Prior to the opening faceoff of the 2016-17 CWHL season, Kayla Tutino had made history twice. From the outset, she was selected first overall by the Boston Blades in the 2016 Draft, becoming the first ever player in franchise history to be taken in that spot. Simultaneously, Tutino added another unique feat to her CWHL career, becoming the first player born in the province of Quebec to gain the distinction of being taken first overall in CWHL Draft history.
During the second half of her inaugural season in the CWHL, Tutino gained the opportunity to add another proud milestone to her promising career, as she was one of three members of the Boston Blades named to the third All-Star Game. Held at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, she was joined by fellow rookie Meghan Grieves, the first player raised in the state of North Carolina to compete in the event, along with Tara Watchorn, the first Canadian-born captain in Blades history.
Tutino was joined by Watchorn as members of Team Blue, while Grieves donned the Team White jersey. Although Tutino and Watchorn did not register any points in the 9-5 final, there was a feeling of Blades pride seeing their club teammate Grieves score a goal in front of 8,000-plus fans in the third period.
“It was definitely fun sharing that experience with Meghan and Tara. They’re great people and they brought a lot to our team this year in Boston. Just being rewarded with the All-Star game and getting to live that experience with them was special.”
Toronto would prove to have a significant influence on Tutino’s career. Of note, her first CWHL regular season game took place at the Mastercard Centre against the Toronto Furies on October 15, 2016. Said game would have many unforeseen links to the eventual All-Star Game to come, as Tutino was one of six future All-Star Game participants to make her CWHL debut.
In addition to Tutino, it signified the CWHL debut for Grieves, along with four members of the Furies, including Renata Fast and Michela Cava, who would play with Tutino on Team Blue, along with Erin Ambrose and Carlee Eusepi-Campbell, who would be voted in as the captain for Team White. Also worth noting was that the contest featured the CWHL debut of Blades goaltender Lauren Dahm. Not only did she play with Eusepi-Campbell at Clarkson University, she would finish the season as the statistical leader in numerous goaltending categories.
By season’s end, Tutino would appear in all 24 regular season games, showing disciplined play with only eight penalty minutes. Her first point would come in an October 30, 2016 home contest against the Calgary Inferno, scoring a goal just 40 seconds into the third period. Gaining the assists on her milestone goal were Casey Pickett and Dakota Woodworth.
The All-Star connection with Grieves would also take roots in the Greater Toronto Area. In a road match against the Brampton Thunder, Tutino logged the first multi-point game of her CWHL career. Scoring the opening goal of the game, Grieves would gain her first CWHL assist on the scoring play. Tutino would gain an assist on Kate Leary’s power play goal in the third period, as Boston would earn their second straight win, besting Brampton by a 4-3 mark.
“It definitely felt great to be a part of the All-Star game and to experience a crowd like the one we had in Toronto. I really enjoyed sharing it with all the other players, they are all really talented, so overall it was an honour and an experience I will never forget.”
Among the players that Tutino shared the All-Star experience with; there was no shortage of former NCAA teammates. Having starred with the Boston University Terriers, Tutino played alongside the likes of current Canadiennes de Montreal players such as fellow 2016 draft pick Sarah Lefort and Marie-Philip Poulin, helping the Terriers emerge as one of the dominant programs in Hockey East play and a perennial contender for the national championship.
Current Furies skater Jenelle Kohanchuk joined Tutino and Watchorn as Terriers alumnae that also skated for Team Blue in the third CWHL All-Star Game, while Lefort and Poulin were part of Team White. Terriers pride was definitely on-hand in this game, as the alumnae would combine for seven points in the contest. Jenelle Kohanchuk would lead the way for Team Blue, having contributed three points on the strength of a pair of goals. Poulin would shine for Team White as the former Hockey East Player of the Year amassed a game-best four points in the 9-5 final.
Reflecting on the exciting privilege of skating on NHL ice, sharing the spotlight with some of the most talented players in professional women’s hockey, Tutino was thrilled at the opportunity to compete in front of 8,000 fans, a CWHL attendance record. While such a feat provided a personal milestone for all players involved, Tutino saw it as a milestone for the league and the game itself, positive signs that such momentum shall be the foundation for greater glories.
“I will never forget how many fans there were. I think that’s the first time I played in front of 8,000 people. Most importantly the ACC was loud and it was a moment that made me realize that women’s hockey is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves. Being a part of that was special. Realizing that people were actually into the game and cheering us on was really eye-opening.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo: Former Terriers teammate Sarah Lefort (left) in her Team White jersey with Tutino on the right donning the Team Blue colors. (Image obtained from Facebook)