ESPN Body Issue commemorates meaningful year for superstars of American women’s hockey

Although Julie Chu (2011) and Hilary Knight (2014) were the first women’s ice hockey players to grace the pages of ESPN’s Body Issue, the 2017 edition brought with it an unprecedented number of players, and an even wider scope of interest via social media. With six players taking to the ice wearing only their skates, the only element that may have outshone their beauty was their confidence.

Considering that six players grace the ice for a hockey team, there is an element of irony yet coincidence. Ironic as six players compose a hockey team, and each of the six players represented a position. Goaltender Alex Rigsby was joined by blueliners Kacey Bellamy and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, while the forwards were composed of Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. Yet, there is coincidence based on the notion that the team’s culture is built on unity.

While Brent Burns and Joe Thornton of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks also appeared in the Body Issue, compared to their competitors from the fairer sex, they were certainly not the main draw. While that may represent an anomaly in the world of hockey, the men of the game forced to be complicit, the reality is that the appearance of these wondrous women also represented a cultural crossover.

Heading into the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships, the innocence of the game was tarnished by the complexities of real life. With players facing severe economic strain, compounded by salary reductions in America’s only professional league for women, the members of the national team made the courageous statement that they wanted a living wage, needing sufficient stability to see the game grow.

As Duggan reveals in an interview with ESPN, she received a text from tennis legend Billie Jean King showing her support for the cause. The impact of such an incredible figure in female sport only validated the brave and justified fight for pay equity.

In spite of USA Hockey threatening to bring replacement players, the support in the media from substantial groups, such as the NFL Players Association, helped right the path, bringing the women a long overdue compensatory plan. Symbolically, the presence of six women from the national team is definitely an extension of such a strong unified front, embodying what makes this team so special.

Undoubtedly, the most confident photo among the portfolio visible online is one where all six players display their posteriors. While there is no question that such a photo reveals an empowering beauty, it is open to interpretation if there is a dual meaning. Perhaps unintentional, but the photo may be perceived as a symbolic protest of the fight endured for pay equity, a type of “Kiss my ***” message projected in a truly captivating photo.

Captured behind the lens of photographer Joe Pugliese, his portfolio certainly affirms that these wondrous women are breathtaking. While their strength equally reveals an amazing inner beauty, a raw confidence emanates from these timeless photos. Considering that the ages of the players featured are between ages 24 and 30, these photos have immortalized their physiques, preserving their peak, while presenting them as pillars of strength for their sport.

Photo credit: Joe Pugliese (No copyright infringement intended)

Calling the Minnesota Whitecaps her club team, Alex Rigsby was the youngest player among the six who were photographed, only 24 years old. She makes history as the first goaltender to grace the pages of the Body Issue. Whitecaps teammates Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux share in Rigsby’s sense of history, becoming the first twins to pose in the Body Issue.

Of note, the Body Issue holds a connection to the game beyond players appearing in its pages. Harrison Browne, who was Duggan’s teammate during the Buffalo Beauts inaugural season, found the courage to reveal a transgender status after seeing Chris Mosier appear in its pages.

Meghan Duggan, the captain of the US national team experienced a pair of unique milestones in 2017. With the IIHF Women’s Worlds contested in Plymouth, Michigan, the coordinates were a source of seemingly endless motivation, culminating with the first gold medal won by the US on home soil. Coincidentally, fellow Body Issue model Hilary Knight scored the gold medal clinching goal in overtime.

From a professional standpoint, 2017 also saw another significant milestone in Duggan’s playing career. Along with Corinne Buie, they became the first (and only) women to appear in the first two Isobel Cup finals with different teams.

Photo credit: Joe Pugliese (No copyright infringement intended)

While Duggan was also featured on Cosompolitan’s website, her courageous battle in overcoming concussion was one of the most heartwarming stories of Sochi. She would also make national news in 2014 with a polite display of levity, mimicking Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda in her second trip to the dugout at hallowed Fenway Park.

Such humor also defined part of the interview that the six players took part in with ESPN. With Duggan known for her strong commitment to a healthy diet, reference was made to the fact that a teammate had jokingly seen her eat one Cheeto in five years. The interview also revealed that Duggan had once made the friendly wager that if her team could capture both the Frozen Four and the World Championships in 2011, she would eat a burger from McDonald’s.

Rigsby joked that they videotaped Duggan not only consuming said burger, but removing it from the McDonald’s bag and unwrapping it. Of note, Rigsby and Decker were Duggan’s teammates on the Wisconsin Frozen Four champion of 2011, the same year that saw Duggan bestowed the honor of the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award.

A teammate of Duggan’s at four different levels (NCAA, IIHF, CWHL, NWHL), Brianna Decker is also part of the sorority of players that have won the Patty Kazmaier Award. Recognized as the Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 IIHF Worlds, such a distinction was part of a much bigger reward.

Heading into the fight for pay equity, there were several rookies on Team USA who were afraid that there chance at competing for the national team would be dissolved. Decker stood guard over them, a sentinel with a reassuring presence, offering the promise of better days. Not only did those better days come, but the gold medal celebration saw Duggan admirably talk to the concerned rookies, testament to her amazing leadership.

The sixth player from this group is another of Team USA’s most admired leaders. An All-Star at both the CWHL and NWHL levels, Kacey Bellamy is one of the alternate captains for the national team. Gracious and amicable, Bellamy is truly the women’s hockey superstar reimagined. Although she may be the oldest player in this group, having turned 30 earlier this year, Bellamy brings a wisdom that symbolizes her remarkable strength, signifying an amazing perfection as an athlete and as a woman, providing an ideal yet captivating appeal.

Although the fascinating reality of the Body Issue would indicate that these photos fantasize an amazing magic which takes place outside of the game’s lines, mythologizing these amazing warriors of the rink, while cultivating a female epiphany, Bellamy experienced another magical element, one that truly signifies the feeling of collaboration for the national team.

With 10 members of the gold medal winning national team raised in New England, the Boston Red Sox showed a touch of class by inviting them to participate in a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park. Although Duggan was given the honor of taking the first pitch (something she had already done in 2014), she affably gave the ball to Bellamy. Launching the magical orb across home plate, it signified more than just a unique birthday gift for Bellamy, it was the embodiment of the amazing gift of friendship between her and Duggan.

Whether the attention that emanates from the Body Issue shall actually increase the interest in women’s ice hockey at numerous levels, especially as the professional game continues to try and find its footing, is difficult to anticipate. As anticipated, these players have been serenaded online with effusive praise for their appearance in the Body Issue, many fans falling head-over-heels over a group of women whose brave efforts for equality is destined to make them icons with the next generation, bringing about a brighter future.

As a side note, some athletes have reached new popularity following their Body Issue appearance. Among them is archer Khatuna Lorig, who appeared in the 2015 edition. The following year, she would be featured on a trading card in Upper Deck’s annual “Goodwin Champions” release. In addition, she would gain a commercial endorsement.

Undoubtedly, one could imagine that Duggan should expect some kind of increase in
popularity. Based on her brave battle with concussions, and her discipline regarding diet, she would be an ideal athlete to have a book deal, and she certainly stands as one of the most notable ambassadors for the national team.

Of note, the Body Issue pictorial holds the potential for another unique coincidence, resulting in a strong link between the women of soccer and hockey. Just weeks prior to the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Brandi Chastain appeared in a complete state of undress in Gear Magazine. With a photo that made international news, gaining equal parts acclaim and criticism, it was a cascading event that helped launch women’s soccer into popular culture.

It was a very unique coincidence that Chastain would score the Cup-clinching goal in the shootout against China, generating cultural currency. Although her goal is remembered more than her photo in Gear, seemingly faded with the passage of time, there is no question that her goal placed her in the pantheon of sporting immortals.

Undoubtedly, this year’s edition of the ESPN Body Issue has established more common ground between the stars of women’s soccer and women’s hockey. Not only have players such as Rigsby and the Lamoureux twins excelled in soccer during their high school years, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the giants of the US national soccer team.

Of note, there are two other aspects. Both US national teams have shown great courage in the fight for pay equity. Four years before the glory of the 2015 FIFA World Cup, the US experienced a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 Finals. Considering the tragic outcome of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the women of hockey are hoping to duplicate the efforts of their soccer sisters, gaining an elusive gold medal four years later, working towards redemption in Pyeongchang.

Such ambition mirrors the heartbreak of the US soccer team. While the program boasted of dominance in the Summer Games, frequently holding a vice-like grip on the gold medal, it experienced numerous frustrations in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is considered the crown jewel of the sport.

After suffering an emotional loss in the 2011 FIFA World Cup final to Japan, a sentimental favorite after its nation was decimated by flooding, the road back to glory was a long one. Rewarded for their patience with the chance to emerge victorious in 2015, the victory also brought with it a paradigm shift, raising the case for pay equity in sport, foreshadowing the admirable fight of the women of hockey.

Even though these photos will likely be the subject of attention leading into Pyeongchang, imagine if a similar winning scenario took place with the women featured in the Body Issue. What if an offensive superstar such as Decker, or perhaps one of the Lamoureux sisters scored the gold-medal clinching goal? Maybe Rigsby shall be the starting goaltender in such a game, triumphant in the biggest game of her career. While these six astounding women simply hope to emulate their soccer sisters with a Winter Games gold medal after a four year heartbreak, if one of them played the key role in this dramatic finish, it would only make the Body Issue photo shoot more culturally relevant.

While such a victorious achievement would place Bellamy, Duggan, Decker and Monique Lamoureux (along with former Body Issue model Knight) into the Triple Gold Club for Women, immortalizing their legacies, it would place them in a heroic place worthy of their presence as both world-class athletes and world-class people.

NWHL proudly represented at NYC Pride Parade

Originally published on Women Talk Sports

In a remarkable show of solidarity, eight competitors from the NWHL, along with Commissioner Dani Rylan, supported league partner You Can Play (YCP), by taking part in the New York City Pride March. For Rylan, it was an eventful weekend as she was also part of a panel including Gabrielle Reece that spoke at #Blogher17, an event sponsored by She Knows Media.

Along with the NWHL, the sporting community saw the likes of competitors from the WNBA Players’ Association and Major League Soccer also took part. Beginning at 36th Street and 5th Avenue, culminating at Christopher and Greenwich Streets, the Parade was an opportunity for the league to support the positive message of YCP, which sees one player from each of its teams serve as an YCP ambassador.

Dedicated towards ensuring that sports venues are free from homophobia, with athletes judged on talent and not sexual orientation and/or gender identity, the core mission of YCP is one that brings great meaning to the NWHL. Prior to the launch of their second season in the autumn of 2016, Buffalo Beauts competitor Harrison Browne publicly announced a transgender status, becoming the first athlete in modern professional sport to do so.

Having started in 1970, the New York City Pride Parade saw over 350 unique groups participate in the March in 2016. This year, proudly garbed members of the NWHL wore white T-shirts with the league’s logo in all colors of the rainbow. The smiling players were waving flags with the You Can Play logo, while giving out stickers to the onlookers.

As the NWHL proudly stood behind Browne, while also showing the courage of its conviction by working on a policy for transgender athletes, the opportunity to march in the Pride Parade was an extension of its welcoming culture.

Among the players from the NWHL’s clubs that participated, the most prominent included Anya Battaglino, who is the head of the NWHL Players Association. While her presence certainly represents the beginning of a strong working relationship between the league and its PA, there was also an emotional component.

A charter member of the Connecticut Whale, Battaglino had come out while she was still a competitor at the NCAA level with the Boston University Terriers. Such a defining moment in her life is one that has gained luster through the support friends and teammates alike.

Through participation in the Pride Parade, it was an opportunity for Battaglino to give back. Her efforts may save lives, inspiring others that are enduring their own personal struggles with orientation, while giving a voice through example that fosters the sense of encouragement that comprises the essence of this event. Many hockey fans also expressed their support for her on social media, admiring and appreciating such courageous leadership. Of note, one fan expressed her gratitude by creating a hashtag in her honor: #IStandWithAnya

Two other teammates from the Connecticut Whale joined Battaglino in the March. Kelly Babstock, the first Canadian-born player to score a goal in the history of the NWHL, along with Elena Orlando also represented the franchise. As a side note, both played at the NCAA level with the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

The New York Riveters, who played their inaugural season in nearby Brooklyn, also made their presence felt on this day. Among the Riveters members gracing the streets of New York on this day included Sarah Bryant, Courtney Burke, a first round pick in the inaugural NWHL Draft, Harvard alum Miye D’Oench, Alexa Gruschow and Rebecca Russo, a competitor in the 2017 NWHL All-Star Game.

While these wondrous women deserve to be admired for their heroics on the ice, their amazing efforts off it have only enhanced their status as role models, setting a positive tone for the third season to come.

NWHL to return to Pittsburgh in upcoming season

Among the highlights of the second NWHL season was a highly successful All-Star weekend hosted in Pittsburgh. With Amanda Kessel scoring the first hat trick in NWHL All-Star Game history, it capped an amazing weekend which saw the first professional women’s ice hockey game contested in the state of Pennsylvania.

With the NWHL planning to host a series of neutral site games for the 2017-18 season, Pittsburgh has been confirmed as one of said sites. Considering the success of last season’s All-Star Game, a sold out venue which saw Brianne McLaughlin (who competed collegiately at nearby Robert Morris University) return to a standing ovation, it was one of the highlights of the 2016-17 season.

In collaboration with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the budding league shall host both a regular season game, and a hockey clinic, on January 14, 2018. The UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, which was also the home of the 2017 NWHL All-Star Game and Skills Competition, shall be the site for the January event.

During the weekend, the Penguins shall serve as the host for the “NHL Girls Youth Cup.” Undoubtedly, the NWHL’s presence shall add luster to this event, providing the competing youngsters with an opportunity to meet their role models. With an on-ice clinic also taking place, it will allow the league’s players an opportunity to inspire and encourage the participants to pursue their hockey dreams, while providing them with instruction from some of the game’s finest.

Although the two teams that shall grace the ice will only be confirmed upon the release of the NWHL’s schedule, the defending Isobel Cup champion Buffalo Beauts are the franchise in the closest geographic proximity to the Iron City. As a side note, the league has confirmed that the third NWHL All-Star Game shall be contested in 2018 at a neutral site event. This will mark the second consecutive season that an All-Star Game is hosted at a neutral site, extending the reach of the game and its brand to other markets.

Brush with history establishing Danika Ranger as the real deal

As Canada looks to avenge its overtime loss to the United States in the gold medal match of the 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, a key component can be found between the pipes. Having already made history as the first player to have gained the distinction of Top Goaltender honors at the Esso Cup and the National Women’s Under-18 Championship, Danika Ranger is ready to stake her claim at the 2017 edition of the U18 worlds.

Currently starring with the PWHL’s Durham West Lightning, where she led the league in goals-against average (0.99) and save percentage (.955) during the 2015-16 campaign, the native of North Bay, Ontario was also recognized as the league’s Goaltender of the Year, respectively. Ranger would win the Esso Cup in 2015 with the Sudbury Lady Wolves while starring for the powerhouse Team Ontario Red squad at a victorious outcome at U18 nationals in November 2016, the tenth gold medal in team history.

As a side note, she is only the second player ever to have won gold medal at the Esso Cup and U18 nationals. The other is current Toronto Furies rookie Michela Cava. A former star at the NCAA level with the Connecticut Huskies and UMD Bulldogs, Cava accomplished the feat with the Thunder Bay Queens in 2010 and the prominent Ontario Red in 2011.

At the 2016 National Under-18 women’s championships, Ranger and Team Ontario Red faced off against six-time silver medalist Team Quebec for the gold medal. A scoreless first period saw Ranger make 11 saves, helping to set a tone filled with composure and poise. In a game where the first two periods saw a seemingly countless number of penalties, a 4-1 final still resulted in a hard-fought contest. After Sarah Fillier scored the first goal of the game at the 6:07 mark of the second, Ontario Red would be called for six straight penalties.

With Quebec’s Alexie Guay called or a double minor at 18:31, it opened the offensive floodgates as Avery Mitchell, Ranger’s future teammate with Team Canada added to Ontario Red’s lead. Merely 23 seconds after Mitchell’s marker, Stouffville’s Camryn Tait provided a three-goal cushion.

In the third period, Alexa Vasko, whose grandfather Elmer once played for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, scored the fourth goal for Ontario Red, while Joannie Garand spoiled Ranger’s bid for a shutout. Making 31 saves, Ranger emerged as a key factor in the 4-1 triumph, going undefeated in the tournament with a 3-0 mark, while sporting an exceptional 1.00 goals against average.

The chance to stand between the pipes at the 2017 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships has served as Ranger’s coming out party. Her confidence would quickly rise to the surface, surrendering one goal in Canada’s victory over a boys team from the Czech Republic, who are the host country for this year’s edition of the U18 Worlds.

Coincidentally, her fellow goaltender on Canada’s roster is Edith D’Astous-Moreau, who was the goaltender for Team Quebec when Ranger captured the national U18 crown with Team Ontario Red. Adding to the sense of national pride and tradition is the fact that her goaltender coach is Amanda Mazzotta, who competed with Canada at the inaugural U18 Women’s Worlds in 2008.

While it seems difficult to fathom that Ranger is the only member of Canada’s roster that was not part of the team’s summer camp, her heroics with Team Ontario Red definitely raised her stock, establishing her as a prime time player. Among Ranger’s highlights at the 2017 U18 Worlds was the fact that she registered an overtime shutout victory against the United States. With team captain Ashton Bell scoring at 1:57 of OT, it provided the Canadian contingent with a highly emotional 1-0 triumph. Ranger would register 23 saves while American backstop Alex Gulstene faced 30 shots in the loss. As a side note, a gold medal at the U18 Worlds would make her the first Canadian female goaltender (and player) to have won the Esso Cup, the U18 Nats and IIHF U18 Worlds.

Although she was on the wish list of every NCAA recruiter, Ranger is returning to her roots, opting to compete in the Ontario University Athletics’ conference with North Bay’s Nipissing Lakers, led by head coach (and former NHL All-Star) Darren Turcotte. For a program that competed in the OUA semifinals in 2016, the Lakers are inching ever closer to a chance to play for a national title. With a prodigious talent such as Ranger, that elusive opportunity may prove to be a victorious reality.

Head coaching debut results in victorious weekend sweep for deserving Jessica Koizumi

Even though it may have been in a capacity as the acting head coach, it was still a well-deserved opportunity for Jessica Koizumi of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Currently in her first season as the associate coach, Koizumi gained the chance to serve as acting head coach starting on December 29, 2016. This was attributed to head coach Nadine Muzerall being absent as she was serving as the head coach of Canada’s Under-22/Development Team for the 2017 Nations Cup in Germany.

 

Challenging the Penn State Nittany Lions in a road series on January 7 and 8, 2017, it allowed Koizumi the opportunity to serve as a head coach at the NCAA level for the first time in her career. Prior to joining the Buckeyes, she served in the capacity of assistant coach on two separate occasions, serving on Shannon Miller’s staff with the UMD Bulldogs, where she spent four seasons as a player, reaching the 150-point club.

 

Following UMD, she joined Joakim Flygh for a memorable stint with the Yale Bulldogs, where she coached on penalty kill while balancing a playing career with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, followed by the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale (where she played alongside several Yale grads). This season, the Buckeyes have benefitted greatly from Koizumi’s expertise on the penalty kill, compiling a streak of more than 36 periods without a power play goal allowed.

 

Taking to the ice for their first series since the holiday break, the result was a convincing 5-0 victory against the Nittany Lions. With USA Hockey alum Jincy Dunne scoring the opening goal of the game, said goal would also stand as the game winner. From there, the Buckeyes top line, featuring leading scorer Maddy Field, Katie Matheny and Julianna Iafolo set the tone for the rest of the contest.

 

Hailing from Missouri, Matheny (who played with Dunne on the St. Louis Lady Blues) logged a hat trick, the first in her Buckeyes career. Adding to the excitement of this milestone was the fact that Matheny and her linemates each logged career highs in plus/minus rating with +5 each.

 

Despite a scoreless first period in the second game of the series, the Nittany Lions could not contain the Buckeyes. Opening the scoring was Samantha Bouley, who was followed by Maddy Field, with her team best eighth marker this season. With a 2-0 lead, the Buckeyes continued their offensive ways with an incredible four goals in the third. Dani Sadek, Jessica Dunne and her younger sister Jincy, along with the first goal of the season for Breanne Grant resulted in six different Buckeyes skaters placing their names on the scoresheet in a 6-0 triumph.

 

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that this was the second time this season that the Buckeyes shutout an opponent in a series this season. The first took place against the Lindenwood Lady Lions during a November 4-5 series that saw the Buckeyes score a cumulative seven goals. With the sweep, the Buckeyes return to the .500 mark, enjoying a 10-10-2 record.

 

During the weekend sweep, Kassidy Sauve continued to establish herself as one of the best goaltenders in the WCHA. Gaining back-to-back shutouts for the second time this season, she has accumulated six so far. Recording 29 shutouts against Penn State in the opening win, she followed it up with 26 saves for the sweep, amassing an impressive 55 saves. Against non-conference opponents this season, Kassidy is not only undefeated (5-0), she has a miniscule 0.20 goals against average, four shutouts and a sparkling .994 save percentage. 

Natalie Darwitz enjoys milestone of skating with Minnesota Wild

Over the last few seasons, Winter Games medalist Natalie Darwitz has experienced several coveted milestones. From the transition from world class competitor to assiduous coach, along with the treasured milestone of becoming a mom, it only adds lustre to her lasting legacy as a role model.

Adding to such a series of memorable moments was an opportunity to join an accomplished sorority. On December 16, 2016, Darwitz became the last USA Hockey women’s player/alum to practice with an NHL club. Among the other names that have enjoyed the same sensational moment included Hilary Knight with the Anaheim Ducks, along with the Tampa Bay Lightning extending an invitation to blueliner Anne Schleper, who also held a hockey camp for youngsters with the franchise.

The opportunity for Darwitz to practice with the Wild bore similarity to Schleper’s experience, as the chance to skate with the Wild signified the start to Minnesota’s Girls Hockey Weekend, of which the Wild is a proud sponsor. Having established herself as one of the greatest to wear the colors of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the chance to don the Wild jersey for one special day serves as the glorious denouement to her playing career, solidifying her legacy as one of the greatest players to hail from the State of Hockey.


In addition, there was a strong feeling of reciprocation. The Wild’s kind gesture, along with the gracious and friendly reception from head coach Bruce Boudreau, extends the franchise’s growing legacy as a proud supporter of women’s ice hockey in Minnesota. Of note, the franchise has served as a key sponsor for Let’s Play Hockey, which recognizes the Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award recipient, along with the Senior Goaltender of the Year Award.

As a side note, Darwitz is not the only member of the USA women’s ice hockey program to hold ties with the Wild. Prior to their inaugural season, the club hired the likes of Alana Blahoski and Karyn Bye, members of the historic gold medal team from the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, to serve in consulting capacities, becoming one of the first NHL clubs to provide employment for women’s hockey players.

Former New Hampshire superstar Kelly Paton to build on growing legacy of Western Mustangs

Over the last four seasons, the Western Mustangs women’s ice hockey program rose to unprecedented heights. From the emergence of Kelly Campbell and Katelyn Gosling as All-Canadian superstars, to an OUA conference title and the Golden Path Trophy in 2015, both program firsts, such a performance helped extend Western University’s athletic reputation far beyond its dominant football presence. In the last two seasons, the Mustangs won an astounding 60 games, compared to just 17 losses and 10 ties.

As the program continues to grow, its transition has included a new head coach for the 2016-17 season. Having served this past season as an associate coach with the Mustangs, Kelly Paton rises to a new role as head coach. Adding to this momentum is the fact that she will be joining Shaun Reagan of the Waterloo Warriors as members of Rachel Flanagan’s coaching staff for the 2017 Winter Universiade. This adds to Paton’s already impressive international experience, which included a role on the coaching staff of the Canadian U18 national team for the 2014-15 campaign.

One of the greatest players to have donned the New Hampshire Wildcats jersey, Paton was not only a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in her senior season, she would forego an opportunity to be part of Hockey Canada’s Under-22 player camp in order to be part of history. Of note, she would play at Fenway Park against Northeastern in the first outdoor women’s game in NCAA history.

In four sensational seasons with the Wildcats, Paton helped keep the club in contention for the national championship, amassing an astounding 162 points on the strength of 100 assists. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, she currently sits 11th all-time in program scoring. As a senior, Paton was one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. This was part of a season that saw Paton earn New England Player of the Year honors, a nod to the First-Team All-Americans and a share of the Hockey East Player of the Year Award.

Before Paton returned home to southwestern Ontario to lay down her roots, she would extend her playing career to the professional ranks, competing for the famed ZSC Lions in Switzerland, capturing a league title in 2010-11, an accomplishment that Paton hopes to duplicate as a coach at the OUA level with the Mustangs next season.

Paton’s coaching experience also includes a stint as an assistant coach with the Mercyhurst Lakers in 2011-12, where she was joined by former player Delaney Collins, also serving on the coaching staff. The two were surrounded by one of the greatest collections of talent in NCAA history. The roster was highlighted by the presence of Christine Bestland, Bailey and Shelby Bram, conference MVP Kelley Steadman, Jess Jones, and Hillary Pattenden, who would break the NCAA record for most goaltending wins in a career. Although the Lakers were defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA tournament, it was a memorable season for Paton, which saw her gain a Masters of Science in Exercise Science

Bringing a wealth of knowledge to the Mustangs, which shall be crucial in maintaining its status as a national power, Paton inherits the position from David Barrett. Having served as head coach for two seasons, he is moving on in order to focus on his career at the Ivey Business School. As a side note, he shall remain available as an advisor. Undoubtedly, Paton’s sterling career should pay positive dividends with the Mustangs, allowing the program an edge in the ultra-competitive realm of recruiting, while bringing out the best in her players.

Prior to the Mustangs, Paton had a strong hockey presence in southwestern Ontario as both a player and coach. Raised in Woodstock, Ontario, she served as bench boss with the Provincial Women’s Hockey League’s London Devilettes from 2013-15. Amassing 10 wins and 28 points during the 2013-14 campaign, the Devilettes made a huge jump in the standings the following season. Under Paton’s tutelage, the club improved by 11 points, accumulating 16 wins, finishing 11th overall in the league standings. Of note, she had also played for the Devilettes before joining the University of New Hampshire’s team in 2006. Along with Paton, some of the notable alums include Amanda Shaw, Carolyne Prevost, Meghan Hunter, Hokey Langan and Amanda Mazzotta.

During her time coaching the Devilettes, there was a series of unique connections with Mazzotta. Not only did Mazzotta serve as the goaltending coach with the Devilettes program (which features numerous age groups), she spent one season in the same capacity with the Mustangs. The two would also work together with Hockey Canada’s national U18 team for the 2014-15 season. Paton served as a strength and conditioning coach while Mazzotta worked with the goaltenders.

Coincidentally, the pre-competition camp for the 2015 IIHF U18 Worlds was actually held in London, only serving to strengthen their local hockey legacies. The efforts of Paton and Mazzotta helped Canada gain a silver medal at the Worlds.

Paton inherits a team that had a strong showing in 2015-16, ranking fifth in the OUA in goals scored (61) and shots on net (681). In addition, the Mustangs would also rank third in PPG (17), first in power play opportunities (109) and second in penalty kill (90.6).

As the club featured 8 freshmen (five Devilettes on roster) on the roster, they shall be counted upon to play a bigger role for Paton next season. Among them will be April Clark, who played for Paton on the Devilettes. Another young player that will be expected to deliver is Anthea Lasis, who is poised to be the anchor on the Mustangs blueline unit.

Perhaps Paton’s biggest challenge shall be finding a goaltender. With the recent graduation of Kelly Campbell, one of the most accomplished in OUA history, she was a key factor in the Mustangs dominance as a top defensive unit. Even if the Mustangs struggle in her absence for the 2016-17 season, Paton should manage to recruit another top prospect to stand between the pipes in the following season.

Undoubtedly, there will be no shortage of leaders for Paton as she molds the new generation of Mustangs. Tia Kipfer, who once played for the NCAA’s Robert Morris Colonials will be entering her fourth season. Another pair of former NCAA players, Lyndsay Kirkham and Kendra Broad, both formerly with the Lindenwood Lady Lions shall be just as important. Having both reached double digits in points, Broad would tie with Katelyn Gosling for second in team scoring, trailing leader Brittany Clapham by one point, all positive signs for a future where Paton works towards maintaining the Mustangs status as a powerhouse in OUA women’s hockey.