28 September, 2015

Julia Bronson Brings Love of the Game to US National Ball Hockey Team

As ball hockey in the United States is poised for unprecedented growth, the efforts of Julia Bronson may place her in the role of fan favorite. Making her international ball hockey debut at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds in Zug, it proved to be a remarkable career milestone for Bronson. Not only was she tied as one of the scoring leaders for Team USA, she would rank among the top 10 scorers in the event.

Her involvement with Team USA also brings about the possibility of a new and exciting trend in the game. Having also competed at the NCAA level with the prestigious Dartmouth Big Green, she was one of several members on the US roster who brought ice hockey experience to the court. Considering that the three countries who experienced a podium finish in Zug all had their share of ice hockey heroes on the roster, Bronson’s strong play may help bring about more NCAA players to attempt ball hockey.

Bronson was one of four assistant captains on Team USA, joining goaltender Alessandra Glista, plus Amber Cornwall and Eleni Aiodonidis. Of note, Bronson already had some experience at the national level. In 2004 and 2005, she was part of USA Hockey’s U18 national camp. Having also played for the Washington Pride in her teens, the result was four straight Southeast District Championships.

Bronson was not the only Dartmouth alum that suited up for Team USA. She was joined by two other players, including Kelly Foley. A winner of the prestigious John Carlton Award, Foley joined Dartmouth during Bronson’s senior season (2008-09). Goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft would share duties between the pipes with Alessandra Glista for Team USA. While at Dartmouth, Holdcroft rewrote many of the program’s records, including a new standard of 56 wins.

“Being able to extend my hockey career competing for Team USA with the additional bonus of playing with several Dartmouth alums was an incredible experience.  After playing in the NCAA Final 8 game in 2009, I thought that was the end of my career with fellow Dartmouth players. Six years later, Kelly Foley ’12 and I find ourselves competing at Worlds for Team USA and somehow were able to instinctively capitalize on our Dartmouth hockey chemistry.

Additionally, I’d met Lindsay Holdcroft ’14 as an alum in 2010 and saw her exceptional goaltending skills. I was really excited to have her supporting us in net and it was awesome to get to know her as a teammate. The Dartmouth women’s ice hockey is a tight knit community and being able to share an experience with them and every member of Team USA was amazing.”

Competing on the blueline, Bronson would display offensive flair in four solid seasons with the Darmtouth Big Green. Graduating in 2009, she would log 79 career points, on the strength of 64 assists, testament to her remarkable playmaking abilities. Consistently one of the top scoring blueliners with the Big Green, she would compile an impressive three game-winning goals in her junior season.

Logging her final goal in a December 30, 2008 road win at Vermont, the last points of her NCAA career came in a sterling three assist effort on March 8, 2009 against Rensselaer which would clinch the ECAC postseason title. For her efforts, Bronson would earn a spot on the ECAC Hockey All-Tournament Team, joined by teammates Shannon Bowman and Sarah Parsons, who would Most Outstanding Player. A two-time Honorable All-Ivy mention, Bronson would graduate among the top 10 career scorers among Blue Green blueliners.

After such a storied career, Bronson engaged in a growing trend of North American players bringing their world class skills to European league play. Competing in the Czech Republic, Bronson quickly established herself as one of her new team’s stars. Coincidentally, it was also during her sojourn in Europe that she would be introduced to ball hockey.

Taking into account that many women from Czech Republic and Slovakia engage in both ice hockey and ball hockey, it has proven to be a key factor in their growing impact on the game’s stage. As both versions of the game continues to grow in popularity among women in Europe, said versions are perfectly suited to each other, incorporating various methods of training and strengthening skills. Introducing Bronson to a whole other aspect of the game, it would set the foundation for an exciting hockey chapter to come, 

“I do believe my time in the Czech Republic was helpful in getting accustomed to international play in Zug. The first time I was introduced to ball hockey was through the Slavia Praha ice hockey club. The coach and women on my team there in Prague were also on the Czech Republic national ball hockey team. I knew coming into the tournament the style of hockey they would be playing and it opened my eyes to the caliber of players at the international level.”

In Team USA’s first win at Zug, an 8-0 whitewash against Great Britain, Bronson earned the assist on the first goal of the event for the US, scored by Tiffany Pokora. Later in the game, Bronson would score as the assist was credited to fellow Dartmouth alum Kelly Foley. In the third period, Bronson would reciprocate as she assisted on a goal by Foley.

Of note, Bronson would account for all of Team USA’s goals in a hard fought 3-2 loss against rival (and eventual gold medalists) Canada. Bronson’s valiant efforts continued in a victory against Switzerland as she scored a power play marker. Coincidentally, Foley would also score on the power play versus the Swiss, with Bronson gaining the assist.

Although the US endured a fourth-place finish at the event, the presence of players such as Bronson ensures a great future lay ahead. Bringing strong leadership and a love of the game, Bronson’s efforts have not only established her as an ambassador for the growing game in the US, but she ensures that a podium finish in 2017 is one of great possibility.

“For me, I love the sport and I love competing. I was lucky enough to have great linemates that I could connect with in the arena. Having it been my first Worlds, it was a great achievement, but the points were really a side effect of the teams efforts. I think we all shared in our accomplishments at the tournament and we were all really happy when our work efforts paid off in the games.”

 “All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Image obtained from: http://zug2015.com/en/teams/women/group-5/usa-united-states/

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