Among the highlights of the 2017 calendar year in women’s ball hockey, the affirmation of Giuliana Pallotta as one of the game’s new Canadian superstars was definitely one of its most captivating. Having also excelled on the ice, most recently with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, Pallotta, who was raised in Beeton, Ontario, is hardly a novice in ball hockey.
First gracing the court at the tender age of 10, one of Pallotta’s earliest hallmarks includes gold at the 2010 U18 Provincial Ball Hockey Championships. The chance to achieve the dream of donning Canada’s jersey is one that reached fruition with a spot on the roster that competed at the 2017 ISBF World Championships in Pardubice, Czech Republic.
With the number 94 adorning Pallotta’s jersey, a number that she also utilizes with her ball hockey club team, the New Tecumseth X-Treme (she wore number 9 as captain of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks), she made her debut for Canada in a June 3 tilt with Slovakia. In spite of a hard fought 2-1 regulation loss, the culmination of a dream come true served as motivation for the remainder of the tournament.
“Playing for Team Canada was a dream come true for me. I have been playing ball hockey since I was 10 years old, and I never thought I’d see the day where I would be selected to represent my country.
Putting on the jersey for the first time was a feeling like no other. I remember standing looking at my jersey with my last name printed on it in disbelief. I had goose bumps when I picked it up for the first time and put it on. My dream had finally come true.”
Statistically, Pallotta was a revelation for the Canadian contingent, ranking fifth on the team in the scoring, while placing among the top 20 in tournament scoring, respectively. In her second game for Canada, an 11-0 whitewash of Great Britain, she quickly found her scoring stride, exploding with a superlative four-point performance.
As Sarah Francis logged the game-winning tally with the game’s first goal, Pallotta followed with the game’s second goal, assisted by Heather Berzins. By game’s end, Pallotta added three assists. Recording at least one point in every period of play, she would assist on a second period goal by Jamie Lee Rattray, who finished as the tournament’s leading scorer.
Recording a pair of assists in the third period, gaining the sole assist on Rattray’s second goal of the game, the two would combine forces on the last goal of the game, scored by Francis. Of note, the assist from Berzins on her first-period goal represented a profound connection.
Not only was Berzins among the new faces debuting for Canada in Pardubice, she also possesses a background in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (USPORTS) women’s ice hockey. Part of the University of Calgary Dinos’ Class of 2017, Berzins spent five seasons with the program, serving as alternate captain in her final season. As Pallotta reflects on a shared milestone, her first career goal for Canada also representing Berzins first career point for Canada, it was a tremendous source of pride that both shared the Canadian Interuniversity Sport connection.
“It was awesome getting my first goal, all I remember is shooting the ball and jumping in the air as soon as I realized it was in. Berzy (Heather Berzins) getting the assist on it made it that much better. Berzy plays for the University of Calgary and ironically she plays forward in ice hockey and I play defense, which I found interesting! She was a force to be reckoned with on the back end and had an awesome tournament!”
While Pallotta’s hockey resume also features competition at the NCAA Division I level, spending a handful of seasons with the Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks, leading the program’s freshmen in games played and points during her inaugural season of 2012-13, her transfer to Wilfrid Laurier would prove to be just as impactful. Bringing strong leadership, complemented by durability and reliability, she would be recognized as one of the University’s most admirable student-athletes.
Equally assiduous in the classroom, Pallotta was a finalist for the university’s 2017 edition of the Luke Fusco Academic Athletic Achievement Award. In the same year, she joined soccer star Julie Karn and lacrosse phenom Jessica Lubert as finalists for the Outstanding Women of Laurier Award.
Such recognition was attributed to a strong sense of commitment that extended off the ice. In addition to volunteering at Toronto General Hospital, providing empathy and compassion for young girls facing eating disorders, her leadership was just as prevalent on-campus. Not only was she the University’s representative for a conference-wide discussion on mental health, she has also given her time at the Laurier Golf Classic, while also making her presence felt at Laurier’s Female Hockey School.
That display of character and compassion would prove to be essential in the newest chapter of Pallotta’s hockey odyssey. Gaining a key assist on a goal by Michelle Marsz in a 2-1 win vs. the host Czech Republic, it was an example of her ability to rise to the occasion.
Following a heartbreaking loss to the United States in the semi-finals, the first in program history, Pallotta’s presence helped Canada bounce back. With the bronze medal signifying Canada’s seventh game in eight days, her poise was part of an inspiring effort as Canada bounced back for a 5-0 blanking against Slovakia to capture the bronze.
“It was extremely important for us to bounce back after our lost to Team USA. As difficult and heart breaking as it was to have lost in the semi final game we knew that there was still a medal on the line for the bronze medal game. We came out determined to beat the Slovaks and that’s exactly what we did.”
Adding luster to the pride of a bronze medal is the fact that Pallotta also enjoyed a provincial (OBHF) and national (CBHA) championship with the New Tecumseth Xtreme. Having debuted in the New Tecumseth Ball Hockey League at the age of 15, a program for girls did not even exist.
Fast forward to 2017 and New Tecumseth represents the gold standard for elite women’s ball hockey in Canada. Proud to be part of its grass roots, Pallotta was a key figure into propelling the program into the national championship picture. Appearing at the CBHA Nationals in 2016, there was a unique instance of how small the world of hockey can be, as teammates Christina D’Ambrogio and Brittany Friesen would don Italia’s colors at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds.
The 2016 CBHA Nationals would signify a paradigm shift for both Pallotta and Devon Skeats, a fellow Laurier alum. In the preliminary round, the two would tie for the scoring lead, quickly making an impression on Canada’s scouts. Of note, Pallotta’s playmaking skills were the highlight of a solid performance, pacing all competitors with four assists.
Although gold eluded New Tecumseth in 2016, it served as a learning experience, adding to their confidence. The results showed as the 2017 CBHA Nationals was a coming out party for Pallotta and her Xtreme teammates. Although former Canadian Interuniversity Sport star Claudia Bergeron of the Ottawa Capitals was the scoring leader in the preliminary round, Pallotta, who served as team captain, trailed behind in the scoring race by merely one point. As a side note, Skeats and teammate Jessie Hurrell tied for third in the scoring race, two points behind Bergeron.
With Ottawa challenging New Tecumseth in the opening game of preliminaries, it was Pallotta who made a statement, logging the game winning goal. Skeats would gain an assist on the team’s second goal, part of a 2-0 blanking of the Capitals.
Such sterling performances extended into the elimination round, as both Pallotta and Skeats were key factors in a 3-2 semifinal win against Team New Brunswick. While Skeats placed her name on the scoresheet with a first period goal, she would collaborate with Pallotta on the game-winning tally scored by Jessie Hurrell, securing their place in the gold medal game.
Avenging a preliminary round loss to the Edmonton Fusion, this dazzling duo would gain the assists on the game tying goal by Emma Whiteside on the power play. Helping turn the tide in the Xtreme’s favor, it signified the opening of the offensive floodgates, as the club managed three unanswered goals in the first frame. Prevailing by a 4-1 tally, it was the storybook finale for a program that has seen its impact grow by a quantum leap.
To share in such a phenomenal series of milestones with Skeats only added a heightened sense of pride and achievement. Considering that Pallotta and Skeats were not teammates with Laurier (Pallotta’s first season with the program saw Skeats make her debut with the Buffalo Beauts), the two have enjoyed the privilege of being ball hockey teammates.
In addition to sharing in the jubilation of a national title, both were members of Canada’s contingent in Pardubice, signifying their international debuts. To make an impact on both sides of the Atlantic shoulder to shoulder represents an incredible euphoria that has solidified a captivating friendship and a remarkable hockey journey that is destined to be part of ball hockey lore,
“Sharing the experience with my teammate Devon Skeats at both the World and National level was awesome. She is such a great player both on and off the floor. She works extremely hard and is one of the fastest players I have ever played with.
She changes the dynamic of the game and is a great asset to have on any team. I am extremely lucky to have had the pleasure of playing with her for the past two years.”
Photo credits: ISBHF image by Daniel Soucek, Laurier image by: Jamie Howieson
MSU image obtained from: http://www.msumavericks.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4558
CBHA championship image obtained from: http://ntbhl.ca/news.php?news_id=1534134
Follow Giuliana Pallotta on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/pallotta09