Among the Thunder’s experienced competitors, Jenna McParland holds the potential to develop into a key component of the club’s scoring attack. Bouncing back from a mid-season injury, the resiliency and perseverance of the Schreiber, Ontario raised forward, helped to set an encouraging tone for her teammates as the second half of the season arrived. Highlighted by an electrifying hat trick in January, McParland’s resuscitated scoring touch may be the key component to a postseason berth.
Akin to the majority of her teammates on this year’s edition of the Thunder, McParland’s time with the franchise also involves having played in Brampton. During the Thunder’s final season in Brampton, McParland recorded 10 points in 24 games played.
Gaining her last point with the Brampton Thunder in a road contest against the Boston Blades, which also wrapped up the franchise’s 11th season of CWHL play, McParland played a key role in the summation of a pivotal time in league lore. In regulation, McParland and Rebecca Vint would earn the assists on a third period goal by Jamie Lee Rattray.
With Laura Stacey’s 11th goal of the season forcing overtime, it was McParland’s goal in the shootout that provided the Thunder with their last win representing Brampton. For her efforts, she was recognized as the First Star of the Game, scoring the dramatically and compelling shootout winner on Jetta Rackleff.
Coincidentally, the Blades held another unique link to McParland’s final season in Brampton. Prior to the legendary shootout heroics, McParland’s last goal in regulation with Brampton was also scored against Boston. Contested on January 21, 2017 at Walter Brown Arena, McParland recorded a first period goal against Blades backstop Lauren Dahm with Laura Fortino logging the assist in an 8-0 whitewash. As a side note, McParland also gained an assist on the first goal of the game, scored by Shannon MacAulay.
In discussing the offseason transition from Brampton to the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area, competing in Markham, home of the Clarkson Cup from 2013-15, McParland is ecstatic to be part of a new chapter in the city’s connection to the CWHL. Thriving in her new surroundings, she also heaps praise on the assiduous efforts of a highly dedicated leader. Considering that the experience has been enriched by the new look bestowed upon the Thunder, defined by donning popular green jerseys, the color has made an impression on McParland.
“It has been great! Our GM Chelsea has done a great job making the transition as smooth as possible. And I am a big fan of the green, the Thunder look Sharp!”
Statistically, the move to Markham has yielded positive dividends for McParland. Compared to the 2016-17 season, when she averaged 0.41 points per game, she has increased her average this season to 0.50. Although McParland’s first point in Thunder green did not take place until November 4, 2017 versus the Calgary Inferno, it was a highly cherished point.
Assisting on Karolina Urban’s first goal since the 2012-13 CWHL season, it served as a season highlight. Worth noting, Urban is making an admirable comeback this season, after spending time competing with Canada’s national team in ISBHF play, plus competition in the EWHL with Kazakhstan’s Almaty club.
In addition, McParland’s assist signified the start of a three-game scoring streak, stretching into the Thunder’s first road trip in China. Summing up said streak with an assist on Jamie Lee Rattray’s goal in a 6-1 loss to the Vanke Rays, there was still an element of history. With the November 18 tilt representing the Thunder’s first-ever regular season game in China, it was Rattray who would score the Thunder’s first goal in China.
Equally important is the remarkable disciplined play that has defined this season for McParland. Compared to her final campaign in Brampton, where she averaged 1.16 penalty minutes per game, a dramatic reduction has followed in Markham, with a miniscule 0.28 average. Having demonstrated strong leadership with such significant improvement, McParland’s humility stands as her greatest characteristic, ready to recognize that the essence of teamwork emanates from leadership:
“When you get to this level, everyone on the team brings some sort of leadership whether it be on the ice, off the ice or both. I believe I bring a little bit on both sides, just depends on the day!!”
Having also played for Canada’s U18 team in a gold medal effort at the 2010 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds (which even saw McParland featured on an Upper Deck trading card), competing in China only enhances a proud international legacy. In spite of the fact that the injury took place while in China, the chance to compete in such a burgeoning market, re-igniting interest in the game there is one that provided McParland with tremendous fulfillment:
“I only played a game and a bit because I was injured in the second game vs Vanke. Just being able to go to China and play hockey was a great experience, not a lot of people can say they’ve done that, and being there with my teammates made the experience that much more enjoyable!”
Heading into the New Year, the Rays would play another role in McParland’s season. With the Thunder serving as host for the Rays first series in Markham, it allowed McParland a chance at redemption. With a series that would be crucial in helping to shape the postseason picture, the second game of said series served as her finest hour.
Already enjoying a 3-0 lead early in the second period, McParland padded Markham’s lead against the visiting Rays, recording her first goal of the season at the 3:44 mark. Gaining the assist was Lindsay Grigg, whose hockey resume also includes a gold medal with Canada’s inline women’s hockey team, along with professional stints in Buffalo and with Sweden’s HV71 club
Just 32 seconds later, Xin Fang spoiled Markham’s bid for a shutout, reducing the Thunder’s lead back to three goals. In what proved to be a very high scoring couple of minutes, McParland held the hot hand, scoring unassisted against Elaine Chuli at the 5:43 mark, as both teams collaborated for three goals in a span of just under two minutes.
With Markham enjoying a 5-2 lead after three periods of play, the Rays trimmed their lead again. Emma Woods provided the Rays with their third goal of the game, while rookie scoring leader Cayley Mercer logged her 18th assist of the season.
As the Rays attempted to chip away at Markham's lead, McParland provided the insurance goal with less than two minutes to play, resulting in her first-ever hat trick at the professional ranks. Gaining the assists on this landmark goal were Nicole Brown and Nicole Kosta, as the Thunder emerged with an important 6-3 victory.
Having scored thrice against Chuli, including the game-winning goal, McParland was deservedly recognized as the First Star of the Game. Teammate Kosta emerged as the Third Star, while Asheligh Brykaliuk, a former teammate of McParland’s with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs gained Second Star honors, with two assists in the game to her credit. McParland 116 career points
“It was a great feeling! Playing in only my second game back since my injury in November, it's giving me a lot of confidence heading into the second half of the season.”
Of note, the presence of McParland and Brykaliuk in this year's CWHL season also represents a unique element of six degrees of hockey separation. Taking into account that Pyeongchang 2018 represents the 20th anniversary of the first women's ice hockey tournament in the Winter Games, there are two unique linkages.
From the outset, Jocelyne Larocque, who served as the last captain in the history of the Brampton Thunder, is not only a member of Canada's contingent at the 2018 Winter Games, she also captured a pair of Frozen Four titles with the Bulldogs. Shannon Miller, who served as the first head coach for the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, served in the same capacity with Canada's women's ice hockey entry at Nagano 1998.
In addition, Laura Schuler, who served as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs, was not only a player at Nagano 1998, she is taking on the role of head coach for Canada in Pyeongchang. Both McParland and Brykaliuk benefitted from the tutelage of Miller and Schuler during those formative years in Duluth, which saw McParland earn a WCHA All-Rookie Team selection along with membership in the Bulldogs’ 100-point club.
Extending the Bulldogs’ proud legacy of elite hockey by competing in the professional ranks, McParland ran into some other familiar faces as the Thunder hosted the Kunlun Red Star to close out the month of January. With Red Star holding a 2-0 lead, as Kelli Stack scored twice in the game’s opening three minutes and 21 seconds, both of her goals were assisted by Zoe Hickel, a former teammate of McParland with the Bulldogs, having also served as team captain in 2013-14.
With the Thunder bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit, it was McParland who trimmed said lead. Merely 34 seconds after Stack's second goal of the game, she scored on Red Star backstop, and Winter Games bronze medalist, Noora Raty. As a side note, she also played against Raty at the collegiate level, as she stood between the pipes for the Bulldogs’ principal rival, the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Rattray would score her team-best 16th goal of the season in the third period, forcing overtime. Coincidentally, another Bulldog alum, Jessica Wong, the first pick overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the Red Star, accentuating the program's impact in the CWHL.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Jess Bazal