Entering the next chapter in her exceptional hockey career, Erin Ambrose boasts a remarkable list of accomplishments. Highlighted by championships with Canada’s U18 and U22 teams, along with a national title as a member of Team Ontario Red and a historic NCAA Frozen Four title with the Clarkson Golden Knights, Ambrose can already add a proud milestone from her inaugural season in the CWHL.
Part of a highly talented 2016 CWHL Draft class, Ambrose gained the opportunity to participate in the third CWHL All-Star Game. With Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (ACC) serving as the exciting backdrop, it provided Ambrose with a proud yet fulfilling highlight that shall result in a lifetime of treasured memories.
Having grown up north of Toronto in the community of Keswick, Ontario, the same hometown of 2014 Clarkson Cup champion Jordanna Peroff, the chance to grace the ice at the ACC was a dream realized. Akin to so many youth whose hockey roots stem from the Greater Toronto Area, Ambrose’s ambitions definitely found stimulus from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With the ACC serving as the home of the hallowed Maple Leafs, along with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NLL’s Toronto Rock, the venue is a vault for so many fond sporting memories. On the day of the third CWHL All-Star Game, there was a reciprocal feeling for Ambrose. Having grown up as a sports fan, attending various functions at the ACC, Ambrose was among the subject of the fan’s adoration, her trademark number 23 visible on the jumbotron. Akin to the other first-time All-Stars, Ambrose absorbed the impact of emulating the NHL heroes of her youth, while providing the youth in the stands a new generation of empowering role models to look up to.
“For me, playing at the Air Canada Centre was quite surreal. I have watched so many games there over the years and have never gotten the opportunity to be on that ice. I was standing by the glass for quite some time taking things in before the game and couldn’t quite believe it. It took me a little time to actually come to terms that I was out on that ice!”
Among the list of impressive CWHL rookies that competed in this year’s All-Star Game, there was another that rekindled fond hockey memories for Ambrose. Having called Laura Stacey a teammate with the PWHL’s Toronto Jr. Aeros, along with a gold medal effort at the 2013 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds, both have also competed at all three levels of Hockey Canada’s women’s program.
Entering the NCAA, the two became rivals, a trend that continued in the CWHL. Of note, Stacey’s inaugural campaign brought her to the Brampton Thunder, the Furies biggest rival. For one momentous day, the two had a special opportunity to reunite as teammates, both suiting up for Team White.
With regards to the blue and white, Ambrose comprises a new generation of exciting talent ready to make their mark. Joined by several other rookies at the Game, it all brought them closer together as teammates, eager to form the next foundation for the Furies to build their exciting future upon. Among them was first round pick Renata Fast, also a teammate of Ambrose with Clarkson, along with Duluth Bulldogs alum Michela Cava, one of the sleeper picks of the draft.
All making their CWHL debut on October 15, 2016, the first game of a weekend series against the Boston Blades, there was a serendipitous sense of achievement among them. In the 2-1 win on October 15, Ambrose and Fast both earned their first career assists on the game’s opening goal, scored by captain Natalie Spooner. The next day, Fast and Cava would each score their first CWHL goals. Once again, Spooner would set the offensive tone, accumulating four points in a dazzling display of offensive wizardry. Together, this titanic trio of rookie talent would amass a cumulative total of 31 points by season’s end.
“It was even more special of an experience knowing I was able to share it with so many fellow teammates. Fast and Cava have had exceptional rookie campaigns and I am so happy we got to enjoy the experience together.”
In addition, Furies first year player Carlee Eusepi-Campbell, another alum from the famed Clarkson Golden Knights (although she played before Ambrose and Fast competed there) gained the highest number of votes, gaining the opportunity to serve as captain for Team White. Joining Ambrose and Eusepi-Campbell on Team White was goaltender Christina Kessler, who holds the rare distinction of having played in the first three CWHL All-Star Games.
Kessler would provide shutout play for Team White, allowing them to enjoy a 3-0 lead to start the game. As a side note, Tessa Bonhomme, the first draft pick in the history of the Furies, joined Becky Kellar, as alumni coaches for Team White, as several generations of talent were bridged together.
Several familiar faces were on Team Blue, including Furies captain Natalie Spooner, pulling double duty as co-captain of Team Blue with Meaghan Mikkelson. Other Furies skating with Spooner included Cava and Fast, plus forwards Jenelle Kohanchuk and Kelly Terry. Statistcally, Eusepi-Campbell would gain an assist on the first goal of the game, while Terry and Kohanchuk each placed their names on the scoresheet.
“I had a great time playing against some of the Furies. Spooner bulled me over at one point and I had to give my head a bit of a shake. Thankfully I don’t have to deal with that on a regular basis!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Chris Tanouye