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EWHL: Audrey-Ann Boutour | Neuberg Highlanders

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In a decade that has seen so many Canadian university stars continue to ply their trade across the Atlantic, while finding new opportunities to excel in ball hockey, the remarkable level of talent involves Audrey-Ann Boutour, a highly versatile forward originally from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. Having skated for the Austrian club Neuberg Highlanders, while also enjoying the prestige of participating in the Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) national championship, the foray into this new and exciting chapter marked the extension of a sterling career for the upbeat Boutour.

Having first honed her skills at the CEGEP level with the prestigious Dawson College Blues, the same school that produced the likes of Marie-Philip Poulin and Catherine Ward, Boutour would become a prominent competitor in Canada’s Capital Region. Spending three seasons with the Carleton University Ravens, who competed in the ultra competitive RSEQ conference, Boutour, a criminology major, established herself as a prospect for the professional ranks with a fundamentally sound game defined by durability and strong leadership, as demonstrated by her role as alternate captain during her sophomore season.

Image by Carleton Ravens Athletics

Drafted by the Toronto Furies in the 10th Round of the 2017 CWHL Draft, one of two U SPORTS players selected by the club (Michelle Evangelou of Ryerson University was an eighth round pick), there was a unique linkage to her Ravens roots. Of note, Kristen Marson, a member of the Ravens’ Class of 2010 (and QSSF Second Team All-Star in 2007), skated for the Furies from 2012-14, capturing the Clarkson Cup title in her final season. As a side note, Marson, also a Criminology Major, has undertaken a career in law enforcement as an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Although Boutour did not make the Furies’ final roster, she maintained her presence in the Capital competing in the Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League (OVWBHL), one of the nation’s top leagues. Home to many elite players that once skated for the Ravens and the rival Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s ice hockey programs, Boutour’s presence was prevalent for numerous seasons. Currently calling the Nordiks her club team, she enjoyed the opportunity to compete on a team that represented an amalgamation of league players, known as the Ottawa Capitals, winning the 2019 CBHA national championship.

(L-R): Sara Hayward, Dawn Tulk and Kristen Cooze of Newfoundland United, plus Claudia Bergeron and Audrey-Ann Boutour recognized as All-Tournament Team selections (Image obtained from Facebook)

Running parallel to the heroics on the ball hockey slab, Boutour’s on-ice endeavours took on new lustre with the experience of playing professionally as a member of the Neuberg Highlanders during the 2018-19 season. While the roster featured four nationalities, including two players from Slovakia, plus Alicia Ziff of the United States, perhaps the most unique aspect of said roster was the varying age levels. Isabel Friess was merely 12 years young when she debuted during the season, while Liliana Lazar evoked memories of the legendary Gordie Howe. Having first appeared with the Highlanders during the 2004-05 season, Boutour’s time with Lazar as a teammate was one that saw her play at the astounding age of 51 years.

Among the leading scorers for the Highlanders during the 2018-19 season, Boutour amassed 13 points on the strength of 11 goals in 16 games played. Ranking third in scoring behind only Jennifer Pesendorfer and fellow Canadian Sydney Smith (14 points each), who was raised in Sarnia, Ontario, and skated for the Adrian College Bulldogs, the only aspects that eclipsed her on-ice success were the experiences acquired and new acquaintances made.

“It is always fun to help your team when you can, but I think the experience as a whole is something I am proud of. The team I was with was really awesome! I cannot think of one particular moment that stands out. I think the people I met along the way and the lifelong friendships I made are without a doubt the best part of my season in Austria.”

Skating for the Highlanders during the 2018-19 season (Image obtained from Facebook)

Worth noting, the opportunity to cross the Atlantic and participate in Europe held a very proud Carleton connection. Finding an influence in Tawnya Guindon, a valued teammate with the Ravens who was a highly assiduous and energetic player who spent her last two seasons as team captain, her professional career in Europe involved a pair of seasons suiting up for Göteborg HC and Leksands IF in the Swedish League. Certainly, Guindon’s achievements suppling the spark for Boutour to pursue her own professional aspirations, finding an opportunity in Austria. As a side note, Guindon would return to Carleton after her experience in Sweden, currently serving as a member of Pierre Alain’s coaching staff.

“I heard about the possibility through Tawnya Guindon who was my captain at Carleton University. She was heading to Sweden and I thought it was a good idea to go play and travel for one season. I reached out to a few teams and was lucky to be given the opportunity to go play in Austria for the Neuberg Highlanders.”

Numerous Ravens alumnae from previous years, most notably, Erin Beaver, Olivia Keefe, Eri Kiribuchi, Marson and Tamber Tisdale have all played professionally. Among this distinguished group, Beaver enjoyed the elation of winning a league title, achieving the feat in Australia with the Sydney Sirens. Keefe and Marson both competed on CWHL ice, while goaltenders Kiribuchi and Tisdale stood between the pipes in Finland and Germany.

While players such as Boutour and Guindon have added their names to this expanding list, their greatest legacy may be in providing new Ravens recruits with the possibility that such prospects are also within reach, allowing them to achieve their own hockey dreams. Contributing towards such a growing legacy certainly represents a significant point of pride for Boutour, remarking how her own body of work with the Ravens is part of a much more profound narrative,

“I think Carleton has grown a lot in the last few years and hopefully will continue to become a more competitive program. I think it is great that some of us are getting these opportunities and choosing to go play in Europe. It has also been pretty awesome to watch past teammates do so well and succeed in other countries.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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