The rebuilding and subsequent resurgence of the Brampton Thunder emerged as the feel-good story in the first half of the 2014-15 CWHL campaign. The inaugural CWHL All-Star Game served as the ideal showcase, a coming-out party for many of Brampton’s new faces, helping to launch the franchise’s self-proclaimed ice age.
A key component in its revival is the strong rookie crop that has graced the ice. Starting with Laura Fortino, the first pick overall in the 2014 CWHL Amateur Draft, a newfound optimism was felt by loyal fans. Joined by newly acquired Jocelyne Larocque (who both played on Canada’s gold-medal winning roster at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), their presence helped provide confidence into the team’s culture.
As a side note, she would make her Thunder debut on October 19, logging an assist in a 5-2 loss. Her performance in the first half of the campaign would result in a three assist outing against the rival Toronto Furies on December 5.
Testament to the impact of Fortino and her rookie teammates on the Thunder was their impact in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game. Fortino would also enter the game as one of the league’s leading scorers. During the CWHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, Team Red captain Charline Labonte acquired Rattray third overall, while Team White captain Jessica Campbell (also a rookie) nabbed Fortino with the fourth pick overall.
In addition, the members of the Clarkson Trio (three Brampton draft picks which helped Clarkson University capture the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four), Carly Mercer, Jamie Lee Rattray and Erica Howe shone for Brampton as members of Team Red in a monumental performance.
Brampton’s super rookie backstop Erica Howe would stand between the pipes for Team Red in the third period of the inaugural All-Star game. On the other end of the ice for Team White was Genevieve Lacasse, who was Howe’s teammate on the gold medal winning roster from the 2014 Four Nations Cup.
Just 13 seconds into the third, Team White’s 2-0 advantage was reduced by one goal, giving Howe the confidence to believe a comeback was possible. Of note, Rattray would only add to the excitement of the third.
The 12:45 mark saw Rattray make history. Montreal’s Emmanuelle Blais streaked along the boards with a shot on Lacasse. Emerging from behind Team White’s net, Rattray pounced on the rebound, burying a backhand past Lacasse. Becoming the first rookie in CWHL history to record an All-Star Game goal, Rattray’s goal would have a positive impact on Howe’s performance.
Before the period would expire, Rebecca Johnston logged the game winning goal as Howe played a period of shutout hockey to help Team Red prevail by a 3-2 mark. Selected seventh overall by Team Red in the CWHL All-Star Frozen Fantasy Draft, Howe not only became the first goalie to earn a win in the All-Star Game, she would also become the first rookie to win an All-Star Game. Being on the ice for Rattray’s goal in the third period, it held special meaning for Howe,
“We always root for each other. We have played together now for seven years, always with the same team. When she scored, we had a little celebration. It was an awesome experience.”
As a side note, the other Brampton players that joined rookie sensations Fortino, Howe and Rattray were Jess Jones (who would end up with Team red as the eighteenth overall pick) and Jocelyne Larocque (going eighth to Team White). For Rattray, she reflects on the goal with tremendous pride,
“It feels pretty cool. People on TV saw our product. Looking around the rink, it is something I will always remember. This game is very important. The girls can tell you it was a great atmosphere. It was an unbelievable play and a great day.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Brandon Taylor