Australia’s Georgia Moore makes Alberta sporting history twice in one year

One of the most unique aspects of the 2013 CWHL Draft was the fact that Georgia Moore became the first Australian-born player selected. Hoping to crack the roster of the Alberta Hockey Club, an additional bit of history was made with the pick. In addition to her hockey background, Moore spent part of 2013 as a competitor in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. She made her WWCFL debut on June 8 in High River, Alberta as her club competed against expansion cousins the Grande Prairie Northern Anarchy

Moore with the former Strathmore Rockies of the WWHL (Obtained from: http://www.cwhl.ca/view/cwhl/-9735/draft-picks-2)

Moore with the former Strathmore Rockies of the WWHL (Obtained from: http://www.cwhl.ca/view/cwhl/-9735/draft-picks-2)

Of note, Moore was not the only player with experience on the gridiron claimed in the draft. Julie Paetsch, who helped the Saskatoon Valkyries to its third straight WWCFL title, while also contributing to a silver medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, was claimed in the CWHL Draft. Ironically, Paetsch became a member of the Alberta Hockey Club, marking the first time that two women’s football players were selected in the CWHL Draft, let alone with the same franchise.

Evading a tackler from Grande Prairie (Image by Pete Mouland, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moulandimages/8990674949/in/set-72157634013762347)

Evading a tackler from Grande Prairie (Image by Pete Mouland, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moulandimages/8990674949/in/set-72157634013762347)

While Moore is a member of the Australian national women’s team, she relocated to Calgary, Alberta at the tender age of 18. Like many international players, Moore made the decision to improve her skills and better her game by moving to a region where hockey is highly popular. Although her intention was to stay for three months and go back to Australia, Calgary has become an adopted home for her.

Having lived in Calgary since 2005, she has competed at various levels of hockey. From the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association to the collegiate level with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, complemented by a three year stint with the Strathmore Rockies of the Western Womens’ Hockey League.

Although relocating to Calgary was a significant life decision, she was not alone in making the move. Having also resided in Calgary for several years was Rylie Padjen, a teammate on Australia’s national team.

Having lived in Calgary since 2005, she has competed at various levels of hockey. From the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association to the collegiate level with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, her love of the game was stimulated. This was also complemented by a three year stint with the Strathmore Rockies of the Western Women’s Hockey League.
Moore2

For Moore, the opportunity to compete with the Rockies was a fantastic opportunity. Their formation was a complete rebuttal to the existence of the Calgary Oval X-Treme, which featured only members of the Canadian national women’s team on their roster. The Rockies provided other women in Calgary the opportunity to compete at an elite level hockey.

Formed by player and women’s hockey activist Samantha Holmes, Moore had the opportunity to learn from players such as Delaney Collins, Bobbi-Jo Slusar and Kelsey Webster. Dissolved in 2011, many of the Rockies players had the opportunity to extend their careers with the new Alberta franchise in the CWHL.

Invited to the Alberta training camp in 2011, Moore had not qualified for the final roster. While she continued to compete internationally with the Australian national team (which she joined at age 16), she hungered to continue to play at an elite level in Canada.

The opportunity to play women’s tackle football with the Okotoks Lady Outlawz in 2013 may have been a blessing in disguise. As the biggest challenge for any athlete is to remain in shape throughout the off-season, Moore’s speed and on-ice vision made her a suitable candidate to compete on the gridiron.

Despite the fact that the Lady Outlawz failed to win a game in their inaugural season, Moore was one of many bright spots on a young team. Along with Amber Larson and Christine Szostak, the three form a remarkable backfield. Allison Mouland, an exceptionally talented athlete who is the team’s quarterback is a born leader. Fans can only hope that Moore will return to the WWCFL gridiron in 2014.

Currently, Moore’s challenge is recovering from a back ailment. With the CWHL season approaching in Alberta, this season represents a golden opportunity for Moore. As four members of Alberta are competing for spots with the Canadian women’s team that will compete at Sochi, she has the opportunity to contribute to a franchise looking for its first postseason berth. With the momentum that Moore has since the draft, there is no doubt that she will continue her remarkable athletic sojourn in Alberta sports.

Red Bull Crashed Ice World Champion Fannie Desforges selected by Montreal Stars

After making international sports headlines as the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice women’s champion, Fannie Desforges is extending her athletic career with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Being selected by the three-time Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars in the seventh round of the 2013 CWHL Draft, it is an extension of what has emerged as a remarkable sporting year for Desforges.

Celebrating the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship (Photo credit: Reuters)

Celebrating the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship (Photo credit: Reuters)

During the 2012-13 Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s hockey season, Desforges served as the captain of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees varsity team. Although it was her final season of eligibility at the CIS level, she had the opportunity to end her career in storied fashion.

Battling with a member of the Montreal Carabins for the puck (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whittakerrichard/6868002973/)

Battling with a member of the Montreal Carabins for the puck (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whittakerrichard/6868002973/)

Desforges and her teammates would compete against the Czech Republic national women’s team in an exhibition match in Rockland, Ontario. With the city of Ottawa hosting the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, it marked the first time that the Czech team was participating at the highest level of IIHF play.

Although the Czech Republic fought back from a two-goal deficit to prevail in the exhibition contest, it would be the final game for Desforges in a Gee-Gees uniform. Being featured in the advertisement for the game only enriched the experience for her.

Just a few weeks before that game, Desforges defended her title at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice championships. In the championship race, she would find herself competing against Gee Gees teammate (and Crashed Ice racer) Alicia Blomberg. Although Desforges would finish in third place, it was a bittersweet moment as one of her friends (and current Montreal Stars player) Dominique Thibault grabbed the world title.

Of note, the Montreal Stars have featured some of the most unique women in hockey. From reality TV stars (Jenny Lavigne and Thibault), softball players (Noemie Marin) and martial arts black belts (Carolyne Prevost), the Stars roster holds nothing short of intrigue. It is only fitting that the Stars would now boast two Red Bull Crashed Ice world champions on their roster.

Also joining Desforges among the 2013 CWHL Draft class is rival Jessica O’Grady. Having played for the crosstown Carleton Ravens, O’Grady was selected by the Alberta Hockey Club. The two were part of one of the most dramatic games in the school’s rivalry. A visceral contest between the Gee Gees and Ravens on January 20, 2013 would go to a shootout. While Desforges was one of the shooters for the Gee Gees, it was O’Grady who stole the show. She would emulate Jonathan Toews and score three shootout goals to seal the win for the Ravens.

Ironically, O’Grady and Desforges would be teammates in the summer of 2013. Joined by fellow Gee Gees Alicia Blomberg and alumnae Danika Smith and Erika Pouliot, this remarkable group of women would represent Canada at the World Ball Hockey Championships. Held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, there was tremendous expectation on the Canadian contingent.

Having lost the gold medal match at the 2011 Ball Hockey Worlds to host country Slovakia, golden redemption was on all of the Canadian player’s minds. A confident Desforges would lead Canada to a golden finish as she finished the tournament as leading scorer, complemented by being named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. In December 2012, the National Ball Hockey Association also recognized Desforges as one of the Top 30 Greatest Players in Canadian Women’s Ball Hockey history.

One of Canada’s most underrated female athletes, Desforges is a multi-talented performer with a team first approach. As the proud owner of a Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship and Ball Hockey gold, a Clarkson Cup would complete a well-deserved triple crown.

European detour leads Jess Jones to first round of 2013 CWHL Draft

Having bypassed the 2012 CWHL Draft and opting for Europe, Jess Jones’ decision was a surprise to many fans. After graduating from the Mercyhurst Lakers, she competed for Pantera Minsk in Belarus during the 2012-13 campaign. After a historic performance with her new club, the window to play for the CWHL was still wide open at season’s end.

Playing against Wisconsin's Brianna Decker in her final NCAA Game (Photo credit: M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal)

Playing against Wisconsin’s Brianna Decker in her final NCAA Game (Photo credit: M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal)

Obtained by the Brampton Thunder in the first round (third overall) of the 2013 CWHL Draft, it was the most logocal option for new General Manager Lori Dupuis. Facing the loss of Jayna Hefford (the CWHL’s all-time leading scorer), third-generation star Gillian Apps, Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram (another Mercyhurst alumnae) to Canada’s centralization camp, Brampton faced a decimated offense heading into the season.

Compounded by the retirement of Cherie Piper, Jones becomes a key piece to Brampton’s rebuilding puzzle. After four coaches in two seasons, penalty problems and a heartbreaking loss to the Toronto Furies in the Clarkson Cup playoffs, Jones is a breath of fresh air for the beleaguered franchise.
With the selection of Jess Jones third overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, it marks the third consecutive year that a Mercyhurst Lakers player is selected in the first round. In 2011, Meghan Agosta (drafted first overall by Montreal), Vicki Bendus and Jesse Scanzano were first round picks. The following year, goaltender Hillary Pattenden followed in Agosta’s footsteps and was drafted first overall by the Alberta Hockey Club.

In 138 career games with the Mercyhurst Lakers, she would log 154 career points. Complemented by four College Hockey American regular season titles and four NCAA tournament appearances, Jones is a proven winner that can help restore the pride in Brampton.

Her scoring flair continued last season with Pantera Minsk. Having played in just 19 games, she recorded 28 goals and 25 assists for a sterling 53 point output. As the only Canadian on the team, she would emerge as the leading scorer for the European Women’s Hockey League club.

Participating in the 2013 EWHL Supercup, Jones contributed eight points as she helped Pantera Minsk grab their first-ever championship. In dramatic fashion, Jones would score twice in the title game, a 6-1 triumph over defending champion Sabres Vienna. Her sparkling performance was complemented by a nod to the Tournament All-Star team.

It is that type of performance that Brampton fans will hope Jones can provide in the near future as the beleaguered Thunder continue to chase that elusive Clarkson Cup championship.

With Brampton in a rebuilding year, Jones certainly stands a key building block for a brighter future ahead. The eventual return of former Mercyhurst teammates and current Thunder superstars Bailey Bram and Vicki Bendus from the Canadian centralization camp will create a remarkable scoring line, reuniting the Lakers legends of seasons past.

Next to Jessica Wong, Jones may be the only other first round pick that will be expected to carry the lion’s share of the offensive load. Although Jones’ leadership skills and offensive play making abilities make her a strong Rookie of the Year candidate, her inaugural season in the CWHL will certainly be a baptism of fire.

Montreal Stars make long-term investment in selection of Cornell legend Lauriane Rougeau

After suffering a heartbreaking loss at the 2013 Clarkson Cup finals, the Montreal Stars goal of becoming the first franchise to win three titles in a row was foiled by the ambitious Boston Blades. While looking to avenge that loss in the upcoming season with the acquisitions of stars such as Camille Dumais, Fannie Desforges and Casandra Dupuis, the Stars have also made a remarkable investment in their future.

Lauriane Rougeau, a star defender with the Cornell Big Red was selected fourth overall by the bleu, blanc et rouge. Before departing for Cornell and starring for Montreal’s famed Dawson College program (where she led the Blues to a league title in 2009), she was a teenaged phenom who had the opportunity to compete for the preceding Montreal Axion, part of the former National Women’s Hockey League.

Donning the commemorative Livestrong jerseys, Rougeau tries to score on Jessie Vetter (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Donning the commemorative Livestrong jerseys, Rougeau tries to score on Jessie Vetter (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Part of Team Canada’s centralization camp, Rougeau hopes to be named to the final roster that shall compete for gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. As part of the Canadian contingent that competed at the 2012 and 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds (where Rougeau earned a gold and silver medal), she should be a mainstay on the Stars blueline for at least a decade.

Once Rougeau joins the Stars, it shall signify her second tour of duty with pro hockey in Montreal. This is an even more mature and more polished player. While at Cornell, Rougeau also had stints with the Canadian Under-22/Development and Senior national teams, respectively.

Rougeau (left) and Laura Fortino, the most decorate pair of collegiate defenders in NCAA history (Image by Simon Wheeler)

Rougeau (left) and Laura Fortino, the most decorate pair of collegiate defenders in NCAA history (Image by Simon Wheeler)

In 133 career games at Cornell, Rougeau accumulated 116 points and a program-best career plus/minus rating of +150. Every year with the Big Red, she was a First-Team All-ECAC selection, a nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award and a Second-Team All-American. She would also gain three consecutive ECAC Best Defensive Defender awards.

Playing with Laura Fortino at Cornell, the dynamic duo comprised the most distinguished pair of defenders in NCAA history. Overall, Rougeau would earn 22 major awards and honors while Fortino grabbed 20. Fortino has also joined Rougeau at Canada’s centralization.

Although Montreal has enough star power in players such as Ann-Sophie Bettez, Emmanuelle Blais, Cathy Chartrand and Vinny Davidson to weather the storm of losing nine players to Centralization Camps, Rougeau was such a talented prospect that she was worth waiting an extra season for.

Her eventual presence shall help to bolster a blueline that already features the likes of the aforementioned Chartrand, team founder Lisa-Marie
Breton-Lebreux, Alyssa Cecere, Carly Dupont-Hill and current national teammate Catherine Ward. Although the game has changed quite a bit since her tenure in the NWHL, the veteran presence of the Stars defense will allow her the needed time to adjust and elevate an already remarkable game.

Blake Bolden emerges as the Jackie Robinson of the CWHL Draft

Looking to defend its Clarkson Cup title, the Boston Blades have made a great move by selecting Blake Bolden with their first-round pick. The first-ever African American selected in the first round of the CWHL Draft, Bolden has the potential to become a defensive stalwart for the elite club. She was joined by three other BC Eagles players that became Boston Blades draft picks in 2013; Maggie Taverna and Dru Burns. Other Eagles alumnae on the Blades from their 2012-13 championship season included Molly Schaus and Kelli Stack.

About to release a powerful shot versus the Wisconsin Badgers (Photo credit by Tim Brule, Obtained from: http://uscho.photoshelter.com/image/I0000HoTLRE_rHC4)

About to release a powerful shot versus the Wisconsin Badgers (Photo credit by Tim Brule, Obtained from: http://uscho.photoshelter.com/image/I0000HoTLRE_rHC4)

Her tenure with the BC Eagles was one that saw Bolden enter on tremendous momentum. In 2008 and 2009, she helped the US National Team capture gold in the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships. Of note, current Blades player Kelley Steadman was her teammate on the US team.

As a freshman with the Eagles, she would lead all Hockey East rookie defenders in scoring. The following season, she would follow it up by leading the Eagles in power play goals.

The 2011-12 season, her junior campaign, would be her coming out party. Named a Hockey East First Team All-Star, along with a New England All-Star nod, she logged a 21-point effort. Ranking in the top ten in practically every statistical category with BC, her contributions helped the program rebound from the graduation of superstar Kelli Stack in 2011.

In her senior season with BC, she appeared in every game, proudly donning the C on her sweater. A sparkling 29 point season made her a nominee for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award was highlighted by a Halloween night performance against rival Boston University where she logged a career-best four assists. Having graduated second all-time among BC defenders in points, her final year ended with several accolades – a New England Women’s All-Star team nod and a Second-Team All-America honor.

With the retirement of team captain Caitlin Cahow, Bolden is a remarkable replacement on the blue line. As the Blades rebuild following the retirements of Cahow, Molly Engstrom, Jaclyn Hawkins and Karen Thatcher, Bolden shall emerge as one of the building blocks towards their ambitious championship goals for 2014.

One of the key advantages in the selection of Bolden is the fact that she has competed for the United States National Team. As the black and gold face the loss of nine players (including scoring sensations Hilary Knight and Kelli Stack) to the United States centralization camp, in anticipation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Bolden brings the experience of competing at the international level to the squad.

From playing for Winter Games gold medalist Katie King Crowley at BC, to joining the Blades, led by Digit Murphy, the first NCAA women’s coach to win 200 and 300 games, she is surrounded by strong women with remarkable acumen for the game. With an offensive flair and a skill quarterbacking the power play, Bolden may emerge as the premier defensive player selected in the draft. With every draft pick in 2013 being crucial for a Boston squad facing a huge loss of talent, Bolden may be what is needed to remain on top of the league standings.

Jessica Wong adds another historic feat to her storied career

In the aftermath of the 2013 CWHL Draft, Jessica Wong is only the fourth player in CWHL history to be selected as the first pick overall in the league’s draft. Selected by the Alberta Hockey Club, the element that makes this pick unique is that Wong is the first visible minority to be selected first overall.

Being mobbed by her teammates after scoring her historic goal against Cornell (Photo by: Brett Groehler)

Being mobbed by her teammates after scoring her historic goal against Cornell (Photo by: Brett Groehler)

While Wong was selected for her tremendous hockey skill, on-ice vision and versatility for playing offense and defense, she is also a pioneer in the league’s growing history. It sends a positive message that reinforces young women can be whatever they wish to be, regardless of race, color or creed.

Of note, there is also another unique aspect of CWHL Draft history that Wong has become part of. Her teammate with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Katie Wilson, was selected second overall. It marks the first time in draft history that the top two picks were both selected from the same school.

Her final season with the Bulldogs was more than just a farewell, it was the chance to celebrate one of the most storied careers in NCAA history. Wong made her impact as a freshman during the 2009-10 season.

With a season that was altered due to the fact that star players left their programs for the chance to compete for gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Wong would score a goal filled with more drama than any scored in Vancouver. A triple-overtime championship clinching goal in the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four transformed her into a legend as she scored one of the greatest goals in women’s hockey history.

It is that type of on-ice magic that Alberta is hoping for. With a team that only managed three wins in the 2012-13 campaign, an anemic offense only compounded problems. The presence of Wong ensures that the team will certainly score at a higher rate than the previous season.

Complemented by her ability to play both offense and defense, Wong’s experience on the blueline shall also compensate for the retirement of team captain Bobbi-Jo Slusar. Along with the losses of Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson and Tara Watchorn at Canada’s centralization camp for Sochi 2014, Wong has the opportunity to provide the club with much-needed defensive stability.

Alberta clearly has a gem in Wong. While the club only enters its third season, the possibility of a postseason berth is all too real. As every club has lost talent due to the impact of Sochi, the playing field has leveled considerably. Should Alberta manage to qualify for its first postseason, the acquisition of Wong will have already begun to yield a remarkable, yet positive return.