For the second consecutive year, Alyssa Gagliardi has finished her season with a championship. Part of the powerhouse Boston Pride roster that swept the Buffalo Beauts on their way to the inaugural Isobel Cup, it marked an exciting milestone in her storied career. One of 10 players to appear in at least 17 regular season games for the Pride, Gagliardi would appear in all four playoff games, while not serving one penalty minute, one of only five Pride members to do so. Showing much disciplined play, Gagliardi’s experience shone through, as the opposing Beauts saw their offensive attack stymied in the second game.
Sharing in the jubilation of the historic Isobel Cup win was Lauren Slebodnick, who had the opportunity to call Gagliardi a teammate before. Having both suited up for the Ivy League’s Cornell Big Red women’s ice hockey program, the NWHL allowed them the chance to be teammates for a second time in their careers. As a side note, both graciously donated their time in organizing the NWHL’s first fundraiser for Do It for Daron, a charitable cause both were introduced to during their Cornell careers.
In Gagliardi’s senior season at Cornell, the native of Raleigh, North Carolina would shine gaining First-Team All-Ivy and First-Team All-ECAC honors, while earning a share of the ECAC’s Best Defensive Defenseman Award. Complementing such a haul of hockey hardware was the fact that she gained Second Team All-America honors and a nomination for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. As a side note, she would finish all-time in Big Red history for plus/minus rating.
Appearing in four regular season games, Slebodnick served in a backup capacity on the Pride to starting goaltender Brittany Ott, who would leave her own mark on women’s hockey history, becoming the first goaltender to win both the Isobel and Clarkson Cups as she stood between the pipes for every minute of every playoff game. As a side note, Ott and Gagliardi were one of 11 Pride players to appear in the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, with Gagliardi suiting up for Team Knight.
Having won a handful of ECAC titles as teammates at Cornell, the opportunity for Gagliardi to share in the celebration of a pro hockey championship with a fellow Big Red alum like Slebodnick only added to the jubilant feelings of prestige and achievement,
“It’s pretty surreal to win the first-ever Isobel Cup. I am not sure if it has totally sunken in yet what this accomplishment means, but it was a really amazing group to be a part of and I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of this historical first year.
It was extremely exciting to share this whole year and championship with Lauren. We were lucky to win some championships together throughout our years at Cornell and are extremely close friends so it makes it that much more special and memorable to be able to compete and win with her again.”
The day after the Pride made history, a group of women north of the border played for the Clarkson Cup, a prize that Gagliardi played for one year prior. Gracing the ice with another team based from Boston in 2015, the final result was one that saw her experience the thrill of hoisting the Clarkson in a dramatic overtime final. As a side note, the player from the championship team of 2015 that scored the game-winning goal was Janine Weber, currently part of the Riveters roster. Having won both Cups in her career, Gagliardi now has the prestige of having her name etched on both. The 2016 edition of the Clarkson Cup final, an 8-3 final for the Calgary Inferno, marking the first time that a club based in Western Canada captured the coveted prize, resulted in a unique coincidence for Gagliardi.
Of note, the rosters of both victorious teams for the Clarkson and Isobel Cup featured alumnae from the Big Red (along with the Wisconsin Badgers). Having all enjoyed the chance to call Gagliardi a teammate, the likes of Jessica Campbell, Brianne Jenner and Rebecca Johnston, who each scored twice in the contest for Calgary, along with Hayleigh Cudmore and Jillian Saulnier, contributed towards Clarkson glory. As a side note, the losing team in the Clarkson finals in 2015 and 2016 were from Montreal. Although they may not have been teammates during the 2015-16 season, the proud Cornell heritage proved to be an unbreakable bond, as each reciprocated a respectful acknowledgement of a championship-filled weekend that extends their proud Big Red legacies.
“Yes, it was quite the weekend for the Class of 2014! (smiles) We were all texting and joking how cool it was that our whole class was champions (technically Jenner was ’15, but she came in with us as freshmen before her year of centralization during our senior year).
It is really awesome to see those girls doing so well. We are all great friends and cheer each other on from afar, and it’s pretty cool to see that we’re all still playing at the highest levels possible and having success.”
As prestigious as the Isobel Cup victory was for Gagliardi, supplying her with the chance to be part of history, there is another cherished element. Throughout the empowering journey that was the inaugural NWHL season as a whole, Gagliardi was proud to have been able to embark on this journey with the highly-skilled, well-conditioned women that she called her teammates. With a collective goal of winning the Cup and bringing it to their injured teammate Denna Laing, it created a bond that will result in lifelong friendships and a new series of treasured memories.
“What I will remember most is just the group of people. This was a really special group of players — some of the best in the world, but more importantly, a special group of people that made it so fun to come to the rink and play together and compete. With Denna’s injury, we will remember the heartbreak and tragedy, but I will remember seeing how positive and inspiring she has been throughout this entire thing and how we weren’t going to be denied a championship because we had to do it for her.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook