Emerging as one of the first star players upon the revival of the University of New Brunswick Reds women’s ice hockey program, Ashley Stratton brought an enthusiasm which set a positive tone. With a storybook ending to her final Reds season, from the Atlantic University Sport championship, to reaching the medal round at the U Sports Nationals, Stratton was synonymous with success.
Hailing from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Stratton brought a fundamentally sound skill set to a Reds program eager to return to the ice. Amassing a solid 15 points during the 2018-19 seson, the Reds definitely had a gem in Stratton. She would shine brighter the following season, capturing her first AUS Most Sportsmanlike Player Award, while earning a place as a 2020 U Sports Second-Team All-Canadian, respectively.
Sporting a 10-2-0 record when Stratton logged at least one point in 2021-22, her achievements proved crucial in a historic campaign. Finishing the season with 20 points, ranking tenth in the nation, Certainly, leaving her mark in program lore, a monumental milestone saw Stratton tie Amanda Wuerth as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 59 points. Taking place during an exciting 4-0 shutout win on November 30, 2021 versus Les Aigles Bleues de Moncton, it was only fitting that Stratton’s goal was the game-winning tally.
Although Stratton would eclipse the mark by seasons’ end, attaining an exceptional 65 points, an even greater achievement was destined to follow. Signifying a seminal moment for the Reds, a March 6 tilt with the Saint Mary’s Huskies resulted in a 3-0 triumph, clinching the regular season title. Prevailing in a 3-0 final, it was only fitting that Stratton scored the game-winning tally. Following it up with the postseason conference crown, defeating St. Francis Xavier in a stunning 4-0 final, Stratton earned an assist on Alayna Wagstaff’s third period goal, placing the game out of reach.
“Winning the AUS championship was a very proud and exciting moment. It shows how much this team and program has improved over the years and has developed in such a short period of time. I am beyond proud of everyone in this group and it was a great feeling to have success in winning the AUS title.”
Rewarded for her efforts with a significant haul of hockey hardware, it served as affirmation of Stratton’s standing as a program cornerstone. From a conference standpoint, a jubilant Stratton earned well-deserved recognition as the AUS Most Sportsmanlike Player for the second straight season. Equally cherished was the honour of the Reds Most Valuable Player Award, a crowing achievement to her brilliant career.
“Team MVP was a great honour; I am surrounded by brilliant and talented athletes that I know support me every day just as I support them. None of my success as a player or person would be possible without my teammates and I am once again so proud of them.”
Earning the opportunity to compete at Nationals, the experience provided Stratton with her finest hour. Facing off against the dynastic McGill Martlets, an exhilarating affair allowed her the opportunity to cement her place in Reds hockey greatness. With the excitement of a shootout raising the level of intensity, amplifying a thrilling come from behind effort, Stratton emerged as the only skater to score.
Supplying the Reds with a pulse pounding victory, their first-ever at Nationals, she remains admirably humble about scoring one of the greatest goals in Reds hockey history. Quick to recognize that a collaborative effort was crucial in mounting an epic comeback, it stands as testament to her tremendous team first approach.
“I definitely would not say I was the hero but of course it felt very exciting to score that shootout goal! My teammates put up a huge fight to come back in that game and I was very happy to be able to finish it off and help the team out to get the victory! It is definitely a moment that I will never forget. The excitement after that win was a great feeling that will be remembered for a long time.”
Qualifying for the medal round, the Reds faced the Saskatchewan Huskies to determine the bronze medal. Although the Huskies managed to emerge with the victory, the quantum leap by which the program evolved represented its own prized achievement. Earning recognition as the Reds Player of the Game, commemorating her final appearance in the UNB jersey, it marked a fitting tribute to Stratton.
Essential in establishing the Reds among the elites in Atlantic University Sport, Stratton’s tireless efforts were crucial in a rapid rebuild, yielding highly positive results. With a sensational season that saw her leave her mark in numerous ways, the achievement sets a gold standard for future players to emulate.
“I will miss a lot of things about the Reds. Especially all of my teammates and coaches, I cherish each and every one of them and it’s been a pleasure to be surrounded by such a great group of girls for the past four years. The environment that we had is something special and something I will take with me wherever I end up.
The Reds program in general is top notch and everyone involved truly cares about the athletes and seeing everyone succeed which is very special. I will miss the competitive aspect that our team brought every day and all the fun that we would have! I am truly very grateful for my time with the Reds.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Featured image by James West: UNB Athletics