Kori Cheverie continues to impress with ground-breaking season

Having assembled a sterling career filled with remarkable achievements, the 2019-20 season represented a series of new summits for Kori Cheverie. Achieving three celebrated coaching milestones during said season, Cheverie has become more than a rising star in the coaching ranks. Carving a special place in Canadian hockey history, she has reached an iconic status, extending a sterling career that has included excellence on the ice.

Among Cheverie’s monumental milestones in 2019-20, an All Saints Day matchup on November 1, 2019 tilt versus the Laurentian Voyageurs resulted in a highly compelling happening. With head coach Johnny Duca serving a one-game suspension, Cheverie ascended into a groundbreaking position. Placed into the role of the acting head coach for the contest, it made her the first woman to serve in this capacity in USports men’s ice hockey.

At 16:41 of the first period, the Rams would enjoy the first goal of the game as team captain Matt Mistele found the back of the net against Voyaguers backstop Mackenzie Savard, capitalizing on a power play opportunity as Cole Peck was called for hooking. As the second period saw Ryerson outshoot the Voyageurs by a 12-6 mark, they extended their lead in this historic contest. Holden Cook, a fifth year player, found the back of the net at the 7:49 mark. Proving to be the game-winning goal, Patrick Fellows, an OHL champion with the Erie Otters in 2017, and Hayden McCool registered the assists. As a side note, both Cook and McCool hail from Whitby, located east of Toronto.

Coincidentally, Cook holds a unique connection to Cheverie as both played in the Atlantic University Sport conference. Cheverie, a three-time recipient of the AUS version of the Marion Hilliard Award, starred with St. Mary’s University, where she was also a two-time Female Athlete of the Year amd captain in her final season, while McCool competed for the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, capturing conference championships in 2016 and 2017. Adding to theme of coincidence was the fascinating fact that Lisa Haley, who serves as the head coach of Ryerson’s women’s ice hockey program since its inception, had been in the same capacity at St. Mary’s when Cheverie played there.

Although the third period saw Zach Wilkie spoil the shutout bid of Garrett Forest, a second year competitor who calls Ashburn, Virgina, an eventual 2-1 final accentuated Cheverie’s unique place in Canadian hockey history. Becoming the first female head coach to win a contest in USPORTS men’s ice hockey, there was a highly understable flood of emotion heading into such an historic affair. Reflecting on the milestone, Cheverie also emphasizes the bigger picture, acknowledging the program’s progression.

“Our program took a lot of steps forward as a group this season. Although we fell short at the end of the season, we learned a lot this year. In terms of the game, it was fun/scary/exciting being in the middle of the bench for a game without the leadership of our head coach. At the end of the day, we won as a group. It definitely was not a pretty win, but our group was resilient and always fights hard until the end.”

Initially joining the Ryerson Rams coaching staff in 2016, Cheverie, whose tremendous body of work in hockey also includes hoisting the covetered Clarkson Cup as a player with the Toronto Furies in 2014, having appeared in 168 career games for the franchise, is quickly gaining renown for an exciting new chapter in her hockey odyssey. Becoming the first to serve as a full-time female assistant on a men’s team in Canadian university hockey, Cheverie joined the likes of basketball icons Becky Hammons, a coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, plus fellow Canadian Tamara Tatham on the G-League’s RAPTORS 905 staff in breaking barriers.

Accentuating this remarkable movement includes Dawn Baird, a skating coach with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, plus Kathryn Smith and Callie Brownson with the Buffalo Bills. In 2020, Katie Sowers, a member of the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff that qualified for Super Bowl LIV, became the first female coach and openly gay coach to participate in such an event. Just a few months later, Alyssa Nakken joined the San Francisco Giants baseball club, becoming the first full-time female coach in the history of Major League Baseball.

Running parallel to Cheverie’s commendable efforts at Ryerson has included a highly positive impact as a coach in the female hockey ranks. Having served in such a capacity with the Scarborough Sharks organization, working with the Midget AA team alongside Meagan Boyle and Karolina Urban, among others, it rekindled earlier memories. Worth noting, Cheverie spent the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach in her home province of Nova Scotia, working with the competitive Metro Boston Pizza program of the Nova Scotia Female Midget Hockey League, before embarking on her sojourn as a professional player.

Developing great acumen and vision as a coach, Cheverie added a pair of other remarkable achievements to her coaching resume, enriching a landmark 2019-20. Cheverie’s standing as role model certainly took on new relevance. In addition to her responsibilities with Ryerson, she experienced the milestone of leading the dynastic Team Ontario Red at the 2019 Under-18 National Women’s Championships. Serving on Cheverie’s coaching staff included Teresa Hutchinson York Teresa earned Hockey Canada’s BFL Female Coach of the Year award in 2019-20 and Margaret Jennings, Team Ontario’s coaching staff at the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Additionally, Cherie Piper, a Winter Games gold medalst and former competitor at the CWHL level, served in the capacity of team manager.

Dominating towards a fifth consecutive gold medal, Team Ontario Red’s star studded roster which featured six players from the PWHL’s Etobicoke Dolphins, including blueliner Sarah Campbell and Olivia Wallin, who both scored in the championship game. The roster also included another unique CWHL connection, as Nicole Gosling, the younger cousin of Katelyn, whose career consisted of a Golden Path Trophy with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs and a Clarkson Cup with the Calgary Inferno, helped anchor Ontario Red’s blueline corps.

Between the pipes, the duo of Michelle Pasiechnyk and Kayle Osborne, both from Canada’s capilta region, collaborated for the best goals against average of any team, boasting a cumulative total of 1.60. Gainign the start in the gold medal game versus Saskatchewan, whom they bested by a 4-2 mark in the preliminary round, Osborne required only 17 saves, while opposing goaltender Arden Kliewer of Team Saskatchewan supplied a very valiant effort with a respectable 32 saves. Campbell recorded a goal and an assist, and Grace Nelles and Olivia Wallin each placed their name on the score sheet during the second stanza, as Ontario Red prevailed by a 3-1 tally

No stranger to tournament play, having skated for Team Atlantic at the Esso Women’s Natioanls thrice (2005, 2007, 2008) during her teens, Cheverie, the product of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, was certainly accustomed to the high stakes atmosphere that encompasses such events. Just as prevalent involved a key philosophy in her approach with Team Ontario Red, including a mature yet humble reflection on her roots, putting an emphasis on her highly talented team to maintain its focus through commitment,

“Working with a talented group of players and coaches with Team Ontario was awesome. Being from Nova Scotia, I grew up playing against Team Ontario and it always such a great opportunity to compete against talented players. My motto with Team Ontario was to “have the work ethic of a small province, but have the confidence of a big province” and the team really bought into that.

Team Saskatchewan was a great opponent, lots of great players coming out of that province. We had a special group of players who really wanted to win and put in the effort into every time the team was together – practice, meetings, team building, and games.”

The gold medal won actually bookended a highly rewarding 2019 for a jubilant Cheverie. Of note, the year began with another gold. Joined by Courtney Birchard-Kessel and Vicki Bendus, both former CWHL competitors with the Brampton Thunder, they were part of the Canadian coaching staff led by the legendary Howie Draper at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships in Obihiro, Japan. Considering that the Canadian contingent emerged with a heartbreaking bronze medal one year prior, compounded by the fact that the program’s last goal was in 2014, the sense of mission and national pride took on greater relevance.

Akin to so many other gold medal clashes between Canada and the United States, the 2019 edition of the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds would require overtime to determine a winner. Undeniably, January 13 would become a memorable date for Maddi Wheeler, a star on her club team, the PWHL’s Nepean Wildcats, scored the overtime winner, providing Canada with a highly satistfying goal medal that ended a five-year long drought. Defeating the US by a 3-2 mark, as Danielle Serdachny and Anne Cherkowski also added their names on the scoresheet, it marked a tremendous moment in Canadian U18 program history, providing Cheverie with an experience that will result in a lifetime of memories, simultaneously obtaining tremendous personal and professional growth in her fascinating evolution from player to coach.

“Being an assistant coach with Team Canada U18 was one of my proudest moments as a coach. The staff was absolutely incredible. We worked so well together, there was so much trust and professionalism in that group. When we won gold, after the immediate celebration, I face timed my family members and it was such a joyous moment. I worked my whole life to win gold with Hockey Canada, I always thought it would be as a player but being a coach was just as rewarding.”

Certainly, the experience rekindled Cheverie’s own memories of international play. Skating for a group of USPORTS All-Stars that represented Canada at the 2009 International University Sports Federation (FISU) Winter Universiade in Harbin, China, it represented a significant step forward in the game’s evolution. Marking the first time that women’s ice hockey was contested at the Universiade, Cheverie and her fellow Canadians emerged with the gold medal, adding another glorious chapter to Canada’s fabled hockey lore.

Additionally, Cheverie left her mark with an historic feat, assisting on the first-ever Canadian goal scored in event history. With Canada enjoying an 11-0 win against Great Britain to open the tournament, fellow AUS All-Star Brayden Ferguson found the back of the net at the 9:46 mark of the first period. Also recording an assist on the landmark goal was Annie Del Guidice, with the puck headed for a hallowed place at the IIHF Hall of Fame. Worth noting, other scorers in the game included Vanessa (Vinny) Davidson, Cathy Chartrand and Kelsey Webster, all future Clarkson Cup champions.

Fast forward to February 2020, and Cheverie enjoyed another opportunity to be part of a proud group of Canadian participants. Joining Alison Domenico and Hockey Hall of Famer Danielle Goyette on Troy Ryan’s coaching staff for the Rivalry Series between Canada and USA. A warm-up for the eventual IIHF Women’s World Championships, the event not only saw Natalie Spooner, a former teammate of Cheverie’s on the Toronto Furies don the Canadian jersey, two of the three games in the Series were played on NHL ice.

As a side note, Cheverie is no stranger to being in an NHL environment, as the Mattamy Sports Centre (known colloquially as the MAC), home of the Rams’ men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, are located inside Maple Leaf Gardens. With Vancouver, British Columbia, plus Anaheim, California, home of the Canucks and Ducks clubs, serving among the host cities for the Series, Cheverie, who has worked in various coaching capacities for Hockey Canada since 2017 reached a new apex, enjoying the opportunity to be part of the Senior Team.

As the unfortunate impact of a pandemic saw the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championships, scheduled to be in Truro and Halifax, Nova Scotia, shelved, the Rivalry Series, won by the United States, the event proved to be the most important hockey played for these two hockey powers.

Pondering the future with an emphasis on collaboration, looking to redefine boundaries and create new possibilities, Cheverie’s standing as pionner and role model have enhanced her career, one defined by encouragement and empowerment, destined to inspire the next generation to build on her expanding legacy.

“Ryerson, Hockey Canada and my minor hockey coaching experience has prepared me for everything I have learned to date in my coaching career. I have had guidance, opportunity, and have been empowered to teach and lead amazing athletes. I have learned just as much from my athletes as they have learned from me.

I feel like my diverse experience working on the men’s and women’s side has made my coaching approach very well rounded. When I stop and think about everything I have been a part of and all of the people who have helped me along the way, I am so grateful. The relationships, the teams, the organizations I have worked with is what continues to shape my philosophy as a coach. There is always something to learn and take away from every opportunity.

There are so many women who have continued working on the men’s side of sport after their playing careers. We need to continue to grow that number so that I am not a statistic. I want little girls to grow up knowing they can achieve anything they want. I want them to feel like they can hoist the Stanley Cup if they want to. The key is that men and women have to work together to develop, educate, and propel both young women and men into positions that are ‘typically held by men’.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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