As the Boston Blades continue the admirable duty of rebuilding, assembling the pieces that shall ensure a proud return to the peak of professional women’s ice hockey, the addition of Courtney Turner brought with it multiple facets. Selected first overall in the 2017 edition of the CWHL Draft, Turner became part of a unique sorority.
Joining the likes of luminaries such as Tessa Bonhomme, Meghan Agosta and Laura Fortino, among others, Turner is part of an exclusive club of women that were taken first overall in Draft history. Worth noting, Turner currently joins Kayla Tutino as the only members of the black and gold in said club. Gracious yet humble, Turner is proud of her role in league history, especially in a season defined by exciting change,
“Being the first pick in the Draft was an honor. I am proud to be a part of the CWHL. Since I was a little kid my dream has been to play hockey at the highest level possible so it’s like a dream come true. Women’s hockey has grown so much since I was younger and it continues to grow with the CWHL expanding to China and players being paid this year. I cannot wait to see what the future of this league holds.”
Adding to the sense of historic prestige is the fact that Turner became the first-ever American-born player to be taken with the top pick. Raised in Milton, Massachusetts, where she starred in varsity hockey at Southfield School varsity hockey, she gathered a remarkable number of honors and accolades. Gaining Hockey Night in Boston Mass Prep MVP honors, she was also a Division II First Team All-Star in 2012. Equally adept in other sports, Turner also garnered Boston Globe All-Scholastic recognition for Soccer.
Having competed collegiately with the Union Dutchwomen, Turner’s greatest legacy with the program may be her remarkable character. Bouncing back from surgery for a torn ACL, an injury that shelved her for the 2014-15 Union season, she is contributing towards a growing legacy of Dutchwomen making their mark in professional hockey.
Worth noting, other Dutchwomen whose impact in the professional ranks is just as sensational includes Dania Simmonds, who holds the Brampton/Markham Thunder record for most consecutive games played. In the aftermath of Turner’s inaugural season in the CWHL, Simmonds helped the Thunder capture their first-ever Clarkson Cup. Julie Chu, a four-time Cup winner (once with Minnesota and thrice in Montreal) also served in a coaching capacity with the Dutchwomen.
Finishing a respectable eighth in team scoring, Turner also placed third in scoring among Blades rookies. With only 14 penalty minutes in 28 games played, Turner displayed strong disciplined play, elements that should ensure an even greater second season. Certainly, her revered status as the first pick overall was a strong motivational factor in working towards reaching greater heights,
“Being the first pick in the draft definitely motivated me to be a better player. In college I was injured for almost 2 out of my 4 years, so needless to say I was very eager for the opportunity to get back on the ice. I think that the combination of those two factors motivated me to be a better player, teammate and leader on and off the ice.”
While Turner’s place in both draft, and league, history is assured, the opportunity to grace the ice and make her mark with the Blades franchise held just as much impact. One of 13 rookies on the roster, undoubtedly, the league’s youngest team, Turner’s first game in the CWHL saw her challenge the defending Clarkson Cup champions.
Making her CWHL debut on October 14, 2017, part of a two-game road series in Montreal which was also opening night for the league’s 11th season, it was a landmark moment for Turner, signifying an exciting new beginning in her hockey odyssey. There was also a slight tinge of irony in the fact that Tutino, the first pick in the 2016 Draft, was now part of Montreal’s roster.
With a game that resulted in multiple members of the Blades’ rookie class gracing CWHL ice for the first time, it was a shared milestone in a weekend that would provide another historic first for Turner. The following day, Turner logged her first career point, as she and Erin Kickham logged the assists on a third period goal by Chelsey Goldberg, reducing Montreal’s lead to one goal. Inadvertently, Tutino also recorded an empty net goal and a first period assist in the game, part of a 5-3 win for her new team.
Coincidentally, the milestone of Turner’s first goal also took place on the road. Finding her name on the scoresheet of a November 25 contest versus the Calgary Inferno, another breakthrough developed, as Turner experienced the first multi-point game of her nascent professional career. Scoring twice on Inferno goaltender Lindsey Post, who captured a Canadian university national championship in March 2017, Turner provided a stirring performance that instilled hope in the visiting Blades that an upset was within reach.
Calgary’s Brittany Esposito capitalized on her team’s first power play opportunity of the game, as her goal at the 18:26 mark of the first period provided the home team with a 3-0 advantage. Merely 17 seconds after Esposito’s goal, Turner looked to inspire her teammates, burying the puck into the Calgary net, as her teammates roared in joyous praise on the bench. With Boston College alum Meghan Grieves and Kaitlin Spurling earning the assists on this landmark goal for Turner, Beantown pride was certainly prevalent on this day.
Although Calgary would reclaim its three-goal cushion, as Hayleigh Cudmore recorded her first goal of the season just 70 seconds into the second period, Turner remained an integral component to the Blades chances at a comeback. Serving as the offensive catalyst once again, she buried the puck past Inferno Post at 7:26, as Jordan Hampton recorded the first assist of her CWHL career, while Casey Stathopoulos, another Boston College alum, gained her second assist of the season.
In spite of Calgary emerging victorious, Turner’s efforts did not go unnoticed. Gaining Second Star of the Game honors, while Esposito was the First Star and Cudmore earned Third Star, it was the first Three Stars accolade for Turner in her promising career. Elated over scoring her first goal, part of a brilliant yet hard-earned performance, it was the type of character-filled performance that took the rest of the league on notice of her potential stardom,
“Getting that first goal was definitely a monkey off the back. It wasn’t pretty, but a goal is a goal. Emotions were definitely high and I used the energy from the first goal to put in another one off of a great shot by the D.”
Before the holiday break, a four-game road trip in China symbolized an important step in Turner’s career. As the emergence of the Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays, the first two professional women’s ice hockey teams from China represents the professional game’s evolution, it also serves as an opportunity for visiting players to appreciate the game in a completely different facet.
As the four-game road trip across the Pacific would be the last series for the calendar year of 2017, it was the kind of event that saw Turner rise to the occasion, helping to establish the wondrous women of the Blades as true world-class competitors.
With the first two games in Shenzhen involving the Kunlun Red Star, dynasty and destiny collided as Digit Murphy, who led the Blades to a pair of Clarkson Cup triumphs, was now serving as the Red Star’s bench boss.
The first game versus Red Star resulted in the Blades showing tremendous effort, refusing to be intimidated by the vast home crowd. With Lauren Dahm playing valiantly between the pipes, Red Star entered the second period with only a one-goal lead.
Turner would help turn the tide in Boston’s favor, as she collaborated with Megan Myers, assisting on Chelsey Goldberg’s first goal of the game. Later in the second, Goldberg would record another goal, as the Blades enjoyed a 2-1 advantage.
Despite Red Star managing a comeback, appeasing the fans at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center, as former Blades star Kelli Stack scored twice, emerging victorious in a 5-2 final, Turner’s efforts were part of a strong collaboration on the part of the Blades. One defined by resilience and perseverance. Such character against a strong opponent on their own turf was the kind of defining moment in an arduous season, one that shall set the stage for greater glories to come.
With the Blades hoping to gain a win in their second contest versus Red Star, Turner would score the game’s first goal, helping her team to a very strong start. Scored at 8:16 of the second, as Kelly Kittredge and Chelsey Goldberg logged the assists, it was one of the rare home games where the Red Star did not enjoy the game’s first lead. Enjoying a 1-0 advantage, Melissa Bizzari scored at 14:58 of second, providing the Blades with a 2-0 lead against a stunned home crowd.
In spite of the fact that American-born Shiann Darkangelo scored for Kunlun before the period expired, logging another two in the third for the hat trick, sparking a comeback in front of an elated home crowd, the Blades certainly earned the respect of opponents and fans alike, affirming Turner’s status as a strong on-ice leader during said series. While Darkangelo was rightfully recognized as the First Star of the Game, and Red Star teamamte Lu Wen gained Third Star, Turner was acknowledged for her admirable efforts.
Bestowed the prestige of Second Star of the Game honors, highlighting a breakthrough series that saw some of her finest hockey this season, it was a proud milestone for Turner. While the last point of her rookie season would also take place against Red Star, as a home ice affair on January 27 culminated with an assist, the impact of competing against an expansion team that holds such an important place in the game’s growth is one that brought out the best in Turner.
Displaying strong on-ice leadership with her performances versus Red Star, among others this season, the chance to showcase her skills, especially in China, was a privilege that she accepts with a tremendous sense of honor. The experience of competing in another part of the world, bonding with teammates and friends while enjoying a different culture, served as an experience that shall supply many enjoyable reflections in the years to come,
“My favorite moment with the Blades this season was definitely our trip to China. We are together once a week for practice and almost every weekend for games for over 6 months so it’s tough to choose just one moment. But China was different. We got to spend a lot of time together away from the rink and explore a new country as a team. I made a lot of memories with my teammates that I will never forget and I extremely grateful to the CWHL for that.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Draft day photo obtained from: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hocke
All game action photos from BDZ Sports: https://www.bdzsports.com/cate