Part of a promising freshman class for the Vermont Catamounts, second-generation skater Allie Granato brings more than just a fundamentally sound game to Gutterson Fieldhouse. Joining Granato on the roster includes Ali O’Leary, Ève-Audrey Picard and goaltender Sydney Scobee. Having recently graced the ice for the Chicago Fury, she brings a hockey legacy that has helped to shape the game in the United States.
Coming from a hockey family that features her uncle Tony and aunt Cammi Granato, it is undoubtedly a point of pride for Allie, who was raised in Plainfield, Illinois, to follow in their footsteps and build on their legacies, while looking to make her own mark as a player. Like her aunt, Allie departed from the Midwest, headed towards the Northeast to continue her playing career. Cammi made her own mark with the Providence Lady Friars, based in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Granato hockey legacy extends beyond Cammi and Tony. Of note, Don Granato has served as a coach with the Chicago Wolves, while Allie’s father, Rob competed at the University of Wisconsin, and coached the likes of Lisa Chesson and Molly Schaus in youth hockey. Her younger sisters Annie and Mandi have also graced the ice.
“I would definitely consider it a point of pride to continue the legacy that my entire family has built in the hockey world. As a kid you’re always looking for players or people to idolize and for me a handful of those people were a part of my family.
My two uncles, my aunt, and my dad. I’m proud to have the Granato name and because of it I know there is a lot expected from me, but I love having that pressure. It keeps me working to improve and driving me to be the best player I can be. They’ve accomplished so much and I want to be able to do the same.”
Cammi Granato is a living legend in women’s ice hockey, having captained the United States to a gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. In a unique coincidence, the 2016-17 season sees Allie as one of two players with an iconic connection to Nagano making their debut in university hockey. Pioneering goaltender Manon Rheaume, who was Canada’s starter at the Nagano Games sees her niece Loganne, make her debut in university hockey as well this season, skating for Les Carabins de Montreal.
The face of the game for so many years, Granato’s career would culminate with the first gold medal for the US at the IIHF Women’s Worlds, achieving the feat in 2005. Gaining entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the IIHF Hall of Fame, Of note, Allie was in attendance at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, which included Cammi as an Olympic torch bearer, a tremendous source of pride and motivation throughout her promising career.
“I have learned so much about hockey from my entire family and along with that I have also gotten a lot of great advice. I’ve grown up around hockey, and its basically been a part of every aspect of my life. The best advice my Auntie Cammi probably ever gave me was a while back. I was maybe around thirteen or fourteen years old and I was really nervous for a tryout. She told me that she loved being nervous because she could channel that into motivation.
She played in the Olympics and thinking about her using her nerves as energy toward her play made me look at my nerves in a new light. Now, whenever I get nervous I just know its my body telling me I’m ready to go.”
Of note, Allie is not the only member of the Granato family experiencing a new beginning during the 2016-17 NCAA hockey season. Her uncle Tony is in his first season as the head coach with the University of Wisconsin. As a side note, he also served as a head coach with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and an assistant coach with both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
Having played at a time when US-born players were beginning to make an unprecedented impact in the NHL, which included the likes of Mike Modano and Jeremy Roenick, Tony also had the chance to call Wayne Gretzkly a teammate, appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Los Angeles Kings. Finishing his career with another California-based team, the San Jose Sharks, he would capture the Bill Masterton Trophy, becoming the first player in Sharks history to win a major award.
“The other piece of advice that I keep in the back of my head all the time is something my dad told me my Uncle Tony had told him when they were kids. My dad had been my coach for the past 12 years and played at the University of Wisconsin like my uncles had, so he has had a very large, lasting impact on my years playing hockey.
He said that you go out and pick the biggest, strongest, fastest, most skilled kid on the ice and you let them know you’re there to play. I think that has structured the way I play ever since he had told me that. I don’t back down, I’m always trying to win battles and work my hardest, I’ve always loved to score pretty goals, but I also like picking up the dirtier ones. I enjoy being challenged and making sure everyone on the other team knows I’m not going to let them get anything done easily.”
Making her Catamounts debut on home ice in an October 9 match against the nationally ranked Boston University Terriers, it was a successful debut for an elated Granato, whose family were in the stands at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Among her highlights in the game was the opportunity for a breakaway, attempting to score on Terriers backstop Victoria Hanson.
With Saana Valkama registering a three-point effort, while Picard logged a goal and an assist, it served as an early season highlight for Granato and the Catamounts. As a side note, it was also their second straight win of the season, having defeated the Union Dutchwomen to open the season, their first string of back-to-back wins since February 5-6, 2016.
“Playing my first NCAA hockey game was one of the greatest, most intense, and exciting experiences I’ve ever had. It was also nice because my parents were both able to be there along with one of my sisters, who is attending school with me.
The whole day my heart was about ready to beat out of my chest, I barely slept the night before. As a female hockey player, because we don’t have as many opportunities to pursue the sport past the collegiate level, D1 hockey almost feels like the ‘big leagues’ to me and I want to give it all I’ve got. I ended up having a breakaway in the game, even though I wish I could have put it away, it was unreal.
My adrenaline was through the roof and I didn’t hear it as it was all happening, but my mom said all the girls on the bench were cheering so loudly for me. I loved the speed, the intensity, the physicality, everything about the game. My first college game was something I won’t ever forget, and I look forward to puck drop every weekend.”
One of Granato’s greatest qualities is the devotion to her teammates and the empathic leadership displayed through giving back to the community as a hockey humanitarian. As a competitor with the Chicago Fury in the Tier I Elite Hockey League, Granato was an essential factor in helping to organize the Fury Scores Against Cancer initiative.
With all members of the roster sporting pink and black equipment, the jerseys also featured pink ribbons stitched on the front. Having raised over $3,000, funds were allocated between the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Relay for Life. As a side note, it was also an opportunity for Allie to pay tribute to her loving grandmother, who had lost her own battle to breast cancer.
Undoubtedly, the feeling of friendship and family is among the elements that have defined Granato’s early months with the Catamounts. Having appeared in 10 games, Granato has displayed a combination of durability and disciplined play, serving only one penalty.
A December 4 match against the Northeastern Huskies would present Granato with a key milestone in her young NCAA career. Competing on the road in a two-game series against the Huskies, the second period of the bookend match saw Granato skating behind the net with the puck. She skillfully left the puck for fellow Illinois resident Bella Webster (who played for the Chicago Mission) who placed said puck into the right corner of the net to regain the lead in the second period. Fellow freshman Eve-Audrey Picard would net the game-winning tally in overtime.
Adding to the sense of jubilation was the fact that Vermont would record back-to-back overtime wins against the Huskies during the series. Compiling a 2-0-1 mark against the Huskies this season, it signified the first time in program history that the program captured a season series against their Hockey East rivals.
Considering that the Catamounts have enjoyed a solid 7-6-4 mark in the first half of the season, including a spot in the finals of the Windjammer Classic, there have been many positives Granato’s solid work ethic and willingness to learn ensure that she is among the program’s building blocks, as the hope of better days lay ahead for an improving team.
“Being able to be a part of the team at UVM has been an unbelievable experience this far. We’re a hard working team with a great dynamic in my eyes. It’s early in the season, but I cannot wait to see what the rest of it has in store for us. The best part about playing at Vermont I would probably have to say is the team itself.
Coming in as a freshman to a team where I didn’t really know anyone and being so far from home was a little daunting. The girls have been amazing teammates though. They’re so much fun and hard working, I feel like they have my back and that is a really great feeling to have.
They’ve all made sure that I am adjusting well to being so far from home, on the ice, or even with my classes. They’re just all around great teammates, and they make waking up at 6 o’clock in the morning and coming to the rink totally worth it. I’m beyond lucky to be a part of the team and I honestly could not say enough good things about all of the girls. I look forward to the years to come and what we accomplish together.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Brian Jenkins. Special thanks to Ryan Gallant