball hockey championships taking place in her hometown of Ottawa, Rattray returned to a heroes welcome. Recruited to compete with the Toronto Shamrocks, she emerged as one of the event’s leading scorers as the club battled Newfoundland United in the gold medal game.

 

Ironically, most of the Shamrocks were composed of Toronto Furies competitors, Rattray’s rivals in the CWHL. Earlier in the year, Natalie Spooner and Kelly Terry were loaned from the Furies to the Brampton Thunder to compete in a game against NHL alumni, therefore, Rattray’s presence with the Shamrocks was somewhat reciprocal. As Jenny Brine scored in overtime for the Shamrocks, it provided Rattray with her second straight national title, only adding to her growing legend.

 

Competing on a line with Natalie Spooner and Brianne Jenner at the 2016 CWHL All-Star Game, it could prove to be a preview of things to come. Considering that all three are a significant part of Hockey Canada’s future, it could result in more gold for Rattray, with the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds on the horizon.

 

Taking into account that the Brampton Thunder are one of the youngest, yet most exciting teams in the CWHL, the possibility of a Clarkson Cup in 2017 would come as no surprise, while 2018 offers the chance for Rattray to shine on the world’s biggest hockey stage, the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. All golden opportunities, while allowing hockey fans to appreciate a future legend in the making.

Notable weekend filled with pair of exciting women's All-Star Games

For all the speculation about a supposed animosity between the CWHL and the NWHL, both leagues participated in a spectacular showcase of elite women’s ice hockey. The weekend of January 23-24, 2016, shall be remembered as a time that featured two women’s hockey All-Star Games.

Hosted at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, the second CWHL All-Star Game was played on January 23 and broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet, a prominent Canadian sports network. The following day, the NWHL staged their midseason classic at Harbor Centre, home of the Buffalo Beauts. Taking into account that Buffalo is merely a two-hour drive from Toronto, hardcore women’s hockey fans could easily catch both games live over an unforgettable weekend.

Although the NWHL’s All-Star Game was its first, making it a historic event, the reality was that history was a key theme for both games. Toronto Furies blueliner Sena Suzuki, whose experience also involves competing with the Japanese national women’s team, became the first international player (in this case, international means not from Canada or the US) to compete in the CWHL All-Star Game.

Fellow Japanese team member Nana Fujimoto emulated Suzuki’s historic appearance with one of her own. Having played in the first-ever NWHL game as a member of the New York Riveters, Fujimoto became the first Japanese-born player to compete in the NWHL All-Star Game, while Riveters teammate Janine Weber became the first European player to participate in such an event.

With no shortage of star power, four remarkable women had the prestige of serving as team captains during an empowering All-Star weekend. The CWHL featured Natalie Spooner serving as the captain for Team White, the first Furies player to gain the honor, while Julie Chu of Les Canadiennes de Montreal was Team Black’s leader the first visible minority to serve as an All-Star Game captain. As a side note, the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game featured Team White and Team Red, rather than black for this version. 

Unlike the NWHL, which held its All-Star Fantasy Draft on December 10, the day after the All-Star Game captains were announced, the CWHL employed a different approach. Holding its draft the night before the All-Star Game, Spooner and Chu participated in a draft that saw tickets available to the public.

Brianne Jenner, the first round pick of the Calgary Inferno in the 2015 CWHL Draft, was the first pick overall in the CWHL’s All-Star Fantasy Draft, claimed by Team White’s captain, Natalie Spooner. The biggest surprise of the Draft involved a unique goaltending selection.

Team Black captain Julie Chu surprised many by selecting Toronto Furies goaltender Christina Kessler, although Charline Labonte, her teammates on Les Canadiennes de Montreal was still available. Spooner added to the intrigue by selecting Labonte with her next pick.

Of note, Kessler was a teammate of Chu when the two played together at the collegiate level at Harvard University. During the inaugural All-Star Game in 2014, Kessler had played on Team White, while Chu was with Team Red. Therefore, this edition of the CWHL All-Star Game provided the two with the rare chance to become teammates once again.

On the contrary, the NWHL opted to name their respective All-Star teams after their captains, a trend that has also existed in the NHL and with the NFL Pro Bowl. Hilary Knight, who actually competed in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game in 2014, served as the captain for the visiting team. Dubbed Team Knight, the squad was adorned in very sharp white colored jerseys, with yellow and blue trim as their respective team logos were prominently featured on the right shoulder of the jersey, while the left displayed the All-Star Game logo.

Buffalo Beauts captain Emily Pfalzer gained the privilege of leading her own All-Star team at her home rink. Employing color in their jerseys, Team Pfalzer, which was classified as the home team, had a very attractive navy blue while the trim featured powder blue and the same yellow found on Team Knight’s jersey. In addition, names were found on the bottom of the jersey, duplicating the tradition that is consistent with all NWHL jerseys in regular season play.

Both jerseys employed a buffalo head for their respective team logos, adorned with a crown on top, paying homage to Buffalo’s nickname as the Queen City. An extra touch was the letter K in the middle of the buffalo head logo for Team Knight, while a navy blue colored P was predominant in Team Pfalzer’s logo.

Each game featured dominant performances as Team Black captured the CWHL All-Star Game by a 5-1 mark. The game began in fitting fashion as all five of the league's general managers graced center ice for the ceremonial faceoff. In addition, the participating Boston Blades players had the number 24 on their helmets, in recognition of Denna Laing. 

Marie-Philip Poulin proved to be the difference maker for Team Black. Not only did she score the first goal of the game, she would provide a two-goal performance to be named Game MVP. 


Of note, Jillian Saulnier stripped Dru Burns of the puck, scoring on Team White goaltender Charline Labonte, for the play of the game. Team Black would jump out to a 3-0 lead before Jessica Campbell of Team White scored on Delayne Brian, preventing the first shutout in All-Star Game history.

Goals by Hayley Wickenheiser and Kim Deschenes in the third periods provided Team Black with an insurmountable 5-1 lead, which would be the final score. Julie Chu was the winning captain, signifying the second straight time that the winning team in the CWHL All-Star Game featured a member of Les Canadiennes as team captain.

Home ice advantage proved to be beneficial for Emily Pfalzer. Playing in front of the Buffalo Beauts fans at Harbor Center, Team Pfalzer prevailed by a convincing 9-1 tally over Team Knight. By the game’s final outcome, several other Beauts factored into a historic showcase of NWHL talent.

Four of the nine points came via Team Pfalzer winning the All-Star Skills Competition before the game. The highlight of the Skills Competition was supplied by Beauts’ blueliner Megan Bozek, who set a record in the hardest shot competition with a blistering speed of 88 mph.

Beauts teammate Hayley Williams, one of four participants voted in by fans would also make her presence felt in front of the hometown faithful, scoring Team Knight’s only goal, while fellow Beaut Devon Skeats scored for Team Pfalzer.

Of all the Beauts participants in the NWHL All-Star Game, Kelley Steadman continued to add to her growing legend in Buffalo sports. Having also scored the first goal in Beauts history, her fairy tale season in the NWHL continued as she scored twice in the All-Star Game, garnering Game MVP honors. a fitting end to a historic weekend.
CWHL photo credit: Jess Bazal, NWHL image obtained from NWHL.co

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Spooner and Chu gain honor of being named 2016 CWHL All-Star Game captains


While the concept of voting for All-Star Captains and the subsequent team drafts has become a recent novelty in all sport, there is no question that the selections for the 2016 CWHL All-Star Game highly deserve such honor. Natalie Spooner, the league’s Player of the Month Award winner for December 2015, and Julie Chu are more than just ambassadors for the CWHL; they are a pair of hockey icons, adding another milestone to their exceptional careers.

Chu led all skaters with a whopping 34% of the vote, resulting in 11,319 votes, subsequently
becoming the first visible minority to serve as a captain in the CWHL All-Star Game. Spooner would garner an impressive 7,661 votes, culminating in 23% of all votes tallied.
As the elected captains, the next task is to draft the rosters for Team Black, led by Chu, and Team White, represented by Spooner, on January 22, one day before the second All-Star Game takes place at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. As a side note, the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game shall be held on January 24 in Buffalo, New York, resulting in a remarkable weekend defined by a dazzling display of elite women’s hockey talent. 


Although both Spooner and Chu were participants in the inaugural All-Star Game (also at the ACC), with Spooner suiting up for Team White, while Team Red’s roster welcomed Chu, the captaincy represents a first in their careers. They shall be joined by another All-Star who is experiencing her own historic first. Furies first-year player Sena Suzuki shall become the first international player to compete in the All-Star Game.

In the career of Spooner, historic firsts are a common theme. From being the first woman to compete on Canada’s U18, U22 and Senior Teams, she also became the first to win a Winter Games gold medal and the Clarkson Cup in the same season.

The All-Star Game captaincy not only makes her the first player in Toronto Furies franchise history (and first Ohio State women's hockey alum) to gain the honor, it follows up on another historical accomplishment. When the inaugural All-Star Game was hosted in December 2014, Spooner scored the first-ever goal. In leading up to the game (which shall be broadcast on Canadian TV network Sportsnet), Spooner filmed a promo on a Toronto rooftop with the famous CN Tower prominently in the background.

Julie Chu gains the distinction of becoming the first visible minority to serve as an All-Star Game captain. Compared to Spooner, she is not the first member of her club team to serve in the role of captaincy. In the inaugural game, teammate Charline Labonte served as the captain of Team Red, while Team White leader Jessica Campbell made history by becoming the first rookie in All-Star Game history.

In an unforgettable season that has seen Chu be part of the rebranding of the Montreal Stars into Les Canadiennes de Montreal (which sends a league-best nine players to the All-Star Game), she also gained the chance to be part of the unprecedented Women’s Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Having once competed for Boston’s prestigious Harvard Crimson, the chance to go back to a region that held so many of her glories represented one of the great milestones in her glorious CWHL career. In addition, she becomes the first Crimson alum to serve as an All-Star Game captain.
While both Spooner and Chu have been rivals throughout their careers, whether it be part of the eternal rivalry between Canada and the US at the international hockey level or the extension of the Montreal vs. Toronto hockey rivalry at the CWHL level, their world class skills have resulted in a remarkable presence that has earned the respect of fans, regardless of which side they choose to support. Once again such admiration will continue on January 23 at the Air Canada Centre as their newest roles as All-Star Game captains is the crowning touch to a pair of unforgettable hockey legacies.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Prominent programs south of the border show admirable support for DIFD


As the stigma towards mental health continues to diminish, the women’s hockey community has shown a remarkable support in raising awareness. Most recently, a cause that has occupied a special place in the hearts and minds of players and fans alike is Do It for Daron (DIFD).

The Ottawa-based cause commemorates the life of the late Daron Richardson, daughter of former NHLer Luke Richardson. Having sadly taken her own life, the Ottawa hockey community was extremely distraught, with thousands of fans appearing at a celebration of her life at Scotiabank Place, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.

While DIFD has become an essential aspect of the Ottawa hockey community, with numerous teams, male and female, participating in fund raising games, including the Senators, the cause has also taken on importance in the Eastern United States.

Upon graduating from high school and winning a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, Morgan Richardson, Daron’s older sister, enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, extending her career with the prestigious Big Red program. Considering that the Senators American Hockey League affiliate is based in nearby Binghamton, New York, Luke Richardson took on the head coaching position for the club, keeping family very close.

In an admirable show of support, DIFD would become the focus of annual fund raising matches for both the Binghamton Senators and the Big Red women’s hockey program. As the Ivy League’s Big Red competes in the ECAC Conference, it also raised awareness of another accomplished player from a generation ago whose star burned out far too soon.

A three-sport star with the Dartmouth Big Green, including women’s hockey, Sarah Devens had taken her own life in 1995, enduring her own struggles. Since then, the Sarah Devens Award is named in her honor. With the advent of DIFD, it reminded many ECAC fans about Devens and the potential that she possessed. Both have served as inspirations for others to speak out and gain assistance, looking to preserve life.

This season, DIFD gained support from two other women’s hockey teams in the United States, helping to highlight the cause of mental health in other regions. Of note, the Princeton Tigers, another Ivy League school, would emulate Cornell’s dedication to DIFD and hosted their own charitable night on December 12, 2015 at Hobey Baker Rink.

Competing against Penn State, Princeton would prevail by a hard fought 3-2 tally as Jaimie McDonnell logged the game winning goal. Other goals were scored by Kelsey Koelzer and Morgan Sly, while Karlie Lund provided a solid two-assist effort. Goaltender Alysia DaSilva would gain her third win of the season for the Tigers.

In addition, the NWHL’s Boston Pride held a DIFD night as well, the first time that such support was shown in professional women’s hockey. Hosting the New York Riveters at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Center on January 10, 2016, it was part of a memorable weekend that also saw the Connecticut Whale host a fundraiser for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.

Participating in the ceremonial faceoff were two of Daron's closest friends. Both competing at the NCAA level, Rebecca Leslie (who recently won a gold medal at the 2016 Nations Cup) of the BU Terriers, and Harvard's Jess Harvey embodies the proud spirit of DIFD. As a side note, the Pride held a 50/50 raffle along with a silent auction, with half of the proceeds going to DIFD.
Four second period goals would provide a comfortable lead for the Pride, who went on to prevail by an 8-1 tally as Riveters goaltenders Nana Fujimoto and Jenny Scrivens were unable to stop the high powered offense. Jillian Dempsey would score twice and gain an assist, dedicating her two goal effort to teammate Denna Laing, still in hospital after crashing into the boards at the Women’s Winter Classic. As a side note, Bray Ketchum, who was loaned to the Pride for the Classic, was back in action with the Riveters, scoring the club’s only goal of the game.
With the iconic DIFD purple heart logo prominent, the NWHL’s support of DIFD was a strong point of pride for two members of the Pride roster. Alyssa Gagliardi and Lauren Slebodnick had played with Morgan Richardson at Cornell, taking to the ice in several fund raising games for DIFD throughout the seasons.

The opportunity to extend that legacy into professional women’s hockey speaks volumes about how meaningful the cause is. The heartfelt efforts of DIFD and its supporting players represent a remarkable collaboration and outpouring of compassion that has defined so many female competitors as proud hockey humanitarians.

Princeton image obtained from: https://twitter.com/pwih?lang=en

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Nations Cup gold provides Shelby Bram a unique place in NWHL history

Having quickly established herself as one of the most talented Canadian-born players in the NWHL, donning the colors of the Buffalo Beauts, the opportunity to claim the gold medal at the 2016 Nations Cup has resulted in Shelby Bram gaining a unique place in hockey history. Competing with Canada’s national team Under-22/Development Team, Bram was one of the veteran leaders propelling the team to a gold medal triumph against Finland.


Of note, Bram made her first appearance with the Under-22/Development Team in 2012, earning a bronze medal at the Meco Cup. Having also played for Canada at the 2011 IIHF U18 Women's Worlds, Bram was part of a silver medal effort in the event. For Bram, gold at the 2016 edition of the Nations Cup represents sweet redemption. 

Several 2015 NWHL Draft picks also played alongside Bram in the golden outcome. Shannon MacAulay, a fifth round pick of the Boston Pride was joined by current Clarkson Golden Knights teammate Erin Ambrose, a New York Riveters pick. As a side note, Bram played with Ambrose at the 2011 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds.

Goaltender Amanda Leveille, selected by the Beauts in the third round made 22 saves in the gold medal game against Finland. She may call Bram a teammate again next season in Buffalo. Obtained in the fifth round by the Connecticut Whale, Cassandra Poudrier, a product of the Cornell Big Red was also part of Canada’s roster.  Cornell teammate Hanna Bunton was one of Bram’s linemates at the event, joined by Boston University freshman Rebecca Leslie.

Although the gold medal adds to an already impressive list of hockey accomplishments, it allows Bram to become a more prominent part of the NWHL’s nascent history. While the 2015 4 Nations Cup represented the first international women’s hockey event that featured players from the incipient league, all involved players were donning the USA Hockey jersey.

Bram becomes the first player signed to an NWHL contract to appear with one of Canada’s national teams in international competition. Such a feat actually complements another one of Bram’s historic brushes with history. In the autumn of 2015, Bram and her older sister Bailey were both invited to the training camp of Canada’s national senior team, led by head coach Laura Schuler.   

During said camp, Shelby became the first player to attend a Hockey Canada training camp that was also signed to an NWHL contract. Once again, Bram was part of a unique chapter in Canadian women’s hockey history.

As the 2015-16 women’s hockey season approaches its stretch run, there is no shortage of history-making opportunities for Bram. Named to the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, the event shall take place on January 24 at Buffalo’s Harbor Center, allowing Bram to compete on home ice.

It was the same ice where Bram earned the assist on former Mercyhurst teammate Kelley Steadman's goal (the first in Beauts history) to become the first Canadian to log a point in Buffalo Beauts history, doing so in the club's inaugural game. One of three Canadians, along with Kaleigh Fratkin and Jaimie Leonoff, named as participants in the All-Star Game, all will be working collectively as members of Team Knight to gain the win. 

It would also present a great moment to make history again as Bram will try to be the first Canadian to log a point in All-Star Game history. Such a feat would certainly come as no surprise to the hometown faithful, who have been spoiled by Bram's swift skating and strong playmaking skills.  

Friday, 8 January 2016

Scoring Spooner earns nod as CWHL’s Player of the Month for December 2015

After logging just three points in the month of October and four during November, Natalie Spooner regained her smooth scoring touch in December with a 12-point output that roared her into the scoring race. Currently, her 21 points trails leading scorer Marie-Philip Poulin of Les Canadiennes de Montreal by just one point in the race for the Angela James Bowl, as Spooner attempts to become the first Furies player ever to capture the prestigious honor.

In addition, her 15 goals lead all skaters in CWHL play. Surprisingly, not one is a game-winning tally. Complementing her league-best 15 goals, she is also the leader in power play goals with five. Among her Furies teammates, she is seven points up on the team’s second leading scorer, alternate captain Alyssa Baldin.

Heading into holiday break, Spooner assembled a masterful five-game scoring streak (Nov 29-Dec 20) which saw the Furies capture three victories. Scoring a league-best 10 goals during this stretch, her remarkable accomplishment was complemented by four assists, for a 14-point effort that may prove to be a key turning point in the Furies season. Of note, said victories added distance between them and the Boston Blades for the final playoff spot.
Among her remarkable performances her December, her finest may also stand as the greatest in Furies franchise history. Assembling one of the greatest displays of offensive brilliance, it was part of a December to remember for Spooner.
Competing at the Olds Arena in the municipality of Olds, Alberta, the fans in attendance were treated to a true world class display of superlative talent. Competing against the host Calgary Inferno, the result was an impressive six-point yield.
Despite the Inferno outshooting the Furies in the first period by a 14-6 margin, it was Spooner who set the tone as she logged the first two goals of the game. As a side note, Kelly Terry would log assists on both goals while veterans Michelle Bonello and Kori Cheverie each registered one assist.
At the 7:02 mark of the second stanza, Elana Lovell tie game for the Inferno. A former competitor with the Calgary Dinos at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level, she has proven to be a revelation this season. Not only does she continue to be the leading scorer rookies, she trails Spooner and Poulin for third in the race for the Angela James Bowl.
Spooner would reply with three unanswered goals, giving her five overall in the game, while anchoring the Furies offense in front of an awed capacity crowd in Olds. Accomplishing this in a span of merely four minutes and six seconds, the Furies jumped out to a commanding 5-2 lead.
All three of Spooner’s unanswered goals in the second stanza were scored at even-strength, while the second goal in this stretch was unassisted. Following her unassisted tally, All-Star goaltender DeLayne Brian was removed from the game, replaced by Kathy Desjardins, who was unable to calm the raging performance.
Just 41 seconds following her fifth (and final) goal of the game, Spooner and Katie Gaskin would log the assists on a goal scored by Sena Suzuki, which was also the first of her CWHL career. As a side note, Suzuki became the first Japanese player selected to compete in a CWHL All-Star Game.   
As the Inferno managed a pair of power play goals in the third period, scored by Brittany Esposito and Hayleigh Cudmore, the Furies saw their lead slowly evaporate. With an empty net, the Inferno’s gamble paid off, as Jessica Campbell scored with an extra attacker on the ice. Goaltender Christina Kessler faced 22 shots in the third period, working tirelessly to ensure that Spooner’s efforts would not be in vain.
Luckily, Spooner’s four point outburst in the second period proved to be the difference. IN addition, Suzuki’s first career CWHL goal also stood as the game winning tally. Had the Inferno managed to tie the game and force a shootout, Spooner would have likely managed more heroics, taking into account her hot hand during this Sunday afternoon. Along with Baldin, Spooner had a game-high +4 in the contest.
It was only fitting that Spooner and her Furies teammates earned the opportunity to begin 2016 with a televised match on Rogers Sportsnet. Despite being bested by their crosstown rivals Brampton Thunder by a 3-0 shutout win, the greater victory was the opportunity to display their exceptional skills in front of a national audience.
As Spooner continues to be the franchise player for the Furies, and one of the CWHL’s most popular players, she is the It Girl for women’s hockey in Canada. Testament to her popularity was the fact that she was one of the Furies on-hand for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies Women’s Hockey Day celebrations, participating in the ceremonial puckdrop.

Signing autographs for an eager number of young fans in attendance, which consisted of several minor girls teams, Spooner is inspiring an entire new generation of girls to lace up their skates and emulate her already impressive list of successes, including an impressive December 2015.
Image obtained from CWHL.ca



Thursday, 7 January 2016

Janine Weber adds to growing legacy as first European selected for NWHL All-Star Game


As the NWHL prepares for its inaugural All-Star Game on January 24, 2016, the feeling of history and achievement shall be its predominant themes. Among the empowering women contributing to such a landmark event shall be Janine Weber, whose presence shall extend her remarkable growing legacy.
Becoming the first European player named to an NWHL All-Star Game, it proved to be a remarkable career milestone. Selected by Team Knight (Hilary Knight of the Boston Pride was named the other team captain) with the seventh overall pick of the NWHL All-Star Draft, Weber is one of three Riveters competing for Knight, joined by Morgan Fritz-Ward and Madison Packer, who were among four players voted in by fans. As a side note, Weber, Fritz-Ward and Packer are among five competitors representing the Riveters in the All-Star Game.

Announced on December 10, this landmark publication came days after Weber and her New York Riveters teammates visited Japan for an exhibition series against the Japanese national women’s team. For Weber, such feats resulted in finishing the 2015 calendar year on a very strong yet significant note.
Against Team Japan, Weber notched a goal against Nana Fujimoto, who is a member of the New York Riveters, but stood between the pipes for her homeland during said series. Of note, Fujimoto is among the other international competitors competing in the All-Star Game. Along with Canada’s Devon Skeats, the two shall suit up for Team Pfalzer (Buffalo Beauts captain Emily Pfalzer was named one of the game’s captains).
Three Canadian-born players shall join Weber on Team Knight including Shelby Bram of the Buffalo Beauts, along with a pair of Connecticut Whale players including Kaleigh Fratkin, the first Canadian to sign an NWHL contract, and goaltender Jaimie Leonoff, who won the first game in NWHL history.
In a year that saw Weber become the first European player to score a Clarkson Cup clinching goal, along with signing the first-ever player contract in NWHL history, subsequently with the New York Riveters, she is one of the most prominent women in hockey.

Special thanks to http://bobscustomcards.blogspot.ca/ for the custom card

Hockey humanitarian Tatiana Rafter admirably assists a fallen hockey hero


A true spirit of teamwork defined the kind gesture, as Tatiana Rafter worked alongside her brother Maverick, resulting in the First Annual Rafter’s Christmas Cheer Board Classic. Hosted on December 22 at the Sturgeon Heights Community Centre, the Classic featured numerous events, organized by volunteers such as Kailee McGibney and Ashley Mitchell, highlighted by a charity shinny game.
After a highly accomplished career under the tutelage of head coach Graham Thomas with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds women’s hockey program (earning Canada West Player of the Year honors), Rafter has graduated to the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts, competing in the first 11 games in franchise history. During downtime, Rafter donates her time to Buffalo-area charities, embodying the spirit of hockey humanitarians. In addition, she has participated in a pair of fundraising contests with the Beauts, one for breast cancer research, and another for military families.  
Raised in Manitoba, Rafter is among a growing number of women’s hockey stars, establishing the province as a place of great promise in the development of future talent. The chance to help launch the Classic was an opportunity for Rafter to give back to the community, showing a gratitude that sets a positive example for younger players.
With the support of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard, the club team of Maverick, all proceeds raised at the Classic found their way to a pair of charitable causes. Of 
note, Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board was the beneficiary of 25% of all funds raised.
The other 75% went towards a trust fund to aid a fallen hockey hero in the Manitoba hockey 
community. Like Maverick, Braden Pettinger also competes in the MJHL. Sadly, his career reached an abrupt end on November 12. Crashing into the boards in his debut match for the Portage Terriers, no one could have foreseen the life-changing injury to come.
Paralyzed from the neck down, Pettinger is currently in the biggest fight of his life. For the native of Souris, Manitoba, the Rafters are among a group of kindhearted individuals looking to ensure a dignified future ahead. The Brandon White Kings have raised over $9,000, while his cousin, Jennifer More, a former competitor for the University of Maine Black Bears, laced her skates for the Classic. 
More was joined by several other female skaters in the Classic, including current NCAA competitors Tess Bracken (Darmtouth) and Brooke Langlois (Maine). Other collegiate players included Saige Patrick and Allison Sexton. Kati Tabin, a JWHL All-Star with the Balmoral Hall Blazers and former St. Mary’s Academy skater Christine Bumstead were also on-hand.

Fans in attendance at the Classic were encouraged to offer words of support in a #prayersforpettinger book, which was given to Pettinger following the shinny match. Adding to such a kind gesture was the fact that the Rafter's Christmas Classic raised over $5,000 for Pettinger. 
While Rafter is back in Buffalo, the fantastic momentum continues. Having logged her first career point in NWHL play, a game winning goal against the US Under-18 National Team, Rafter is looking to propel the incipient club towards a postseason berth. 

Juggling her volunteer time with the Buffalo Bisons' junior girls teams and her gracious efforts with the book nook at the Buffalo Women's and Children's Hospitals,there is no question that the Classic shall always hold a special place in her heart. Resulting in a hockey highlight for the shinny competitors who graciously donated their time and a special, heartwarming gift of encouragement for Pettinger, Rafter’s heart of gold shall always make her a winner, both on and off the ice.

Female Players

Tatiana Rafter — 

BuffaloBeauts, NWHL

Tess Bracken — Dartmouth College, NCAA Division 1

Kati Tabin — Balmoral Hall Blazers (JWHL), committed to Quinnipiac University, NCAA Division 1

Christine Bumstead — alumnus of St. Mary’s Academy

Allison Sexton — Merrimack College, NCAA Division 1
Brooklyn Langlois — Maine Black Bears, NCAA Division 1
Saige Patrick — University of Wisconsin Superior, NCAA Division III

Male Players
Ryley Lindgren — Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL
Adam Brooks — Regina Pats, WHL
Chase Harrison — Regina Pats, WHL
Nick Zajac — Saskatoon Blades, WHL
Keegan Kolesar – Seattle, WHL
Maverick Rafter, OCN Blizzard, MJHL
Rhett Lough, Waywayseecappo Wolverines, MJHL
Cole McCartan, Selkirk Steelers, MJHL
Dallas Starodub — Selkirk Steelers, MJHL
Kevin Takatch – Waywayseecappo Wolverines, MJHL
Lucas Froese — Ryerson Rams, CIS

Male Alumni Players
Rejean Beauchemin – former Philadelphia Flyers draft choice who played parts of four American Hockey League seasons as a goaltender for the Philadelphia Phantoms, Houston Aeros, and Manitoba Moose.
Jordan Geddes — Portage College, ACAC
Cole Pruden — UBC Thunderbirds, CIS
Cody Danylchuk — Winnipeg Blues, MJHL
Jordan Miller — St. James Canucks, MMJHL
Matt Garvey — St. James Canucks (currently playing lacrosse for Concordia University, Wisconsin)
Stuart Fleury — Stonewall Jets, G, MMJHL
Justin McIntyre — Oak Park Raiders
Dallas McDougal — St. Paul’s High School
Marcus Hudon — Sturgeon Heights Huskies

Kim Deschenes emerges as a key component of offensive attack for Les Canadiennes


In the aftermath of the Women’s Winter Classic, one that saw the CWHL’s Canadiennes de Montreal participate against the NWHL’s Boston Pride, an unprecedented first between the two leagues, it was Kim Deschenes who emerged as one of the game’s heroes. Contested at Gillette Stadium, the historic event made news throughout North America, as it signified the first-ever professional women’s hockey match staged outdoors.

With the world-class talent that comprises the roster of Les Canadiennes, speculation was rampant as to which player would score the first goal. Said talent for the bleu, blanc et rouge included the likes of living legend Caroline Ouellette, American-born Julie Chu, a hockey legend on both sides of the border, All-World goaltender Charline Labonte, and a pair of players under the age of 25 that have experienced Winter Games glory, Marie-Philip Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau.

During the first period (only two 15-minute periods were played), it was Deschenes that would make her mark, scoring on Boston Pride goaltender Brittany Ott. As a side note, Ott was not an unfamiliar face to Les Canadiennes. She was one of several members of the Pride who had spent the 2014-15 season competing with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, the team that bested the Montreal Stars in the Clarkson Cup finals.

Although Blake Bolden, the first African-American player to compete in the NWHL, would score the game-tying goal for the Pride, the feeling of history and accomplishment reflected a true victory that both teams could enjoy. For Deschenes, the opportunity to make history, by scoring the first-ever goal in an outdoor professional women’s hockey match only adds to a growing legacy.

Deschenes quickly came to the attention of Montreal hockey fans for her remarkable play and leadership with the Montreal Carabins of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Serving as team captain in her final two seasons with the program (2012-14), she would propel the club to three consecutive appearances in the CIS national championship game, including the coveted title in 2013.

A first-round pick of the Montreal Stars in the 2014 CWHL Draft, becoming the first New Brunswick-born player to earn such distinction, Deschenes would undergo an all-too obligatory adjustment during the first couple weeks of her rookie season. Logging only two points in her first six games, she would make her CWHL debut on October 18, 2014.

Logging her first career CWHL point on October 24, recording an assist in a 2-1 win against Calgary, an impressive performance against the Toronto Furies culminated with a three-game scoring streak. The November 29 home contest against the Furies saw Deschenes not only score the first goal in her CWHL career, she would finish the game with a pair of goals, resulting in her first multi-goal effort.

In a stretch of ten games from January 11 to February 28, 2015, Deschenes would register at least one point in eight games, complemented by a four-game scoring streak. She would finish sixth in scoring among Montreal players with 14 points, while leading all rookies on the roster and finishing sixth overall among all CWHL rookies.

Compared to her rookie campaign, the 2015-16 season has proven to be a coming out party for Deschenes, one that has also seen her earn the prestige of competing in the second-ever CWHL All-Star Game. To be contested at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on January 10, it shall mark a career highlight for Deschenes, as she shall be gracing NHL ice.

Statistically, she has proven to be a marvel for Les Canadiennes, briefly occupying a place among the top four scoring leaders in CWHL play. During the first 12 games of her sophomore season, she has already matched her previsouseasontotalof14points. Starting the season with a four-game scoring streak, consisting of four goals and four assists, she helped Les Canadiennes to a strong 4-0-0 start.

Deschenes has truly established herself as being worthy of a place in the pantheon of French Canadian women’s hockey heroes. Having enjoyed consistent success throughout every level of her career, she is blossoming into a key leader for Les Canadiennes, part of a growing legacy which is destined to strengthen should she manage to hoist the Clarkson Cup.

It would also provide her and teammate Casandra Dupuis with a special link to Les Carabins, truly bringing their careers full circle. Isabelle Leclaire, their head coach for five seasons, she coached the Montreal Stars to the inaugural Clarkson Cup title in 2009. With her CIS national title in 2013 (of which Deschenes played), she became the first and only coach to win both the Clarkson and the CIS national title.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Kelley Steadman the feel-good story in the first half of the inaugural NWHL season


Originally slated as one of the Buffalo Beauts’ practice players, Kelley Steadman has emerged as a franchise player. Her rise to prominence is a gripping tale that would take place quickly, leaving an indelible mark on Buffalo sports, while emerging as the NWHL’s feel-good story.

Heading into the Beauts’ inaugural game, one that would see legendary Manon Rheaume participate in the ceremonial puck drop, several Canadian-born players encountered unforeseen delays with their work visas, making them ineligible to compete. Earning the opportunity to lace up her skates, Steadman took full advantage, logging the first goal in franchise history.

An incredible hockey talent, she would open the season with a three-game scoring streak. Competing against the Connecticut Whale in her second game, she recorded the first multi-point effort of her NWHL career. Gaining a first period assist on a goal scored by Meghan Duggan, she would score an even-strength goal in the third.

The third game saw Steadman gain Second Star of the Game honors. Competing against the Boston Pride, it was a game filled with several milestones. Not only did Decker score the first hat trick in NWHL history, Steadman would record a pair of goals in the contest. On her second goal, Kourtney Kunichika earned the assist, for her first career NWHL point. As of the publication date, Kunichika has come into her own, pacing the Beauts in scoring with 13 points.


An exceptionally talented player who captured a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Steadman has also won championships at the CHA level, the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup, and a Russian league title. Her status as a practice player was likely attributed to her new role as the Director of Hockey Operations for the women’s hockey program at Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh. As a side note, Beauts goaltender Brianne McLaughlin played her NCAA hockey for RMU.

By mid-December, Steadman was not only of the leading scorers in the NWHL, she would gain the honor of being named to the roster of Team Pfalzer for the league’s inaugural All-Star Game, obtained with the sixth overall pick in the All-Star Game Draft. Taking place at Harbor Center on January 24, the chance to be part of such a historic event on home ice is a serendipitous touch to Steadman’s magical season.

Heading into the second half of the NWHL season, Steadman looks to remain an essential component of the Beauts, while continuing to capture the imagination of fans. Not only is Steadman working towards helping the Beauts avoid a last-place finish, which would be an unfortunate distinction during the league’s inaugural season. In addition, she is eager to help the club record back-to-back wins for the first time ever, a feat that eluded the club in the season’s first half.

Regardless of the final outcome, Steadman’s impact on the ice, and her efforts off the ice as an ambassador for the game, culminated in helping to make women’s ice hockey viable in Buffalo. She has proven to be a revelation, embodying the exciting opportunities of NWHL hockey, while representing a sense of idealism. Her performance so far has proven to be an empowering chapter in her distinguished hockey career, one where she has left her heart on the ice while establishing herself as a female sporting icon in the Queen City.


Special thanks to http://bobscustomcards.blogspot.ca/ for the custom card

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Marissa Gedman a second generation sports star for the Boston Pride

Among the remarkable accomplishments in her distinguished sporting career, Marissa Gedman gained the opportunity to participate in a historic match. Joining her teammates from the Boston Pride, she took to the frozen ice surface in front of over 43,000 fans for the Women’s Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Competing against the CWHL’s Canadiennes de Montreal in the first-ever professional women’s ice hockey match hosted outdoors, the final result was a 1-1 tie.

The real victory was the chance to raise awareness of women’s hockey to an unprecedented level as two of the finest professional teams in North America added an exciting new chapter to the epic Boston vs. Montreal hockey rivalry. For Gedman, the event gave her an opportunity to share an experience that her father Rich was accustomed to for so many seasons.

Having competed in major league baseball with the Boston Red Sox from 1980-90, Gedman was a two-time All-Star and a runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1981. A lifetime .252 batter, he was the club’s starting catcher for most of that decade, reaching a pinnacle in his career in 1986 when the Red Sox participated in the World Series. It was not uncommon for Gedman to play in front of capacity crowds numbering over 50,000 fans, especially in the World Series, when he and his Red Sox teammates certainly became household names.
The diamond has also been the sight of several glories in Gedman’s accomplished sporting career, serving as a place where family can bond. Attending preparatory school at Noble and Greenough, she was not only a captain for the school’s field and ice hockey teams, she served as a three-time captain on the softball team.

Bestowed the honor of All-Independent School League honors for softball in 2007 and 2009, her glorious softball career represented an opportunity to emulate her dad’s baseball glories. It also allowed her to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
 
Of note, her mother, Sherry, was a softball and basketball player with the University of Connecticut. In addition, her brothers Matt and Mike Gedman played on the varsity baseball team at the University of Massachusetts. Matt was selected by the Red Sox in the 2011 MLB Draft, while Mike has played for the Worcester Tornadoes.

Prior to competing with the Boston Pride, Gedman had made a name for herself at the NCAA level with the prestigious Harvard Crimson. Earning ECAC All-Rookie Team nods in 2010-11, Gedman was the leading scorer among Crimson rookies with 17 points.

As a sophomore, she would follow it up with four game winning goals, including the winning tally which eliminated Princeton from the 2012 ECAC quarterfinals. After redshirting the 2012-13 campaign, she valiantly returned for her junior campaign, gaining the honor of team captain. Among the highlights of her season, she would log the game winning tally in a road contest against Cornell, providing the Crimson with their first win on Cornell’s home ice in five seasons.

Coincidentally, she was not the only member of the Crimson roster with proud sporting roots in her family. Competing alongside Gedman for three seasons was Kalley Armstrong, the granddaughter of legendary Toronto Maple Leafs captain George Armstrong.

Making her debut with the Boston Pride on October 11, 2015, she would log her first career point one week later. Competing on the road against the New York Riveters, Gedman and Brianna Decker (recognized by The Hockey News as the finest women’s player in the world for 2015) earned an assist on Jordan Smelker’s third period goal, a 7-1 final for Boston.

The impact of the Women’s Winter Classic was just as special for Marissa as the World Series was for her father. Taking into account that she was also the recipient of the Boston Bruins’ John Carlton Award in 2010, (the Bruins were also the host franchise for the Winter Classic), it added an even stronger sense of achievement. Jubilant in the Classic’s aftermath, she was excited to share in the excitement of such a proud accomplishment, sharing her joy with reporters and earning the opportunity to shine in the spotlight, while extending the Gedman’s proud sporting legacy in Boston.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Monumental month of December very memorable for Brittany Ott

One of the most underrated star players in women’s hockey today, goaltender Brittany Ott enjoyed a landmark month of December, filled with milestones, honors and a chance to make history. Standing between the pipes for the NWHL’s Boston Pride, Ott has provided the club with solid goaltending that shall keep the franchise in the conversation for the Isobel Cup.

Such an exciting month would begin with a landmark announcement. Joining the likes of Nana Fujimoto and Brianne McLaughlin, Ott was named among the group of goaltenders that shall compete in the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game on January 24, 2016 at Harbor Center in Buffalo.
As Pride teammate Hilary Knight and Buffalo Beauts captain Emily Pfalzer were named team captains for the inaugural mid-season classic, an NWHL All-Star Game Draft was ghledby Team Pfalzer, it would come as no surprise to hockey aficionados if she gained the first win in All-Star Game history.

Ott would follow it up by continuing to make her mark in NWHL lore. With strong momentum, she led the Pride to a December 20, 1-0 shutout victory, on the strength of 25 saves. Not only did it mark her fifth win of the season, it was also the first shutout in NWHL history.

Hilary Knight would log the game winning tally in the second period against Beauts goaltender (and fellow teammate on the US national team) Brianne McLaughlin. As a side note, Ott would earn Second Star of the Game honors. Knight earned the First Star, while McLaughlin was recognized with the Third Star for her 35-save effort.

Considering that Ott has also earned the distinction of being the first American-born goaltender to win an NWHL regular season game, the prestige of the first shutout in league history only complements such an achievement.

Before the month would expire, Ott would join her teammates in an unprecedented match. Gracing the frozen surface at Gillette Stadium, home to Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, the Pride would participate in the Women’s Winter Classic, the first-ever outdoor professional women’s hockey match. With the game ending in a 1-1 tie, Ott allowed the first-ever outdoor goal to Kim Deschenes, a member of the opposing Canadiennes de Montreal from the CWHL.

From a lasting legacy with the Maine Black Bears, to a valiant performance of sixty minutes of shutout hockey in the 2014 Clarkson Cup final (which may have been the finest hockey performance of her career), the NWHL has marked Ott’s arrival as a true hockey superstar. Bringing remarkable poise and confidence between the pipes, her warm, inviting smile and polite demeanor display a love of the game and a boundless enthusiasm that embodies the residual warmth of the rink.

Winter Classic Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

Special thanks to http://bobscustomcards.blogspot.ca/ for the custom card

NWHL's Dani Rylan the most influential woman in hockey for 2015

In a calendar year that saw Fran Rider and Angela Ruggiero earn Hall of Fame nods, Janine Weber becoming the first European to score a Clarkson Cup clinching goal, and Brianna Decker gaining recognition from The Hockey News as the world’s finest women’s hockey player, all have made significant contributions to the sporting landscape. In the glorious aftermath of such an eventful year, Dani Rylan has staked her claim as the most influential woman in hockey.

As the founder and commissioner of the NWHL, Rylan revolutionized the game, adding a major league feeling and an enhanced sense of importance. From the outset, Rylan brought about the game’s biggest change, and its most long overdue, the compensation of players. With a minimum salary of $15,000 US, it was an unprecedented first in women’s hockey.
While other leagues had tinkered with the concept of expansion into the United States, Rylan was proactive, bringing four US-based teams into the fold. All based in the Eastern United States (Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut, New York), the quality of the players that made the migration to the league is nothing short of world class. Just as impactful is the fact that Rylan can lay claim to introducing professional women’s hockey to New York State.

Taking into account that Buffalo had the highest TV ratings for the women’s gold medal game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, and was also the host city for the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds and the 2015 IPC Men’s Sledge Hockey Worlds, it was a market ready for pro women’s hockey. The introduction of the Buffalo Beauts proved to be a rousing success, with the likes of Meghan Duggan, Brianne McLaughlin and Kelley Steadman quickly emerging as fan favorites.
Only adding to such momentum was the introduction of the New York Riveters. Based in Brooklyn, the Riveters are the first pro women’s hockey club in Metropolitan New York, adding a major sense of relevance to the incipient league. As a side note, Weber would sign with the Riveters, becoming the first player to sign a contract in league history.

With the club featuring players from Austria, Canada, Japan and Russia, the Riveters are truly a global team, reflecting New York’s cosmopolitan image. Adding to such momentum is the fact that the Riveters jersey was considered by The Hockey News to be among the 50 Greatest Jerseys of all time.
Poised to become the NWHL’s signature franchise, the Riveters also took part in a pair of highly meaningful exhibition games. Travelling to Japan, the homeland of Riveters backstop Nana Fujimoto, the club challenged the Japanese national women’s team. Adding to the emotion of such an event, one which featured an international flair, Fujimoto was between the pipes for Team Japan.

Prior to the league’s inaugural game, the Riveters (and the Connecticut Whale) participated in contests against the Minnesota Whitecaps. Having captured the Clarkson Cup in 2010 (the first American team to do so), the Whitecaps are the longest running women’s ice hockey team in the United States.
The opportunity to invite the Whitecaps to the East Coast was a kind gesture on the part of Rylan, a remarkable show of respect and acknowledgement of the Whitecaps’ impact in American women’s hockey. Before the year would expire, the Whitecaps would host the NWHL’s Boston Pride, representing the first pro women’s hockey games in the state of hockey.

Proving that competition creates a better product, there is no question that the impact of the NWHL was the key factor in bringing about the first-ever Women’s Winter Classic. Contested at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Boston Pride skated against a team from Montreal.
Rylan’s relentless efforts and hard work have shifted the balance of power in hockey. One of the most highly visible female executives in sport, she has been featured on SI.now with Maggie Gray, along with the CBC National News, proudly encouraging the growth of the game. With such enthusiasm, it comes as no surprise that the sports networks ESPN3 and NESN have broadcast NWHL games. Considering that Dunkin Donuts is now on board as the league’s first corporate sponsor, it may prove to be a harbinger of even better opportunities ahead.

The reality is that Rylan’s visibility (and dedication) has been an essential component in helping make professional women’s hockey viable in America. Although there are many more goals ahead, there is no question that she has the charisma and the strong leadership to make it happen.