Having played at all three levels of Hockey Canada’s women’s program, boasting over 60 appearances plus a pair of gold medals, it was inevitable that Halli Krzyzaniak would transition to the professional ranks. With an already sterling career that has involved play with the prestigious Program of Excellence (POE), followed by a series of stellar seasons with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, garnering multiple WCHA All-Star and All-Academic honors, the professional sojourn for the native of Neepawa, Manitoba has already consisted of notable milestones.
From the outset, Krzyzaniak’s standing as a world-class player, which also included attendance at Canada’s Centralization Camp in anticipation of the 2018 Winter Games, transformed her into one of the top prospects for that same year’s CWHL Draft. Selected in the first round, fourth overall, by the Calgary Inferno, she was part of a distinguished draft class that included a significant international flavor. Goaltender Alex Rigsby, the first goaltender to play on all three levels of USA Hockey’s women’s ice hockey program, plus Finnish superstar Venla Hovi, who led the University of Manitoba to a U Sports national championship also comprised said class.
Making her Inferno debut on October 13, 2018, a road affair versus the Canadiennes de Montreal, the presence of this prized blueliner would prove to yield positive results as the season progressed. Fittingly, Krzyzaniak’s first points took place on home ice. Hosting the new-look Shenzhen KRS Rays in a weekend series, Krzyzaniak made her presence felt in a convincing 6-1 win on October 21.
Recording a goal and an assist, the milestone filled day also served as the first multi-point outing in Krzyzaniak’s budding pro career. With Calgary boasting a 3-1 advantage after two periods of play, which also included Venla Hovi’s first CWHL goal, Krzyzaniak found the back of the net at the 7:57 mark in the third, as Kaitlin Willoughby earned with the lone assist.
Less than three minutes later, Krzyzaniak and Blayre Turnbull assisted on a goal by Brianne Jenner, all Team Canada alumnae. Before the month would expire, Krzyzaniak would score her second of the season in an October 28 home tilt versus the Worcester Blades, part of a convincing 5-0 blanking that saw fellow first year player Annie Belanger earn the shutout.
Such a series of consistent and reliable performances allowed Krzyzaniak a merited opportunity to participate in her first CWHL All-Star Game. With the privilege of All-Star status in her rookie season, one that demonstrates the potential for a very bright future ahead, with likely more All-Star appearances to follow, perhaps the most endearing quality is her humbled reaction, one which demonstrates a very mature outlook and professional approach,
“It was a huge honor to be selected to the All-Star Game, and even more so since I am a rookie in the league. It was not something I was even thinking about, I was just focusing on getting used to the style and pace of play in the CWHL, so I was very excited to be chosen to take part.”
Contested at Toronto’s Scotiabank Centre, home of the NHL’s Maple Leafs, the 2019 edition of the All-Star Game, the fourth in league history, Krzyzaniak was among a league-high nine Inferno players that gained All-Star status. Joined by the likes of Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, Zoe Hickel, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Brigette Lacquette, the captain of Team Purple, Alex Rigsby and Blayre Turnbull, such an assembly of superlative talent served for a pair of unique scenarios.
Worth noting, the nifty nine were scattered among both All-Star rosters, identified by the nomenclature of Team Gold and Team Purple. Becoming rivals on the NHL ice of Scotiabank Centre, Krzyzaniak was aligned with Hickel, Lacquette, Rigsby and Turnbull on Team Purple, while the likes of Bellamy, Decker, Jenner and Johnston were garbed in the paraphernalia of Team Gold. Certainly, such allegiances represented an enthralling challenge for Krzyzaniak.
Having called the likes of high scoring forwards Jenner and Johnston teammates with Canada’s entry at three IIHF World Championship tournaments (2015, 2016, 2017), defending against them forced Krzyzaniak to elevate the already high quality of her defensive game. Simultaneously, it allowed her the opportunity to gain a new appreciation for their significance as members of the first place Inferno,
“Anytime you have to defend against top-notch players like that, it’s a challenge. It definitely made me appreciate having them on my team.”
The compelling Inferno connection also held another meaningful connotation for Krzyzaniak. During this decade, her hockey odyssey has run parallel to Lacquette, a fellow Manitoban (hailing from the community of Mallard) and fellow alumnae of POE. Although they were never teammates at POE, as Lacquette graduated in the spring of 2010, while Krzyzaniak debuted a few months later during the autumn solstice.
While at POE, Krzyzaniak garbed the jersey of the Manitoba provincial team, propelling the province to a greater position of national relevance. Logging six points at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, she followed it up by leading Manitoba to a silver medal at the 2012 Canadian Under-18 Nationals, garnering Tournament MVP honors, respectively.
Undoubtedly, the 2010s has seen both blossom into world-class competitors, heralding an exciting generation of talented skaters to hail from the province, including the likes of Bailey and Shelby Bram, Delayne Brian and Jocelyne Larocque, among others. Although Lacquette was an opponent of Krzyzaniak at the NCAA level, skating for the WCHA’s Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, one of North Dakota’s key conference rivals, there was no shortage of mutual respect, both displaying Manitoba pride on the ice.
Lacquette and Krzyzaniak would also skate together for Canada in four different international events, gaining podium finishes each time. Beginning with the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championships, the year would culminate as teammates at the 4 Nations Cup. Over the course of the next two years, they were part of Canada’s defensive unit at the 2016 IIHF Worlds, along with a stint on Canada’s Under-22/National Women’s Development Team at the 2017 Nations Cup.
With the decade winding down, the two are not only the foundation of an Inferno defensive unit that remains in the Clarkson Cup conversation, they have also enjoyed the shared milestone of skating for Team Purple as CWHL All-Stars. Gaining over 90% of the online fan vote, Lacquette was bestowed the honor of captaincy at the All-Star Game. Markham Thunder goaltender Liz Knox would place second in said vote, taking on the role of captain with Team Gold.
At the helm of Team Purple, Lacquette used one of her top picks in the Frozen Fantasy All-Star Draft, which determines the starting lineups for both teams, to welcome Halli Krzyzaniak into the fold. Jubilant at joining Lacquette in the starting lineup, it was one which included Emerance Maschmeyer, another alum from the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Sarah Nurse, a first round pick for the Toronto Furies, the iconic Marie-Philip Poulin, and fellow Inferno teammate Turnbull.
Marking more than just a season highlight, but one of the highpoints of a celebrated career, being introduced on NHL ice in such a revered venue, with thousands of fans in attendance and a national television audience, the combination of adrenaline and awe provided Krzyzaniak with a special occasion that shall be gleefully reminisced upon in later years,
“Being a part of the starting line-up was truly special. I think it speaks to how comfortable Brigette and I are playing together in Calgary that she chose me to start the game with her in Toronto. My favorite moment of the weekend was coming out for the starting line-ups, standing on the blue line and feeling how much energy the fans brought to the rink.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Inferno game action photo by Dave Holland
Hockey Canada Centennial Jersey by Hockey Canada Images
Acknowledgements: Tammy Schwass