Firmly entrenched among the top 10 scorers in the race for the Angela James Bowl, Victoria Bach has risen to prominence as one of the CWHL’s most promising young superstars. Emerging as the leading scorer among rookies, the superlative efforts of Bach, who was selected third overall by the Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder in the 2018 CWHL Draft after a First-Team All-America season with the Boston University Terriers, have not only established her as the “real deal”, the results have also included a pair of highly deserved honors.
Appearing with Canada’s senior team at the 4 Nations Cup in November 2018, it served as the extension of a brilliant international career, resulting in over 35 appearances in the national team’s colors at all three of its competitive levels. Among the highlights for the accomplished Bach have included gold medals at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds, plus the 2016 Nations Cup. Worth noting, Bach’s hockey resume also includes OWHA gold with the Mississauga Chiefs, while 2012 allowed her to make history, propelling Team Ontario Blue to its first title, shedding its perpetual underdog status, at the Canadian U18 women’s nationals.
In the aftermath of the 4 Nations Cup, which saw Bach gain a silver medal, she was announced as one of the players named to the fourth CWHL All-Star Game, contested at Toronto’s Scotiabank Centre. For the native of Milton, Ontario, whose hockey allegiances as a youth were with the NHL’s Maple Leafs, who have called the aforementioned Scotiabank Arena (formerly known as Air Canada Centre) home since its grand opening. Undoubtedly, Bach beamed at the opportunity to compete in one of hockey’s most hallowed venues, emulating the players she grew up watching, while inspiring a new generation of fans to dream big.
Having attainted the level of a professional player herself, there is a tremendous feeling of acceptance. Proud in the knowledge that the venue served as home for the elites of CWHL hockey, the All-Star event signaled the arrival of Bach and several other CWHL rookies as true major league athletes. With an enthusiastic gathering of fans on-hand, while NHL alumni served as head coaches, including former Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour participating in the opening ceremonies, Bach’s opportunity to emulate her hockey heroes and bring her skills to NHL ice represented a tremendous privilege,
“It was an amazing experience getting to play at Scotiabank. Having grown up watching the Leafs play there attending many concerts and events, and to actually get to step foot on the ice myself was very cool and an experience I will never forget. The fan base was awesome as well!”
Making her CWHL debut on October 13 versus the Worcester Blades, Bach quickly made an impression. Scoring the Thunder’s first goal of the game, which was also the first of the season for the defending Clarkson Cup champions, Bach’s goal also proved to be the game-winning tally. Scoring said goal at 6:54 of the first period, taking advantage of a power play opportunity, the players who logged the assists would also participate in the fourth All-Star Game, Jamie-Lee Rattray and Megan Bozek.
As a side note, the contest against the Blades, which saw Laura Fortino gain five assists, would also result in the first CWHL goal of Ailish Forfar, who holds her own connection to the Maple Leafs. Also a member of the 2018 CWHL Draft Class, Forfar served as the captain of Ryerson Rams for the last two seasons. Based in Toronto, the Rams home games were contested at Mattamy Athletic Centre, located inside the historic Maple Leaf Gardens.
Following it up the following day with her first multi-point game, also against the Blades, Bach and team captain Jocelyne Larocque contributed the assists on a power play goal scored by Jamie Lee Rattray, providing the Thunder with a 3-0 advantage. Despite the commanding lead, the Thunder were shorthanded late in the third period. Nullifying the Blades’ power play opportunity, Laura Stacey fed Bach the puck, allowing the Thunder a 4-1 lead, which also stood as the final score.
From November 17 to January 6, Bach’s brilliance was evident once again, amassing points in nine out of 11 games played. Recording 15 points during this stretch, the Blades were victim another time to her playmaking abilities. The December 16 affair on the road resulted in Bach posting a season-best four points on the strength of three assists.
With a first-half filled with so many highlights, none was more memorable than her All-Star announcement. As the league held three separate rounds to announce the players selected to compete in the midseason classic, Bach had to wait until the final round for the recognition. Part of a group in the final round that included the likes of Ann-Sophie Bettez, one of the league’s all-time scoring leaders, Brianne Jenner, who would go on to record a hat trick in the event, plus Finnish legendary goaltender Noora Raty, she was proud to be in such distinguished company.
“It was a huge honor to be able to get to compete with and against the best players in the world for women’s hockey. I was really excited when I found out and it meant a lot to be able to play in the All-Star Game.”
With Liz Knox serving as the first All-Star captain from the Thunder franchise, it helped set an exciting tone for the newest milestone in Bach’s budding career. Part of a terrific triumvirate of Thunder forwards that suited up for Team Purple, including Jamie Lee Rattray, who was named to Canada’s entry for the 2019 ISBHF Worlds, plus third-generation star Laura Stacey, whose great-grandfather, King Clancy was involved with the Maple Leafs organization for over 50 years, Bach was affiliated with some highly familiar faces.
Defense was certainly a key theme concerning the members of the Thunder that were garbed in the Team Gold jersey. From the outset, Liz Knox, the all-time winningest goaltender in franchise history was between the pipes in the starting lineup. Megan Bozek, Laura Fortino and Jocelyne Larocque, all former gold medalists in IIHF play, and members of the Thunder’s Clarkson Cup championship team last season, were part of Gold’s defensive unit.
Demonstrating their All-World talents in an 8-4 final for Team Gold, such opposition represented a baptism of fire for Bach, gaining a newfound respect for their defensive contributions in regular season play. Acknowledging that competing against her Thunder teammates in All-Star play, including the illustrious Knox between the pipes, certainly presented a compelling challenge. Exemplifying sportsmanship and perseverance, it reflected the type of values that affirmed Bach’s status as an All-Star, a positive learning experience that shall only serve in her evolution from ingénue to celebrated icon.
“It is definitely hard to play against some of the best (players on) defense in the league. I knew I had my work cut out for me with Knoxy being in net, there was no way I was sneaking one past her! Yet, it was lots of fun and we got some good laughs and memories.”
Taking into account that Bach was once recognized as the Rookie of the Year in Hockey East play, it is an honor she may likely duplicate at the end of her inaugural CWHL season, one which would certainly add to the jubilation of a remarkable All-Star weekend. Looking back on the event, the combination of world-class hockey, energetic fans and celebrities, including the presence of Gerry Dee, the star of the Canadian television program Mr. D, and guest coach for Team Gold, whose video commentary on women’s ice hockey went viral, accentuated the transition into celebrated All-Star.
“I think the entire event was amazing, getting to meet Mr. Dee was one of my highlights. As well as meeting all of the celebrity coaches. The draft was also an amazing night and getting the chance to give back to the community and interact and help inspire young girls was lots of fun. Overall the event was one I will not forget!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Images supplied by Victoria Bach