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Ailish Forfar finds fulfillment in opportunity with Markham Thunder (Part One)

Selected by the Markham Thunder with their second pick of the 2018 CWHL Draft, Ailish Forfar brings one of the most unique competitive backgrounds to a talented rookie class. Having excelled on both sides of the border, first with the Ivy League’s Dartmouth Big Green, followed by making her mark with the nascent Ryerson Rams of USPORTS play, Forfar combines grace and tenacity in a dynamo of determination that elevates the quality of any team that she graces the ice with.

Coincidentally, it marks the second straight year that a CWHL Draft features a second round pick whose hockey resume involved competition in elite university play in both Canada and the United States. During the 2017 Draft, Kelly Murray, who also played in the Ivy League with the Cornell Big Red, later gaining All-Canadian honors with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, was obtained by the Calgary Inferno, bolstering their blueline. Worth noting, Forfar’s draft status also involved pedigree as an All-Canadian selection, the first-ever in Ryerson Rams history.

Of note, Forfar had already established herself as a character player before donning the Rams jersey. While competing in Hanover, New Hampshire with the Big Green, a stirring comeback for Forfar stood as her greatest legacy with the proud program. After being shelved for her sophomore season due to injury, her return paid significant dividends. Of note, her last two seasons at Dartmouth resulted in not missing a game, racking up 58 total appearances, while finishing among the team’s top eight in scoring each season. Just as impressive was the fact that she gained ECAC Hockey All-Academic recognition in both seasons too, demonstrating the same admirable commitment in the classroom as she did on the ice.

Prior to the glories of university hockey, Forfar’s hockey odyssey had its roots in the York Region. With the chance to compete professionally with the Markham Thunder, one of the Region’s biggest cities, it encompasses a proud sense of coming full circle, arriving at a prestigious plateau that adds luster to a sterling career.

“I grew up playing most of my minor hockey in the York Region area, which include some of my fondest memories. I could not have dreamed of a future returning to these same rinks, this time to play women’s professional hockey in the CWHL.

Growing up, my only female hockey role models were those on the Olympic team. I always felt like I was one of very few girls chasing my dream, I barely saw other girls at the rinks I grew up skating on, or at the summer hockey camps my parents put me in.

Now there are so many opportunities for young girls to fall in love with the game, and I see this opportunity as a chance to help grow our sport even more. I am excited and humbled to be a role model for girls at all stages of their hockey journey, to show them that hockey can take you anywhere from NCAA, to USPORTS, to the CWHL, and beyond.”

Raised in the municipality of Sharon, located in the vicinity of Newmarket, the birth place of notable competitors such as Erin Ambrose, Steve Downie and Brian Elliott, along with legendary players Herb Cain and Dit Clapper, the fantastic Forfar excelled at the high school level and in the PWHL, where she starred with the Toronto Jr. Aeros. Part of the club’s halcyon days, including a stellar 31-1-1-1 mark in the 2011-12 season, such a fascinating time saw the roster boast the likes of the aforementioned Ambrose, Jillian Saulnier, and third-generation star Laura Stacey, whose great grandfather King Clancy once played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coincidentally, the Mattamy Athletic Centre, which serves as the home venue of the Rams is located inside the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens, where Clancy spent multiple decades in roles as player, coach and executive.

Among Forfar’s highlights with the Jr. Aeros, where she served as a three-time captain, included the team honor of the Most Dedicated Player, indicative of her character. Gaining a pair of gold medals at the PWHL championships, including a gold medal with the Jr. Aeros at the prestigious Stoney Creek Tournament in 2011-12, Forfar’s skill also brought her to one of the biggest showcases in Canadian junior hockey. Having also represented Team Ontario Red at the Canadian U18 Nationals, Forfar’s legacy was quickly taking shape.

The formative years with the PWHL powerhouse were prologue for another compelling chapter in Forfar’s unfolding hockey narrative. After both donning the Jr. Aeros jersey, Forfar gained the opportunity to call Stacey a treasured teammate once again. Not only did they wear the colors of the Dartmouth Big Green, this dazzling duo was joined by another Jr. Aeros alum during their Ivy League tenure, Lindsay Allen.

Both drafted by the Thunder, Forfar and Stacey expand the club’s legacy of Dartmouth greats suiting up for the club. Notable Big Green alumnae such as Gillian Apps and Cherie Piper were among the Thunder’s offensive stalwarts for close to a decade, back when they called Brampton home.

Part of the Thunder’s 2016 Draft Class, Stacey has already emerged as the finest pick of said draft. Garnering the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year Award, Stacey would follow it up with an appearance at the 2018 Winter Games, earning a podium finish. Just a few weeks after the Games, Stacey scored the greatest goal in Thunder history, going top shelf against Kunlun Red Star backstop Noora Raty, a bronze medalist from the Games, notching the overtime winner in the Clarkson Cup Finals.

Considering that the final game Forfar and Stacey played together in Dartmouth colors ended with a troubling injury, the chance to reunite in Markham is one that was two years in the making. With the promise of better days ahead, both still garbed in green, Forfar’s patience is poised to pay off, ready to maintain the club’s status among the elites of the CWHL.

“Laura is one the best people that hockey has introduced me to. Our journey started on the Toronto Aeros, two kids with no idea where we would end up. But our time at Dartmouth was where she became both my best friend and a role model all in one.

I have never played with someone so passionate and determined, and at the same time a selfless leader and true friend to all. I cheered her on throughout many ups and downs though the Team Canada circuit, always having no doubt that she would one day make her dream come true at the Olympic stage.

The last game we played together is definitely one we would both like to forget (Dartmouth vs. Colgate… Laura broke both her wrists) so I am excited to lace up beside her again and create a new memory in green threads.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credits: CWHL Draft Photo by Chris Tanouye

Headshots of Ailish Forfar and Laura Stacey from Dartmouth Big Green athletics

Dartmouth action photo by Shelley M. Swaszt

Ryerson Rams image obtained from:

http://www.ryersonrams.ca/PhotoAlbum.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=22300&SPID=74496&BIO_PLAYER_ID=2948649&KEY=


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