Brittany Ott continues New England women’s hockey legacy with Boston Pride

As the free agent freezy continues for the incipient NWHL, a key element involves which player shall stand between the pipes for the inaugural puck drop. While the Buffalo Beauts won the Brianne McLaughlin sweepstakes, the Boston Pride may have found a dark horse in accomplished backstop Brittany Ott.

Ott’s first brush with women’s hockey in New England involved four stellar seasons with the Maine Black Bears in Hockey East conference play. Not only would she set a new program record for most saves in a regular season game (accomplished in 2010), she would break her own record in 2013 with a sterling 72 save performance against Boston College in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Although her final season at Maine did not translate in a lot of wins, that was attributed to a rebuilding year for the program. Had Ott not been between the pipes for the Black Bears, the potential for a disastrous season was highly possible, testament to her superlative skills.

Selected in the fifth round, 25th overall, in the 2013 CWHL Draft, Ott would prove to be one of the steals of the draft. No other goalie drafted past the fifth round in draft history enjoyed as many wins, let alone play in the Clarkson Cup championship game.

With Genevieve Lacasse placed on reserves that season, due to her commitments with the Canadian national team at the Winter Games in Sochi, Ott proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing the club to maintain its great standard of superlative goaltending. Taking to the ice in her powder blue goalie pads, it was not only endearing, but a fitting reminder of what made her an elite goaltender in Hockey East play.

Heading into the final month of the 2013-14 CWHL season, Lacasse returned to the Blades but Ott has established herself as one of the league’s finest goaltenders. Her 10 wins ranked second in league play to rival Catherine Herron of the Montreal Stars, while her .921 save percentage and 475 saves were tops in the league.

In the aftermath of the golden outcome at the Sochi Winter Games, Lacasse earned some playing time with the Blades, but Ott had proven that she belonged among the elites of the game. Such effort was reflected in the fact that Ott became only the fourth rookie goalie to get the start in the Clarkson Cup championship game. The decision was a show of gratitude, testament to her dedication and perseverance during the season.

Despite the Furies by a narrow 1-0 margin in overtime, Ott provided a valiant performance with three solid periods of shutout hockey, stopping 23 shots. The following season, Ott contributed a 10-6-0 mark, establishing herself as the finest backup goaltender in CWHL play. Complemented by a Blades’ Clarkson Cup victory, it represented redemption.

Such solid numbers are what the Pride is hoping that Ott can provide for the inaugural season. With the aim of winning the first-ever Isobel Cup, it would only solidify Ott’s standing as one of the finest American-born goaltenders in hockey today. It would also make her the first goaltender to have won both the Clarkson and Isobel Cups.

There will certainly be some familiar faces surrounding Ott in this quest for history. Joining her on the Pride include several former Blades teammates that were part of the run for the 2015 Clarkson Cup. Players such as Jillian Dempsey, Alyssa Gagliardi and Jordan Smelker (the first player from Alaska to win the Clarkson) are joined by three other Blades that have represented historic signings.

From Blake Bolden becoming the first African-American player to sign with the NWHL, to Kaleigh Fratkin becoming the first Canadian-born player to join the league, there is another exciting acquisition. Jessica Koizumi, the first player to register 50 points with the Blades (she also scored the first power play goal in Blades history), has become the first signee to have played in the former Western Women’s Hockey League. Such familiarity should enable the Pride to have the strongest on-ice chemistry of all NWHL clubs while Ott’s presence between the pipes maintains the high standard of goaltending that she has established during her stellar hockey career in New England.

Upon the Pride’s first faceoff, Ott should retain her powder blue pads from Maine. Taking into account how goaltenders are some of the game’s most unique characters, identified by the creative artwork on their masks, or the style of their equipment, Ott’s powder blues make her instantly identifiable, an element that should establish her as a fan favorite in Boston and throughout the NWHL.

Two generations of Canadian female hockey heroes make heroic trek to North Pole

Less than three months ago, the final outcome of the women’s hockey event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games may have seemed almost unthinkable for competitors Caroline Ouellette and Genevieve Lacasse. Competing for Canada in the gold medal game, the squad faced a 2-0 deficit in the third period.

An overtime come-from-behind victory was nothing short of a modern day Miracle on Ice providing Ouellette with her fourth gold medal, while Lacasse garnered her first. Such success in Sochi now seems like a precursor for facing adversity on an even bigger scale.

In collaboration with the True Patriot Love foundation, Lacasse and Ouellette were part of a remarkable trip to the North Pole. The motivation behind the journey was to pay tribute to Canada’s military troops and recognize the heroic sacrifices they made. Ouellette and Lacasse were part of a group of 53 dedicated and courageous individuals on a humanitarian mission of friendship, while hoping to raise awareness.

For Ouellette, a 14-year veteran of Canada’s national team, she has devoted many hours off-ice to numerous charitable causes. In addition to proudly serving as an RBC Olympian and an ardent supporter in the cure for breast cancer, Ouellette has also travelled to Africa with Right to Play.

After the Sochi Winter Games, Ouellette donated her time for a Hockey Helps the Homeless event near Montreal and a fund raiser for the Concordia Stingers women’s ice hockey team. One of Canada’s remarkable sporting humanitarians, Ouellette is a positive role model for the next generation of Canadian hockey heroines, such as Lacasse.

Beginning at Resolute Bay on Easter weekend, an average day for these hockey heroines consisted of dragging sleds in excess of hundred pounds for an average of 12-15 km a day. Supplies such as food (consisting of various meats for lunch and army rations and cheese for dinner), water and the camping gear accounted for the heaviness of the sleds. Adding to the challenge was the unforgiving temperature of -35 celsius while the sun shined on a continual basis.

Following a breakfast consisting of oatmeal, crackers, coffee and/or tea, tearing down the camp may be the most demanding part of the journey. Before continuing the journey towards the Arctic Circle, the task of tearing it down takes a minimum of three grueling hours. Afterwards, the skiing is divided into lengths of two hours each, with a 15 minute break in between.

With the constant cold presenting its own challenges, it forces all participants to be mentally tougher. As nighttime does not provide any relief in terms of temperature, attempting to keep warm was just as challenging as skiing through the day.

Escaping one’s comfort zone, it was an experience that certainly pushed world class athletes such as Ouellette and Lacasse to limits they may have never even conceived possible. Certainly, the opportunity for them to participate in the event with some of Canada’s soldiers (of which a dozen participated) helped them appreciate what members of the military can endure on a daily basis.

May 3, 2014 signified the end of the heroic journey as these two hockey heroes successfully completed the expedition with the rest of the brave individuals involved. The True Patriot Love expedition to the Arctic Circle was testament to the dedication and toughness that may be uniquely Canadian.

While Ouellette and Lacasse have returned to the comforts of home, they do so with the gratitude and appreciation of many proud Canadians and hockey fans the world over. During the week of May 4, Ouellette was recognized by the Montreal branch of the YWCA as she was bestowed with a Women of Distinction Award. Although more than a decade separates the two in age, Ouellette and Lacasse have been exposed to an event that will certainly generate a unique and special bond between the two.