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Chloe Marshall captivating as postseason heroine for Lakers

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Backstopping the Nipissing Lakers to their greatest postseason run, catapulting into national prominence, Chloe Marshall took on the mantle of hockey heroine. Providing sterling performances that heralded her arrival among U Sports finest between the pipes, back-to-back shutouts were pivotal towards playing for the National Championship.

Regarding the three teams that enjoyed a podium finish at the U Sports Nationals in Charlottetown, PEI, high quality goaltending emerged as a major theme.  Camryn Drever became a cult hero with Saskatchewan Huskies fans, “Drever Fever” leading the way to bronze.  Concordia Stingers backstop Alice Philbert amassed a trio of shutouts, dedicating the title to her recently departed grandmother. 

Equally poignant, Marshall had her own feel-good story. Recording a shutout in her debut at Nationals, blanking the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds, a program constantly in contention in the Canada West Conference, the performance marked her finest hour. 

With a scoreless draw through regulation, Marshall amassed 40 saves during regulation, frustrating a UBC program aspiring to return to the medal round. Remaining poised in the overtime frame, she faced only one shot on net. On the opposing end, Madison Solie received a pass from behind the net, recording the game-winning tally. Scoring on Elise Hugens, who made 26 saves in the epic affair, Solie’s goal was assisted by All-Canadian forward Maria Dominico.

Preserving the shutout with a thrilling 1-0 overtime triumph, allowing the Lakers to win their first-ever game at Nationals, it marked a seminal moment for Marshall. Fittingly, both goaltenders earned recognition as the Nike Top Performers of the Game for their respective teams, serving as the crowning touch to one of the greatest games in program lore.  

“It meant the world to me. I knew going to Nationals was an opportunity that not many get to experience. So, it was reassuring to me that you can never dream too big and hard work pays off. 

It was so rewarding for myself and my team. I could not have done it without the group of girls that I play behind. I really wanted to leave everything on the ice each game and just tried to have fun with it. 

My mindset totally shifted during Nationals, which led me to my peak performance. I am so grateful (that) I got the opportunity to start each game and showcase everything I worked hard for.”

Having not played during the 2018-19 season, compounded by the pandemic halting 2020-21, Marshall’s desire to play never wavered. Finding a home with the Lakers, the majesty of the 2022 Nationals allowed the rest of hockey to catch up to her goaltending brilliance. 

Displaying perseverance and poise throughout the postseason, such values were long evident as hallmarks in her compelling career. Raised in Neilberg, Saskatchewan, the path to playing for the Golden Path trophy involved a well-travelled journey. 

Beginning in the autumn of 2016, Marshall’s collegiate career began in Ashland, Wisconsin with the Northland College Lumber Jills, participating in their inaugural season. Worth noting, she gained the start in their final game of the season, a hard-fought overtime loss versus UW-Superior.

The following season, Marshall returned to her home province, wearing Saskatchewan Huskies green. Enjoying a pair of 1-0 shutouts in October 2017, both at home, her first Canada West season resulted in a winning record.

Before Marshall stood between the pipes in the OUA conference, one more season in Canada West saw her with the now-defunct Lethbridge Pronghorns. A member of their roster during the 2019-20 season, she did not take on the role of starting goaltender until wearing the Lakers colors. Reflecting on the experiences of her past stops, her maturity is evident, finding positives in each opportunity.

“Prior to signing with Nipissing, I had transferred three different times. Each team I played for, I played a different role. For the most part, each role was not as a starter. I had been a backup for the majority of my undergrad (career) but I enjoyed and utilized every moment.”

Sharing goaltending duties with Chantelle Sandquist at the beginning of the season, Marshall established herself as a postseason hero before Nationals. During the OUA Playoffs, earning wins versus the Ryerson Rams (rebranded as Toronto Metropolitan) and the number one ranked Toronto Varsity Blues, the performances solidified her standing as starter.

Undoubtedly, the triumph over the opposing Varsity Blues, featuring All-Canadian goaltender Erica Fryer, signified a landmark milestone in Marshall’s career. With a 3-2 advantage following the second period, Marshall stonewalled the Varsity Blues offense, denying them an opportunity to reach Nationals.

Keeping the Lakers lead intact, the outcome resulted in a unique homage to Marshall’s hockey roots. Of note, another member of the Lakers roster grew up in Saskatchewan. Scoring twice versus the Varsity Blues, including the game-winning tally, Jetta Derenoski, raised in the hamlet of Vawn, holds another unique linkage with Marshall. Coincidentally, both were teammates with the Battleford Sharks of the SFMAAHL. Derenowski served as team captain during the 2014-15 Sharks season, one which saw Marhsall share Team MVP honors with fellow goalie Shelby Tornato.

Qualifying for the U Sports Nationals with their pulse pounding victory, also serving as host in the McCaw Cup Finals, both fantastic firsts, the momentum continued for Marshall. Opening Nationals with the overtime victory versus UBC, Marshall followed it up with another brilliant shutout performance.

Needing only 16 saves, Marshall logged her second straight shutout. Blanking the University of New Brunswick Reds, coming off their first-ever Atlantic University Sport championship, the 4-0 final saw goals by Madison Desmarais, Madison Solie, Malory Dominico and Brianna Gaffney.

Facing off against the Concordia Stingers for the Golden Path Trophy, the most intriguing storyline involved the fact that both goaltenders, Marshall and Philbert, propelled their teams to the biggest stage in U Sports women’s ice hockey with shutouts in their two matches. Of note, Philbert recorded shutouts versus the host PEI Panthers and the Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies.

Although the national championship was determined via shutout, Philbert backstopping Concordia to its first championship since 1999, Marshall played valiantly with a 33 save performance, allowing only one goal through the first two periods of play. Despite the final score, the achievement of reaching the Finals is one that six other teams in Charlottetown would have been happy to enjoy.

Rewarded for her efforts with the Lakers Peak Performance Award, a tremendous tribute adding lustre to an exciting time, the bigger picture is one filled with jubilation and an appreciation for her teammates. Recognizing the impact of becoming the first team from Nipissing to compete for a National Championship, the sentiments of community and a shared sense of achievement stand as its greatest legacy, enhancing Marshall’s efforts.

“I could not have done it alone but for sure it was a highlight for me to earn two shutouts against the best teams in the nation. 

Going from being in the shadows (as a backup in past schools) to starting for the biggest game of my life was a surreal moment. I was on cloud nine because each individual from the staff and my team deserved that moment and that feeling. 

I was (also) on cloud nine knowing that all the bumps in the road paved the way for something even bigger for myself. It also put North Bay and Nipissing on the map with academic and athletic opportunities for young girls looking to further their careers.” 

The feeling of celebration continued beyond the final buzzer at Nationals. At the conclusion of the bus ride towards Lakers campus in North Bay, Marshall and her teammates earned the rock star treatment. Departing the bus with cheers from jubilant fans, many bringing homemade placards, graciously signed by the players, a pair of local dignitaries, including the Mayor of North Bay and Chancellor of the University, added prestige to the festive mood.

Along with the North Bay Ice Boltz hosting a pregame ceremony, in recognition of an historic run at Nationals, one that saw the Lakers graciously reciprocate with a public skate, it marked a relevance and meaning holding cherished prominence in the community and on campus for many years to come. While the season ahead brings an exciting potential, one that could see Marshall soar towards greater heights, the outpouring of friendship and support has made for a magical offseason.

“It was a special moment for me. The school, staff, and fans have been nothing but supportive to the team and myself. To be recognized for my efforts was a rewarding feeling and I am excited for what is ahead for the upcoming season.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Featured image obtained from: https://usports.ca/en/championships/hockey/f/news/2022/03/1294620602/2022-u-sports-cavendish-farms-women-s-hockey-championship-quarter-final-2-madison-solie-sends-nipissing-to-semifinals-with-overtime-winner

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