One of the most popular and accomplished players in the history of the Brampton/Markham Thunder, Liz Knox assembled an amazing career that firmly entrenched her as a revered ambassador for the club. Embodying the essence of dedication, friendship and character, qualities that have also stood as the hallmark of the club’s culture, Knox now adds the prestige of the Clarkson Cup to her hockey resume.
Prior to the 2018 edition of the Clarkson Cup finals, Knox had already left her mark in the history of the event. During an exciting rookie season in 2011-12, which saw Knox named to the CWHL All-Rookie Team, she backstopped the Thunder to the Finals against the Montreal Stars.
Becoming the first rookie to start in the Finals, Knox actually sparked a trend that proceeded several times over. One year, Genevieve Lacasse would lead the Boston Blades to their first Cup win, which actually took place in Markham.
The 2014 finals saw another Boston rookie backstop, Brittany Ott gain the start for the black and gold. Emerance Maschmeyer, who, like Knox, has also worn the Hockey Canada jersey, became the fourth rookie to start a Clarkson Cup final, standing between the pipes for the Calgary Inferno in 2017.
As the only member of the Thunder roster from 2011-12 still active today, Knox was the conduit for a new generation of wondrous women to don the Thunder jersey. Having seen the franchise go from Cup contender, into the doldrums of last place, and back into contention, signified a journey that few other players have endured this decade. Undoubtedly, the chance to return on the CWHL’s biggest stage and hoist the coveted Cup was one that was definitely worth the wait for a jubilant Knox,
“It really felt like we were due. Since our last championship game in 2012, we’ve turned over some incredible talent and gained a ton as well. We went through some real tough years where we struggled to contend with the top two teams, and other years where we were so close but just couldn’t make the magic happen in playoffs.
When I step back and look at this group of girls though, it just makes sense. We had all the pieces this year and it makes me so happy that I got to share that moment with them.”
Considering that the Thunder’s 11th season in the CWHL resulted in a relocation to Markham, Knox quickly became an emotional favorite among the newly christened fan base. Raised in the neighboring community of Stouffville, Knox’s formative junior years involved elite play in the Markham-Stouffville Stars system.
Even in the middle of such an exciting season for Knox, she also found the time to pay it forward, balancing her playing commitments with an admired role as a coach with the Etobicoke Dolphins organization.
Prior to the triumph of the Clarkson Cup, the prologue that took place on the ice in the regular season served to cement Knox’s legend. Sharing goaltending duties with Erica Howe, Knox’s first win in Markham green took place on home ice, an October 21 victory against the Kunlun Red Star, their eventual Clarkson Cup opponents. It also stood as the first victory on Markham ice for the Thunder, a fitting footnote in Knox’s hockey saga.
Although Knox would have to wait until December 9 for her next win, it signaled the start of a remarkable run, involving five wins, one loss and one defeat in the shootout, which took place on December 17 against the defending Clarkson Cup champion Canadiennes de Montreal.
It was the type of run that resulted in Knox would leaving a well-earned mark in franchise history, achieving record heights in grand fashion. Ending the season on a three-game win streak, each win resulted in Knox gaining one step closer to Thunder immortality. Tying the franchise mark for most wins in a career with a February 4 triumph against eternal rival Toronto, as Jenna McParland supplied the game-winning goal, while Kristen Richards gained First Star of the Game honors, Knox would set the new standard for wins exactly one month later.
Taking on the Calgary Inferno at the Thornhill Community Centre on March 4, Knox recorded 23 saves in a 4-1 final. On the opposite end of the frozen perimeter was another accomplished goaltender, a highly distinguished competitor who had left her own mark among the league’s greatest goaltenders, a sensational sorority indeed. Having backstopped the Calgary Inferno to a Clarkson Cup win in 2016, Delayne Brian also owns the club record for career wins.
There was definitely a feeling of serendipity in this game for a victorious Knox. After a scoreless first period, Megan Bozek scored the first goal for the Thunder at the 51 second mark of the second stanza. Laura McIntosh, who first appeared with the club during the 2012-13 season logged the game-winning tally with less than three minutes remaining in the second.
Before game’s end, Bozek would pot a pair of goals, while McIntosh assembled a brilliant three-point output. As a side note, Nicole Brown would also add her name to the scoresheet while Knox recorded 23 saves in a 4-1 final. Fittingly, Knox, Bozek and McIntosh were recognized as the Three Stars of the Game, an appropriate acknowledgement that served as a season highlight for this conquering trio of protagonists.
Reflecting on the achievement, Knox displayed humility, quick to pay homage to those who stood between the pipes for the Thunder before she donned their colors. Such accolades were showered upon a pair of influential goaltenders in club lore. Like Knox, both had experienced the thrill of playing in CWHL championship games,
“I had no idea that the record was on the line honestly. It is really cool to be considered amongst names like Laura Hosier and Cindy Eadie, but the bigger picture was always more important to me.”
On March 11, Knox would add to her newly acquired record, with a road win against the Boston Blades. Allowing just one goal in a 3-1 final, Larsen Rink at Eruzione Center was the backdrop for a sterling performance that saw both goaltenders gain the admiration of the fans on-hand.
While Knox made 24 saves, Boston goaltender Lauren Dahm faced an astounding 50 shots, testament to her status as one of the league’s most admired players. As a side note, Nicole Kosta and McIntosh, both prominent figures in the Clarkson Cup to come, would garner First and Second Star of the Game honors.
Kosta, who experienced the jubilation of an ECAC title with the Quinnipiac Bobcats would record a multi-point effort in the Finals versus the Kunlun Red Star. In addition, she would gain the assist on Laura Stacey’s overtime winner, as Knox and her fellow Thunder teammates erupted in victorious approval on the bench.
Undoubtedly, emotions were high for a Thunder team looking to capture its first-ever Clarkson Cup title. Just days before the contest, Laura McIntosh’s mother (and biggest fan), Diane, had passed away. With a heavy heart, an understandable aspect of melancholy, such sadness was one where Knox and her teammates employed inspiration, rather than reverting to anguish.
Memorial stickers with the initials “DM” were worn by players during the Finals to celebrate the life of McIntosh’s mother. Such an appropriate accoutrement was one worn proudly on Knox’s helmet, as the sticker helped to define the sense of spirit that propelled this club towards such a peak. In the victorious aftermath of the 2-1 overtime triumph versus Red Star, it was a celebration that Knox was proud to share with a longtime teammate and cherished friend such as McIntosh.
Such feelings were part of a flood of emotion that existed during the chance to hoist a prized trophy that was worth six seasons of waiting. Although the fact that Knox’s name shall be engraved on the Cup is one that has yet to be absorbed, everything returns to the sense of a shared goal reached,
“It is hard to describe. So much ran through my mind: all the players, coaches, friends and family that helped me get to that point. What that Cup meant for my teammates, like Laura McIntosh, it makes you so grateful for sport and somehow, for that moment, it feels bigger than hockey.”
As Erica Howe, the heir to Knox’s goaltending crown, gained the win for the Thunder, such a season represented an emotional passing of the torch. While the inaugural season in Markham definitely represented an element of change for the franchise, the mutual respect and proud friendship between Howe and Knox resulted in a great goaltending tandem that shall be the template for future backstops in Markham’s green and white jersey to emulate.
With a dream season that culminated in one of the most prestigious prizes of women’s ice hockey, it was an achievement that solidified the place of both Howe and Knox in franchise history. Along with Knox’s phenomenal climb towards the franchise wins mark, her legacy with the Thunder is truly complete. Pondering the future to come, Knox can reflect on a stellar run in both Brampton and Markham, one that has resulted in a mark that shall be treasured and revered.
“More than anything, I hope the mark I leave on the Thunder franchise comes even remotely close to the impact that the players before me had on my life. It’s a culture unlike anything I could have imagined and one that we, as players, really cherish and are proud of.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Jess Bazal, Heather Pollock
Artwork obtained from Facebook