With an off-season that has seen the complexion of the Thunder’s roster altered, faced with a sense of both celebration and loss as a captivating trio of talent joins Canadian centralization, such rocky waters have been navigated rather smoothly. As Chelsea Purcell enters the season as the club’s new General Manager, one of the youngest in league history, her signing of free agent blueliner Alexis Woloschuk displays a strong acumen for the game and a keen eye for talent.
Raised in Manitoba, Woloschuk, who also played for the Pursuit of Excellence, captured a bronze medal with the provincial team at the 2011 Canadian National U18 championships. Considering that Purcell also has Prairie roots in hockey, where she starred for the University of Saskatchewan, the two are not only working towards bringing the Thunder into the Clarkson Cup conversation, they are also part of a growing legacy of elite Prairie talent making their mark in Canadian professional women’s ice hockey.
In discussing the factors that appealed to Woloschuk in deciding to sign with the Thunder, there is definitely a sense of history that serves as significant. With the club having relocated from Brampton, the only place the team called home, to the York Region city of Markham, a three-time host of the Clarkson Cup finals, such a new direction holds the potential for a rich and compelling narrative. Keenly aware of the sense of newness that shall serve as the team’s identity, Woloschuk approaches this new chapter with optimistic eagerness,
“A new era. I get to be a part of something new for everyone, a fresh start for the whole team and what I think is going to be something pretty special. It's pretty exciting the good news just keeps rolling in, I can't wait for the final touches to be done and regular season to get started.”
Having played at the NCAA level for the Boston University Terriers, a perpetual contender for a national championship, Woloschuk was a key contributor during a compelling time for the program, serving as an essential leader on the defensive unit.
Amassing 24 points, highlighted by a career-best 13 points (all assists) in her senior season of 2015-16, Woloschuk was part of multiple Hockey East titles in both regular season and postseason play. Of note, her final assist would take place on February 28 during the 2016 Hockey East playoffs against Vermont, as she collaborated with Rebecca Russo on the game-winning goal scored by Maddie Elia.
Calling the likes of Alexis Crossley, Kaleigh Fratkin, Marie-Philip Poulin, Russo, Kerrin Sperry and Kayla Tutino as Terriers teammates, Woloschuk was part of a tremendous who’s who in women’s hockey. Akin to so many other women that have donned the Terriers colors, she would graduate to professional hockey.
Part of a growing legion of Terriers talent making a titanic transition to the professional ranks, Woloschuk’s inaugural journey in this next level took her to Europe, simultaneously serving as an ambassador for the Canadian game and its values. Competing with Sweden’s HV71, she was not the only Canadian-born player on the roster. Joining Woloschuk on the roster was fellow blueliner Lindsay Grigg, who previously played professionally in Buffalo, New York.
Of note, the 2017-18 season certainly brings with it a sense of serendipity for this dazzling duo of blueline talent. Grigg, who also competed at the NCAA level, served as a captain with the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers. Boasting a gold medal with Canada’s national inline women’s team at the 2016 FIRS Worlds, she is also poised to bring about an immediate impact with the Thunder. Part of their 2017 draft class, the chance for Grigg and Woloschuk to continue their professional careers together already represents a proud season highlight, while ensuring synergy on the blueline,
“I could not be happier to call Lindsay a teammate again. We were d-partners and roommates for a big part of last season and got a long really well. She's a great friend and teammate, so just super excited to spend another season with her on and off the ice.”
In spite of the makeover that has taken place with the club’s relocation to Markham, specifically abandoning its traditional red and black colors, replaced by a green motif, the Thunder hold a prominent place as one of the CWHL’s charter franchises. Having also captured the first championship in league history, it is a goal that certainly follows the team as it hopes to repeat that same “first” during its inaugural season in Markham.
Considering that this season also represents another unprecedented first in the form of player compensation, along with a pair of expansion teams in China, it serves as a great jumping on point for many new players. Although this season shall definitely alter the landscape for professional women’s hockey in Canada, serving as a new direction, it is the kind of historic impact that represents a source of motivation for so many players. The feeling of enthusiasm, the sense that great potential can be reached, are all aspects that Woloschuk appreciates as she prepares to be part of an exciting new chapter in the Thunder’s venerated history,
“Absolutely, so many exciting things are happening that I get to be apart of! A new locker room, new facility, new uniforms, it all is unfolding into something pretty special. We seem to be getting a lot of support from the community as well which is a great feeling. Looking forward to the home opener here in Markham to kick the regular season off.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from: BU Athletics and Markham Thunder via twitter