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CWHL: Lauren Dahm | Boston/Worcester Blades

Possessing a wondrous work ethic and stability between the pipes that instilled confidence in her teammates, Lauren Dahm quickly emerged as the face of the Boston/Worcester Blades franchise. As the CWHL’s only American-based franchise, it also propelled the likeable goaltender into a role of ambassador, a status enhanced when the franchise crossed the Pacific for regular season play in China.

With an ability to consume minutes and frustrate opposing offences, Dahm was the cornerstone in the hopes of a crestfallen franchise looking to restore its status as a postseason contender. Following the departure of team captain Tara Watchorn, the only Canadian-born captain in franchise history, who accepted a coaching position with her alma mater, the Boston University Terriers, Dahm became even more important to the franchise’s leadership structure.

Such bearing reached a watershed moment for Dahm, simultaneously raising awareness about both women’s ice hockey, and the positive impact that inclusivity has made. Interviewed for a very influential piece in the iconic publication, The Sporting News, Dahm was among a group of players from both the CWHL and the American-based NWHL (including former Blades skater and current NWHLPA head Anya Battaglino) featured, the piece stands as a positive example for other leagues and athletes to emulate.

Considering that a significant aspect of the CWHL’s legacy involves the fact that it was the first league to team up with You Can Play, such an association involved numerous on-ice highlights for Dahm. Revealing in The Sporting News how the numerous You Can Play events held throughout the league’s markets, which even saw some franchises don rainbow colored jerseys, it was a highly social relevant hallmark in league play. Once in which competitors both gay and straight enjoyed participating in.

Worth noting, the photos utilized on social media to help the Blades promote their You Can Play events involved one of Dahm adorning her stick with rainbow tape. Certainly, the exposure in The Sporting News piece is one that Dahm finds was integral in raising awareness about inclusion,

Rainbow tape on Dahm’s stick in anticipation of the Blades’ You Can Play game (Photo credit: Mimi Murad)

“Definitely. I remember before I even played in a You Can Play game I was so excited at the thought of taking part in them. Being able to showcase with dedicated games as well as on an aesthetic level (with the Pride Tape) how inclusive women’s hockey is for the LGBTQ community is so important.

We know there is a strong presence from the community from both the players/staff side as well as our fan base and I think it is important to show that we value the support and camaraderie.

Raising awareness of women’s hockey in general is obviously significant especially with where our game is at right now. Initiatives like the You Can Play games may allow some fans ways to identify with the players which creates stronger interest, and also might draw in new fans who are seeking an inclusive, safe environment where everyone can be themselves.”

Dahm with the visiting Blades participating in the Calgary Inferno’s You Can Play game (Photo credit: Dave Holland)

Belonging to an incredible goaltending sorority in Blades franchise history, Dahm was among a group that included distinguished American-born talent between the pipes. Among them were Mandy Cronin (also one of the CWHL’s co-founders, known colloquially as the Sensational Seven), Mandy Mackrell, Brittany Ott, the third rookie goaltender to start a Clarkson Cup final, and Molly Schaus, who set a franchise record for most games played in one season with 23 (achieved in 2011-12).

In addition, Canadian Genevieve Lacasse is a crucial component of franchise history, capturing the Clarkson Cup and the Goaltender of the Year Award as a rookie in 2013. This season, Dahm left her own mark in Blades lore, breaking Lacasse’s club record for most goaltending appearances.

Of note, Lacasse’s career in the black and gold involved 51 appearances. Surpassing the mark on October 21, it was fitting that it took place on home ice as the Blades hosted the Toronto Furies, a team that has been a significant part of Dahm’s career highlights.

Although it was a relief appearance, Dahm stopped all 16 shots faced against her in the third period. For her efforts, she earned recognition as the Third Star of the Game, while opposing goaltender Amanda Makela earned the Second Star, logging the shutout in a 2-0 final. By season’s end, Dahm would log an impressive 61 appearances. Although the record stands as one of the hallmarks of her hockey odyssey, Dahm remains jubilant that she was able to gain the opportunity to join the professional ranks.

“I am beyond thankful to have had the opportunity to play for the Blades franchise. There have been some incredible goalies to wear the jersey so to be in the record books with them is pretty surreal.

I honestly did not think I would have the chance to play professionally, especially after my time away from the game after college, so to achieve that dream and have the opportunity to play in a franchise record amount of games means a lot and makes me proud to know I have left my mark on the game.”

Having first starred in her native New York State with the Clarkson Golden Knights, Dahm’s assiduous efforts began a revered run of outstanding backstops in the program’s iconic green and gold. Following the distinguished Dahm were the likes of Erica Howe and Shea Tiley, who both graduated to CWHL play, while the 2018-19 season included All-America goaltender Kassidy Sauvé, who is also destined for her own professional glories.

Draft day tweet announcing Dahm’s selection by the Boston Blades (Image obtained from Twitter)

Claimed in the 2016 CWHL Draft with the 56th overall pick, Dahm proved to be the Blades’ premier acquisition of said draft. Five years after graduating from the Golden Knights, Dahm’s return to the frozen perimeter quickly saw her evolve into a franchise goaltender.

With her rookie season spent donning the green and gold goaltending paraphernalia from her treasured time in Clarkson, it remained a cherished reminder of what she had accomplished, and the promise of potential greatness in the pros. In a remarkable instance of six degrees of hockey separation, Dahm’s CWHL debut, which took place in Toronto against the Furies, also saw Clarkson alumnae Erin Ambrose, Carlee Campbell (a teammate of Dahm in Potsdam) and Renata Fast make their first appearances as professionals.

Statistically, Dahm was consistently perched among the league’s leaders in minutes played, shots faced and saves. Supplying the Blades with a dependable presence between the pipes, Dahm gained a new admiration among teammates and foes alike in a 2017-18 campaign as opposing teams frequently required overtime or shootouts in order to gain a victory.

Although the final outcome of 2017-18 was one that saw the Blades not qualify for the Clarkson Cup playoffs for the third straight season, the heart and the effort exerted in every game by Dahm and her teammates could not be measured by wins and losses alone. Averaging more than 34 shots per game during the season, Dahm stood shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the likes of fellow goaltenders such as Emerance Maschmeyer and Noora Raty among the league’s true elites.

“I am particularly proud of the improvement and success our team experienced during my second season, the 2017-2018 campaign. So many tight games, some games going to OT and shootouts with the top teams, and being in almost every game helped keep our compete level high and the never give up, resilient attitude of the Blades.

I am proud to have been a part of the CWHL and accomplishing that dream of playing pro hockey and being able to leave my mark on the game. I am proud of the reputation I have built over the last three years as a workhorse in the net and a positive presence in the women’s hockey community.”

Taking into account that 2017-18 was also the first season since 2013-14 that the CWHL did not host an All-Star Game, there was a certainly tinge of sadness as Dahm would have been a most deserving candidate had an event been held that season. Undoubtedly, the most talented goaltender during the era of the All-Star Game to have never been bestowed this prestige; such a setting would have been fitting for a goaltender as committed and enthusiastic as Dahm, allowing her to showcase such goaltending brilliance against the game’s finest skaters.

Challenging the Toronto Furies in her first CWHL game (Photo credit: Chris Tanouye)

One season later, Dahm would gain the opportunity to showcase her spectacular skills to a new market of enthusiasts. Relocating to Worcester, Massachusetts, 40 miles west of Boston, also the former home of the San Jose Sharks affiliate in the American Hockey League, the transition was one that, sadly, did not reach its full potential.

Unforeseen at the time, the Blades’ first season in Worcester would also be its last. Despite the potential to establish a more stable home, after numerous seasons spent barnstorming throughout the Boston area, the move should have served as a defining moment in a new era, rather than the denouement.

Ruminating on the experience of competing in Worcester, which is also New England’s second most populous city, only the second American market to host a CWHL franchise, the feeling of new beginnings definitely emerged as a theme for Dahm. As one of the franchise’s most notable players, the chance to emerge as a fan favourite in a different market filled with new but fervent fans, invigorated Dahm.

Fittingly, Worcester played host to a pair of key moments in Blades history, bridging the franchise’s past with its novel present. In addition to Dahm’s distinguished record for goaltending appearances, Megan Myers, a member of the Blades 2015 Clarkskon Cup championship team and a current coach with Becker College, broke the franchise record for most games played during the season, setting the new standard with 84.

“Moving to Worcester was definitely exciting. It was a chance for a fresh start in a new market where we could try and recreate our identity. You could feel the buzz at the beginning of the season and throughout the season, I was fortunate to meet new fans who perhaps would not have made it to games if we were not in Worcester.

I recognize that the move out of the city made it difficult for our supporters’ right in Boston but know they respect the Blades’ needs for a steady home rink and fresh start. There are also a ton of girls hockey programs in the Worcester area that I know the team and I was looking forward to getting more involved with and being role models for these girls.”

Dahm’s final appearance on home ice took place on February 17, 2019, as Les Canadiennes de Montreal captured a hard-fought 4-3 win which saw a valiant effort of 39 saves. Worth noting, the Three Stars of the Game resulted in a Blades sweep, as Megan Myers, Kaitlin Spurling and Morgan Turner gained the honors, an historic last in franchise history.

The feeling of coming full circle also defined the season in Worcester, with the Furies composing a key theme. A 4-2 road loss to the Furies on December 9, 2018, resulted in Dahm rightfully recognized as the Second Star of Game, flanked by Furies Natalie Spooner and Sena Suzuki, the First and Third Stars.

Facing 50 shots, including a game-high 20 in the second, the last time she would handle so many in a regular season game, there was a pair of shared milestones, as Carrie Atkison logged her first career point, while Demi Crossman found the back of the net for her first CWHL goal. As a side note, rookie backstop Mariah Fujimagari faced a league-high 73 shots in a January 9 home affair with the Shenzhen KRS Rays.

Dahm (middle) recognized as one of the Three Stars of the Game following a match versus the Furies (Photo credit: Chris Tanouye)

Coincidentally, Dahm’s final CWHL appearance took place in Toronto, the city where her professional sojourn started back on October 15, 2016. Coming on in relief of Jessica Convery, the third period of the February 24, 2019 clash with the Toronto Furies, there was a treasured tinge of coincidence in the fact that Campbell and Fast were participants in the contest. Dahm proved to be brilliant in the third period, a stunning shutout performance in said period with 11 saves. Adding to the sense of coincidence was the fact that Tiley, who captured two NCAA Frozen Four championships with Clarkson, was between the pipes for Toronto, signifying an emotional passing of the torch.

Despite the Blades enduring another difficult season in 2018-19, extending a heart-breaking reversal of fortune in the latter years of its history, descending into the doldrums of the league’s standings, Dahm embodied the definition of character for the franchise during said years. With a courageous and determined group of young women representing the legacy of female hockey in New England, there was never a feeling of resignation.

From the emergence of a handful of newly formed club teams in numerous American markets, resulting in a mass migration of talent, to the fact that the last two seasons did not see anyone on the Blades roster with experience in the Winter Games, such circumstances were beyond the franchise’s control. Commendably, the management worked tirelessly to acquire dedicated athletes in the hopes of supplying the best roster possible, working tirelessly to unearth diamonds in the rough that were part of a spirited gathering of on-ice talent.

In action versus a skater from the Markham Thunder (Photo credit: Richard Lautens)

Throughout this narrative, Dahm represented a portrait of endurance, continuously posting a seemingly unlimited series of valiant performances, hoping to instill confidence. Showered with acclaim as one of the hardest working goaltenders in professional women’s ice hockey, it was most appropriate that it was Dahm who would win the last game in franchise history, placing her unique stamp in Blades history.

With an indomitable will, the level of energetic play and relentless determination transformed her into a highly respected and admired player among both teammates and opponents alike, gaining fans in all of the league’s markets. Proving that the hockey dream is one worth pursuing, the professional game in the United States over the last few years was one that was made better with Dahm’s gallant presence,

“The opportunity to play in the CWHL was one of the most amazing times of my life. It reignited my love for the game after a few years away after college and gave me a place to compete with the best players in the world and have fun doing it.

I have met countless incredible people these last three years that would not have been possible without the Boston/Worcester Blades. For that, I will be eternally grateful.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Featured image photo credit by BDZ Sports


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